A Developing Historic District

I don’t spend all of my time working in the backyard, and that is one reason why my blog posts come few and far between. But this blog is not only a place to share my projects with you, it is also a great place for me to rant! 🙂

There has been a controversy that I have been semi-following, and today my emotions toward it just boiled up and is now spilling out onto this post. I will quickly debrief you on the issue: A couple purchased an empty lot in Oakwood and hired a local architect, Louis Cherry, to design their dream home – a Modernist home. Since Oakwood is a historic neighborhood, Cherry needed to obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) from the Raleigh Historic Development Commission (RHDC) in order to proceed with building. After following the guidelines and utilizing the proper channels, Cherry successfully received the permit and began construction in the fall of 2013. Everything’s fine and dandy, right? Wrong. An Oakwood resident proposed to the City Council that the construction be halted because the Modernist home did not fit the aesthetic of the historic neighborhood. She hired a lawyer to repeal the COA to the Board of Adjustments (BOA). Last month, the COA was revoked and Cherry was forced to stop, mid-build. Cue uproar. Find more info on the subject here.

If Cherry followed the rules, and the RHDC gives its blessing, how can a legal permit be rescinded based on personal architecture tastes of a few neighbors? What is the point of having rules if it turns out the rules do not even matter? What would the neighbors wish to put in the home’s place? A fake 1875-esque facade, thus devaluing the true historic homes? Newsflash: You can’t build a new historic home. The Modernist home in question is being built in its contemporary, just like the Second Empire/Queen Anne styles lining the streets of Oakwood were built in their contemporary (or should I mention that they really weren’t contemporary, as these styles were brought to NC 10 years late thanks to its Rip Van Winkle status – how passé 😉 ). I understand, appreciate, and evangelize the importance of historic preservation. Keyword: historic. It burns my biscuits to think of all of the time and money that could be wasted on this issue. Not only that belonging to the couple, the architect, and the builders, but the City Council, the RHDC, and potentially the Wake County Superior Court. All because of a difference in architectural tastes. Shall I ensue shock-and-awe by comparing Oakwood’s closed-minded attitude toward architectural diversity to that of Cary (where I grew up)?!

Now, I am a friendly frequenter of Oakwood and all it has to offer, so I should not generalize Oakwoodians. Can’t live without the dog park. Strongly support the growth on Person Street. Charmed by the Cooke Street Carnival. Mouth waters for the fried chicken sandwich at Quality Grocery. But, as a Cameron Parker, my opinion is irrelevant to Oakwood elitists who might consider me a lowly rival. Cameron Park is one of the “newer” Raleigh neighborhoods, plotted in 1910 shortly after Boylan Heights and Glenwood. Though Oakwood may be the “envy of other cities”, I am proud to live in a neighborhood where artistic diversity is celebrated. Please note that Cameron Park is a Historic District as defined by the RHDC, but according to the Unified Development Ordinance, it is a Neighborhood Conservation Overly District which regulates fewer features than a Historic Overlay.

I often admire my neighbors’ homes, especially when on foot taking Quailford for his daily walk. Today, I stopped to take a few snapshots in an effort to put together the puzzle of architectural characteristics. We’ve got all kinds of styles including American Craftsman Bungalows, Pueblo Revivals, Foursquares, urban farmhouses, and even Sears Kit Homes! And so much in between to show the timeline and trends of the neighborhood. Just consider the AIA Triangle Homes Tour that showcases green homes in all different types of neighborhoods including Cameron Park. Somehow, even though Cameron Park exhibits several kinds of architecture, the overall look is cohesive while featuring unique character.

Cameron Park Homes Cameron Park Homes Cameron Park Homes

In  my opinion, the Modernist home does not in any way cheapen its historic neighbors. It is a symbol of healthy growth and of a city that embraces all types of homes. When it comes to historic preservation, more attention should be put toward rehabilitating dilapidated structures instead of stifling new growth that improves our city. Props go to those who are committed to such efforts like Empire Properties, and James Goodnight who is working on the historic Nehi Bottling Company Building. I am confident that Cherry will be able to continue on. Oakwood is a developing historic district, and no, that’s not an oxymoron.

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