Teardowns and McMansions
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, former 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."
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.
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 resources below:
Resources: Teardowns and McMansions
- Teardown Tools on the Web (pdf)
Highlights approximately 30 tools that are being used by communities around the country in response to teardowns with direct links to more than 300 examples in 32 states. Teardowns on the Web is intended as an easy-to-share, user-friendly, one-stop-shop for people looking for tools to better manage teardowns
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
New York Times Editorial "Holding Back the Wrecking Ball" of July 8, 2008, which details the alarming increase in teardowns in historic neighborhoods in the wake of the subprime housing fallout and an interactive map of teardowns in the community of Westport, Connecticut.
Advocacy for Alternatives to Teardowns (pdf) Step-by-step guide and advice for advocating for alternatives, mounting a successful campaign and strategies for managing teardowns.
What's Wrong with Teardowns: A Visual Analysis (pdf) Graphic illustrations to help make the case for how teardowns are impacting older neighborhoods.
Teardowns Glossary (pdf) Terminology of the growing teardown trend.