On Center St, I just put finishing touches on custom hand cut picket fences that were part of a drainage/landscaping/streetscaping project for 2 houses, and I wanted to talk about some things to get the front of a house in an older section looking right.
A nice custom fence design--as opposed to generic big box store patterns- adds interest and authenticity to the streetscape. Any custom build is further enhanced when it follows decorative patterns/forms from nearby older builds-a practice called a tradition.
Traditions that were passed through generations of tradespeople are what create that unique flavor/character that makes it where someone can view a photo of most older cities and instantly recognize the city, even if they are unfamiliar with the block!
On the left hand fence, picket shapes were made with a chop saw only (easy cuts can still form complex shapes). The right hand fence is more refined- it is patterned after a local woodworking tradition and has more complex scroll cuts.
If you are in an urban context, if a house is built on a slope, it is customary to bring the front yard close to level, pickets or a hedge row to perfectly level, with a "dog board" following the ground. Across multiple properties, this looks like "stairs", showcasing the natural topography, and creating a sense of order around the outcropping-buildings.
The fences were built (properly) to the public right of way line- this is the legal limit where fences and garden rows may be built (and its size varies by BLOCK in an old neighborhood!) When there is no hedge row, fence (or storefront) at this line, public movement is poorly defined, creating a number of safety and security hazards, and it is very difficult to establish a uniform, enclosed appearance. Now, with fences in proper locations, it is easy to see where the walkway went 120 years ago. I added removable brick pavers as a "placeholder" for an eventual sidewalk. Our city could improve outcomes by calibrating zoning and providing advisory tools to help people who set out to do small landscape/gardening projects know where and how to treat their Right of Way.
Drainage and erosion issues were also addressed through leveling front yards and adding retaining walls. This slows rainwater runoff by forcing drainage into the ground. For pavement, I used compacted asphalt millings, which stick together, yet still allow water to permeate. As a bonus, I found out this product stays super dry compared to concrete!
Most importantly, through simply optimizing space in this effort, the available parking at these 2 properties was increased from 4 spaces to 8!
If there's anything you might need, don't hesitate to reach out.
David Benjamin Moye
West Columbia Councilman, District #8