My husband and I lived in a historic district from 2004 to 2009. Our neighborhood was listed on a local historic district as well as the National Register of Historic Places.
A historic district is designed to preserve and restore, not to change and conform.
The former owner of our home was a real estate flipper that made some changes to the outside of the house that were not historically accurate. As a result when we took ownership of the house we also inherited his violations and had to address them.
I had to appear before the historic board and apply for a “Certificate of appropriateness”. You go before the board and present your case for any changes you wish to make to the outside of the structure. You had to get your certificate from the historic board before you could get any permits from the city.
My certificate was approved. Which included removing a vestibule from the front of the house that wasn’t original to the home anyway, installing a picket fence and addressing the violations from the former owner. The violations included removing shutters which were not original to the house, tearing down a deck and replacing it with the same style stairs that were there initially and removing architectural embellishments that would have never been part of the house.
I loved living in a historic district. Our district had a variety of homes from Queen Anne’s, Italianate, and the simple Greek Revival like our home just to name a few.
In 2005 This Old House magazine wrote an article entitled, “Look, but don’t touch” by Daniel Akst. It talked about the pro’s and con’s of living in a historic district. Some people lamented historic districts as being “too restrictive”. But the article also made this point… ” To homeowners who truly care about preserving their neighborhood’s architectural integrity, abiding by historic-district restrictions is worth the hassle, because the same regulations that impinge on your right to redesign your porch also protect you from a neighbor determined to bulldoze the clapboard saltbox next door and put up a vinyl-sided McMansion in its place.”
After I read the article I wrote a letter to the editor which was later published in This Old House magazine in the May 2005 issue. It read in part…
“I live in a neighborhood that is on a local historic registry and on the National Register of Historic Places. My husband and I moved here with the knowledge that certain things would be required of us as homeowners. Sure, it may mean some effort on our part to “obey the rules” so to speak, but isn’t it worth the effort?”
What I learned living in that historic district is preservation and restoration should always win out over change and conformity.