Two houses stand near the corner of Winchester and Lilac. Both are part of the same housing stock: built in 1920 and architecturally similar. But only one is “historic” and therefore enjoyed a top-to-bottom renovation two years ago, while the other sits boarded up.
Jim Paley wants to change that, to make more Newhallville houses “historic” so that his not-for-profit organization can continue to breathe new life into the neighborhood with renovated homes for low-income buyers.
Paley, the head of Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS), is looking to expand the boundaries of the official Winchester Repeating Arms historic district, which now extends north from the bottom of Winchester Avenue, and ends just a few blocks from the Hamden town line, just short of Lilac Street. His group made an official request to do that with the State Historic Preservation Board.
NHS is able to secure tax credits to support its work on homes within the historic district (and thus do good work while keeping sales prices affordable), but can’t access those tax credits for houses outside it. NHS has submitted an application to extend the district all the way to the Hamden border, so that his agency can take advantage of about $700,000 in tax credits to renovate 14 homes in the area, including three on Lilac.
The Historic Preservation Board is scheduled to vote on Paley’s request this coming Monday. Newhallville Alderwomen Delphine Clyburn and Alfreda Edwards organized neighborhood meetings on Wednesday and Thursday evenings to discuss the proposal.
The proposal would allow NHS to continue its targeted “cluster” approach to neighborhood development, which the organization has been working on for several years. The goal is to fix up a large number of houses in a single area, lifting the value of the entire neighborhood all at once.
Paley (pictured) said extending the historic area further north has no downside. It would allow his agency to win tax credits for its work, without placing any new requirements on homeowners. Property owners are only required to abide by historic preservation guidelines if they get federal dollars or state tax credits to work on their homes.
Paley said NHS staff and local historian Colin Caplan have been working on the district expansion application for about a year.
The Winchester Repeating Arms factory employed 26,000 people at its height during the Korean War, Paley said. The factory drove the development of Newhallville, and many of the houses there were built for workers.
In 1988, the Winchester Repeating Arms National Historic District was created. It ensured that people renovating homes with federal dollars have to adhere to historic preservation requirements laid out by the secretary of the interior. It also allows people to cash in on state historic housing tax credits, Paley said.
But the district ends rather arbitrarily at 678 Winchester. NHS renovated a house at that address two years ago. Paley would like to do the same with an NHS house around the corner at 15 Lilac St. That house, however is just outside of the historic district, which makes financing the project more difficult.
Paley said NHS can get $30,000 per unit for renovating homes in the historic district. NHS has 14 one- and two-family houses—comprising 23 units—in the area Paley hopes will become part of the historic district. The change might allow NHS to access $690,000 in tax credits.
Paley pulled out “his Bible,” a spreadsheet showing all the properties that NHS is working on rehabbing, cross-referenced with all the tax credits and federal and state grant money available for them. The $30,000 tax credits are a vital part of the package, he said.
Paley said NHS has a “track record” of establishing historical districts, having helped create two others in town.
The state requires a public meeting as part of the historic district application. Paley said NHS held one on May 6, and met with the local Community Management Team on May 29. Two more meetings were to be held Wednesday and Thursday, at Celentano and Lincol-Bassett schools, respectively.
Newhallville Alderwoman Delphine Clyburn has been canvassing the neighborhood to let people know about the proposed change.
“I’ve always been supportive,” she said. “We just wanted the neighborhood to know about it.”
Okay, so why is there an arrow pointing at my house?
[TM: No idea. I just swapped out the map for a version without the arrows, courtesy of Colin Caplan.]
posted by: HhE on June 13, 2013 1:30pm
TM, that does not answer my question. The arrow pointing at my house does not offend me, I just should like to know what it means.
I get the idea of Non-contributing buildings, like that apartment complex down the street. I just wish I knew the significance of the arrows with numbers. Were these examples that were felt to be particularly strong supporters of a newly enlarged historic district?
