Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Historic Preservation : A criminal offense. City Council are you listening?

"Basically, they are saying homeowners are not allowed to restore their houses because it takes too long... unless they can afford a team of contractors to do the work. So they are discouraging historic preservation for anyone but the wealthy. If I had left it covered in ugly, faded 40+ yr old aluminum siding covering all the architectural character, they'd be happy.  I'm being punished for doing historic preservation of my house."

That's a quote from a lady named Nina who is facing criminal; prosecution in Lakewood Ohio for RESTORING her house. You can read the entire story on her blog:

It must be something in the water in Ohio maybe?

Of course her problem is an everyday one for most of us restoring a house in Cincinnati. I know of one Preservationists in Cincinnati who is on house arrest and Of course we all know one highly regarded person in OTR was recently arrested and spent days in jail. Meantime a local slumlord purchased  a large number of properties at the County forfeiture sale earlier this year, placed them in his sons name and  is "patching together" a condemned house (with real structural problems) in my neighborhood with city approvals.

While other cities , in other parts of the country, encourage Historic preservation by sponsoring workshops and conferences on Preservation and "How to "  seminars and some cities are even offering 1/2 price or no cost permit fees to encourage people to buy and restore distressed foreclosures, our city plows along in the last century more intent on squeezing that last drop of blood they can out of you before you get fed up and make that one way trip across the river to Newport or Covington to restore a house, never to be seen again.

Unfortunately it happens all too often in Cincinnati. One can look across the river to Newport or Covington and see the "preservation energy" People restoring old houses , bringing back neighborhoods and improving the tax base. While we do nothing to encourage Preservation other cities move forward, I hope all those running for council or those who currently have seats on the council realize that unless the council enacts some common sense policies they will be presiding over the next Detroit, because it looks to me like those 30,000 people we lost in population all moved across the river and are restoring houses and buildings over there.

At a time when we have a great resources our historic houses, that could expand our population and thereby our tax base we , much like Lakewood Ohio are caught in downward spiral of bureaucracy.


  1. As a new owner of a late 19th century rowhouse that was rehabbed to some sort of strange hybrid historic/1980's monster, I would LOVE the resources to make it at least minimally historically representative. I'm not interested in museum-quality accuracy for our family home, but it seems like my only other options are akin to the crappy aluminum siding mentioned in the quote above. As it stands, if we must do the work ourselves, we have to work with so much red tape, restrictions, and costs that it's not worth it. If the city valued its historic architectural identity, perhaps it could offer a suspension of permit fees for property owners in historic districts. That, plus resources for homeowners like me who would LOVE to know what our house is SUPPOSED to look like, would be great.

  2. I know the feeling and believe me its a common thing I hear n Cincinnati. This being an election year we can but only use the opportunity to push foward thinking ideas that will build our future while preserving our past. As far as resources go I encourage you to check our Victorian Antiquities & Design Blog for resources and you may want to check with CPA on references and spend as much time as you can online doing research on similar houses. Restoration , especiually for a family home is a slow process.