Across the nation a teardown epidemic is wiping out historic neighborhoods one house at a time. As older homes are demolished and replaced with dramatically larger, out-of-scale new structures, the historic character of the existing neighborhood is changed forever. Neighborhood livability is diminished as trees are removed, backyards are eliminated, and sunlight is blocked by towering new structures built up to the property lines. Community economic and social diversity is reduced as new mansions replace affordable homes. House by house, neighborhoods are losing a part of their historic fabric and much of their character.
“From 19th-century Victorian to 1920s bungalows, the architecture of America’s historic neighborhoods reflects the character of our communities,” said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust. “Teardowns radically change the fabric of a community. Without proper safeguards, historic neighborhoods will lose the identities that drew residents to put down roots in the first place.” To date, the National Trust has documented more than 300 communities in 33 states that are experiencing significant numbers of teardowns, and that number is climbing fast. Click here for an interactive map and listing of Teardowns by State and Community.
In 2002, the National Trust began work to draw attention to this growing trend by placing “Teardowns in Historic Neighborhoods” on its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. To help arm neighborhood residents, preservationists and local government leaders, the National Trust has published Protecting America’s Historic Neighborhoods: Taming the Teardown Trend to address the origins and impact of teardowns.
Historic neighborhoods can be protected from teardowns, through a variety of tools and approaches that manage this type of growth. Because there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution or “magic bullet” that will stop teardowns, communities should expect to use a combination of tools. To help with this process, the National Trust is working to show models and profile communities that have developed innovative strategies through the online Teardowns Resource Guide.
Resources: Teardowns and McMansions
- Teardowns Resource Guide Advice on a variety of tools and approaches community leaders can use to manage teardowns, providing technical assistance and resources to facilitate the preservation of historic neighborhoods.
- Protecting America’s Historic Neighborhoods: Taming the Teardown Trend Discusses the impact of teardowns–the practice of demolishing an existing house to make way for a much larger structure–on historic places and suggests tools for curbing this disturbing trend. Published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
- Protecting America’s Historic Neighborhoods: Taming the Teardown Trend (pdf) Summarizes the full report. Reprinted from the July/August 2002 Forum News. Published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
- Too Big, Boring, or Ugly: Planning and Design Tools to Combat Monotony, the too-big House, and Teardowns Offers planning and design tools to tame the too-big house, shake free of monotonous development, and negotiate the political minefield of teardowns. Published by the American Planning Association.
- Protecting Potential Landmarks Through Demolition Review (pdf) Explores the use of demolition review, different types, multiple approaches and examples of ordinances. Published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
- Teardown Trend Altering Historic Neighborhoods (pdf) Transcript of interview with Richard Moe on National Public Radio Morning Edition, September 26, 2006