The owners of the historic Harris-Webb House at 265-267 Lafayette Street began restoring it in 2017. After they repainted the wooden clapboards, incised corner pilasters, paired curvilinear cornice brackets with pendants, open pediment dormers, and thin segmental-arch window caps, they began work on the front entrance porch, which was in serious disrepair. The owners took the opportunity to restore the historic appearance of the porch – what Bryant Tolles called “pleasantly light and understated.” New mahogany turned balusters were created to match others found on Lafayette Street. New handrails and column bases were also installed. Typically the Historical Commission does not nominate a restoration project until all work has been completed, however, in this instance, the commission recommended honoring the property owners’ efforts to date as a means to address conflicts between historic building designs and modern building codes. After the owners of 265-267 Lafayette Street installed the new porch railings, they were notified that the railings did not comply with current code requirements for railing height, even though they matched the original porch design. The Massachusetts State Building Code allows exemptions for museum buildings only; there are no exemptions for buildings listed in the National Register or designated within a local historic district. The Historical Commission will be assisting the owner in seeking an appeal of the building code requirements to allow the retention of the historically appropriate railings.
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