Coloring Sykesville Victoriana

October 13, 1991

The Sykesville Town Council is about to pass a new historic district ordinance. That is splendid news because the Carroll County municipality of 2,433 people near the Howard County line boasts well-preserved Victorian homes, a century-old Queen Anne-style train depot and a Main Street that is being revitalized.

Sykesville has had a historic district ordinance for eight years. But no map detailing historic areas was passed with the law. The new ordinance will reduce the preservation commission's membership from seven to five, spell out its jurisdiction and determine what fines would apply to violators. A last-minute debate is now raging over whether the commission should have authority over changes in the exterior color of buildings. There is even talk about developing a palette of approved colors.

Before Mayor Lloyd R. Helt Jr. and the Town Council make their minds on strict color rules, we suggest they study a little series of books which begins with "Painted Ladies." When that book of photographs was published in 1978, it launched a colorist movement throughout America. Owners of Victorian houses, after consulting old photographs and architectural books, discarded the conventional white of their homes. As a result, San Francisco and many other cities now have delightfully colorful Victorian houses, many using a dozen or more colors and hues in a tasteful symphony. They have become popular tourist attractions.

Some of the homes which originally appeared in "Painted Ladies" have been repainted over the years in totally different colors and have had their new appearance documented in subsequent volumes of the series. The point is this: there is no one historically accurate Victorian color scheme but a variety of them. We urge the Sykesville Town Council not to make the mistake of passing restrictions that will unduly prohibit residents from showing their pride in colors.

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