Guilford nominated for National Register status

Panel's recommendation goes to mayor, then to Md.

January 10, 2001|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore Planning Commission unanimously agreed last night to nominate the neighborhood of Guilford for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

The recommendation goes to Mayor Martin O'Malley. If he endorses the designation, it will be taken up by the Maryland Historical Trust on Feb. 6 in Crownsville. It must pass state approval before the federal government considers it.

In an attempt to win tax breaks for repairs to the expensive North Baltimore properties, the Guilford homeowners association made the request at a meeting of the planning commission.

Under historic status, if a homeowner made $5,000 in repairs or renovations to a property in a two-year period, 25 percent of that money could be deducted from taxes.

About 1,000 homes fall in the plan's boundaries - roughly York Road, Charles Street, Cold Spring Lane and Southway - and the sought-after status would freeze property taxes for 10 years, said Kenneth Hart, an architect who directed the neighborhood effort.

"Our main concern is that the houses are getting older and when people do repairs, we want them to do it right with the right materials," said Hart of a housing stock that largely dates between 1914 and 1950. "Historic guidelines will require people to do repairs [of greater quality] than a typical homeowner might do. We want to see slate roofs instead of shingle, wooden windows instead of vinyl."

A recent horror to many residents of Guilford - a neighborhood planned by Frederick Law Olmstead Jr. with houses modeled on some of the finest mansions in the English countryside - was the addition of blue vinyl siding on a house that faces Charles Street.

"Right now, our covenants don't have the kind of teeth to fight that sort of thing," Hart said. "Our local board has no vehicle to make them take it down."

In the proposal, Hart included two nearby properties, which the Calvert School is looking to buy as part of a planned expansion.

"National Register designation is fairly benign," said Hart, 42. "It wouldn't restrict [the school] from demolishing the houses. But it's our strong suggestion that Calvert retain them."

Said Howard Friedel, president of the Guilford homeowners association: "This will let people moving here from out of town know that this is a stable neighborhood that's been here a long time."

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