“Flames soared through the high roof of the 134-year-old Eastern Market as firefighters struggled to control the conflagration. By dawn on April 30, about $30 million in damage was incurred.

Immediately, public grief welled up. Throngs flocked to the site seven blocks east of the U.S. Capitol, comforting themselves and the distraught vendors of meats, produce, cheeses and bakery goods.  Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty was immediately on the scene; the embers were still cooling as he pledged to restore the building “to 100 percent of its architectural and historic splendor.” Within hours, the Capitol Hill Community Foundation launched a fund to benefit the market and its vendors.

Why did Washingtonians react so viscerally, so rapidly? What makes one building matter so much?”

Read more in Neal Peirce’s column.

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