C. GUIDELINES FOR NEW CONSTRUCTION
The following guidelines pertain to new construction
in the West Chester Historic District. New construction includes additions
to historic buildings, new structures along primary streets, and secondary
structures such as garages, sheds, outbuildings, or workshops.
1. Visual Relationship Between
the Old and New
A new building or addition should relate visually
to neighboring contributing historic buildings. Proposals for new designs
within the Historic District will be considered for their specific location
and will be evaluated based on their compatibility with neighboring historic
structures. For a typical building, neighboring historic structures include
those to each side of the structure and those directly across the street
from the structure. For a new building located at a corner, the neighboring
historic structures include all buildings at the intersection in addition
to those immediately adjacent. Where a building falls near the edge of
the Historic District, historic buildings located near but outside of
the district will also be taken into account during the review process.
The most successful new buildings in historic districts
are ones that are clearly modern in design but compatible with and sensitive
to the character of the Historic District. The experience of the Historic
District is enriched by new buildings that have merit on their own and
are sensitive to their setting.
2. Scale and Massing of Large
Large buildings should be designed as a series
of masses or building elements compatible with the immediate streetscape.
The massing or volumetric shape of a building greatly affects the scale
of a building and underlies all other architectural features. The typical
commercial building in downtown West Chester is a three-bay, three-story
brick block with a flat (low slope) roof. Where a large building in the
Historic District is unavoidable, the mass of the proposed structure can
be broken down into traditional building blocks that relate to the scale
of the streetscape, thereby blending into its context (Figure
3. Replicating Historic Buildings
The design of a new building should not be an exact
replica of any existing historic building within the district. Copies
of historic buildings among original ones look awkward and present a false
historic context. However, a new structures design may be inspired
by historic building designs and features, and may be traditional in form
4. Relationship of Additions
to Historic Buildings
A proposed addition to a building in the Historic District should be subordinate
to the principal facade and mass of the historic building. The subordinate
appearance of an addition can be achieved through its setback (See C.5
- Building Placement and Setbacks) massing, width, and detail (Figure
67). The width of an addition should generally not exceed two-thirds
the width of the principal historic structure.
5. Building Placement and Setbacks
for New Construction.
Historically, the building type dictated the structures setback
from the street. Commercial buildings such as taverns, inns, retail shops,
and stores fronted directly onto the sidewalk. Structures constructed
solely as residences were sometimes set back from the edge of the sidewalk
to create a small area of landscaping, but often were built directly on
the sidewalk. New construction in the district should follow the precedent
of adjacent lots (See C.1 - Visual Relationship
Between the Old and New).
Historically, most additions to buildings in the Historic District were
built at the building rear facade because there was no available building
lot area on the street facade. These additions were often built up to
the side yard lot lines, and had minimal visual impact on the appearance
of the downtown. When an addition fronted a commercial street, it was
typically set flush with the existing building to create the appearance
of a larger, more substantial building. Proposed additions should follow
the pattern of setbacks of adjacent buildings and building additions in
order to blend into the development pattern of the immediate neighborhood.
for Secondary Structures.
Garages, sheds, outbuildings, or workshops should be placed behind and
remain visually secondary to the principal building on the lot. Side and
rear setbacks should follow the general pattern of the placement of outbuildings
in the immediate neighborhood.
6. Building Height and Form
The cornice line on the principal facade of an addition should be equal
to or lower than the cornice line on the principal facade of the historic
structure. Likewise, the ridge line of an addition should be equal to
or lower than the ridge line of the historic structure. The form of new
buildings should be compatible with the form of adjacent historic structures
6.2 New Construction.
The eave line and ridge line of a proposed new principal structure should
not exceed the height of the eave line and ridge line of flanking historic
structures. The height and overall size of any proposed new secondary
structure should not exceed the height and overall size of the principal
historic structure on the lot where it is to be constructed.
