Valuing what is unique about West Newton Hill
West Newton Hill is characterized by diverse examples of residential architecture dating from the 1840s and landscapes with mature trees. Intertwined with these structures are the stories of the prominent families who built these homes. Thoughtful preservation can still allow this distinct legacy to continue. This is consistent with continuous updating which is a necessary and healthy part of maintaining homes. Preservation can have economic, cultural, educational and environmental benefits.
Sometimes short-term expediency can lead to a loss for the community as a whole. This is occurring elsewhere in Newton and throughout other historic neighborhoods in New England. Recent demolition applications for historic homes in West Newton, including some which are on the National Register of Historic Places, have raised awareness that the buildings and streetscapes we take for granted are at risk. The demolition of the historic home at 174 Valentine Street in September 2016, in conjunction with the felling of the mature trees on the site, has altered the character of that street. (See video clips on this website, under Updates, and for overall demolition trends in Newton see this article from the Newton Tab.) Demolitions also have a detrimental environmental impact, when quality structures which were built to last fill dumpsters and landfill.
The risk is that the prevailing character of West Newton Hill will be sacrificed irretrievably. This has already occurred on some of the streets in the neighborhood. Thus there is a choice facing the community.
The importance of the architectural resources on West Newton Hill has been recognized; more than 100 buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places, either within clusters or individually listed. More than 100 other buildings have been documented previously and inventoried as historic and cultural resources with the Mass Historical Commission. Many homes have historic house markers provided through the research conducted by Historic Newton at the Jackson Homestead.
Whatever the historical or architectural significance of a building in West Newton, the community currently does not have a tool to stop unwanted demolitions of these structures, only to issue at most an 18-month delay.
A group of over 30 volunteers completed an in-depth study of the history and architecture of West Newton Hill in January 2017. We welcome involvement and ideas from all neighbors. One option we have evaluated, a Local Historic District, could be a means to: ensure greater efforts at preservation; encourage compatible updating; and, protect worthy homes from demolition where appropriate. Based on a survey conducted by the City of Newton in mid-2017, there was insufficient support to proceed with the LHD proposal at that time.
This website provides a lot more information, including on the economic impact of historic home preservation. We are also studying how these tools have worked in other communities in Massachusetts and in other parts of the country.
The goal for this website is to share information with community members, let you how you can get involved, and provide a channel to hear your ideas.
Examples of Architectural Features of Historic Homes
Ornate pediments are a common detail on many of the homes in the area.
Columns, ranging from short to tall, support many of the beautiful porches.
Gracious covered entries, with custom carpentry are a distinctive feature.