Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

National news

March 21, 2014

Modern home divides historic Southern neighborhood

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Architect Louis Cherry sees the two-story structure — with its exposed beams, masonry piers, deep overhangs and shallow-pitched roof — as a "contemporary interpretation" of the Craftsman-style homes that dot the city's Historic Oakwood District.

But to some of Cherry's neighbors, the cypress-sided house at 516 Euclid Street is just Frank Lloyd Wrong. And nearly six months into construction, with the home roughly 85 percent finished, Cherry and wife Marsha Gordon face the real possibility that they might have to tear down their dream house.

"It was very much our intention to design and build a house that people would really like and accept," Cherry said on a recent overcast morning as he and Gordon stood in the shell of what they hope will be their master bedroom. "It was very surprising to us that there's been this reaction, as if this is some crazy, modernist intervention."

Decisions by historic zoning districts are appealed all the time. But John Hildreth, a vice president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, says this is one case with a bit of a twist.

"In the way it's gone forward, and with construction being as far along as it is, to have that kind of action taken, it's pretty unusual," says Hildreth, based in Charleston, S.C.

The fight between neighbors began last September, when the Raleigh Historic Development Commission issued a certificate of appropriateness, or COA, for the couple's 2,100-square-foot house. A few days later, Gail Wiesner, who lives in the sherbet-green bungalow across the street, filed a notice of intent to appeal.

But Cherry and Gordon proceeded with construction, saying the city advised them the appeal was merely "procedural."

Wiesner, a real estate agent, argued that the commission's COA panel violated several procedures. She called the design "garishly inappropriate" and said Cherry and Gordon "failed to meet their burden of producing competent, material, and substantial testimony and evidence to show that their proposed project preserves the special character of the Oakwood Historic District."

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