Town evaluating historic homes

Published 1:46 pm Wednesday, January 4, 2017

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The Smithfield Board of Historic and Architectural Review is in the midst of reviewing a classification inventory of houses and other building that form the town’s historic district. 

It is an update of the 1990 inventory the town completed for a spot on the National Register of Historic Places for its historic district.

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Part of the process includes classifying a house or building as “non-contributing,” “contributing” or “landmark” structure, said BHAR member Trey Gwaltney. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Houses built before the Civil War, or those with architectural significance after the war are considered “landmark.”

Landmark structures include the Gwaltney house on South Church Street and the Grove, at the corner of Grace and Mason streets.

Houses and buildings that contribute to the historic character of the town, but do not contain landmark structures are considered “contributing.” Newer buildings are classified as “non-contributing.”

For example, four of five houses on Chalmers Row, built between 1880-1910 are considered “contributing” on the 1990 survey, with the fifth listed as “non-contributing.”

The classification provides for differing levels of oversight by the BHAR when it comes to alterations or additions. Depending on the classification or the type of work to be done, some projects can be approved administratively, according to the town’s guide to property in the historic district.

However, since it’s been more than 25 years since the survey was completed, some houses could be viewed as more historic, or architecturally significant now, Gwaltney said, adding that so far, no house has changed categories.

The BHAR is considering each street alphabetically, and has finished Astrid and Cary streets. Up next is Church Street, Gwaltney said.

Gwaltney said this year was unique for the Board as there were three requests to demolish buildings — a barn and two houses. One of the houses, located on Astrid Street, was non-contributing and had burned down. The other, a contributing Victorian built in 1903, was denied because the proposed replacement, condo-style apartments, did not offer a better alternative.

The early 20th century barn is owned by Smithfield Foods and is located off North Church Street. Foods plans to build a shed that will resemble the barn in style and color.

Gwaltney said there is no deadline, so the Board is working on it as time permits. When completed, it will be used as a reference by the BHAR.

The whole idea is to maintain the integrity of the downtown historic district, Gwaltney said.

Residents who own homes in the historic district can view the town’s historic district design guidelines at Click on Board of Historic and Architectural Review. To see if a house is listed as non-contributing, contributing or landmark, click on “download article 3.M (Historic Preservation Overlay District Ordinance).

If the information appears to be in error, residents are urged to contact the BHAR or the town’s Department of Planning, Engineering and Public Works at 365-4200.  {/mprestriction}