NHC: The House in its Setting

The appearance of any house is strongly affected by its setting.   How does the house fit on the land-does it look comfortable and sheltered or just ‘dropped on the lot’?    What do the houses next to it look like?     Do they fit together?    The way in which the houses relate to one another to create a larger environment is called a streetscape.

In Newburyport, it is our streetscape rather than our individual homes that is the most treasured asset in our city.     Visitors don’t come here to see one particular monument or a particular house, it is the entire city’s streetscapes that draws them in, especially that wonder of all wonders, our Federalist downtown.       That historic feel that makes Newburyport such a desired place to purchase a home is more often than not generated by the streetscape.

That order is created through a similarity in height, size, shape, and roof forms which enables the houses along a street ( or shops along our commercial district) to look like ‘members of a family’.    This is the hallmark of an attractive and alluring streetscape.      These elements of repetition and rhythm create a framework within which the individuality in smaller details (entrances, color, planting, even various architecture, etc.) becomes special.   

StreetscapeTo the left are some general images to help you understand a little better how your house ‘fits’ with its neighbors along your own street and to view the many fine streetscapes found in Newburyport’s older neighborhoods with greater appreciation.

Variety in color, style, rooflines and even setback adds interest and excitement to a streetscape.     But if the differences are too great, the sense of a shared order will be lost.    A building that departs dramatically from the pattern established by its neighbors risks the danger of ‘sticking out like a sore thumb,’ and the rhythm that characterizes a handsome street will most certainly be diminished.    

Think carefully about being a ‘good neighbor’ if you are either building a new structure, making alterations, or removing an old building.       To ignore preserving the ‘streetscape’ could affect not only the value of your property but your neighbors and if too many ignore its value, the entire historic district could be impacted making it less desirable as real estate and negatively impact our important heritage tourism industry.

There are three important elements that can affect streetscapes that are not directly linked to the historic house.    They are automobiles, fences and landscapes.       If their presence is ignored, they can detract; if taken into careful account, they can be a tremendous boost to the neighborhood for everyone’s benefit.

I will follow up in another installment on these streetscape ‘factors’.

-P. Preservationist

PS.    For those just visiting my blog for the first time, NHC stands for the Newburyport Home Companion – my as-I-write-it, manual for the Newburyport historic house owner.

This entry was posted in Architecture, Education, Heritage Tourism, Landscapes, Open Space, Planning, Streetscape, Trees. Bookmark the permalink.

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