Ah the German Village GuidelinesÉthe document that aids the commission in deciding appropriate treatment for our historic structures and keeps German Village residents abreast of how to best maintain their homes.

Ah the German Village GuidelinesÉthe document that aids the commission in deciding appropriate treatment for our historic structures and keeps German Village residents abreast of how to best maintain their homes.

The guidelines have been approved by city council and are supported by city code. They are not rules, but are just what they're calledÉ guidelines. While some people have reservations about having to get permission to work on personal property, it is those guidelines that have secured property values in German Village and helped to make our community the destination it is.

Our guidelines are broken into two sections: guidelines for the preservation of historic architecture and guidelines for new construction in the historic district. The basis for the German Village Guidelines comes from the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation which are (in a nutshell) the following:

• Every reasonable effort shall be made to provide a compatible use for a property which requires minimal alteration of the building;

• The distinguishing original qualities of character of a building shall not be destroyed;

• All buildings shall be recognized as products of their own time;

• Changes which may have taken place in the course of time are evidence of the history and development of a building;

• Distinctive stylistic features or examples of skilled craftsmanship shall be treated with sensitivity;

• Deteriorated architectural features shall be repaired rather than replaced;

• The surface cleaning of structures shall be undertaken with the gentlest means possible;

• Every reasonable effort shall be made to protect architectural resources;

• Contemporary design for alterations and additions to exiting properties shall not be discouraged when such alterations do not destroy historical material;

• Wherever possible, new additions shall be done in such a manner that if such additions were to be removed in the future, the essential form and integrity of the structure would be unimpaired.

German Village is obviously not the only community to impose guidelines on itself. Other architectural review districts here in Columbus have guidelines to follow, as do other cities throughout the country.

While the secretary's standards guide communities everywhere in developing guidelines, they are by their very nature, pretty over-arching. In many ways, what makes guidelines most significant are their local nuances.

For example, in Key West widow's walks are reviewed carefully, and in order to add one to your property, you have to prove there was one there historically. (Generally speaking, widows weren't pacing the rooftops of Columbus waiting for their ship captain husbands to get home safely.)

In Boston, arguably one of the country's most historic cities, storm doors are not allowed unless you can prove there was one originally in place. In Charleston, side porches and piazzas are common design elements that are carefully reviewed today.

In Georgetown and Savannah, Federalist architecture reigns supreme, so anything built today must respect that particular architectural style while still reflecting contemporary design. In Alaska and Hawaii the preservation of architecture that reflects native cultures is as important as us retaining the German-American influences in Columbus.

Each community has their own architecture, cultural influences, and ultimately, their own story to tell through the physical remains of that city's past. Here in German Village, it is the German Village Guidelines that ensure our history is preserved and respected, and from that history, come the stories that our buildings so effortlessly tell simply through their presence.

Jody H. Graichen is Interim Executive Director of the German Village Society.

Jody

Graichen