7. Building Width and Rhythm
Historically, the principal structures of the district
fill most if not all the total frontage width along the street. Additions
and new buildings should repeat the pattern of filling most of the street
frontage of a single lot.
8. Relationship of the Facade
Parts to the Whole
All parts of a new building facade should be visually
integrated as a composition, which should relate to adjacent buildings
69). The size and proportions of facade elements such as doors, windows,
cornices, and water tables emphasize the vertical and horizontal dimensions
of a facade. Exaggeration of these elements and the use of ribbon windows,
vertical stacks of windows, and brick courses of contrasting colors create
a design that is not compatible and out of proportion with historic buildings.
9. Roof Form, Materials, and
While most commercial buildings within the district have flat or shed
roofs, many buildings feature other roof forms.
Additions: Historically, the roof form of an addition
placed along side an existing structure facing a street followed the form
of the principal building (see
Figure 68). Continuing the historical precedent, additions to gable
roof structures that face a street should also have a gable roof. Additions
on a secondary facade can have a different roof form, such as a shed roof.
Mansart roofs should be utilized in additions only when the existing building
features a mansart roof.
New Buildings: On new buildings, the use of one of the
historic roof forms found in the district is recommended. Contemporary
Mansart roof forms and materials, which have been overused in fast-food
restaurants and strip shopping centers, are not appropriate to the Historic
Additions: The roofing material on an addition should match the original
structure or be visually similar to the existing roofing. For example,
an addition to a building with a slate roof should have a roof that is
slate, a synthetic slate, or a material that appears similar in color
and dimension to slate. The roofing material of a one-story shed addition
to a two-story slate-roof house, however, could be another historically
appropriate material such as painted metal, especially if the slope of
the proposed shed roof is less than that of the main roof.
New construction: The use of traditional roofing materials
such as slate and standing-seam metal is encouraged on new buildings.
Recycled rubber polymer shingles or fiber-reinforced cement shingles that
closely resemble slate and modern historic-looking standing-seam roofing
with interlocking pans and low-profile standing seams are available. (Note:
Many pre-formed metal roofing systems, however, have clumsy seam and termination
details which are not appropriate in the Historic District.) If asphalt
shingles are to be used, heavyweight, dimensional shingles in a color
similar to those of historic materials are strongly recommended. Membrane
roofing is acceptable on flat roofs.
Dormers: Dormer design, proportions, and placement on additions and new
buildings should be compatible in size, scale, proportion, placement,
and detail with the historic gable, hipped, segmental arch-head dormers,
and shed dormers found in the Historic District (See
Figures 45, 46,
Shed dormers on principal facades are strongly discouraged, and are not
appropriate on roof slopes which directly front a street. The overall
width of the dormers should be no wider than one-half the overall roof
Skylights: Skylights with a low profile are acceptable
on all secondary facades but not on principal facades. It is recommended
that the placement of skylights relate to the overall fenestration of
the building by relating vertically to other openings in the wall (See
Figure 48). The use of dormers and skylights on the same roof plane
(i.e., next to each other) is not recommended.
10. Exterior Wall Materials
An addition should either replicate the existing exterior wall material
in type, color, and texture or be constructed of a historic exterior wall
material found in the district. If wood siding is proposed for the addition,
the width, type, and detail of the new siding should complement the proportions
and scale of the existing building. Cement/fiber synthetic clapboard siding
that is manufactured with a smooth surface and field painted is also acceptable
on primary facades. The wall materials of an addition should be compatible
with the wall materials of the existing building. Except on secondary
facades, vinyl and aluminum siding are not appropriate in the district.
Except on secondary facades, stucco finishes are not appropriate to the
10.2 New Construction.
The use of historic exterior wall materials such as brick, cut stone,
or wood siding and their related details are strongly encouraged for new
construction. Cement/fiber synthetic clapboard siding that is manufactured
with a smooth surface and field painted is also acceptable on primary
facades. The use of vinyl or aluminum siding is not recommended except
on secondary facades. Likewise, vinyl and aluminum facings and fabricated
plastic building components are not appropriate on primary facades.
