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.