Historic Homes Could Get Special Recognition

BERLIN — Berlin may soon be turning a spotlight onto some of its historical homes through the Berlin Architectural Heritage Recognition Program.

The effort, if approved by the Historic District Commission (HDC), would designate participating historic houses with wooden plaques documenting founding dates and traditional names.

“I don’t know of too many other towns that celebrate their architectural history with their own specific version of recognizing the age of the structures,” Chuck Ward, director of Planning and Zoning, told the HDC Wednesday.

According to Ward, the recognition program was pitched to him by resident Pat Diniar. It would be similar to the National Registry of Historic Places, said Ward, though Berlin would not emulate the national practice of using bronze plaques.

“The idea of doing them in wood was primarily my recommendation because we didn’t want to make an attempt as if Berlin had its own registry of historic homes,” he said. “We didn’t want to trample on the national registry and sort of belittle or challenge those properties.”

The HDC was shown a few examples of possible signs, included a laser-etched panel that would stand up well to time and weather.

“That sign, when treated, all you have is a piece of wood that’s been burned,” said Ward. “Then when it’s treated with a sealant that lasts quite a while you can imagine that it would take many years for that sign to disintegrate.”

The only issue Ward mentioned regarding the signs was the chance that the dates on the plaque might be confused for a building’s address, obviously unacceptable with things like emergency response. However, he was satisfied that the size and placement of the signs would eliminate that risk.

“We want to keep those four-digit numbers fairly small so that you would have to be a pedestrian to be able to see them,” he said, “because we certainly wouldn’t want them to be confused with 911 addresses for a home.”

The initial plan is to have the plaques measure around 14-inches long and 7-inches high. A larger, vehicle scale sign could also be placed somewhere within Berlin’s historic district explaining what the plaques mean.

HDC member Mary Moore said that “conceptually…it’s a very interesting idea” but told Ward that she’d like to dedicate more of the commission’s time to going over specifics of the sign. For example, how everything will be paid for and how many historic houses might be interested are still unknowns.

The rest of the HDC agreed and the group plans on having a special meeting this spring dedicated to the Berlin Architectural Heritage Recognition Program.