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D.C. moves toward renaming government building after late Mayor Marion Barry

One Judiciary Square could become the latest official commemoration to Barry

One Judiciary Square (left), at 441 4th St. NW
paul.wasneski/Flickr Creative Commons

Last year, he got a statue in his image. But this year, former D.C. “Mayor for Life” Marion S. Barry could get a whole building named after him. On Tuesday, all 13 members of the D.C. Council proposed a new bill to rename the District government building at 441 4th St. NW, which is commonly called One Judiciary Square as of today, the “Marion S. Barry Building.”

It is a hulking, 875,000-square-foot office building above the Judiciary Square Metro stop that currently houses the D.C. attorney general’s office, the D.C. zoning office, and various other government agencies. It also serves as a popular polling place during local elections.

At the Council’s committee of the whole meeting on Jan. 22, Chairman Phil Mendelson said Barry’s widow, Cora Masters Barry, had asked that the legislature consider the name-change. He noted that the recently erected statue of Barry outside the Wilson Building—where the councilmembers’ and mayor’s offices are located—is the only statue of an African American on Pennsylvania Avenue. “It’s not enough,” Mendelson said, comparing how renaming One Judiciary Square after Barry would mirror how the D.C. government has designated other buildings it owns, like the Wilson Building and the Reeves Center, after local luminaries.

Barry, who died in 2014 and has a complicated legacy, remains beloved in many District neighborhoods, particularly those in Ward 8, a municipal subdivision located east of the Anacostia River that Barry called home for decades and represented as a councilmember.

The next step for the bill is for the Council’s committee of the whole to schedule and hold a public hearing on it. The building would not be the only thing in the city named after Barry: The District’s long-running Summer Youth Employment Program is named in his memory.