The restoration of the Old Naval Hospital, a Capitol Hill landmark, is well under way. The new Hill Center is slated to open next month and will serve as a community center offering classes, as well as office and function space.
On a recent Saturday morning, three women stood next to their Eastern Market booth, sharing details about their lives. Then, just a few seconds later, they sprang into action.
One talked to a mother and daughter. Another approached a family of four. The third chatted with a couple.
Each started with the same question: “Have you heard about the Hill Center?”
It was their goal to alert Capitol Hill residents that the community center will be open for business come late June. Soon, the building that had deteriorated for so many years will offer classes, office space for local businesses and even serve as a venue for a few weddings.
It’s come a long way since construction started on the Old Naval Hospital a year ago. Gone are the cracked floors and the missing pieces of wall in the 19th-century building. Instead, a fresh layer of paint covers the renovated spaces, a freight elevator has just been installed and the bathrooms now meet a 21st-century standard.
“There’s a lot of potential,” Executive Director Diana Ingraham said. “This is, first and foremost, a service building.”
Those services will range from healthy food cooking and yoga to spaces for weddings and Hill receptions.
Volunteer and spokeswoman Rosemary Freeman explained this to the mother and daughter who walked by that Saturday morning.
“I’m looking for a room that I can rent out for parties,” the mother said to Freeman.
“A Harry Potter birthday party!” her daughter chimed in.
“Well, lucky for you, that’s exactly why the Hill Center is around,” she said.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.