Housing Complex

Capitol Hill Crusader Dick Wolf Passes Away

Capitol Hill has lost one of its old guard: Dick Wolf, who served as president of the Capitol Hill Restoration Society in the late 1970s and from 2005 until 2009, died on Sunday of pancreatic cancer.

Wolf moved to Capitol Hill in 1969, after his neighbors had fought off a highway being plowed through the neighborhood, and he picked up the struggle against commuters streaming through residential streets. You can thank Wolf's CHRS for having instituted residential parking permits in the District, and defended the local government's power to issue them all the way up to the Supreme Court. He was still fighting in April 2009, when the group sued the District government over the 11th Street bridge project, worrying that it would inundate their residential streets with traffic.

A retired lawyer, Wolf was also a huge advocate for more comprehensive planning, penning column after column about the need for a planning commission and ward-wide plans over smaller sector plans. For Wolf, that usually involved forestalling the flood of development he saw threatening the city's delicate historic fabric.

"The city is in the midst of a development boom that puts pressure on every neighborhood in the city," Wolf wrote in 2006. "Unless it is controlled, Wisconsin Avenue will be a wall of 110' buildings from Friendship Heights to Sidwell Friends School; Foggy Bottom will be swallowed up completely by George Washington University; and Capitol Hill will be surrounded by downtown-size office buildings and condominiums along the Anacostia waterfront and the NOMA development sweeping down Florida Avenue to the edges of the historic district."

Wolf opposed many of those developments, from big ones like a new Convention Center downtown to small ones, like the Heritage Foundation's third story. He was a relentless champion of the Hill as a neighborhood safe for families and the elderly, and an advocate of Washington as a small company town.

"You have to be what you are, and what you are is a national and international capital," he told The Washington Post in 2008, opining that making it anything else was "an impossible vision."

Wolf asked that all donations in his honor be directed to CHRS, which put together a list of his accomplishments.

Photo from CHRS.org

  • Jack Phelan

    Thank you for the nice article about Dick Wolf, an old friend of mine who was always in the trenches fighting for our Capitol Hill - and other neighborhoods in the District. He will be missed and I hope his legacy will encourage the new generation of Hill people walk in his steps.

    Dick was a great help to me in fighting against the use of DC tax dollars to pay for the orginal convention center that has since been demolished.

    Jack Phelan*

    * Professor of Economics, Univ of New Haven. Former resident of Capitol Hill 1969-89

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