At issue was consolidating an undesignated historic property at 221 Morrison Avenue (near Davis Square) with two previously designated properties on Morrison (222 and 197) to form the Morrison Avenue Historic District. The two owners of 221 Morrison Ave. were present to testify in favor.
Other two existing owners returned cards, seemed OK with change. [Note: According to the list of properties, there are another 5 properties on the street proposed for the Morrison Ave. district: 140, 142, 144, 146, 148.]
Staff passed out report. Had to hand-insert 197 Morrison pages (left out by accident).
Owners at 221 Morrison wanted designation as a historic site to improve their Bed and Breakfast business. (Their B&B has a web site and is on Chamber of Commerce web site.) They want to add 3 bedrooms, making total of 6. Has been a B&B nine years, frequently full (90% of time). Plan August 17 to present design to Historic Commission and to Planning Dept. Wants to bring designation to Architectural Access Board. [Note: Architectural Access Board is state agency that enforces regulations designed to make public buildings accessible to persons with disabilities.]
Historic Commission felt there would be no problem with BOA or Historic Commission so they should move forward with preparing design. New B&B ordinance was enacted to encourage lodging facilities in Somerville.
Distinction: Fully preserved houses are like house museums. Partially preserved (local designation) can have changes for health/safety issues. In general no changes can be made to features viewable from street.
I asked question: Why designate individual houses as historic instead of whole streets?
Answer: Easier to designate one building at a time. Spring Hill district took 20-25 years to build up, likewise Bow Street. Didn’t have groups of eligible properties, many properties were already altered. Now starting to form groups of buildings.
One building at a time is generally a “landmark” building. Don’t have any landmark buildings. Might be some, less than 3% of buildings have been surveyed. Other cities are following our lead with single buildings.
Locating and uncovering a historic property isn’t the same as historic designation. Historic Preservation Commission gives two rewards, one for designated properties and one for nondesignated. Might designate a vinyl-clad building if it had the correct form, especially if it is at risk. Might be years before it is returned to original form: designate 1985, remove vinyl 2005.
Are various reasons for designation. Not just mansions, also interested in immigrant areas, working men’s lodgings. Neighborhoods begin to improve once a house has been designated and returned to original form (neighbors follow suit).
Question about what you can do with the property. Can replace what’s there with the same thing. 221 Morrison has replacement windows; can replace them with the same kind of windows. Hardiplank siding OK on new construction, but doesn’t exactly match wood (sharp edges). Would be discouraged as a change on a historic property. Avoid fake wood grain!
Vote to designate 221 Morrison passed unanimously.
Issue for next meeting: implications of new Open Meeting rules.