Cleveland Park Historical Society Architectural Review Committee
Monday, May 13, 2019
Cleveland Park Congregational Church, 3400 Lowell Street, NW
ARC members present: Win Brown, Ana Evans (for cases 2 and 3), Stefan Hurray, Danny Ince, David Kay, Ron Ngiam, Lois Orr, Anne Hatfield Weir
CPHS President Rick Nash and Executive Director Carin Ruff also attended the meeting.
3117 35th Street, NW
Two-story rear addition
Architect: Michael Lee Beidler, Trout Design Studio
The existing house is a 1901 foursquare on a wide, mid-block lot with an early (pre-1935) extension to the south. The 35th Street façade has simple, Federal-style detailing; on the rear of the house, a porch and dormers make the house look more like a typical Cleveland Park foursquare.
The proposal is to add a two-story addition on the rear (east) side of the house. The addition would have a footprint of approximately 360 square feet, would have a hipped roof matching the slope of the original house’s roof, and would be clad in vertical board-and-batten siding. On the south side, a recessed hyphen with tall, narrow windows would visually separate the existing house from the addition.
The ARC has no objection to the concept as presented, but recommends two modifications:
- The north face of the addition should have detailing to suggest windows to break up the blank plane of the wall and echo the treatment of the other façades. Non-operable shutters might be a solution to give the appearance of windows on this side.
- The north side of the addition should have a hyphen to echo the hyphen on the south side.
The motion passed 7-0 with one recusal.
3401 Lowell St., NW
Rear addition; moving a curb cut and constructing a new driveway on 34th St. leading to a new underground garage. (Revised plans)
Architect: Seth Ballard, Ballard + Mensua; owner Chris Cahill
The applicants presented revised plans for an addition on the north side of the original 1915 house, with a garage under the addition and prominent façades facing 34th Street to the east and visible from 34th Street to the north.
The earlier concept presented in April 2019 would have had a cross-gabled, three-story (or two-and-a-half-story) addition with a basement exposed as a garage entrance on the 34th Street side. The earlier concept had an open, porch-like space under addition’s gable facing 34th Street. The roofline of the addition would have been very close to the same height as that of the roof of the original house. In the earlier proposal, on the rear (north) side of the addition, a two-story box bay array of windows terminated in a smaller gable echoing the lines of the main north-facing gable of the addition. In both previous and current proposals, the view from the front (Lowell Street) side of the house would remain essentially unchanged except for the addition of a roof dormer to the west to echo the existing dormer on the east side. In both previous and current proposals, the bay on the original house that is sheltered within the existing 34th Street-facing porch would be bumped out to the property line and squared off.
In reviewing the previous plans, the ARC had several concerns. Chief among these was the sheer mass of the proposed addition, which did not read as subservient to the original building and effectively read as a four-story building as seen from 34th Street. The ARC suggested that a roof form other than a gable facing 34th Street might ameliorate the apparent height and mass of the addition.
The ARC was also concerned about the lack of articulation between the addition and the original house: “What appears to be missing in the current proposal is a clean break from the original, such as a setback or hyphen or some other way of preserving/exposing the existing northeast corner of the house.” The ARC was concerned that the amount of fenestration on the east and north sides of the addition contributed to its overscale appearance, though the ARC acknowledged that the fenestration of the addition contributed to the distinction between original and new. The ARC requested retention of the historic first-floor bay window in conjunction with a clearer articulation of the juncture between original and new volumes at that corner of the porch (the northeast corner of the original house). The ARC suggested that a hyphen between the original house and the addition would help make legible the northeast corner of the original house and the distinction between old and new.
The applicants have taken several steps to address the ARC’s concerns. In the revised plans presented on May 13th, the gable facing 34th Street has been changed to a hipped roof, eliminating the porchlike space on the top floor and effectively reducing the 34th Street side of the addition to two stories plus basement/garage, though on the north side of the addition a large gable makes it clear that there are still three full stories above grade. A new dormer sheltering a porchlike space has been introduced on the west side of the top floor of the addition. The bank of windows on the north side of the addition now terminates in a shallow hipped roof instead of a gable. The roof ridge of the addition has been lowered several inches so it is more clearly distinct from the roof ridge of the original house. The previously-proposed relationship between the addition and the original northeast corner of the house remains, and the applicants have argued in favor of their original proposal to square off the first floor bay window of the original house.
The ARC still has several concerns.
