Fence and Hedge Guidelines |
The uniform pattern and relationships of front lawns, building setbacks and open spaces, street trees, fencing and sidewalks contribute to a collective impression of a historic district. When historic landscape features are removed or relocated, or elements that are not compatible with the site are introduced, site vistas are destroyed and the historic character of a district is diminished. One need only recall the great American elm trees that formed natural green canopies over the streets of so many Detroit neighborhoods up until the 1950s and how the disappearance of those trees had impacted the character of those neighborhoods to understand this concept.
Archival photographs depict the historic character of many Detroit neighborhoods as they once were. Victorian workmen’s clapboard cottages and tiny front yards enclosed by wooden picket fences [c1] typified neighborhoods like Corktown. Solid board fence walls spanned the narrow spaces between these closely packed houses. On streets such as Vinewood and Lafayette, deep open yards surrounded elegant turn-of-the-century brick mansions and were embraced by decorative cast iron fencing, erected[MO2] close to the facade around flower gardens, or in great expanse, and at great expense, around the perimeter of the property, characteristically on brick foundation walls running between brick piers. There was never, however, a strong fencing precedent in Detroit neighborhoods and after the turn of the century, much of the iron went the way of the war effort. What fencing remained went out of fashion as the Industrial Age introduced newer and more affordable materials. Attitudes changed and fencing became virtually non-existent after the 1920s, replaced by a move toward broad green, fenceless expanses. Yet, what little historic fencing remains or the lack of fencing that exists in our historic districts makes the same contribution as the elm trees did and has the same impact when removed, relocated or erected without historic precedence.
Today's homeowners in historic districts face challenges that require remedies that often differ from the historic dictates, i.e. what fencing may or may not have existed. The Design Guidelines for Fences and Hedges are proposed to offer the homeowner guidance in the introduction of new construction or replacement with new materials while protecting those elements of a historic district that have been identified as significant in defining the overall historic character of the neighborhood.
For the purpose of these guidelines, fencing shall mean any living
natural planting or man-made structure, not integral to any building, used as a
barrier to define boundaries, screen off, or enclose a portion of the land
surrounding a building.
recommendations of The Secretary of the
Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitating
Historic Buildings must be followed prior to the removal or the replacement
or construction of any fencing element in the landscape of the historic
about The Secretary of the Interior’s Guidelines can be obtained from
the Historic District Commission office, however the key points follow.
Historic Fencing Exists
Historic Hedges or “living fences”
Hedges shall abide by the same rules governing other fencing types in historic district for heights and locations. Furthermore, the selected hedging plants shall be capable of growing at least one foot per year for the first three years, and shall be cared for so as to maintain a dense screen year-round. The following list of plant types shall be taken as only a guide for selecting appropriate hedging.
SCIENTIFIC NAME COMMON NAME
-Taxus (varieties & species) Yews*
-Thuja occidentalis American Arborvital
-Tsuga canadensis Canada Hemlock
- Berberis thunbergu (vars. & sp.) Japanese Barberry*
- Euonymus aleta compacta Dwarf winged euonymus
- Euonymus radicans (semi- Winterscreeper
- Ligustrum milrense Amur Privet*
- Ligustrum iboluim Lbolium Privet
- Ligustrum obtusifoluim Regal Privet*
-Viburnum lantana Wayfaring Tree
*Species deemed most appropriate to historic districts.
by the Historic Commission
Permits for fence construction must be obtained from the Building and Safety Engineering Department and are subject to review by the Historic District Commission. The Elements of Design for the historic district of the application (available from the Historic District Commission Office) will be considered and each application will continue to be reviewed on a case by case basis.
The Historic District Commission may allow exceptions to the stated guidelines if the Commission views such exceptions to be beneficial to the overall appropriateness of a fence application proposal.
Consideration will be given to recommendations adopted by certain districts that are not in conflict with established guidelines and municipal code.
§ Fencing must be properly installed according to City of Detroit codes and regulations.
§ New construction of fences or walls should be designed to minimize impact to the historic fabric and should be compatible with the site in setback, size and scale to protect the historic integrity of the property and its environment.
§ New fences or walls should be differentiated from the old and should be designed to compliment the style, design, color and material of the historic building(s) and its features.
§ New fencing or walls should be removable without impairing the essential form and integrity of the historic property.
§ Fencing other than lot line fences (e.g. dog runs, etc....) shall be located in such a way as to be concealed from public view from streets and alleys.
No slats or other material may be inserted or attached to chain
link or other open fencing.
Any proposal for the
installation of new or replacement fencing shall meet the following application
size, location, and height must conform to fence size, location, and height. See
section entitled “historic hedges or living fences” on page 3
* A single lot shall contain no more than two types of fencing material.
Side yard and across side lots, at the front face of the house (set back line)
The side yard alone at the front face of the house, the back face or at a point between
Rear yard, from the back face of the house to the rear property line (can be considered with the side yard as well)
Rear property line or alley line
yard fencing is not allowed except on a corner lot and
then only from the front face of the house on the side of the public right of way to the front walk.
Established property line patterns and street and alley widths
must be retained.
· Front yard and full perimeter fencing will be allowed only in districts where such fencing has been shown to be contextual in that district’s Element of Design. Front yard fencing is allowed on corner lots along the walk adjacent to the side lot line from the front face of the house to the front corner (see below)
6' side lot lines, at the front face of the house
8' rear property line
front yard -- applies only to
corner lots on the side of the public right of way, otherwise
front yard fencing is not allowed
The most common colors for historic fencing are: black, white, green, natural wood, brown
the color of the fence could be a color complimenting the colors of the house
and comparable to the colors found in the Detroit Historic Districts Style and
Color Guide systems A through F (as available from the Historic District
Detroit Historic District Commission may allow variance to the previously stated
guidelines if the Commission views such variance as beneficial to the overall
appropriateness of a fencing proposal.
District Commission reserves all rights to amend or update this guideline or to
deny the use of certain fencing if they are deemed inappropriate in any specific
pertaining to this guideline can be directed to the Historic District Commission
Staff (see page 6).
for Guidance on Historic Materials and Landscape Features
Under the National Park Service Home page Web site, http://www.nps.gov and related service links:
Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines
for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings.
The Secretary of the Interior’s Guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Properties, 1995
Preservation Briefs 1-41
Technical Preservation Services for Historic Buildings.
For publications available through the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office:
Detroit Historic District Commission,
65 Cadillac Square, Suite 1300,
Detroit, Michigan, 48226.
Telephone (313) 224-6536.
DETROIT HISTORIC DISTRICT COMMISSION