In Cleveland Park and other parts of the Washington region, debates are raging between homeowners who want to upgrade their historic homes and preservation boards with the power to determine what changes are and aren’t acceptable.

Walk or drive through any of the many historic neighborhoods in the area: The majestic homes are a testament to the work of preservation boards. But talk to the owners who painstakingly restored their properties and you’ll get a sense of the struggle they endured to ensure that their houses were not merely a relic of the past but homes that a 21st-century family would actually want to live in.

Our cover story this week focuses on the efforts of John Welsh and his wife Cynthia Ferranto to renovate a 700-square-foot Greek Revival temple built in the early part of the 20th century that they bought as their home in 2000. As with most older properties, their home had numerous challenges: “The bathtub was falling through the floor, the kitchen had no refrigerator, the plaster walls were crumbling and the bedroom was cut into two,” Ferranto, a landscape architect, told writer Deborah K. Dietsch. So the couple undertook most of the repair work themselves.

Soon after, the couple decided to expand the house by adding a new wing in the back. They opted for a contemporary design, but that was rejected by the preservation review board in not keeping with the design of the neighborhood. Eventually, the couple built their 1,500-square-foot addition, which you can view in a photo gallery online.

If you’re thinking about renovating your historic home, you may want to check out the arduous process Ferranto and Welsh went through to turn their dream into reality. The story details the push and pull and series of compromises the couple and boards had to reach to get to the finish line.

A companion piece by Real Estate Web Editor Kathy Orton details the struggles of another Cleveland Park couple — Laurie Wingate and Mark Chandler — to install solar panels atop their foursquare home in the neighborhood.

Wingate and Chandler weren’t as fortunate as Ferranto and Welsh. The Historic Preservation Review Board rejected the Wingate-Chandler proposal to install eight panels on their hipped roof because they would be visible from the street and would alter the character of the structure.

But as the move toward solar power increases, as indicated by last week’s cover story, some are calling for preservation board policies to change with the times. “The rules of the historic district should not stagnate,” ANC3C Chairman Victor Silveira told Kathy. “They should evolve. Because historic district does not mean historic stagnation, and it should never mean that.”

What do you think about the Cleveland Park historic preservation controversy? Share your thoughts about the issue and your experiences restoring your historic home in the comment section below.

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