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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Faux No

I really hate the fake rock facades found throughout our neighborhood (and beyond...). Applied mostly in the early to middle 20th century, they often covered over beautiful brickwork (the photo above shows two once-identical facades; the ornate brickwork on the one on the left was covered in the fake stone you see). My hope is that as that the continued renewal of Shaw will eradicate the misguided faux fad of our predecessors.

In seeking explanation for this poor taste phenomenon, I found this intriguing and informative article explaining the origin of fake facade stone, the reasons people applied it, the potential problems with its application, and the potential pitfalls in its removal. The article even quotes our very own Historic Preservation Planner Stephen Callcott, who is responsible for permit review and inspections of work in the Shaw, Blagden Alley, 14th Street, Massachusetts Ave., Mount Vernon Square, and U Street Historic Districts (among others less relevant to this Blog, like Dupont).


Modthinglet said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who rants about that fake stone. Every time I see that hideous stuff covering up a beautiful house I want to scream. The one I hate the most is the funeral home on Rhode Island. It's a huge standalone mansion, which is completely slathered in that hideous crap.

Fauxish said...

Regretfully, I live in such a home. The removal costs outweigh the increased value so alas we live with it. Interestingly though, our house is a wood fame house and we would have to rebuild our facade with clapboard siding.

Shaw Rez said...

Fauxish - While I don't like the faux stone, the article I link made me realize that there will often be situations, like yours, where its removal just isn't feasible. The examples of it I usually see in D.C. are on homes that aren't kept up nicely; I bet it's un-offensive when paired with good trim accent colors and a well kept yard.

And the article also discusses its use on all types of structures--brick and wood. It was marketed as a money saver that prevented one from having to paint their house every few years.

Shaw Rez said...

and Modthinglet, you're not alone in your rants. Particularly when applied to buildings that were clearly beautiful in their pre-faux day, I curse the stuff.

It makes me wonder what we see going up today (in general) that will be scorned in the future.

Mari said...

I have friends who have a house with the fake stone and one day an old man who used to live at their house when he was a little boy came to visit. He mentioned that when his father put the fake stone on the house neighbors thought he was being uppity. So that hints that the persons of that time intended to improve the property.
Besides you can't destroy the fake stone, [tongue in cheek] it's over 50 yrs old, it's historic.

richard said...

we use to call it Perma-stone. horrible product.

Shaw Rez said...

Mari - I can definitely imagine that it was en vogue at one time (in large part due to marketing) and viewed as an "improvement" to a building. And interestingly, your reference to it being historic isn't that far off, as there is increasing support for its preservation. With the damage that the stuff sometimes causes to the underlying facades, preservation of the faux stone may be the best we can hope for (short of rebuilding the fronts of many homes).

bogfrog said...

What about stucco? There are also some nice brick rowhouses smothered in stucco, and I've also read it can be very damaging to remove this. (Comments or advice welcome....)

Modthinglet said...

This is unrelated, but I received a reply from the office of tax and revenue regarding my complaint about the taxation of 1533 9th St. which is owned by Shiloh. It is a vacant townhouse but listed in the assessment database as a tax-exempt church parking lot. This is the response with identifying info removed:

Per the prior email the subject property is owned by Shiloh Baptist Church.
3. The subject property is a combined lot, which is half exempt and half taxable.
4. The taxable half consists of a row house; the exempt half consists of a small parking lot that can accommodate 9 vehicles.
5. An error occurred when the lots were combined and it was not taxed initially as it should have been.
6. Since your previous email the taxable error was corrected in our system.
7. The website however is not updated by this office, but another DC agency all together.
Corrections can take several weeks before they are displayed on the website.

Shaw Rez said...

Thanks for the info, Modthinglet.

Any information regarding the collection of back taxes responsive to the error on 1533 9th?

I think that parking lot needs security lighting--it's scary to walk by at night. Also, not that it matters, but 9 cars seems to be a tight fit and would necessitate several being blocked in.

Modthinglet said...

I had the same question about back taxes. I sent a reply asking. (I only got the response posted above this afternoon.)

Ray said...

Permastone is a statement of high style rowhouse taste in Baltimore. I keep saying to the historic preservationists who control what we do to our houses, that if we wanted to go after true Shaw Slum historicity, we would install permastone on our facades, aluminum storm windows, astroturf on our porches, and concrete over our front yards. I guess that is what the Park Service is studying for the next ten years for the Woodson houses -- how to get down and be authentic.

si said...

I HATE permastone. but if you've got it, paint it!! then its not so bad.

check out the 1200 block of NJ, painted vs unpainted right across the st from eachother.

wood frame houses on 4th, 2 with stucco, at least 1 with linoleum! that one is gone but the stucco is doing fine.

ugh & awnings suck too

monkeyrotica said...

One of the things that makes Baltimore rowhouses unique is their extensive use of formstone. I'm something of a fan. To me, formstone reflects a sort of 1950s bluecollar working class mentality; sitting on the porch with a Natty Boh on a summer's day, chatting with your neighbors. It's a sort of community feeling that's sorely lacking in DC. No wonder DC residents hate the stuff; they're too busy trying to emulate Georgetown.

I'll take formstone over that nasty sterile sandblasted brick look any day.