The German Village Society
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Guidelines for Building Sites

Villagers commonly used cast- and wrought-iron fences to separate their yards from streets and neighbors' yards. Many of these fences are still standing; typically they are three feet high or less and provide physical rather than visual separation.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, villagers used less expensive wire to fence in side yards and backyards. Even though it was less durable than cast or wrought iron, some yards still have original wire fencing.

Villagers also used simple wood board or common picket fences; both were often stained or painted. Varying considerably in height and design, such fences afforded backyard privacy or separated yards from alleys and other yards.

Unlike iron, wire, and wood fences, the original villagers built very few masonry walls. In recent years some masonry walls have been added by residents desiring to increase their security and privacy in backyards and side yards.

1. Repair and maintain historic fencing materials, especially cast- and wrought-iron fences.

2. Try to solve privacy and security needs with traditional wood or metal materials, as well as through landscaping. Avoid masonry walls.

3. In fence construction, use traditional forms: picket fences are appropriate, as are plain board fences (vertical boards nailed side by side on parallel stringers). For side yards, traditional loop-top wire fencing is both available and appropriate, as is simple iron fencing in historic designs.

4. Wood fences should be painted or stained with an opaque stain compatible with the house's colors and should not be left to weather.

5. Avoid inappropriate fence designs such as chain link, stockade, shadow board, basket weave, and other contemporary designs.

6. Always place the front side of the fence toward the street; the structural posts and stringers should be on the inside of the fence.

7. Keep high fencing at the rear of the property, with lower fences near the front of the lot. Avoid obscuring views of the building; consider holding the fence back somewhat from the street or sidewalk, and providing a small planting strip to soften the visual impact of the fence. A maximum fence height of three to four feet along the street is most appropriate; rear yard fences should be a maximum of six feet high.

8. Remember that any fence over six feet in total height is considered to be a structure and will require a zoning variance.