Since the house is on a corner lot, it effectively has two front façades, and the 34th Street side is a high-traffic, highly-visible public face of the property. The ARC remains concerned that the mass of the proposed addition overwhelms the scale of the original house when seen from 34th Street. The existing bay within the 34th Street porch is thus a prominent character-defining feature of the house’s public face, even though it is technically on a side elevation. Viewed from Lowell Street, the proposed bump-out to the property line of that bay and the alignment of the rear addition with the bump-out creates a projection of the rear addition beyond the side plane of the original house. To be consistent with previous practice, the east side of the rear addition should be inset to the west to make clear that the addition is subservient to main massing of the primary structure, or it should at be offset by a hyphen.
Fenestration: The ARC would like to see some simplification of the multiple styles used in the current proposal for fenestration in the addition. A large quantity of glass in contemporary style is not incompatible with traditional forms, but the proposed fenestration needs further refinement to be internally consistent (within the addition) and to relate clearly to the window styles of the original house.
The motion passed 8-0.
John Eaton Elementary School, 3301 Lowell St., NW
Demolition of 1930 multi-purpose wing; addition, new play space and landscaping
Agent: Laura Harris Hughes, EHT Traceries
The applicants presented plans for replacing the 1930 wing and 1981 central addition of John Eaton Elementary School with a new addition that would fit between the 1910 and 1923 buildings. Of the portions of the existing campus to be demolished, the 1930 wing is a contributing resource in the Cleveland Park Historic District. The proposed addition would create a new entrance between the two earlier historic buildings on the Lowell Street side of the school, and would project northward into the open area of campus towards Macomb Street. The play areas and garden spaces would be reconstructed into a fully-accessible series of terraced open spaces wrapping around the new addition on the 33rd Place, Macomb Street, and 34th Street sides of the property. The proposal includes an extensive preservation plan for the remaining historic structures.
The addition’s Lowell Street façade would have an asymmetrical design featuring a large, square array of windows and smaller groups of windows set in terra cotta cladding designed to closely approximate the color of the brick of the flanking historic buildings. The doorway area of the new addition and the side elements joining the central terracotta-faced bay to the historic buildings would be a combination of glass and darker materials.
On the east and west façades, behind the historic buildings, the main volumes of the addition would be wrapped in terra cotta cladding, with hyphens and upper-story elements in visually-receding glass and darker materials. These side elevations would have windows each divided into four sections with vertical fins for sun protection and would be surrounded by lighter-colored projecting lips in cast stone. The form of these windows is designed to echo the three-bay windows of the historic buildings.
The north façade would be an assemblage of rectangular panels of terra cotta, cast stone, glass, and aluminum. Part of the roof on this portion of the addition would be tilted up towards the west side of the property.
The ARC has the following comments:
On the demolition of the historic 1930 wing:
- The ARC regrets the loss of any contributing structure within the historic district, but recognizes that the present plan is the most feasible solution for meeting the school’s programmatic needs while preserving the earlier and more significant 1910 and 1923 wings.
- The ARC recognizes that the present solution offers the best option for preserving open space abutting the majority of the adjacent residential blocks, an important consideration for any addition within the historic district.
- If the 1930 wing is understood as an early addition to the original building, rather than a contributing building in its own right, its replacement could be considered within the scope of historic practice within the Cleveland Park Historic District, where early-but-not-original rear additions to historic houses are fairly routinely replaced. Replacing a noncontributing addition is normal practice. With those considerations in mind, the ARC supports the concept of replacing the 1930 and 1981 additions.
The following recommendations on the concept design for the new addition address the schematic design in the most general terms and presume that we will see refinement of the design and materials brought back for neighborhood review in subsequent iterations.
General comment: While the addition should be subservient to the historic elements, it need not be bland. The design should strive for elegance and should use the highest quality materials, while being of its time.
On the front (south) façade:
- The new entrance and surrounding elements need not be symmetrical, but they should support the symmetry of the flanking historic buildings.
- The ARC would prefer to see a primary material on this façade that does not compete with the brick of the historic buildings. A choice other than brick-colored terra cotta would help maintain the prominence of the historic structures, clarify the distinction between old and new, and avoid a near-miss in color match that would look like a mistake.
- The entrance door should be made more legible to those approaching the building. The current design risks replicating the problem of the 1981 building, whose entrance is so confusing.
On the side elevations:
- The ARC does not feel that the windows with four-part division and raised surrounds are successful as currently proposed. If glare prevention is needed, a truly contemporary array of fins as in some of the inspiration photos presented by the applicants would be preferable to the current scheme. If the windows are to echo the historic windows on the nearby faces of the historic wings, they should more closely replicate the rhythm and proportions of those windows. In either case, the raised lips around the windows should be eliminated.
On the north elevation:
- The ARC recognizes the effect of the central stone panel echoing the center bays of the historic buildings, but believes there is room for simplification in the elements of this face of the addition.
The motion passed 8-0.