Renovating in Historic Districts in DC, Virginia, and Maryland

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Capitol Hill Townhouse

Washington, DC and the nearby municipalities in Maryland and Virginia have many residential areas designated as historic districts. A historic district may be a few blocks large or as large as a few square miles. Living in a historic district may have important implications for the shape and form of your renovation project as well as for the length and complexity of the permit process.

Regardless of whether you live in a historic district, our design department and craftsmen can detail the improvements to your home so that they blend seamlessly with its architectural style, both inside and out. This can include items such as having moldings milled to match unique original ones (so typical in many D.C. area homes) as well as matching other finishes with historically appropriate ones. At the same time, we can utilize contemporary building materials, systems and construction methods as well as contemporary space-planning principals to ensure the home is energy and space efficient.

Living in a historic district typically limits what modifications or improvements you can make to the front of the home, and publicly-visible side elevations. Depending upon the particular historic district, and whether your home is considered to be “contributing” or “non-contributing”, limits may also be placed on the replacement materials permitted, particularly windows and front doors. Restrictions vary greatly by jurisdiction, from very restrictive to only minimally restrictive.

You will almost certainly not be limited by what alterations you make to the interior of your home. (For example, Landis Construction remodeled a home on the National Historic Register of Homes and there were no restrictions even there on the interior.)

In hyper-vigilant districts, particularly in parts of Georgetown, the rear elevation of the home may also be considered in the historic review process.

Landis Construction has the flexibility to either complete the historic review process for our clients, or provide basic orientation so that clients can complete the paperwork and/or legwork themselves.

The historic review process is in a fundamental sense about building community and neighborhood consent. Ensuring that various parties have opportunities to comment on the proposed changes is an important key to the process.

In most of the Washington DC’s historic districts, the process is as follows:

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Georgetown townhouse

1, The local Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) needs to be informed of your remodeling intentions. While their approval is not required, it can be of some assistance in the process.

2, The local neighborhood’s historic preservation association needs to be informed. Again, their approval isn’t required, but can be helpful.

3, Each neighborhood in the District is assigned a DC Historic Preservation staff member. The appropriate staff member for the neighborhood in question is consulted at the beginning of the process. The staff member ultimately recommends (or doesn’t recommend) a project and acts as an intermediary between the project architect and homeowner and the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB, the ultimate decision making authority). For smaller projects including front door or window changes or roofing modification, the staff member can often approve the project without needing to forward the project to a full Board review process.

4, At the schematic design phase, drawing elevations and plan(s) of the proposed project along with photographs of the existing home and street and any other applicable materials are submitted to the HPRB, which meets monthly.

5, The HPRB sends notice to the applicant’s neighbors concerning the remodeling intent and neighbors are invited to attend the “Consent” meeting.

Cleveland Park House

Cleveland Park House

6, Non-controversial projects are put on the consent calendar and applicants do not need to be present. An application to get on the “Consent Calendar” is due approximately one month before the meeting. More controversial projects will be placed on “the Agenda” which requires the owner or architect to make a presentation before the board.

7, For proposed renovation projects in Georgetown, materials are submitted first to the Old Georgetown Board (OGB) first. Generally if the OGB accepts a project, the HPRB will as well.

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Dentil molding on house in Cleveland Park.

8, Georgetown, as with several other neighborhoods adjacent to “federal interests”, is subject to the U.S. Fine Arts Commission which reviews proposed construction under the Old Georgetown Act and the Shipstead-Luce Act. According to the Commission of Fine Arts’ website, “Specifically, the Shipstead-Luce Act applies to construction which fronts or abuts: the grounds of the Capitol; the grounds of the White House; the portion of Pennsylvania Avenue extending from the Capitol to the White House; Rock Creek Park; the National Zoo; Rock Creek and Potomac Parkways; the Mall Park System; Southwest Waterfront and Fort McNair.”

