VIRGINIA BEACH — Two more structures here are now on the city’s Historical Register following Tuesday night’s meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission’s Historical Register Review Committee.
The two structures are both homes and both are in the Old Beach section of town, directly west of the Oceanfront resort area.
Frank Ramaekers Jr. owns both homes and although he isn’t exactly sure why he wanted them on the register, he still felt it was important to seek that recognition even though being on the register doesn’t guarantee protection.
“It’s a question I ask myself. I guess I’m kind of an addict to preserve old things,” Ramaekers said. “Homes built in 2018 are plastic. There’s no authentic structure to the home. It’s just a house.”
Old homes, he said, tend to offer unique architecture and quality materials while appealing to human nature.
After receiving an application for a structure to be added to the Historical Register, the select committee sends members to the site and, using a score sheet, they rate the structure in a variety of categories.
Rated are things like interior and exterior features, whether the materials in the structure are original or have been replaced, the rarity of the structure, and its historical significance.
A minimum score of 27 is needed for it to be included.
The committee felt that both of Ramaekers’ two properties met their criteria.
The first, 429 26th St., was built in 1939 and remains a single family home. The Committee believes that changes to the home have been minimal and that it retains most of its original features and craftsmanship. It received scores of 27, 30, and 37 from the three committee members who did the survey.
The other, at 318 27th Street, is a Craftsman Style home built in 1935 as a duplex, which it remains today. Changes to that home over the years were also minimal, and original wood floors, doors, and windows remain. It also has a unique outdoor shower structure in the backyard that the Committee believes is original to the home. It received scores of 36, 38, and 42 from the Committee.
Committee Member and Chairwoman Katie Paulson, who holds a master’s degree in Historic Preservation, said preserving the character of the Old Beach neighborhood is important.
“For me it’s such a no-brainer,” Paulson said. “Why wouldn’t you want to preserve buildings there with character and craftsmanship?”
However, she added that the Committee has no intention of telling people what they can and can’t do with their property.
Committee member Steve McNaughton, an architect by trade, was one of those who visited and scored the homes.
He said the Committee took a couple of meetings to develop the form they use to establish values and criteria that could be easily understood and scored.
“We try to be as feasible as we can be,” he said. “I certainly think it’s important to put these homes on the register, especially since they’re in a place like Old Beach.”
Very recently at the southwest corner of Baltic and 25th streets, an older home on a big lot that seemed to be still in good condition was razed — not an altogether uncommon occurrence in that area. It’s very likely that one or more modern beach homes will soon occupy that location.
Old Beach Neighborhood
The Old Beach neighborhood was established in 1915. In 2005 City Council adopted a Residential Design Guideline plan for the neighborhood.
The plan isn’t legally binding, but is intended to assist property owners, developers, and designers in “selecting compatible designs for enhancing site design, new building construction, and alterations” within Old Beach.
“Old Beach,” the report reads, “is a place where quality single-family cottage-style homes, open space, and pedestrian-oriented streets promote the neighborhood’s residential character.”
Although the plan was intended to promote preservation of the older structures there, and to ensure new construction maintains the neighborhood’s character, many of the new homes in the area do not appear to adhere strictly to the guidelines.
Mark Reed, historic preservation planner for Virginia Beach, said the city has “few historic neighborhoods that have survived.”
Being on the city’s Historical Register, however, doesn’t necessarily mean the homes are untouchable.
“From a legal standpoint there’s no protection,” Reed said. “A lot of people do seek it out though because they think in the future it might give someone pause.”
Besides Paulson and McNaughton, Committee members include Michel Ashe, also an architect, and Lester Fabiszewski, who Reed said was the first property owner to use the city’s partial tax exemption for rehabilitation of historic buildings incentive program to restore a historic structure.
The purpose of the Historic Preservation Commission is to “advise the City Council and the Departments of Planning and Community Development and Museums on all issues related to the preservation of historic buildings, structures and sites located in the City of Virginia Beach,” while its mission is “to preserve, protect and maintain the historic identity of Virginia Beach and the former Princess Anne County through a program of advocacy and increased public awareness and involvement.”