GREENHILLS DESIGNATED

A NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK

The Village of Greenhills is pleased to report that on Wednesday, January 11, 2017, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the designation of the Greenhills Historic District as a National Historic Landmark!

National Historic Landmarks (NHLs) are nationally significant historic places designated by the Secretary of the Interior because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. Working with citizens throughout the nation, the National Historic Landmarks Program draws upon the expertise of National Park Service (NPS) staff who guide the nomination process for new Landmarks and provide assistance to existing Landmarks.

Greenhills was one of 24 new designations, “which depict different threads of the American story that have been told through activism, architecture, music, and religious observance,” said Secretary Jewell. “Their designation ensures future generations have the ability to learn from the past as we preserve and protect the historic value of these properties and the more than 2,500 other landmarks nationwide.”

Obtaining the NHL designation was a multi-year process, going back to its inclusion as a goal in the Village’s 2009 Comprehensive Plan.  The process to designate the existing National Register-listed Greenhills Historic District as an NHL picked up momentum in September 2012, when three senior officials from NPS visited the community to assess how well the physical integrity of the original Greenhills plan reflects the trend of Greenbelt towns built during the New Deal era.

After receiving the go-ahead from NPS and the Village, Glendale-based preservation consultant Beth Sullebarger began work on the nomination in earnest in collaboration with retired NPS architectural historian Linda McClelland. The nomination was submitted for NPS staff review in November 2015. At their meeting in May 2016 in Washington, DC, the Landmarks Committee of the NPS Advisory Board unanimously recommended the nomination for NHL designation. Final review by the Advisory Board in November 2016 then sent the nomination to the Secretary of Interior for signature.

The Village of Greenhills represents significant aspects of New Deal policy, an important period in the evolution of the American suburb, and pioneering innovations in house and neighborhood design. An adaptation of American garden-city planning to the climate, topography, and cultural preferences of the Midwestern United States, the Village of Greenhills was one of the three New Deal greenbelt towns built by the Resettlement Administration's Division of Suburban Resettlement.  It is nationally significant for its association with the Federal response to the Great Depression by providing economic relief in the form of employment for skilled and unskilled labor and making use of modern principles of design and lower-cost methods and materials of home construction in an effort to stimulate the building industry and raise the quality of life for working-class Americans.

The design of Greenhills resulted from the collaboration of town planners Justin R. Hartzog and William A. Strong and principal architects Roland A. Wank and F. Frank Cordner. Working with a team of more than 150 persons, the four designers interpreted garden-city principles and American planning traditions, modified by environmental conditions and target population preferences, to create a community with an innovative site plan that safely accommodated the automobile while conserving natural features, and that incorporated abundant parks, a surrounding greenbelt, pedestrian pathways, underground wiring, and high-quality housing that was modern yet economical in layout and materials. The plan for Greenhills also reduced costs by minimizing the size and length of water and sewer mains and the extent of paved surfaces.

Layouts of the townhomes are also noteworthy, using a reverse-front floor plan, with utility spaces—kitchens, coal storage and laundry—facing the street and the living spaces facing gardens in the rear. This design feature, combined with the elimination of a wide setback from the street, resulted in reduced construction costs and gave each house a larger yard with gardens which could be viewed from the living room. There was also a concerted effort in the original siting of the housing to work with the topography to allow maximum light and air and to break the monotony of the housing through a variety of setbacks, angles and porches to give each unit a sense of privacy.

In 1989, the oldest portion of Greenhills was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). That National Register District included all the areas built and owned by the federal government between 1935 and 1938 on superblocks “A” through “F”.  The boundaries for the NHL district are larger than the NRHP district, including all areas built between 1935 and 1950, adding single-family houses built for World War II veterans on Damon Road, Gambier Circle and the south side of Ingram. The year 1950 is significant because that was the year the federal government divested itself of the property.  

Greenhills property owners are eligible to be considered for federal grants for historic preservation and/or tax credits for rehabilitating historic commercial or rental residential buildings. The ability to maintain the designation over time could be enhanced by the establishment of a local historic district that would involve design guidelines for alterations and new construction for properties within the boundaries.

Greenhills' NHL Nomination can be viewed by clicking here: NHL Nomination Part One    NHL Nomination Part Two

 

The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation

The Standards (Department of Interior regulations, 36 CFR 67) pertain to historic buildings of all materials, construction types, sizes, and occupancy and encompass the exterior and the interior, related landscape features and the building's site and environment as well as attached, adjacent, or related new construction. The Standards are to be applied to specific rehabilitation projects in a reasonable manner, taking into consideration economic and technical feasibility.

1. A property shall be used for its historic purpose or be placed in a new use that requires minimal change to the defining characteristics of the building and its site and environment.

2. The historic character of a property shall be retained and preserved. The removal of historic materials or alteration of features and spaces that characterize a property shall be avoided.

3. Each property shall be recognized as a physical record of its time, place, and use. Changes that create a false sense of historical development, such as adding conjectural features or architectural elements from other buildings, shall not be undertaken.

4. Most properties change over time; those changes that have acquired historic significance in their own right shall be retained and preserved.

5. Distinctive features, finishes, and construction techniques or examples of craftsmanship that characterize a property shall be preserved.

