Two opponents in the Oakwood neighborhood’s battle of aesthetics have jumped into another debate about modernist architecture. This time, however, the Oak City Preservation Alliance and N.C. Modernist Houses are on the same side.
The two groups previously dueled over the Cherry/Gordon House, with OCPA arguing against the unfinished, unconventional-looking house and NCMH defending the new house’s presence in a historic neighborhood.
Now, the two groups are jointly arguing against Joanna Johnson’s request to remove the “historic designation” from a 1953 modernist home, the Bill & Betsy Weber House, that she owns on Transylvania Avenue in the Country Club Hills neighborhood.
The designation makes it harder to modify or demolish the building, and Johnson worries it would interfere with a potential sale of the property. The Raleigh Historic Development Commission will discuss the matter Tuesday.
“When the need arises, I will be dependent on an uncomplicated sale process,” Johnson wrote to the commission. “Of course, I hope any future owner will want to live in the home and enjoy it as much as I have.”
Johnson doesn’t intend to demolish or even sell the building any time soon, according to attorney Tom Worth, but she wants the option.
NCMH and OCPA, however, say that the building still needs legal protections. They noted in a joint written release Monday that the house was designed by William Weber and George Matsumoto, describing Matsumoto as “one of the most significant Modernist architects in North Carolina.”
The groups noted that Country Club Hills already has seen several demolitions. The Weber House, at 606 Transylvania Ave., would be “an easy target for teardown” without the designation, they say.
The historic designation on the house means that no one can modify its exterior without city commission approval, and it puts restrictions on demolition. Johnson and any future owners would have to apply for a city certification before demolishing the house. While the historic commission is required to grant that permission eventually, it may delay the demolition for up to a year.
Johnson said the demolition rules were not made clear to her before she allowed the city to mark the home as historic in 2009. She has argued that the rules are “too stringent” for a house that already has seen two significant additions. She is willing to repay the tax breaks she received as part of the historic status program.
“At her age, she has determined that it would be better for her not to have the designation,” Worth said.
The historic advocacy groups, on the other hand, say that there’s “no evidence” that the historic status will interfere with a sale.