|Photographer David Berg of the Ottery Group of Kensington, Md., takes pictures of the exterior of Bldg. 7. Photographic documentation of historically eligible buildings is required by the Maryland State Historic Preservation Office prior to demolition
On July 30, a photographer spent the day documenting the exterior and interior of the storied Bldg. 7, located just west of Bldg. 5 along Memorial Dr. His photos will be entered into the Historic American Buildings Survey, a print and online repository of structures, landscapes and objects deemed to be of historic and/or architectural value (www.nps.gov/history/hdp). Following decontamination of both Bldg. 7 and nearby Bldg. 9, NIH intends to demolish the functionally obsolete structures, thereby freeing up the site for a new research facility.
Bldg. 7 was built in 1947 as the first structure of its kind for NIH, a contained laboratory facility with changing rooms for male and female scientists. It was designed with unique ventilation features to isolate the spread of germs discovered and used in the research of infectious diseases. Indeed, at the time, it was lauded in the contemporary press as the nation’s latest weapon in the war against infectious diseases. Between December 1945 and June 1946, “Q fever” was diagnosed in 47 employees in Bldg. 5; some of those infected died. Thus great precautions were taken in the design of Bldg. 7, to prevent any future loss of life. The facility was dedicated to those who had died and was therefore named the Memorial Laboratory Bldg.
Its architectural and engineering innovations were lauded in Architectural Record, Life and The Nation’s Business, decontamination locks being the most innovative feature of the building. The 1963 NIH Almanac refers to the building simply as Bldg. 7, and from that point onward the designation “Memorial Laboratory” fell out of common usage. Memorial Dr., the existing service road that runs between South and Center Drives, will remain in use and continue as a point of reference to the inherent risk associated with scientific discovery.
Home, over the years, to scientists from many institutes and centers, Bldg. 7’s last occupants were NEI scientists before they moved into the recently renovated Bldg. 6 in 2009. Construction of the Memorial Laboratory in 1947, which cost over $1,000,000, was overseen by Gilbert Stanley Underwood, the supervising architect of the Treasury.—Phil Neuberg