The city has had five historic districts listed for decades on The National Register of Historic Places: the Atlanta-Frasier Street; Church-Cherokee; Northwest Marietta; Washington Avenue; and Whitlock Avenue historic districts. But inclusion on the national register is primarily symbolic in nature and does nothing to ensure the building’s protection or survival.
That’s not the case with inclusion in the city’s new district. Any external change to the house that can be seen from the street must first be approved by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, for example.
And that level of government control was a sticking point for many homeowners in the district who saw it as too intrusive. A first stab at creating a historic district along Kennesaw Avenue was vetoed by Mayor Steve Tumlin in 2010, but the compromise hashed out since then shrank the size of the proposed district to 14 homes from 25, essentially allowing most of those opposed to opt out. But that made it easier to gain the required 60 percent in-favor vote for the district’s creation from the remaining homeowners.
Not only do such districts protect the homes in question, but they also help maintain the historic fabric of those neighborhoods. Marietta boasts an unusual number of neighborhoods that are historic in character and appearance. If such homes and such neighborhoods are properly maintained — and if garish and/or inappropriate intrusions are kept out — the result is usually increased property values and a strong selling point for the community. And we have seen that happen over and over again in Marietta through the years.
Kennesaw Avenue is lined with Victorian houses, some of which predate the Civil War and a number of which are striking in their appearance. Most of the residents of the stretch of Kennesaw in question are strongly supportive of preservation; and the city’s decision to target that street as the “lab” for its first local-level historic district was a good one.
As Mayor Tumlin put it, “If a district doesn’t work here, it won’t work anywhere.”
We think it will work there just fine.