Context 167 - March 2021

28 C O N T E X T 1 6 7 : M A R C H 2 0 2 1 MICHAEL ROMERO New neighbours in Hyattsville Plans to redevelop a site in a historic residential neighbourhood near Washington DC raised questions of how to assess historic value and to enhance the area’s character. My home is special: historic commissions and surveys and official documents tell me so. They tell me that it was constructed in 1887 from plans taken from a pattern book. It is design number 444 in RW Shoppell’s Modern Houses , published in 1886. Clarence McEwan built the house to escape the swampy humidity of Washington, DC, the heart of which sits about three miles from where the house is located in Hyattsville, Maryland. My house is one of 14 noted as ‘outstanding’. The listing notes its vast wraparound porches with turned columns, large sash windows with stained glass, and a variety of siding treatments, from lapboard to board-and- batten to fish scale. Hyattsville as a neighbourhood was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. It is a classic example of a late-19th- and early-20th-century suburban community. First in were executives escaping the district to build large homes on large lots like mine, then the streetcar brought more of the working-class housing stock, and development continued until the second world war.The listing notes the variety of housing eras represented, the character of the neighbourhood, and how all the houses work together to create beautiful, human-scaled streets. Our streets and alleys are consistently filled with kids playing, people walking their dogs, and neighbours chatting from porch to porch. What makes a place feel like home? Beautiful, unique architecture crafted by hand at some point in the past and cared for in the present so that generations can enjoy it all well into the future. That is what makes me love my home and my neighbourhood and feel pride in place. The McEwan House, Hyattsville, photographed by Jack E Boucher (Photo: Library of Congress)