Loss of a distinctive rear elevation

By The Old House Web

19th c. rowhouse. National Park Service.

The historic character...

This late 19th century, 3-story, brick rowhouse located in a small-townhistoric district, is typical of other Victorian buildings with its Italianate window anddoor trim and bracketed cornice (see right, top). Also characteristic of many buildings inthe district, it has a two-story kitchen wing at the rear with a second-story porchfeaturing a decorative balustrade (see right, below).

...and how it was lost in the rehabilitation.

Rehabilitation of the building essentially involved work to convert theresidence into a dress shop. The owner felt that the existing interior space wasinadequate for the retail operation, and, as a result demolished the historic rear wing inorder to build a much larger addition. Beause of the loss of the distinctive rear porchcoupled with construction of a massive new addition that has a non-residential scale andappearance, the work did not meet Standards 6 and 9. Finally, the addition, below,radically changes the exterior form of the rowhouse.

Distinctive rear wing and porch

No rear wing, but a new addition and parking.

What should you know?

Attaching a new exterior addition usually involves some degree ofloss to an external wall or walls. For this reason, it is generally recommended that anaddition be constructed on a secondary side or rear elevation where significant materialsand features are less apt to be present. However, where side or rear elevations arearchitecturally significant or where they display either a distinctive individual plan ora plan characteristic of buildings in the neighborhood, they need to be retained andpreserved--not damaged, destroyed, or hidden.

Suggestions from the Secretary of the Interior's Standards forRehabilitation:

Standard 6: Deteriorated historic features shall be repairedrather than replaced. Where the severity of deterioration requires replacement of adistinctive feature, the new feature shall match the old in design, color, texture, andother visual qualities and, where possible, materials. Replacement of missing historicfeatures shall be substantiated by documentary, physical, or pictorial evidence.

Standard 9:New additions, exterior alterations, or related newconstruction shall not destroy historic materials that characterize the property. The newwork shall be differentiated from the old and shall be compatible with the massing, size,scale, and architectural features to protect the historic integrity of the property andits environment.

Source of Story: National Park Service

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