CHRS Contract Anticipates Expansion of Capitol Hill Historic District and New Historic Districts

CHRS Contract Anticipates Expansion of Capitol Hill Historic District and New Historic Districts

by Larry Janezich

Last Tuesday, Donna Hanousek, Chair of the Restoration Society’s “Beyond the Boundaries” Committee, reported to the CHRS Board that the Society has engaged EHT Traceries, the architectural history firm, to make a “context study” of the area outside of the Capitol Hill Historic District, south of H Street, NE, and east of 13th Street, NE and SE, down to the Anacostia River.  The cost of the project is $25,000 and is expected to be completed by June 30, 2012.

This “context study” is the last step necessary to complete the CHRS “Beyond the Boundaries” project which “seeks to promote the appreciation of neighborhood history and support historic preservation efforts outside the boundaries of the Capitol Hill Historic District.”  Volunteers completed a survey of the area in 2010, compiling a huge amount of information including pictures and descriptions of every building in over 100 square blocks.  Traceries will pull together the cultural, demographic, religious, etc., data to document how neighborhoods within the area came about.  This information will strengthen the case for historic district status for neighborhoods identified by Traceries earlier this year as potentially eligible for historic status. 

Pursuing historic district status requires submitting extensive documentation to the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) and is done through an ANC, either on its own behalf or on behalf of a civic or neighborhood organization. The context study will serve as the basis for the required documentation if an ANC or civic organization pursues historic district status in the future.  ANC6A has recently started exploring the feasibility of  historic district status for some areas within its boundaries.    

Seeking historic status for a neighborhood is not without controversy.  A majority of those within a neighborhood must support historic status for that area.  In 2010, the Barney Circle neighborhood seemed well on its way to becoming a historic district.  This became a campaign issue in ANC6B09, and when Brian Flahaven – who opposed historic district status for Barney Circle – was elected Commissioner by a large margin last November, the historic district nomination was put on indefinite hold by the HPRB.  Many newer Capitol Hill residents oppose the greater restrictions and bureaucracy involved in making home improvements that come with historic status.  In addition, there are larger issues of gentrification and diversity which accompany expanding or creating a historic district.

9 Comments

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9 responses to “CHRS Contract Anticipates Expansion of Capitol Hill Historic District and New Historic Districts

  1. Brian White

    PLEASE do not put me in a historic district!!!!! I enjoy for the first time in my life living in a fee simple house with no neighborhood association or condo board telling me what to do. The historic district would be 10x worse. I saw a notice of theirs about remodeling that told people not to paint their brick houses. This is one of the quintessentially Capitol Hill features that makes the neighborhood so nice. I do not live in in 1890, nor do I desire to do so.

  2. I’m in the 1400 block of South Carolina Avenue, and I agree wholeheartedly with Brian White – please do not put me in an historic district!!! The restrictions on what one must, can and cannot do to one’s property are onerous and expensive.

  3. anon

    I for one live in the Historic District and LOVE that my neighbors can’t add tacky popups, or compromise the character or scale of the surrounding neighborhood. But I already live in the historic district and it was a selling point to me.

    The guidance on painting brick is just that — guidance. Believe it or not, some people are actually interested in doing exterior renovations which are consistent with the character of their neighborhood. And the above commenters shouldn’t worry — for every appropriately painted house, there’s a forest green or blinding gold painted house to be found in the historic district to suit your tastes.

  4. Kathleen

    Just pointing out that “anon” is a classic CHRS post and so characteristic of the direction and tone of that organization. Maybe you’d have less trouble with your expansionist agenda if it came with less derision? I’m sure Brian and Cathy’s houses are terrific and will only get better, and I’m also pretty sure I’d rather have them as neighbors than “anon.”

  5. anon

    @Kathleen
    Good detective work, but I’m going to have to expose your flawed argument by telling you that I have absolutely nothing to do with CHRS

  6. Evelyn

    I find it interesting that CHRS did not involve themselves with issues east of 13th Street several years ago. Some residents may have fought hard against extending the CH Historic District into the Old City#1 boundary. I have not received any formal notice about this expansion which tells me all I need to know about CHRS’ agenda. Has CHRS issued a formal notice to the community at-large for comments?

  7. Kathleen

    @anon–and I’m still going to want Brian and Cathy as neighbors. You should join the CHRS! Your talents would not be wasted.

  8. Dale

    If your brick home was built before the 1930s or so, the type of brick and mortar used needs to breathe. Painting it prevents that from occuring, and leads to moisture problems in your walls. Yes, the colors are beautiful, but they come at a structural price!

  9. anon

    @Dale
    Good point, but probably falling on deaf ears to some on this forum. The guidance entails painting over already painted brick as opposed to painting unpainted brick, which your are correct in stating need to breath.