Letters: Witherspoon-Jackson Historic District Needed to Protect Neighborhood

Dear Editor

The Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood has a compelling legacy that should never be forgotton – acknowledging the inhumanity of slavery and segregation. This unique history of a once-segregated neighborhood is the story of the whole neighborhood, and is not that of any one person or structure. The buildings and their distinctive porches are the memory-bank of a closely-knit community that has survived through struggle and hardship, while uniquely accepting disenfranchised immigrant neighbors.

This very neighborhood was found in 1994 by the State Historic Preservation Office to be eligible to be on the National Register of Historic Places. Now, locally, the Historic Preservation Commission has recommended that this neighborhood join with 19 other local districts that have far less profound stories.

Many people hope that this historic district designation will help to stabilize property values. The mission of the Historic Preservation Commission focuses on preserving the historic character of the neighborhood. Its review of proposed teardowns, along with a focus on limiting new construction to fit the scale of the neighborhood, may also help to moderate growth in valuations for residents, some of whom have lived there for more than six generations.

The Historic Preservation Commission has recommended a Type II designation for the district, which permits considerable flexibility for its homeowners. Routine maintenance is permissible without Historic Preservation Commission review. The Historic Preservation Commission will work with the homeowner to find less expensive alternatives for more extensive alterations. Recent teardowns of historic structures in the neighborhood reveal a genuine urgency for immediate action.

Kip Cherry