The size and type of siding materials should be compatible
with the building type of the proposed new building. For example, a garage
or workshop on an alley may have vertical wood siding such as board-and-batten
siding, or may be stucco-faced masonry. A principal structure in the district
historically would not have vertical wood siding nor stucco siding, but
rather would have been sided with a horizontal wood siding such as clapboards,
or would have been constructed of brick masonry.
11. Windows and Doors
It is recommended that the material of windows and doors in additions
match the material of the window and doors in the historic structure.
The proportion of windows and doors in an addition should be similar to
the proportion of original openings in the existing building. Replicating
the sash type and pane configuration of the historic windows is encouraged.
If the sash type and configuration is not replicated, a sash type and
configuration that is compatible in type to the historic sash pattern
is recommended. For example, an addition to a three-bay townhouse should
either replicate the historic one-over-one, double-hung sash configuration
or at least receive a double-hung sash configuration with similar dimensions
to the historic fenestration. Sliding glass doors with large uninterrupted
sheets of glass are not appropriate on the principal facade of an addition.
11.2 New Construction.
The placement and proportion of windows and doors should relate to the
placement and proportion of openings on the historic buildings of the
district. It is recommended that vertically proportioned windows placed
in a three, four, or five-bay configuration be installed on principal
facades. The percentage of window openings to total wall surface on a
principal facade should not exceed 33 percent (one-third) of the total
wall area (Figure
70). The use of double-hung sash windows is encouraged. On secondary
structures, the size and type of windows and doors should relate to the
type of structure proposed.
12. Shutters and Blinds
Shutters and blinds are generally discouraged on
additions and on new buildings. If shutter or blinds are proposed, they
should follow the historical precedent of original shutters and blinds.
New shutters and blinds should be properly sized to fit the opening, and
should appear operable by being mounted on proper shutter hardware. Plastic
or metal shutters and blinds are not appropriate. New shutters and blinds
should be fitted with traditional shutter hardware and should not be surface-mounted
directly onto an exterior wall surface (See
B.11 - Shutters and Blinds).
13. Porches and Stoops
New porches and stoops are encouraged on streets
where porches and stoops are common. On additions, porches or stoops should
be simple in design and visually relate to the existing building. On new
structures, porches or stoops should visually relate to the proposed building
in a manner similar to the relationship of historic porches to existing
historic buildings in the district.
14. Building Accessibility
Where possible, a building addition should be designed to include features
that make up for any accessibility deficiencies of the original building.
This approach can eliminate the need for intrusive alterations to the
original building (Figure
14.2 New Construction.
All new buildings except private homes and churches are required by law
to be accessible to persons with disabilities. New buildings in the Historic
District should be designed with integral accessibility features, so that
changes in level are accommodated within the new building, not at the
15. Hardware, Mechanical,and
The mounting of small louvers, registers, exhaust
fans, alarm devices, cable boxes, utility meters, communications equipment,
and other mechanical and/or electrical devices should be avoided on principal
facades. To minimize their visual impact, devices mounted on secondary
facades should either be painted to match the color of the material on
which they are mounted or screened by landscaping features. Air conditioning
condenser units should be screened from public view (Figure
Exterior lighting of additions and new buildings
should be simple and in scale with the building. New fixtures should be
simple, unobtrusive, and mounted in a traditional manner. Exterior recessed
downlights, if proposed, should be placed to avoid dramatic light patterns
on the proposed building facade.
17. Relationship of New Outbuildings
to Their Historic Context
New outbuildings should visually relate to their
historic context (Figure
73). Outbuildings should be simple in design, and should relate to
the period of construction of the principal building on the lot. The design
of outbuildings should not be overly elaborate. Depending on the placement
of the building lot on the street, a proposed outbuilding will be treated
as either a primary or secondary facade.
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