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Buckingham homeowner seeks historic designation

By Grace Lovins

Birmingham’s Historic District Study Committee will begin preparations for a preliminary report for the residence located at 1283 Buckingham Avenue to continue the process of obtaining designation as a local historic resource after receiving direction from the city commission at their meeting on Monday, September 12.

Keith and Carol Deyer purchased the home in 1976 and have occupied the residence since. Keith Deyer explained to the commission his decision to obtain a historic designation for the house came after seeing houses demolished with affordable housing or larger homes in mind, a theme of the city’s 2040 master plan. The Deyers aimed to preserve the history and character the residence brings to the city.

“What sort of tipped me over the edge relative to requesting historic designation is I’ve been really bothered by the number of tear downs,” Deyer said. “When we moved to Birmingham, it was the character that really intrigued us: the difference in houses, the housing stock, the neighborhoods. I think all that’s changing, and while I understand change is inevitable, it really can be managed. … I think there’s a lot of issues at play and as we move forward and try to decide what the city is, I think it’s important to maintain some character.”

The house was originally built in 1925 by American architect Wallace Frost, a peer of the well known Detroit-based industrial architect Albert Kahn. Frost designed 44 houses in or near Birmingham, and was known for mid-sized cottages allowing lots of natural light. His designs included a mix of French, Italian and English influences, featuring woodwork and limestone frames around doors and windows.

Planning Director Nick Dupuis ran through the process and result of obtaining a designation for the commission. First, he explained, the commission will direct the Historic District Study Committee to begin preparations for a preliminary report, then city staff will conduct a photo inventory of the outside of the house.

Next, research into the history of the house will be conducted and will be made into a report for the city commission, which will also be shared with different bodies, including the State Historic Preservation Office and the city's planning division, ultimately leading to a public hearing with the city commission, where a final report will be provided.

Keith Deyer noted that once the house has been designated a local historic resource, if significant changes want to be made to the house, the owner would have to go to the Historic District Committee and have a review. If someone were to decide they wanted to tear the house down, there would also be additional reviews. However, the house is not completely immune to any future demolition or modification.

Commissioner Andrew Haig shared his appreciation for Deyer’s enthusiasm and willingness to obtain the historic designation for the 96-year old house. “The house I grew up in was built in the 1790's, the main part of it was, and another part was built in the late 1800’s. … I really appreciate your efforts. They do take a lot of work to do. … I love watching your progress. I love watching your enthusiasm for doing this. Thank you for doing it,” Haig said.

The commission voted unanimously to direct the Historic District Study Committee to begin preparation of a preliminary report for the residence.


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