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News: 05/15/2014

GE Historic District study finished

The idea of designating a part or parts of Glen Ellen as a Historic District has been floating around the county’s Landmarks Commission since 1990, when it was first proposed but never implemented. Dr. Diana Painter, an archaeologist and consultant, has just finished her analysis which was commissioned last year.

Painter concluded that while there are many buildings and properties worth preserving in the specific area she studied – a selection of buildings along Arnold Drive – there probably aren’t enough to warrant a full-blown Historical District, but enough to keep or even beef up current building guidelines that apply to Glen Ellen.

She studied 114 properties in Subarea 1 of the originally drawn Glen Ellen Development and Design Guidelines that were adopted in 1990. Of those 114 properties, only 38 (33 percent) can be considered to contribute to the area’s historic nature. Contributing properties must be over 50 years old and retain integrity.

A historic district is defined as an area that possesses “a significant concentration, linkage or continuity of sites, buildings, structures, or objects united historically or aesthetically by plan or physical development,” according to the final report, “Assessment of Historic Resources for the Community of Glen Ellen.” She notes that it takes about a 60 percent level to make it to the National Register of Historic Places, even though local designations many take other factors into account.

And while the original 1990 study treated all properties in the area equally, Painter noted “dramatic differences” resulting from location and discontiguous commercial areas, like Jack London Village and the area around Jack London Lodge.

If the county really wants a historic district for this part of Glen Ellen, it will have to carefully draw the boundaries. “The Glen Ellen Community Church and Mayflower Hall are important historic buildings and an important part of public life in Glen Ellen, yet were not included in the Arnold Drive corridor (Subarea 1).”

The report also suggests nominating individual structures as Sonoma County Landmarks and governing the rest of the area with general design guidelines.

The study will be discussed by the Landmarks Commission later this summer. Dr. Painter’s report is available for download here: Glen Ellen Historic Resource Survey .

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