ASHLAND HISTORIC COMMISSION
October 21, 2003
At 5:30 p.m., the Historic Commission met in the Siskiyou Room in the Community Development/Engineering Services Building. Present were members Dale Shostrom, Terry Skibby, Joanne Krippaehne, Tom Giordano, Rob Saladoff, Jay Leighton and Sam Whitford. In addition, Secretary Sonja Akerman was in attendance. Alex Krach was unable to attend.
The meeting was requested in order to discuss issues on design and how to interpret the standards adopted by the City of Ashland and the Department of Interior Design Standards for Rehabilitation. Members focused mainly on additions and remodels to historic residential buildings.
Giordano began the discussion by stating that because design matters are so subjective and each piece of property has special circumstances, there needs to be some latitude in the design process. In addition, he would like to see the Historic Commission have more authority with respect to approving and denying projects rather than only being a recommending body.
Krippaehne said she feels the Historic Commission ends up designing more than it ought to out of fear that a design won't be compatible. In her opinion, cultural progress, social conditions and technological conditions should dictate design. For example, she cited Craftsman and Queen Anne styles as being completely different at the turn of the century. She related if people did not have the foresight then, we wouldn't even have the Craftsman style. Leighton added each era has its own style and each era overlaps to a certain extent.
Skibby stated he would like to keep a certain look in the Historic Districts. He does not want new designs to overwhelm the historic buildings. Saladoff observed, however, that there is a problem with always going toward conformity. There is a need to be open to new technology and trends.
Skibby conveyed his desire to have samples of designs and photographs of local buildings. Krippaehne said it would be helpful to develop boards that will explain this. In her opinion, one of the biggest threats to the Historic District is mucking up historic buildings by using inappropriate materials, windows, etc. Whitford commented that he considers it appropriate, however, for new structures to use contemporary materials. It is essential the Commission look closely at remodels and additions on historic buildings. Also, for additions on historic structures, he said scale is very important.
Shostrom offered the Old House Web articles about New Exterior Additions to Historic Buildings according to Department of the Interior Standards for Rehabilitation as a discussion topic. An addition to a historic building is considered acceptable by the National Park Service standards if it: 1. Preserves significant historic materials and features, and 2. Preserves the historic character, and 3. Protects the historical significance by making a visual distinction between old and new. Shostrom stated that as a preservationist, he wants to see as much of the old building as possible. Is that good or bad? Discussion ensued regarding the matching of details and materials. If too much matches, it is sometimes difficult to tell the old from the new.
Giordano provided input on the benefits of having the Review Board critique designs, noting that better designs are often the result.
Regarding additions, members agreed the goal is to keep the street side of the building as unchanged as possible. The locations of additions, as well as the use of matching materials were also discussed. Krippaehne mentioned the work of architect Hugh Newall Jacobson, whose restoration work integrates contemporary technologies with existing historic buildings.
Saladoff stated the existing house needs to reveal itself. Designs for additions need to address not only the existing house, but also how the owner can be accommodated. Leighton added the social norm has changed. People now need more. Historically, people would add on, but the additions were kept modest. Saladoff stated and the Commission agreed that it is not trying to design buildings and additions.
Krippaehne remarked that each property needs to be looked at. Existing buildings need to be retained, but additions can be designed by nearly duplicating the shapes and volumes while still making them different.
All the members agreed the front of a house is sacred and it is very important to keep front as original as possible.
Shostrom pointed out that many historic outbuildings use the same pitch roof, materials and shapes. He asked if they should look the same? Saladoff said the function of the new outbuilding is important to know in determining this. What is the hierarchy? Should it reflect the same period? Are architecturally inaccurate elements used, such as brackets?
Shostrom inquired if the Commission should come up with an outline for a guide or a companion booklet. Although there was not a consensus this should be an end result, the members agreed that if a guide were made, it would have to be specific for Ashland. Also mentioned were before and after photographs and illustrations.
In summary, the members agreed that additions should generally match the exiting structures. Also, there needs to be a visual transition between the existing building and the new construction. Techniques to accomplish this would include stepping back the new portion and making a visual distinction between the old and the new.
Concerning new construction, the members felt it is important to mimic the existing setbacks of the neighborhood. Krippaehne would like to see more contemporary architecture that doesn't just mimic historic buildings but does meet the standards.
The Historic Commission decided to have meetings like this quarterly. The next one will be scheduled in December for a January meeting. Members will bring in pictures of existing houses, books and magazines.
At 7:40 p.m. the meeting adjourned.