Rossman Avenue is the principal part of the Rossman-Prospect Avenue Historic District, which is not only locally designated but also, since 1985, has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places because, among other things, it was the first planned subdivision in Hudson, developed in the late 19th century, outside of the city's original grid plan. The National Register identifies the architectural styles in the Rossman-Prospect Historic District as "Late 19th and 20th Century Revivals, Bungalow/Craftsman, Late Victorian" and recognizes the period of significance for the district as 1925-1949, 1900-1924, 1875-1899. Into this collection of late 19th and early 20th century houses, the introduction of this one-story house is being proposed.
Last Friday, the five members of the HPC present for the meeting (Chris Perry, the architect member, and Miranda Barry were absent) voted that the application was complete. They also voted on whether or not to waive a public hearing. HPC members Peggy Polenberg, who opined during the meeting, "I think it's fantastic, because I like modern," and Phil Forman voted to waive a public hearing; Rick Rector, who chairs the commission, Gini Casasco, and David Voorhees voted against waiving a public hearing. Consequently, a public hearing on the proposal will take place on Friday, April 24, at 10 a.m., at City Hall.
In making a decision about granting a certificate of appropriateness, the Historic Preservation Commission must determine if the proposed building is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. Chapter 169-6 B provides the following guidelines:
In applying the principle of compatibility, the Commission shall consider the following factors:
(1) The general design, character, and appropriateness to the property of the proposed alteration or new construction;
(2) The scale of the proposed alteration or new construction in relation to the property itself, surrounding properties, and the neighborhood;
(3) Texture, materials, and color and their relation to similar features of other properties in the neighborhood;
(4) Visual compatibility with surrounding properties, including proportion of the property's front facade, proportion and arrangement of windows and other openings within the facade, roof shape, and the rhythm of spacing of properties on streets, including setback; and
(5) The importance of historic, architectural, or other features to the significance of the property.Obviously, the scale of the proposed new building is not compatible with its closest neighbors. It's a one-story building tucked between two substantial early 20th-century houses with two stories and attics, but the reason for its diminutive stature may complicate things for the HPC. According to the applicant, the house is close to the ground "so as not to obstruct the view of the people across the street."
The argument has been made that because Hudson has fine examples of the numerous architectural styles of the 19th and early 20th centuries, we should also have fine examples of early 21st century design. Most new construction in Hudson in the past decade or so has taken the cautious route of being imitative of 19th-century styles, and while we may not want to see any more Greek Revival imitations, we should not rush to embrace anything of contemporary design. When contemporary design is to be introduced anywhere in Hudson, but especially in a discrete and intact neighborhood like Rossman Avenue, the standards of compatibility must be applied.
It is acknowledged that compatibility is a subjective thing, but much has been written to inform and guide judgment. In 2007, the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia published a booklet that defines best practice: Sense of Place: Design Guidelines for New Construction in Historic Districts. It is recommended reading for everyone who cares about preserving the historic character of our city and its neighborhoods.
COPYRIGHT 2015 CAROLE OSTERINK