The curious story of the National Mall’s lone privately owned plot

APhA exterior by Menachem Wecker

American Pharmacists Association building exterior. Photo by Menachem Wecker.

My article “The curious story of the National Mall’s lone privately owned plot” appears in the Washington Post. Here’s the lede:

In a city where it’s tough to throw a rock without hitting a civic building, it’s easy to pass the Vermont-marble structure at 2215 Constitution Ave. without giving it a second thought. Passersby who do notice the Beaux-Arts building, flanked by classical vases, offset by expansive stairs, and evoking a neoclassical mausoleum, probably mistake it for yet another museum overlooking the Mall.

But that plot on the Mall’s northwest corner since 1934 has been the home of the American Pharmacists Association. The land once belonged to a man nicknamed the “Quinine King” for the antimalarials he sold Union soldiers during the Civil War, and taxi drivers later called the building “the Tomb of the Unknown Pharmacist.” In 1975, Saudi Arabia sought in vain to purchase the plot for its embassy, and in the 1960s, the building was briefly considered but then rejected for the U.S. vice president’s residence when Hubert Humphrey, an APhA member, held the post.

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