New historically-inspired design

Up until 1960, houses in Oakwood were generally built in the prevailing local and national styles. Then began a 21-year period in which almost no homes were built in Oakwood. This had become an unfashionable part of town. Victorian and early-20th century architecture was held in low regard by mainstream opinion in the 1960s. Although there were residents of Oakwood who loved their homes and neighborhood, nobody wanted to come here and build a new home.

Around 1970, a new appreciation of Victorian and early 20th century architecture, which had begun in San Francisco and other cities, began spreading nationwide. It was an exciting thing to buy a historic house very cheaply and restore it. But as there was a plentiful supply of these inexpensive old houses, it did not make much sense to build a new house in Oakwood.

By the 1980s, Oakwood was becoming fashionable, property values were increasing, and people began to build on the remaining empty lots. The prevailing national style was the 2nd phase of the Neocolonial, with most houses of two stories, with the tall narrow windows and proportions of Williamsburg houses. But Oakwood’s new houses were not built in this style. People building in Oakwood appreciated its historic architecture, and wanted a house that blended in with the historic houses. The first new house was 120 N. Bloodworth St. (Linda Crocker), built c.1981. Although in the form of a ranch, it has a little front porch with Queen-Anne style turned columns.

Most of Oakwood became a locally-designated historic district in 1975, with all new construction to be approved by the Historic Districts Commission. (120 N. Bloodworth was outside the district borders at the time of its construction.) While the Commission does not require new houses to replicate old houses, they must be compatible with the character of the district in terms of setting, proportions, forms and materials.

602 and 604 N. Bloodworth St., built in 1985, were the first houses in Oakwood to be built under the guidance of the Historic Districts Commission. Both houses are in a form similar to that of many Queen Anne and early Neoclassical Revival houses, with a hip roof and projecting gables. 602 (Jim & Barbara McMahan) has Queen Anne-style turned columns and diamond-shaped attic vents. 604 (Vijay Patel & Tove Moore) has Neoclassical Revival Doric columns and lunette windows in the attic. But both houses have slender molding and other details typical of more modern houses.

200 Elm St. (Ellen Wiebel), built in 1986, has several elements of the Queen Anne style: a hip roof with projecting gable, a wraparound porch, a cutaway bay window and scalloped shingle siding. But none of these are executed exactly as on an original Queen Anne house. And several elements of the house are strictly modern: the slender molding, the square-section porch posts, and details of the gables. The house has a unique style, but is compatible with the character of the district.

In the 1990s, while most of the country was building in the Multi-gabled style, Oakwood enjoyed a building boom of historically inspired houses, many of them on the property formerly occupied by Fallon’s greenhouses, adjacent to the cemetery.

There have been about 36 houses built in Oakwood under the guidance of the Commission. One can find on them elements from Oakwood’s historical styles, as well as modern and unique elements. Some houses have details inspired by two or three different historical styles. But none of them should be called “Queen Anne” or “Neoclassical Revival” or “Craftsman,” as they were not built in those periods, and are not exact replicas in terms of details, materials, and craftsmanship. They are more properly called “Queen Anne-inspired” or “Craftsman Revival” or whatever term best characterizes the house’s influences.

And it now appears that historically-inspired styles are becoming popular all over suburban America. No longer a backwater, Oakwood is now a leader!