Berlin HDC Delays Approval Of New Main Street Home

BERLIN – Town officials delayed approval of a new home proposed for Main Street this week.

The Berlin Historic District Commission (HDC) voted unanimously on Wednesday to continue a hearing regarding a new house on South Main Street until they get updated renderings from the architect. While HDC members liked the proposed structure, they said they wanted to see some minor changes to soften its appearance before voting to approve the design.

“I just want to see the detail,” HDC member Laura Stearns said.

Burley Building Company’s Nate Reister and property owner Blake Rayne met with the HDC this week to review plans for the home Rayne plans to build on South Main Street on a lot he purchased from Edward Hammond. Rayne said he was an artist and wanted to use the site for his home as well as to create art.

“I’ve been trying to move to Berlin for quite a while,” he said. “My wife and I are very excited.”

The plans show a house with an additional wing on each side, connected by breezeways, in what is basically a “u” shape. Reister said the front house would make a statement to passersby while the back pieces would provide additional living space.

Rayne referred to it as a dogtrot design.

“You have a breezeway between two cabins sharing a roof,” he said.

Reister said the bedrooms were in fact in the two added portions, not the main house. Rayne said the portion of the building that looked like the main house would be for socializing and would feature space for cooking and a library.

“The sleeping, more private chambers, are the wings,” he said. “The second floor, that’s kind of this balcony library.”

HDC member Carol Rose said she felt the house needed a little softening in its appearance. Stearns agreed.

“To me, houses on Main Street, not just in Berlin but main streets in general, they can be from every era, they can be from any decade, but they are in general from people who have influence and money, therefore they added more detail,” she said, adding that some extra detail would make Rayne’s house fit better in Berlin.

She said the house looked very rustic and might benefit from shutters as well as changes to the second-floor windows.

“It can still be a simple house but I’d like to see more detail at the facia,” she said. “Just something to me that makes it look like it belongs on Main Street. You’re putting quality in this and you’re putting a lot of money into it. It just would be nice to see a little bit more thought put into some of the detail.”

The board also suggested a chimney instead of a pipe, which Blake said had been incorporated in a nod to a cabin the family had once owned. Blake said he had no problem incorporating a chimney.

Reister noted that the trees that have been cut down on the property to make space for the house are being repurposed during construction.

“The trees that came down on the site, we’re going to mill and try to recycle a big chunk of that back into the project,” he said.

HDC member John Holloway said he’d initially thought the house looked too contemporary. After hearing from Reister and Rayne, he said he was convinced they’d do what was needed to make the home fit in the historic town.

“I think you’re going to do whatever you need to do to make it blend in with the neighborhood,” he said.

HDC member Brian Robertson said he’d refer to the design as minimalist and cautioned Rayne not to go so far with decoration that he lost the style of the home.

“Anything you could bring to warm up front façade, like lighting or landscaping, might be helpful,” he said.

Rayne agreed to email the board an updated design once the architect had worked in suggestions such as the chimney and the window adjustments. Nornie Bunting, HDC chair, said the design could then be approved via email or at the Nov. 1 meeting.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

Alternative Text

Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.