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Couple fighting historic home decision

John HartThe Marsh House on Boulder Street in Nevada City is owned by Charlotte and Howard Dewar, who want to build an addition in the rear of the home, but Nevada City turned down the request.
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Charlotte and Howard Dewar aren’t giving up on their hopes of remodeling their Nevada City home, even though the plans for the 1873 “M. L. Marsh House” have already been rejected by the town’s Planning Commission and the City Council.

In January, the Nevada City City Council is expected to consider the legal findings that spell out the reasons why the project was turned down. The reason for the earlier rejection was that the project would undermine the architectural integrity of the building at 254 Boulder St.

The house has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1972, but it sits outside the town’s historical district.



The Dewars, who have hired an attorney, want to enlarge a dining room and a master bedroom, rebuild an existing sun room and add a bay window. The sun room, the Dewars said, is rotting and cannot be repaired. The staircase in the sun room also is very dangerous, they said.

Howard Dewar said the remodeling would add 250 square feet to the building, but nothing would be added to the front facade.




Dewar, who has spent $20,000 to prepare remodeling plans, said city officials did not look at the project’s merits.

“Architecture is an art you live with,” he said, adding that city officials simply want to freeze Nevada City in time and dictate to homeowners what could be done.

“And that’s a huge mistake,” he said. “They have a misguided view as to how to preserve the town.”

Nevada City Planning Commissioner Ruth Poulter, who voted against the project, said the Dewars’ plans would change the authenticity of the building. She said that the Dewars have plenty of room to enlarge the dining room and bedroom by removing inner walls and working within the footprint of the existing building.

Robert Mackensen, a Yuba City consulting architect who specializes in historic preservation, said houses on the National Register can be altered if the alterations are sensitive and do not upstage the historic character of the building.

“It’s a ‘Yes, but. . .’ situation,” said Mackensen, retired executive director of the State Historical Building Safety Board.


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