Capitol Hill Historic District Could Expand

CHRS Plans Public Meetings on Findings of Historic Architectural Study

The boundaries of the Capitol Hill Historic District could expand north and east if neighbors agree with the results of a soon-to-be-released study by architectural history firm EHT Traceries commissioned by Capitol Hill Restoration Society (CHRS).

CHRS is hosting a series of community meetings in November for EHT Traceries to present their findings and recommendations--based on the consultants’ more than 200-page report, also planned for release next month.

Whether or not the public chooses to expand the historic district, cataloging the architectural history of greater Capitol Hill is important, said Beth Purcell, the chair of the CHRS historic preservation committee. The study, Purcell hopes, will be a resource for neighbors wishing to preserve the historic character of their neighborhood.

Purcell often has neighbors, living beyond the boundaries of the historic district, inquire about how they can impact nearby real estate developments.

“This is an answer that question” said Purcell.

Any expansion of the Capitol Hill Historic District depends in large part on the value of architecture within the added area. The new study, which contains historical data about the approximately 5,300 buildings, provides neighbors with the information to make their case. EHT Traceries has taken photos of each residential property in the study and included information like why they were built, for whom they were built and why they look the way they do, among other contextual factors.

Final say on any boundary change rests with residents of those neighborhoods impacted. “We certainly think that having historic district status is a good thing, but we’re not going to force it on anyone,” said Lisa Dale Jones, president of CHRS.

The hope is that for those communities that choose to pursue historic district designation, stated Purcell, the study can provide a sort of “historic district application in a box.”

According to Purcell, historic designation is analogous to a “defensive move” one would make in a chess game. The benefits are having a say in the process when a developer wants to build something new, create a “pop-up” or demolish a structure, she said.

There are certainly downsides to historic designation, Purcell admits. For example, there are restrictions on external changes to homes such as vinyl siding or non-historic window styles. For those and other reasons, many neighborhoods will choose not to pursue historic status, Purcell stated.

“The key is, ‘what do people want?’” Purcell said. “This is just the first in a long conversation.”

The meetings on the EHT Traceries study will be as follows:

·         ANC 6A area: Wed. Nov. 5, 6:45 to 8:30 p.m., Maury Elementary School, 13th St. and Constitution Ave. NE

·         ANC 6B area: Mon. Nov. 17, 6:45 to 8:30 p.m., Hill Center, 921 Penn. Ave. SE

·         ANC 6C area: Tues. Nov. 18, 7 to 9 p.m., Northeast Library, 330 Seventh St. NE

More information on the Capitol Hill Restoration Society itself, the Capitol Hill Historic District and historic preservation in general, can be found on their website.

Shaun Courtney is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of District Source, a D.C. real estate and neighborhood news blog, co-founded and supported by Lindsay Reishman Real Estate. Shaun has been a local reporter in DC since 2009 and has called the city home since 2002. She currently lives in Kingman Park. Read more from District Source at

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