the strip-down

a calm consideration of a renovation problem in certain in-town neighborhoods. Maybe this should be titled,

MISINFORMED REHABBERS

Plenty of historic neighborhoods are in an interesting predicament. Cabbagetown, Reynoldstown, Edgewood, East Atlanta… all of these neighborhoods are relatively unprotected from the whims of developers and realtors. On one hand, there have been fewer tear-downs, on the other hand, this hasn’t necessarily meant that anyone is valuing historic materials more. Perhaps, however, seeing that the market puts some value on a historic house, they have been making what i see as a compromise to the tear-down: the strip down? I watched two houses on Ormewood get gutted and redesigned last year, you can see the transformation here. Both houses were gutted, and while this house came away relatively unscathed on the exterior, its across-the-street neighbor, once a cute little green American Small, was stripped to the studs inside and out, and the roofline bumped up to an awkward pitch. The ranch houses neighboring us just a few block from here are converted to snazzy, open-floor-plan contemporary homes for the urban designer. The red red brick of our 1950s subdivision is painted a cool cool gray and shutter are added… wait, shutters? I thought you said contemporary? yes, well, contemporary with shutters. nevermind.

In neighborhoods even older than the EAV however, like Cabbagetown and Reynoldstown, the new chic places to live, 2 story hardi-plank boxes squeeze between the 1910s and 20s mill houses with their folk victorian flare. These neighborhoods, primer real estate than the EAV due to their more central location (close to MARTA, not that a significant number of the new owners ride it), had many gapping holes, likely many tear-downs before my time. They still have a few tear-down possibilities too and I should be glad that these aren’t getting the old heave-ho but are getting rehabilitated: “Historic House in Historic Reynoldstown for Sale! All your favorite places are within walking distance, so you can drive there in your Prius on almost no gas!! I imagine the advertisements because this is your historic house:

From this:
before

To this:
2-24-13

Although the house still fits in the neighborhood, you’d like the look driving past, clean, spruced up, nice straight steps… but where are those turned posts porch columns? what is that extra gable doing, tacked on for no reason? The hardi-plank siding makes you think it’s a new house—what was wrong with the old wood siding besides it being wood? the windows are new of course, and inside, inside is all drywall and brand new hardwood floors though it certainly had wooden floors already, they were just not up to par.

The trend is rampant, i just noticed another rehabilitation the other day, a historic house stripped to it’s studs. There is nothing historic about the house after a rehabilitation like this! No Preservation Commission would let this pass muster. In a round-up of the neighborhood’s contributing and non-contributing structures, thanks to these strip-downs, the contributing structures have been so greatly altered (only a foot print and few 2x4s inside the walls are old) this neighborhood will likely never be able to make it into the books as a National Register district which it certainly deserves to be!

Is there a way to educate developers on the VALUE of the historic material? teach them the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation? Hmm.

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