I think we value our history too little. I also thinking having to wait sixty days to start a lead abatement project so the State Historical Society could figure out that my house was not historic even though the scope of work was entirely historically sensitive is beyond the pale.
posted by: Atwater on June 13, 2013 1:45pm
What exactly is historic about this area?
posted by: Bill Saunders on June 13, 2013 2:16pm
Really Great Renovation, Jim!!!!! Hope you can get the historic district expansion you are pursuing.
The arrows on the prior map were part of a photo key for the nomination, but without the photos, they were just random arrows.
The historic significance of this area is the intact collection of workers’ housing related to the expansion of the Winchester plant and despite changes to individual structures, the neighborhood largely resembles its historic fabric, scale and streetscape.
Newhallville was named for George T. Newhall’s Carriage factory which was the largest carriage company in the world at the time, producing one carriage an hour.
posted by: HhE on June 14, 2013 7:41am
Thank you, Colin M. Caplan.
I wish the arrows were still up, so I could walk around my ‘hood, and see other houses that were particularly supportive of the claim.
posted by: Atwater on June 14, 2013 7:49am
Old workers’ houses, really? They are not historic, just because something is old does not mean it is historic. It sounds like this guy is trying to subsidize his development projects with state and federal money.
posted by: Wildwest on June 14, 2013 8:48am
Atwater- keeping a neighborhood historic only adds beauty and character to a city instead of what most neighborhoods in NH area look like now with faded aluminum and crappy vinyl covering really nice painted wood. Sure its a pain in the arse for those that were hoping to do some renovations like adding a bedroom onto the front porch or turn the shed into a rental unit but it works and makes the city a better place for everyone. I was actually depressed when I first moved here after seeing all the faded aluminum siding all over these 100 year old homes. Nicer neighborhoods have more resale value as well (which can be a double edged sword in NH with our out of control property taxes) if you are planning to sell soon.
Of course you cant really rent out these beauties or they will get trashed quick…
posted by: HhE on June 14, 2013 9:38am
Atwater, well in a way, yes he is, in that, NHS seeks to stabilize and revitalize neighborhoods, and to do so, they need money.
I suppose we could hope that eccentric millionaires would move into the area, spend significant sums on their own house, as well as rental properties that they own. Yet, I do not know all that many well off people that are so inclined. Do you?
It would be a shame to watch these historic, well proportioned, and solidly built houses slide off into the oblivion of rot and blight. New Haven’s architecture is second to none in Connecticut, and it is one of the reasons I moved here.
posted by: Atwater on June 14, 2013 10:55am
These houses are not historic, yes, they are old, but nothing historic happened inside them or around them. The fact that there was once a factory (or two) in the area does not make the area historically important. I disagree with the idea that all this neighborhood needs is a refurbishment of some old houses. And I really disagree with the idea of taxpayers (state and federal) subsidizing this effort. You’re right millionaires are not likely to move to Newhallville in the condition that it is in. But, I really doubt they will be more attracted to the area if the only improvement is an aesthetic one. This scheme is gentrification by another name; it will drive the remainder of the working class from the area.
posted by: kbbyfc13 on June 14, 2013 11:32am
I live at that house pictured that was redone my NHS. At the time I brought the house I was living on Highland street in a house that was being run by a slumlord.(one of the main things bring this area down) If it were not for NHS I would have moved out of the neighborhood into Hamden. What they are doing is helping the community more then words can say. No changing the way the community looks will not solve all the problems but it is a start. NHS does not just redo the homes they redo the community with events and help home owner from NHS or not, learn new ways to help make the community better. On another note it is intesting to me that alderman Delphine Clyburn is having meeting about the Historic Boost. She was just resently having her people knock on door against this happening. Not sure what her motives are but they are for sure not helping the community.
posted by: HhE on June 14, 2013 11:41am
Atwater, I have always found your economic theories to be problematic.
Well said, kbbyfc13. I think your comment—both paragraphs—rather nail it.
posted by: Bill Saunders on June 14, 2013 2:15pm
If Paley can bring these funds to their intended use, it will a great boon for that part of town.
