https://georgetowner.com/articles/2018/03/07/old-georgetown-board-law/Located on the Potomac River, with rich culture, treeline streets, and meaningful history to its credit, Georgetown has established itself as one of the most desirable neighborhoods  But these breathtaking sights – as well as Georgetown’s mentioned culture and history – are attributable in large part to the appearance of centuries old buildings Of course, given the historical and architectural importance of Georgetown’s structures, there’s a compelling need to assure that any and all construction decisions – including those concerning windows, which can dramatically change the character of a building – are executed carefully and with expert oversight. Here’s an in-depth look at the latest window replacement and repair guidelines in the Old Georgetown historic district, the approximate boundaries of which are defined in a namesake 1950 law.


Windows Directly Affect the Character of Georgetown Buildings

To understand the approval process and oversight associated with window-replacement jobs in Old Georgetown, it is important to understand the significant role that original windows play with regard to the character of buildings. Though many onlookers don’t give them a second thought while going about their business, windows directly affect buildings’ appearance and energy, which in turn mold the appearance and energy of Georgetown itself. Like with many things, the appearance of Georgetown buildings is often taken for granted. However, a poorly planned window modification has the potential to compromise any structure’s aesthetic appeal – and garner negative attention – in the same way, that an antique featuring newly manufactured replacement parts would receive scrutiny of its own.The key to preventing the undesirable outcome and preserving all that makes Georgetown special is employing a careful approval process for window replacements and repairs. And an advisory board called the Old Georgetown Board (OGB) handles this approval process.


The Approval Process Behind Window Replacements and Repairs in Georgetown

Consisting of three architects appointed by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA), the Old Georgetown Board evaluates and decides upon window replacement and repair applications (besides other applications for any proposed alterations to structures’ exteriors) for buildings that are visible from the public way in the historic district. Assembling at public meetings once per month, OGB appointees listen to presentations from construction-authorization applicants, conduct on-site inspections, and then make recommendations to the CFA, which holds ultimate decision-making authority. For additional context, the Old Georgetown Board’s meetings take place on the first Thursday* of each month (except August) at Judiciary Square’s Pension Building and “generally last the entire day,” according to the involved professionals. Interested parties can review the meeting schedule, the meeting agenda, filing deadlines for window replacement and repair applications, and related information on the OGB website.


Repairing and Replacing Windows in Georgetown – Here’s What the Old Georgetown Board Considers

Prioritizing the preservation of Georgetown’s historical authenticity and culture, OGB policy emphasizes the repair of existing windows (in an aesthetically responsible manner that maintains the character of the building) as opposed to an outright replacement. In particular, this policy aims to protect historic windows that are “difficult or impossible to replace with old growth wood, hand-blown glass, or unique details,” according to the OGB website. In support of the overarching objectives – a Georgetown that looks its best – the oversight agency consults and works with applicants to properly assess the “age, condition, and type of windows” in question.  Should any of the historic district’s public-facing window(s) prove unrepairable during an OGB inspection – even with proper care and maintenance, windows can only stand the test of time for so long – the government body will recommend replacements that maintain the character of the building and the area. *(The meetings are open to the public, as noted, but the Old Georgetown Board continues to require applicants and attendees alike to participate via Zoom due to COVID-19 concerns as of Sept. 2022)

Unfortunately, many Georgetown buildings had been altered from their original designs (in terms of their windows and otherwise, with a larger goal of making them appear older) before the OGB began stringently enforcing the review process for public-facing historic-district modifications. Consequently, the OGB advises that windows in need of replacing be made to suit the original design, construction goals, and character of the building at hand. Regarding the specific types of windows and materials recommended for use in replacement jobs, the Old Georgetown Board after approving applications typically calls for applicants to utilize “wood, single-glazed (a single pane of glass), true-divided light (multiple panes of glass separated by muntins) windows,” and the precise details thereof depend upon the individual situation.


What the Old Georgetown Board Does – and Doesn’t – Review

As a general rule, all proposed alterations to the exterior of public-facing Old Georgetown buildings require the approval of the OGB to commence lawfully. In turn, “changes of use involving no physical change to the exterior of the property,” or entirely internal alterations, need not be submitted for review, the advisory board’s website states.Per the same source, “minor repairs,” “masonry repointing,” and “storm windows” are among the exterior alterations that individuals don’t have to run by the OGB.


Georgetown Windows Make the Neighborhood Special

As one can probably surmise from the multifaceted process associated with replacing or even repairing windows in Old Georgetown, government officials and locals value the distinct aesthetic contributions of each structure in the much-desired neighborhood. And that’s because every local building plays an integral role; to change or remove any Georgetown structure without care is akin to removing a piece of the invaluable fabric that holds the one-of-a-kind destination together. Equipped with the above-described information, Georgetown locals can successfully navigate the window replacement and construction processes. For additional information.


****In researching this article we spoke with the following windows vendors. 


A Message from the Window Specialists on Repair and Replacement Options

District Capital Glass has worked with multiple houses in Georgetown to repair or replace the windows. The main conversation we have with customers is how to help replace broken glass or fix a broken spring in the window. This can cost anywhere from $280 – 360+ depending on the window and the time needed. If you’re interested in having a window looked at, please reach out via the website. We service all of Georgetown 

Architectural Window Corporation – Washington: The DC office of Architectural Window Corp has replaced windows, doors and shutters on historic homes throughout Georgetown and across the city as well as in Old Town Alexandria.  Their custom products meet or exceed historical preservation guidelines.  AWC staff work closely with the Old Georgetown Board (OGB) and are well aware of OGB’s requirements.  The typical window that meets those requirements is built of sapele mahogany, is single pane when used on a street facing façade, can have no vinyl components visible to the exterior and must match the profiles, sight lines and brickmould patterns of the originals.  If the original windows are missing, AWC researchers, working with OGB staff, will try to determine an appropriately designed replacement window. Contact us for more information via the website: Architectural Window Corporation – Washington | paul.d@arch-window.com

AWC is also well aware that sometimes the board recommends window restoration.  In cases like that, they recommend contacting a qualified restorer, such as Christian Kelleher at The Craftsman Group.  www.thecraftsmengroup.com.  His team of restorers have been making old windows like new for over 30 years or Mozer Works to learn more about what they can provide for your home. 

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