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HP: More than a stodgy computer


The benefits to living well in a historic district

Keith Rollin Eakins July 27th, 2011

If you’re not a resident of inner Oklahoma City, the term “HP” may bring to mind that desktop computer your grandma bought in 1994 and is still afraid of.

And you may be unaware that HP stands for “historic preservation” and refers to OKC historic districts such as Heritage Hills, Mesta Park, Edgemere Park, Crown Heights, Putnam Heights and Shepherd.

Designed and built in the early 20th century, these neighborhoods are charming, but living there comes with certain responsibilities. Namely, one must maintain the historic materials of a home’s exterior, the historic character of a home’s landscape elements and an air of pretension when conversing about residential architecture.

HP neighborhoods are bound by historic preservation guidelines, which strictly limit changes to home exteriors. They are no place for a hard-core libertarian or one who believes President Obama is a socialist. After flouting HP guidelines and receiving a citation for building a triple-level deck on top of a 1928 Tudor Revival, an individual of either of these mind-sets will reel with disbelief, psychically decompose, then bitterly stake a “for sale” sign in the front yard while lamenting and questioning what country he or she really lives in. This is sad, tragic and not uncommon.

If HP neighborhoods were a metaphorical country, they would be France, rich in culture, but often despised by outsiders — notably contractors and professional handymen. Many see historic preservation as contrary to the American ethos of limited government and love of things new and improved and feel it to be a sharp pain in their ass.

It makes no sense to contractors to repair shabby old wooden windows when gleaming new windows are efficient, comfortable and actually keep out drifting snow. Plus, these guys know that when they go to fix anything in an HP house their worst nightmare awaits them. A seemingly simple leaky faucet repair invariably becomes a mind-scorching engineering puzzle due to the Rube Goldberg-like labyrinth of pipes, valves and traps lurking under the sink.

If an HP homeowner succumbs to the urge to hang a painting on the wall, the next day some poor handyman will be cursing, trying to install I-beams to repair the structural damage caused.

But HP living has serious benefits.

Those oft-maligned HP guidelines protect people from others and themselves.

It’s good to know that a neighbor with an unhealthy fascination with Googie architecture faces legal problems should he redesign the front of his house to look like a space station.

Buying a house in an HP neighborhood is financially shrewd as an HP economic impact study found most of these houses appreciated at higher rates than houses in non-historic areas. This also allows HP residents to learn a lot about local government while they continually appeal the county assessor’s irritatingly sky-high valuation of their homes.

HP neighborhoods are also close to areas like Midtown and Western Avenue, and thus within easy staggering distance of numerous cool restaurants and dive bars. And if one ends up at a neighborhood cocktail party, there’s little danger of getting cornered into a boring conversation about golf as might occur in Edmond. However, being roped into an overly earnest discussion about hardwood floor maintenance or art deco tile is a real threat. Consider yourself forewarned.

Eakins is a resident of Edgemere Park.

 
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