From a recent late nite discussion on the subject, I learned that for so many years post-Reagan, these funds had a difficult time finding their true home. That old housing stock is historic and irreplaceable.
More power to you, Jim!
posted by: Atwater on June 14, 2013 3:04pm
@Hhe: I am still unconvinced that these houses are historic. One commenter wrote that the houses were irreplaceable. These house are replaceable, all houses are. Older houses are actually more expensive to maintain, which will increase the burden on the property owner once the renovations begin to fade. I agree the neighborhood needs newer housing stock, better looking, better built and affordable. I still do not think that a historic designation is the best way to do this. It limits the possibility of future developments. And, it is a waste of public funds. Also, NHS seems to be a paternalistic agency which cares more about the houses than the people that live in them. True community revitalization would include a real effort to bring jobs back to the area (remember these houses were once occupied by the working-class), NHS seeks to effect a demographic shift in Newhallville which would increase property values, but it would also be another step towards socio-economic segregation.
posted by: Bill Saunders on June 14, 2013 5:54pm
They are irreplaceable because no builder out there is making homes that will last as long as these homes already have.
As long as the roof and plumbing are tended to, this houses last.
My neighborhood gained Historic District status, when a gay couple moved into, and heavily invested in the neighborhood. They sought that historic status and helped turn my corner of the hood for the better. The gay community has a long history of being the ‘urban marines’ of tasteful historic development in depressed neighborhoods.
Atwater, I have to take issue with the notion that NHS is paternalistic. I would invite you to go door-to-door in Newhallville as members of my staff and I have done, forging relationships with both new and existing residents. Talk with the buyers of the houses NHS has renovated and ask the people if we care more for the houses than for the people. The fact is that our homebuyers are working families who want to participate in the American dream of homeownership. Our organization recognizes that the families purchasing our houses don’t have unlimited funds for major repairs, which is why we invest so much money in “gut” rehabs. We do believe in the historic significance of the housing stock in Newhallville and feel that we should be respectful of the charm and original character of these homes. And, yes, the historic tax credits make it possible for NHS to undertake this work.
While it is true that the subsidies on the houses NHS is renovating in Newhallville are large, we see this reinvestment as a catalyst that will hopefully raise property values in the neighborhood to the point where existing homeowners are motivated to reinvest in their properties. This is how neighborhood revitalization comes about. The families purchasing the homes NHS develops will have solid homes for their children and their grandchildren. They will not be displaced by more affluent families moving in; they will have houses they can afford to occupy and maintain. They will have energy-efficient homes so that heating bills won’t eat up their discretionary income.
My staff and I invite you to visit with us, tour the neighborhood, see first-hand the work we’ve done, and then draw your conclusions. Our goal is to help bring about a stable Newhallville with an increasing number of homeowners, all of whom take pride in their homes and in their neighborhood. We want residents who are empowered to take back their neighborhood from the gangs and drug dealers. That is our ultimate goal.
posted by: HhE on June 15, 2013 7:51am
Last week, I was trying to square Bill Saunders hippy alternative arts festival organiser with Bill Saunders Tea Party.
Now I am trying to square Atwater we should restore the 9th Square to its historical manufacturing role with Atwater let this working class neighborhood slide into underclass ghetto.
Gorge Washington Slept here is not necessary for a house to be historic. This vernacular architecture is worth saving. Nothing NHS is doing or going to do is going to turn Newhallville into Yuppieville. The working class people who live here, and hold this place together, are going to need help to stem the tide of predatory lenders, slumlords, and speculative buyers.
I know something about restoring houses: I restored an 1918 house, and 1953 house, and have just started with a 1924. Older houses do tend to cost more to restore. They are also much more solidly built, with far better proportions and attention to detail.
Atwater, have you met anyone from NHS? They are a force for good.
By the way, I like Bill Saunders hippy arts festival and NHS supporter.
posted by: Bill Saunders on June 16, 2013 1:41pm
When I ask questions, there is always the hope that they will be answered in a way to further my stiff opinions one way or the other.