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Washington, DC has the following (residential) Historic Districts:
(Click here to see list of maps)

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Kalorama Triangle Townhouses

1 Anacostia
2 Blagden Alley/Naylor Court
3 Capitol Hill
4 Cleveland Park
5 Dupont Circle
6 Federal Triangle
7 Foggy Bottom Historic District
8 Fort McNair (Capitol Hill)
9 Foxhall Village
10 Georgetown
11 Grant Road (Tenleytown)
12 Greater U Street
13 Kalorama Triangle
14 LeDroit Park

LeDroit Park

LeDroit Park Townhouses

15 Logan Circle Historic District
16 Massachusetts Avenue
17 McMillan Park Reservoir (not residential – but under development pressure)
18 Mount Pleasant
19 Mount Vernon Square
20 Mount Vernon Triangle
21 Shaw
22 Sheridan-Kalorama
23 Sixteenth Street
24 Strivers’ Section
25 Takoma Park, DC
26 Washington Heights (Kalorama)
27 Woodley Park

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headingbgWashington, DC has the following (residential) Historic Districts:In Maryland and Virginia, the local municipalities of each district oversee the historic review process. In Takoma Park, for example, the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) meets twice per month. Historic Districts across the country operate in a similar fashion because the Federal Government provides support in the form of process guidelines and funding.

 

Maryland’s Montgomery County includes (residential) historic districts in the following jurisdictions:
(Click here to see list of maps)

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Bethesda, MD house

1 Brookville
2 Capitol View Park (Silver Spring)
3 Chevy Chase Village
4 Garrett Park
5 Glen Echo
6 Hammond Wood (Silver Spring)
7 Kensington
8 National Park Seminary (Silver Spring)
9 Rock Creek Woods
10 Rockville
11 Seneca
12 Takoma Park, Maryland
13 Washington Grove

 

Maryland’s Prince George’s County includes (residential) historic districts in the following jurisdictions:
(Click here to see list of maps)

1 Brandywine i01_elevation_front
2 Calvert Hills (College Park)
3 Greenbelt
4 Hyatsville
5 Laurel
6 Mount Rainier
7 North Brentwood
8 Old Town College Park
9 Riverdale Park

 

Alexandria in VA has the following (residential) historic districts:
(Click here to see Alexandria’s historic districts map)

Historic Alexandria

Historic Alexandria

1 Alexandria City
2 Parkfairfax Condos
3 Rosemont
4 Town of Potomac (Del Ray)

 

Arlington in VA has the following (residential) historic districts:
(Click here to see Arlington’s historic districts map)

1 Arlington Forest
2 Arlington Village
3 Ashton Heights
4 Buckingham Village Photo_072508_002
5 Cherrydale
6 Columbia Forest
7 Fairlington
8 Glebewood Village
9 Lee Garden
10 Lyon Park
11 Lyon Village
12 Maywood
13 Penrose
14 Walter Reed Gardens (Commons of Arlington)
15 Waverly Hills
16 Westover

 

General Links:

About the Old Georgetown Act
About the Shipstead Luce Act
AIA Historic Resources Committee
National Building Museum
National Trust for Historic Preservation
US Commission of Fine Arts

 

Maryland Links:

Maryland Association of Historic District Commissions
Montgomery County Historic Preservation Office
Prince George’s County Planning Department
Hyattsville Preservation Association

 

Washington, DC Links:

Capitol Hill Restoration Society
Citizens Guide to the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Process
Cleveland Park Historical Society
DC 20 Year Comprehensive Plan
DC Historic Preservation Office
DC Office of Planning
DC Office of Zoning
DC Preservation League
National Historic Preservation Act
Summary of DC Overlay Districts
The Historical Society of Washington, DC

 

Virginia Links:

Alexandria Historical Society
Arlington Historical Society
City of Alexandria
Great Falls Historical Society
Reston Historic Trust
Virginia Department of Historic Resources