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Town prepares architectural guidelines to preserve Historical District

(11/3) As part of an effort by the town staff of Emmitsburg to prepare architectural guidelines to help preserve historic structures, a local architect has compiled a list of classic historic homes in the community.

Town Planner Susan Cipperly and Architect Keith Suerdieck, also an alternate member of the town Planning Commission, began to showcase the staff’s ongoing work at last month’s council meeting.

Cipperly told the council the reasoning behind having architectural guidelines is to "protect what you have.," especially regarding Emmitsburg because "so much of the town is still intact from when it was built."

Generally, the town is divided into two historic quarters, with west-end structures three blocks from the Square dating back the town’s founding in 1786, and east-end structures dating from the time of the 1863 fire that destroyed most of the 18th century buildings east of the Town Square.

The planner noted that "an exterior change (in the two historic areas) to any structure will have a visual impact on the streetscape."

Thus, she said, the architectural guidelines will "provide for guidance for new development who can make things (proposals) fit in" with the historic theme of Main Street.

Suerdieck told the council that he and the town staff have made "a lot of progress" in creating the developing guidelines "regarding preserving the architecture of the historic district of Emmitsburg."

"Emmitsburg is very fortunate when you look at Main Street and Seton Avenue and see how many buildings that have been here a very long time," the architect stated, noting that those buildings have "established a character in Emmitsburg that no other town has."

"More than 200 properties" in Emmitsburg, he stated, "were deemed appropriate" 20 years ago to be listed on the National Register. That’s something we should all be proud of."

Some of the classic forms of architecture reflected in local buildings include those demonstrating styles predominant during the Georgian Period, the Federal Period (1780 to 1830), the Greek Revival Period (1830s to 1860s), the Italianate Period (1860s to 1880s), and the Queen Ann Period (1880s to about 1910).

In addition, he said, there are also homes representing the American Foursquare style, which was prevalent between 1900 and 1910.

"Certainly not every home in Emmitsburg is one of these styles," Suerdieck stated. "There are homes that don’t have any of these elements," which he called "vernacular."

However he stated, "Everything blends to give a character (to the town) that we want to find a way to make them attractive for years to come."

Cipperly stated that the next step in the process of developing architectural guidelines is to "decide how to protect" significant properties, determine what options are doable now, and present the draft guidelines to the council for review.

"We need to move forward," she said, before any further development does. "We need to have a (guidelines) ordinance on the books."

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