While I may still be of mixed opinion about about the ground-up Yale project that thrust NHS into the NHI limelight, I am 100% behind any genuine effort to improve the historic integrity of New Haven’s neighborhoods.
So, when did I join the Tea Party???
posted by: Bill Saunders on June 16, 2013 2:40pm
By the way Hhe,
My current home is an 1892 Queen Anne Victorian. My previous home was a 1750 salt box that had been pretty untouched, that I fully renovated from crumbling stone foundation to sagging roof rafters. (god, when I had that energy)
As you undoubtedly know, these projects take a certain passion to pull off properly. With the right owner, the pride of maintaining a nicely-appointed historic property far exceeds the monetary.
posted by: Atwater on June 17, 2013 7:18am
@Hhe: I don’t want Newhallville to continue its decline. However, I do not think that creating a historic district will do anything but eventually make the area unaffordable to what is left of the city’s working-class population. Historic homes are expensive to restore and maintain. People with deep pockets (mostly Yale affiliated faculty, admin, etc.) will eventually flock to the refurbished Newhallville, consequently property values will go up, rents will go up, and the working people will be forced to relocate. Its gentrification, but it is funded by the tax payer. The NHS is paternalistic and predatory because it seeks to create its image of the city without regard to the actual demographic that lives there. Wooster is a good example of an area that has been created into a neighborhood where only the wealthy can live. The same will happen to Newhallville. The “dream of homeownership” cannot be realized if there are no jobs. Newhallville has one of the highest unemployment rates in the city, if not the state. Why not take all of that public money and invest in public education, vocational training and tax credit/incentives for the creation of small to medium manufacturing? I hate to use this but it applies, “you can give a man a fish and feed him for a day, or you can teach him how to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.” But, it seems NHS is only interested in giving the fish, the very expensive fish which comes with very high property taxes, maintenance costs, etc. Perhaps it is unfair to single out NHS, because this effort is an effort from many other parties, City Hall, Yale Corp., probably a few big development companies, construction firms, politicians and unions. I am sure there are individuals within the NHS who have nothing but good intentions, but those intentions are naïve and ill informed and will only further the agenda of those who seek to create a city of only one character, dependent on one corporation and home to only type of person.
While the predominant character of Newhallville is early 20th Century vernacular working class housing, the neighborhood is not a monolith. For instance, you can still find the remnants of mansions on Dixwell Avenue, 678 Winchester Avenue (see picture from the article) is clearly a more middle class dwelling built for someone making a decent amount of money at the time of its construction, and much of the tenement-style housing has been demolished, though many houses have been cut-up into apartments, which now act as tenements. The Winchester Repeating Arms District is on the National Register of Historic Places - it is not a Local Historic District like Wooster Square. Nationally Registered Places have very little regulation unless you apply for funding to do renovation work in which case you then have to follow the Secretary of the Interior Standards. For info on the district: http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Text/87002552.pdf For info on different types of Historic Districts: http://nhpt.org/index.php/about_new_haven/about_historic_districts/
Places change over time. Newhallville is a different place now than it was in 1900, or when Richard C. Lee was growing up on Shelton Ave. and it will be a different place in another generation. The idea that it will somehow become a gentrified area seems pretty ridiculous though. For the most part, Newhallville doesn’t have the housing stock that would yield itself to yuppies. A more mixed middle and working class population, however, is possible and would be great. NHS has been a valuable partner in bringing in a more stable, mixed income community in pockets of the neighborhood. NHS offers home maintenance classes throughout the year for people interested in how to cheaply and effectively address routine maintenance issues on homes. They also help council people on how to stay on top of mortgage payments. NHS has clearly stated an interest in helping to stabilize Newhallville, which is currently in decline.
posted by: Bill Saunders on June 17, 2013 2:48pm
From what I have seen, Wooster Square still has some great below market rate rents.
I think that comes from dealing with long term, invested home owners rather than real estate management companies.