Friday, November 20, 2015

Rockville Confederate statue move put on hold, Chestnut Lodge development reviewed

The absence of two members of Rockville's Historic District Commission at last night's meeting resulted in the postponement of action on moving the Confederate statue to the Beall-Dawson House until mid-December. Although the Commission had a quorum with 3 members present, newest member Emily Correll informed HDC Chair Rob Achtmeyer that she would recuse herself from the statue vote, having testified on the matter as a citizen at a previous hearing.

Commissioner Jessica Reynolds was out of the country, and Commissioner Craig Moloney was detained by bad weather despite his intention to fly back in time for the meeting, Achtmeyer said.

The Commission was able to handle the rest of its agenda, however.

Commissioners voted unanimously that there was no historical significance to homes at 714 and 729 Beall Avenue, allowing their owners to now demolish them. Both are in the West End Park subdivision. Achtmeyer suggested that, while neither of these homes were of the structural integrity to preserve, the City and residents should be having conversations about specific homes, blocks and areas within Rockville that could be designated historic, to preserve mid-century residential architecture.

Afterward, Commissioners conducted a courtesy review of the 7-townhome development on the site of the former Chestnut Lodge at 500 W. Montgomery Avenue, for developer JNP Chestnut Lodge, LLC.

Architect Randy Creaser told commissioners that he did extensive research on Chestnut Lodge, a historic hotel later converted into a sanitarium. In 2009, the abandoned building was burnt down in a fire many believed was an arson incident.
Chestnut Lodge as photographed
in 2003

Creaser said he was inspired by the building's 2nd Empire Victorian architecture, and wanted a design that would "acknowledge and give a nod to the grace and beauty of that architecture we lost."
The proposed townhome
Central to that, are the tower elements of the building's roofline. Ten foot ceilings - "a very Victorian height," Creaser noted - also allow for tall windows. Natural light was very important during the gaslight age, Creaser said. A gable element along the new building's south elevation will also pay tribute to the Lodge.
Tower elements at the
roofline recall
Chestnut Lodge
Garages will be recessed 17' behind the rear decks of the townhomes, and are at a lower grade than the access road, minimizing them as architectural elements, Creaser said.

The applicant's attorney, Soo Lee-Cho, said that by moving the footprint of the building south, mature holly trees will be preserved. An arborist testifying for the applicant said the trees "are worth this effort," and that he had worked out a long-term plan with the City arborist to ensure the health of those natural resources.

Of the Chestnut Lodge-inspired design, Achtmeyer said, "This is not typical in any way, and I think that's important for this site."

Commissioners did not express any objections to the plan. It will now be presented to the Mayor and Council in a briefing Monday night.

Photos courtesy City of Rockville

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