Longtime Birmingham resident Brad Host is renovating his third home in the city rather than building a new one because he believes Birmingham’s older homes have a special character that can’t be matched by new construction.
BIRMINGHAM — While demolishing old homes to make way for new ones seems to have been the trend in recent years in Birmingham, some residents and officials are hoping to see renovation replace bulldozing.
Birmingham Historic District Commissioner Patricia Lang said she’s hoping to start the conversation about preservation “and hopefully get people thinking,” in an attempt to reverse a trend towards modern new homes — some of which have been called “bigfoot” homes or McMansions — taking the place of smaller, older homes that once occupied the city for, in some cases, 100 years or more.
“What happens when you tear down and demolish is, you’re changing the whole character of the city,” Lang said. “You’re changing the whole historic essence of the city.”
The very charm that has drawn so many to Birmingham in the first place, say people like Lang, is being replaced by less inspired designs that could just as easily have been built in any of the newer suburbs.
“There have been really nice (older) homes that have come down,” Lang said. “There’s a lot of cookie-cutter (new) houses in Birmingham. There’s nothing special about them.”
Lang said there’s even a nickname for the transformation that’s happening in her city: Troyham. For more than 20 years, she said, “It’s been all about demolition.
“We’ve lost so much,” Lang continued. “There’s hardly anything left.”
Longtime Birmingham resident Brad Host, who also serves on the City Commission, is in the process of renovating his third historical home in the city. He and his wife, artist Laura Whitesides Host, recently moved into a Sears Roebuck kit home called The Sunbeam in a section of Birmingham known as Little San Francisco or The Ravines. Host said this area used to have more than two dozen such Sears kit homes — which were known for being solidly built — but a number of them have met with the wrecking ball in recent years.
Host said older homes have a character their new counterparts lack.
“There’s an aesthetic or an ambiance to historic homes, and as such, it’s worth preserving,” Host said. “In Birmingham, people move into these (neighborhoods) partly because of the character.”
In addition, he said, renovation is less expensive than building from scratch — especially now, with supply chain issues causing the price of raw building materials such as steel to sharply increase.
Lang said renovation can be a great way to make an older home more suitable for modern living, noting that a neighbor across the street recently expanded her kitchen with an addition off of the …….