By Barbara Harrington
ABERDEEN – There are two kinds of historic districts, National Register and Local Preservation.
Aberdeen has both. In Aberdeen, there are seven National Register districts. The biggest district, by far, according to Kathy Seymour, chairman of the Aberdeen Historic Preservation Commission, is the South Central, which runs from Franklin Street to near the Monroe County Courthouse.
Seymour said there are approximately 255 buildings on the National Register, including commercial, residential and government. There are separate structure listings, as well as districts.
“These are all under the Department of the Interior,” Seymour said. “That’s where the National Register is located and who has control.”
Local preservation districts are enacted by local ordinance. In Aberdeen right now, there is only one and that is the downtown district. The Aberdeen Historic Preservation Commission recently recommended the establishment of a second one to the board of aldermen. It will be primarily residential, whereas the other is commercial. Seymour said there are 80 houses in the proposed second local district, which runs south of Commerce on Franklin, Long, High, West Jefferson and West Monroe streets.
Seymour said the commission and representatives from Archives and History have met with residents of the area a couple of times to explain what it will mean to be designated a local preservation district.
“The only ‘negative’ response we got during the hearings,” Seymour said, “was that people wanted it to be bigger. We wanted to do a smaller area first, see what it entails.
“It has been proven time and again that property values go up when local districts are established, because of the guidelines.”
One thing the guidelines prevents is demolition by neglect. Also, the commission must approve any external changes to the facade, such as removing a porch or changing doors and windows.
“We’re concerned about the facade, anything in front of the house and how it affects the streetscape,” Seymour said.
Seymour said the original ordinance, the commission and the first district were established in 1997.
“When you become a certified local government with the state, you establish a commission and one local district,” she said. “That has allowed us to apply for grants. That’s where we got money to expand the South Central District and to work on the depot.
“We’ve been 10 years without establishing another district. Archives and History was getting anxious for us to establish another one.”
There is a process for this, which takes a while to accomplish, and involves the commission, city government, Archives and History, and the public, when a hearing is held.
She said it takes a while to get all people on the commission on the same level concerning architectural history. That training doesn’t happen overnight, she said, but now there is a core group of people who know what’s going on. Besides Seymour, members of the commission are Dwight Stevens, Sara Lepicier, Sylvester Reed, Jim Seay, Lawson Grimes, Mary-Ellen Krummrich and Deborah Stubblefield, who was involved with the commission in Columbus for a while.
“All of these people are very interested in historic preservation,” she said. “When we have a meeting, there is a good reason if someone is not there. Prior to this, we couldn’t ever get a quorum.”
The new district, if it becomes a reality, will be called the Silk Stocking Row Historic District. Silk Stocking Row was the original name of Franklin Street.
“We chose this area because it has such a diversity of architectural styles,” Seymour said.
Styles of historic homes include Federal, Antebellum or Greek Revival, Italianate, Colonial Revival, Bungalow or Arts and Crafts, Second Empire, Queen Anne, Swiss Chateau, Dutch Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, Spanish Eclectic, Airplane Style Bungalow and I-Style.
“A lot of houses in Aberdeen have features of more than one period,” Seymour said. “To me, that’s our calling card, the variety of styles of architecture.amp”
Seymour said people at Archives and History were really excited about finding in Aberdeen the house that is an example of an Airplane Style Bungalow. It may be one of only two in the state.
The late Mary Elizabeth Hamilton began the process for getting districts on the National Register. Through her efforts, Archives and History came to Aberdeen in 1988 and surveyed and helped in the application process. “They don’t do that any more,” Seymour said. “Now, it’s a do-it-yourself project.”