Downtown building owner Stan Brodhagen asked Newton City Commissioners at their meeting Tuesday to waive a historic district guideline that would have prevented him from installing fiberglass or composite windows at 522 N. Main St.
Newton/North Newton Historic Preservation Commission representatives said altering the building’s windows might put the building’s historic classification in jeopardy, but Brodhagen told commissioners he thought more “period correct” wooden windows would be more challenging to care for, especially on a building’s second story.
“The cost of wood is almost prohibitive, and then the maintenance is prohibitive,” he told commissioners. “I would like you to reconsider my request and allow me to put in composite-type windows.”
The commission ultimately ruled in Brodhagen’s favor.
Brodhagen said he purchased 522 N. Main St. with the intent of restoring the building. He appreciates the building’s historical value and the work of the preservation commission but said he thought the organization’s guidelines were too strict.
The historical district in question stretches from Fourth Street up to Eighth Street. According to design guidelines for Newton’s Main Street, “If replacement of a historic window or transom is necessary, it should be replaced with one that matches the original as closely as possible in size, design, materials, lights and configuration.”
However, Brodhagen told commissioners he did not think a more historically accurate wooden window would be practical. Paint peels off over time, and windows might even fall out as wood deteriorates.
He said the new
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windows would be the same style and design as the historic windows but would be maintenance free.
Billi Jo Wilson of the Newton Area Chamber of Commerce said the preservation commission was grateful for Brodhagen’s efforts to revitalize the downtown area, and the historic guidelines were not meant to create hardships for downtown building owners.
She said the commission did not approve Brodhagen’s plan because windows are a distinguishing feature of a building and contribute to the overall character of the building. She fears Brodhagen’s proposed changes could cause the building to lose its historic status.
“They are a historic wooden window, and they do represent the facade of that building,” she said of the windows on Brodhagen’s building. “... By replacing these windows, you do negatively affect the historical character of that particular property.”
“We put potentially this building and other buildings in our historic districts at risk,” said Barth Hague, a representative from the preservation commission.
He said he was aware of contractors in the Newton area who are skilled at working with historic windows and thought there could be some options that were not cost prohibitive.
The City Commission ultimately voted to grant Brodhagen a waiver.
“I just have a hard time sitting here and penalizing somebody that’s trying to make downtown a better place,” said Commissioner Glen Davis.