6. Deteriorated historic features shall be repaired rather than replaced. Where the severity of deterioration requires replacement of a distinctive feature, the new feature shall match the old in design, color, texture, and other visual qualities and, where possible, materials. Replacement of missing features shall be substantiated by documentary, physical, or pictorial evidence.

7. Chemical or physical treatments, such as sandblasting, that cause damage to historic materials shall not be used. The surface cleaning of structures, if appropriate, shall be undertaken using the gentlest means possible.

8. Significant archeological resources affected by a project shall be protected and preserved. If such resources must be disturbed, mitigation measures shall be undertaken.

9. New additions, exterior alterations, or related new construction shall not destroy historic materials that characterize the property. The new work shall be differentiated from the old and shall be compatible with the massing, size, scale, and architectural features to protect the historic integrity of the property and its environment.

10. New additions and adjacent or related new construction shall be undertaken in such a manner that if removed in the future, the essential form and integrity of the historic property and its environment would be unimpaired.

 

A SUMMARY OF THE HISTORY OF GREENHILLS

Greenhills, Ohio is one of only three “Greenbelt Towns” built in the United States. The other two are Greenbelt, Maryland and Greendale, Wisconsin. The three towns had their start during the Depression Era. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created a program to build new suburban communities as part of his New Deal plans for the country. The overseeing department was the Resettlement Administration which later became a part of the Farms Security Administration. The building of these towns provided much needed jobs for those in the trades (brick layers, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, etc.), as well as people not in the trades who worked at clearing land, digging trenches, etc....

These men and women were a part of the WPA (Works Progress Administration), the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) , and the NYA (National Youth Administration). The use of local building materials and supplies also helped stimulate the local economy.

Nearly 4,000 residents inhabit 1,660 homes, with many families including third and fourth generation descendants from original "pioneers."

Several unique housing units are available in the village. The original government-built area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Much of the local retail activity is centered in historic Greenhills Shopping Center.


 

Each “Greenbelt Town” had certain similar criteria that needed to be met to be considered as a “Greenbelt Town”. It had to be near a major city to provide jobs for area residents. Each town had a Village center that had shops, a community center (which were used for schools and community activities) and government offices. The homes were to surround that Village center. And each town had a wide green belt of land surrounding the town that could easily be used as farm land for raising crops or animals. The most important aspect of these towns was to provide low income families with affordable housing to raise their children in and a safe environment with access to large open “green” spaces. Pathways were created in each section of homes to connect the sections to each other, as well as provide a pathway to the Village center.

The streets were designed with children and safety as a priority. There are three types of streets: residential, feeder, and main street. Residential streets are fairly short and are usually courts or dead ends, which significantly limits through traffic. Each residential street empties into a slightly larger street known as a feeder street to help guide cars into the last type of larger street, known a main street.

Another unique feature of Greenhills, OH and Greendale is how the streets in each section were named alphabetically. All the streets in a given area start with the same letter.

Greenbelt Originals

Homes in each “Greenbelt Town” also have similar qualities. Greenhills and Greenbelt, MD have large areas with long rows of townhouses. The homes also share a common site design and building plan. Homes were built close to the curb, almost totally eliminating a front yard. Instead, the emphasis was put on having a larger lawn to the backyard. This provided a much larger vista for playing and gardening, as well as evoking the wide-open feel of the country.

The orientation of the rooms in the “Original” is also unusual compared to homes built today. Living rooms were placed in the rear of the house, with a large picture window overlooking the open vista in the backyard. In most cases, the main entryway was placed on the side or in the back of the home. The entrance near the curb (in the small extension of the building) provides an entry into the utility room. The homes are fondly referred to as having been built backwards.

Each “Original” unit has between one and four bedrooms of modest to small size. A single bathroom is located on the second floor, excluding the honeymoon suites which are only 1 story high. All have an eat-in kitchen or a kitchen with a small dinette, a utility room, and a modest sized living room with large, natural wood beams. An innovation for its time, the wood sub floor of the second floor served as the ceiling – cutting back on the expense of an extra ceiling layer.

None of the units were built with basements which was common in homes. Contrary to the beloved story that the federal government ran out of money to include basements or the story that design plans for the homes got mixed up, the truth is the original plans never included basements. The units do have a crawl space under the house for some of the mechanics. The first floor was constructed of cement and covered with tile.

When the housing was originally built, the Federal Government was the landlord. An individual had to meet certain requirements in order to rent a place in any of the three “Greenbelt Towns”. In Wisconsin, a person’s annual income had to fall between $1,200 to $2,700 per year. Having a family with children was also important, even though there are units that were referred as “Bachelor” apartments & “Honeymoon Suites.” The government even considered an individual’s moral character before deciding who was eligible to rent a unit.

People find employment in the village working for such diverse employers as Winton Woods City Schools, Mobilcomm Technologies and Alois Alzheimer Center. Greenhills has a strong recreation program operating a nine-hole par-three executive golf course and an outdoor pool, both open to the public. Youth sports are sponsored year-round by the Greenhills-Winton Sports Association. The Greenhills Volunteer Fire Department, American Legion Post 530, Greenhills Woman's Club, Kiwanis and several scouting, church, gardening, civic and senior clubs are among the many volunteer organizations serving Greenhills resident.

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