Sunday, February 24, 2013

Letter from Office of the Lieutenant Governor

Read this letter to Mayor Roy from Pat Duncan, Assistant Secretary and State Historic Preservation Officer, formally notifying him of the state review panel's consideration of the nomination and a map showing the location of the visitors' center where the review will take place.  Similar letters were sent to state and federal legislative representatives.

Attached to the letter are:
  • instructions to comment on, support, or object to listing on the National Register
  • directions and map to Capitol Park Welcome Center

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Neighborhood Development

(extracted from the draft proposal)

The district includes all or part of five small contiguous subdivisions of land: Petrus Heights (the largest), Mattie O. Ball, Mimosa Place, Kent Addition-East of MacArthur, and DeSelle (the smallest, with only five lots). Their plats date from between 1937 and 1942, although they did not develop until the post-war years. Because it would be inaccurate and misleading to name the district for any of the subdivisions, the name Alexandria Post-War Suburbs Historic District was chosen.

All of the subdivisions are examples of land subdivided by private landowners (known as “subdividers” in modern subdivision history terminology). Individuals then purchased a lot and built whatever they wished. This is in sharp contrast to the look of subdivisions developed by “merchant builders,” wherein a developer purchased the land and built the houses to various models. The “subdivider” development pattern is responsible for the greater variety (and greater architectural interest) found in the nominated district.

It also appears that some of the houses (a minority) may have been speculatively built – i.e., a contractor bought a few lots, built some houses, and sold them.

The layouts of the five subdivisions noted above follow a traditional city grid pattern, although the blocks are typically larger and the lots much wider. There is a notable absence of the curving streets and cul-de-sacs so typical of subdivisions laid out in the post-war years.  Blocks are square, rectangular, and irregular in shape (the latter due to three angled streets (Kimball, Hunter and Pierson – see map). Kimball Avenue takes its orientation from Bayou Hynson.

Elliott Street is a continuation of the same named street that begins in an early twentieth century suburb of the city. Otherwise, the district’s streets were cut when the subdivisions were platted.

As is typical of post-WWII subdivisions, any given house is located roughly in the middle of the lot with a broad expanse of lawn in the front. The large lots with ample front lawns epitomize the escape-from-the-crowded-city concept that was much a part of the suburban rationale. In terms of designed landscape features, there are a notable number of period low planter boxes built of the same brick as the house.

City directories reveal the pace of construction in the district. In the immediate post-war years, twenty-three houses were built. Clearly the period of intense construction was 1951-56, when half of the district’s houses were built. Roughly one-fourth were built in the late 1950s/early 60’s.

Contributing and Non-contributing Elements

(extracted from the draft proposal)
The period of significance for the district is 1945-1963 (see explanation in Part 8). Contributing elements include ranch houses and contemporary houses. Per consultation with NPS, two houses outside this period are being counted as contributing because they are close in age and are similar in architectural character to 50-plus year old buildings in the district. One is a ranch house built in 1964 (#109). The other is the home of local architect Thilo Steinschulte, built in 1968 (#85). It reflects the design ethos of an important component of the district – contemporary houses.

There are only 14 non-contributing buildings in the district. They are either (1) fifty-plus year old houses that do not contribute to the dominant architectural character of the district (i.e., not ranch houses or contemporary houses); (2) a severely altered contemporary house with an Eichler roof; and (3) houses that are less than 50 years old (and not close enough to the 50 year cutoff and reflective of the district’s architectural character to count as contributing).