- What is a Local Historic District?
- Is that the same as being in a National Historic District?
- How can I find out more about the history of my home?
- Which neighborhood homes have recently received demolition delay reviews?
- Statistically, what happens to the value of homes in Local Historic Districts?
- Are solar panels allowed in a Local Historic District?
Local Historic Districts (LHD) offer the strongest form of protection for the preservation of historic structures. For a complete description and definition of a LHD go to the LEARN tab. A Local Historic District is not the same as a National Historic District, which is more of an honorary designation based on a study of merit.
No. We already have about 100 homes on West Newton Hill that are either in National Register Historic Districts or on the National Register of Historic Places. That is a recognition of their significance. However that does not offer any protection against demolition or oversight on the design of new buildings. Several historic homes have been irretrievably lost in the past decade, and several more are at risk of demolition in the coming year.
Following detailed surveys and studies by the Massachusetts Historical Commission, three separate clusters of homes were recognized as National Historic Districts, encompassing homes mostly constructed from 1870 to 1920, and representing a range of architectural styles including Second Empire, Italianate, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, and Georgian. There are also individual structures which are on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, several hundred homes have been registered as "historical resources" by the Mass Historical Commission, which means they have been photographed, researched, inventoried and registered as "historical resources" to the community.
For more information and to download the detailed reports go to the LEARN tab.
Many homes on West Newton Hill are documented in the Massachusetts Historical inventory, which you can find at the Massachusetts Historic Commission. The Jackson Homestead and the Newton Free Library also have resources to help residents learn more about the history of their homes and neighborhood. Historic Newton has a program offering residents plaques which are historic home markers to give the date and original name of your home.
On January 28, 2016, at the meeting of the Newton Historical Commission, several property owners sought demolition delay review for their homes. Although these buildings were deemed to be "preferably preserved", the clock has started ticking for either a 12 - or 18-month delay, the strongest tool available to the Commission in the absence of a Local Historic District.
Homes On WN Hill with active demolition delays:
- 128 Chestnut St, the “Lambert House” which dates back to 1855 with additions circa 1900, built by Rev Henry Lambert, a Unitarian minister and ardent abolitionist (on the National Register of Historic Places and in the West Newton Hill National Historic District.) The bronze sculpture and fountain on the island on Chestnut and Highland St. is a memorial to his wife.
- 219 Chestnut St, an elegant 1917 Georgian brick home with Colonial Revival features, which sits graciously on its large 2.3 acre lot behind a circular drive. Was carefully refurbished following a fire in the 1980s.
- 128 Highland St, a Queen Anne/Colonial Revival home which dates to 1874.This house was professionally surveyed in 2013 and recommended for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places for its unique design and association with the family of Louis Fabian Bachrach
- 174 Valentine St - a brick Colonial Revival 1917 house with five bays and a curved portico. Sold through Coldwell Banker to a developer. Mature trees have been felled without following the tree ordinance guidelines. Demolished, September 2016.
Some homebuyers are attracted to historic homes in neighborhoods with similar homes. Other buyers prefer modern homes in neighborhoods with other modern homes. Not every buyer will want to be in a historic district. On the other hand, being in an historic district will be a draw for those buyers who seek more stability (less demolition and new construction) . The consistency of historic homes in WNH up until recently has increased the overall attractiveness and character of the neighborhood. Some of the new construction on West Newton Hill may have decreased the value of homes nearby. Elsewhere, home values have held up well in such historic districts as Chestnut Hill and Beacon Hill, and in the protected areas of other towns around Boston. Realtors know how to reach homebuyers who are attracted to historic neighborhoods.
There are many studies on the topic of the economic impact of preservation. Based on a recent study on changing home market values in four communities in Connecticut, there was no evidence found that being in a local historic district reduced property values. In fact, in three of the four communities, the properties within historic districts have had an annual increase in value greater than that of properties in the community as a whole. To read a summary of the Connecticut report click: Summary. For the full report, click: Full Report.
The town of Belmont also put together a report on the economic benefits of historic preservation. For this report, click: Belmont Values Preservation.
Additional information can be found in a summary report based on information in the book The Economics of Historical Preservation: A Community Leader's Guide by Donovan D. Rypkema. To view this report, click: Economic Report Summary.
Depending on their preferences, homebuyers may give more or less importance to the stability of the buildings in the neighborhood, the architecture of the neighboring houses, and the actual or expected new construction on their block and neighboring streets. In a local historic district, there is more protection against significant incompatible changes on other nearby homes. On the other hand, if buyers themselves want to make significant and highly visible changes to the front of their homes, they will need to participate in a review process with the Local Historic District Commission,whose members can be a resource anda source of suggestions. However, if the homeowner chooses an architect who is not familiar with the expectations then there will likely be more cost and delay involved.
If the proposed solar panels can be seen from the street, the installation will be subject to review by the LHD Commission. That review is discretionary. In Newton the Auburndale Historic District Commission has recently approved several solar panel installations. The Commission seemed most concerned with making the solar array as unobtrusive as possible, including matching the color of the panels and the necessary hardware to the roof color, and conditioned approval on satisfying these conditions. Front facing solar panels were approved at 357 Central Street in January, 2014. Side facing solar panels were approved at 85 Woodland Road in July 2014 and at 84-86 Grove Street in October 2015.