At its June 22 meeting, the Historic Preservation Commission agreed on a new policy. When a project involves the removal of asbestos, aluminum, vinyl, or other non-original siding, a certificate of appropriateness will not be granted to the proposed facade restoration before the siding has been removed. Applicants will be required to return to the HPC after the siding has come off to get a certificate of appropriateness for the facade restoration. This policy is especially important when no historic pictures can be found of the building. Much was covered up when buildings were clad in post-World War II siding, often deliberately to "modernize" the house's appearance, and without a historic photograph, it's impossible to know what lies beneath. It makes no sense approve a plan for restoring a facade without that information.
Two recent projects prompted the HPC to adopt this policy. The first is this house in the 500 block of Union Street.
The HPC granted a certificate of appropriateness to remove the vinyl siding and restore the cornice. When the siding came off, three eyebrow windows below the cornice were exposed, but they were covered up again, and since no one knew they were there, the certificate of appropriateness did not specify that the eyebrows should be restored.
Even without a historic photograph, it seems possible to guess that the original cornice didn't look like what is there now.
The other project that persuaded the members of the HPC that they shouldn't grant a certificate of appropriateness for facade restoration without knowing what's under the siding is 742 Warren Street.
The prospect of 742 and 744 Warren Street being freed from their salmon-colored siding was welcomed with unbridled enthusiasm, and there was even greater elation when the evidence of the buildings' original details was uncovered.
But alas, no sooner were the details and the ghosts of details revealed than they were covered up again, and, because the certificate of appropriateness did not make specific reference to retaining historic details that might survive beneath the siding, there was nothing that could be done to prevent it.
There is no doubt that 742 and 744 Warren Street--two distinct buildings--look much better today than they did clad in siding that made them look like a single building, but imagine how much better 742 Warren Street might have looked with its original details restored.
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