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LSS240:2015 Student Guide: Built-Environment / Open Space

Created by students in LSS240 - Spring 2015

Built Environment vs. Open Space

Northampton, Massachsusetts

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Academic Resources

Why The Mill River Matters

Northampton was originally arranged around the Mill River as it feeds into the Connecticut through the meadows. Northamptonites spent time and treasure to re-arrange their lives around the Mill River floods and to divert it away from its original course out into the Connecticut, then re-divert it more toward its 17th century flow.

The Mill River matters because it provided the flowing water to power the mills that ran the industries that fed, sheltered, and clothed the residents (grist/saw/fulling) and later ran the textile and other industries that were exported to the wider world.  And the Mill River matters because it is perhaps the most important recreational element in the landscape of Williamsburg and Northampton, as well as the home for trout and perch, wood ducks and mallards, green and great blue herons, crawfish, frogs, salamanders, insects, and a host of mammals from mink and muskrat to beaver and fisher.

Summary by The Mill River Greenway Initiative

Historic Preservation of Varying Sites

During your time in this class (and beyond), you will learn that historic preservation is an infinitely nuanced term. It can be a positive process or negative one, ongoing or static. Because historically designated sites vary so much in form, history, and intent, there is not one clear cut-and-dried way of approaching preservation. The purpose of this page is to explore the various ways in which historic preservation is undertaken using our very own Northampton as a case study.

As you might imagine, the process of preserving an open-air space versus a built structure are quite different. In this tab, we will be exploring preservation processes of the Mill River as an open-air example and two different architectural styles as structural examples. The sites' clear physical differences require tailored upkeep. For instance, the preservation of the Mill River as an open-air space requires a more interpretive approach, one which is able to outline the history of the city of Northampton and how it came to be settled, while also leaving room for understanding how the site has and will change over time. The Mill River Greenway Initiative effectively works to create an ongoing narrative of the river. In contrast, the houses of Northampton (we will be looking at bookend styles, Georgian and Post-Colonial) are preserved in a more direct way with a focus on maintaining the structures' historic stylistic features. This preservation style creates a sort of snap-shot from the past, frozen in a specific time. The key to understanding historic preservation is understanding all aspects of the site in question.

Several readings for this class discuss this very issue at length, many of them are grouped under the 'Critics and Defenders of Historic Preservation' heading on Professor Moga's moodle site, although many of the readings throughout the course also touch on the topic. Additionally, I've linked some helpful resources on this topic in action in Northampton on the left side of this page.

Northampton Historic Sturctures

Colonial Revial Style

Dr. Elmer H. Copeland House - 205 Elm Street, Northampton

Colonial Revial Style

Alice and Marie Warner House - 280 Elm Street, Northampton

Georgian Style

Jonathan Hunt House - 109 Elm Street, Northampton

Application Process - Built Structures

In accordance with Elm Street Historic District Design Standards:

No building or structure within the Elm Street Historic District shall be constructed, altered, or demolished in any way that affects exterior architectural features visible from a public way, except those activities exempted in Section 195-5 of the Elm Street Historic District Ordinance, without the proper certificate (permit) from the Historic District Commission.

All projects fall under one of the following three categories:

1. Exempt: Projects that can be undertaken without any review. (Building permit requirements still apply.)

2. Potentially Exempt and requiring a Certificate of Non-Applicability: Projects that require staff review and a permit issued by the Office of Planning and Development.

3. Non-Exempt and requiring a Certificate of Appropriateness or Hardship: Projects that require review by the Commission at a public hearing, a permit from the Commission, and an associated permit fee.

The Path of the Mill River Through History

Early Northamtpon - Georgian Style Houses

The Georgian style house was popular between 1700-1780.
The Georgian style house is usually one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half stories under a gabled roof, two rooms deep, with doors and windows in strict symmetry. High style versions have gambrel roofs and can include a paneled centered front door sheltered by a column-supported portico, or framed by pilasters supporting an entablature in high relief which is often capped with a pediment and enclosing a transom of small rectangular panes of glass. Windows generally have double-hung sashes, typically with nine or twelve small panes per sash.
Historic District Commission Office of Planning & Sustainability Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (September 2010)

Late through Comtemporary Northampton - Colonial Revival Style Houses

The Colonial Revival house was popular from 1875 through today.
This style re-interprets the Georgian and Federal houses of the 18th and 19th centuries, but generally at a larger scale. The façade normally shows symmetrically balanced windows and a center door with a surround that often has a decorative pediment or fanlight, supported by pilasters; or a porch supported on Doric columns. Windows with double-hung sashes, but there are also single-pane windows with stained glass transoms.
Historic District Commission Office of Planning & Sustainability Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (September 2010)

Application Process - The Mill River Greenway Initiative

Image Citations

Image 1. Old Downtown Northamptpon. Digital image. Historic Northampton. Museum and Education Center, n.d. Web. 4 May 2015.

Image 2. A View of the Connecticut River - Whately, MA. Digital image. Mill River Watershed Project. UMass Amherst, n.d. Web. 3 May 2015.

Images 3, 4, 5. Various Historic Northampton Houses. Digital image. Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System. Massachusetts Historical Commission, n.d. Web. 4 May 2015.

Images 6, 7. Maps of the Mill River. Digital image. The Mill River Greenway Initiative. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2015.