Capitol Hill Restoration Society

CHRS Historic District Guidelines

October 2014: FAQs regarding historic districts from the Historic Preservation Office


July 2008: CHRS Guidelines Enter Digital Age!

All of the CHRS Historic Guidelines are now available online (see link below) in addition to the traditional print format available through the CHRS Office and in the Capitol Hill libraries. This expanded availability should make it easier for members and others to have quick access to the information in this publication series.

The Guidelines were developed by the Society, starting in the early 1990’s, as an effort to explain important characteristics of the Capitol Hill Historic District, and to provide advice on maintenance and similar issues. Topics included: building styles, entrances, windows, paint color, cast iron, brick, public space, stained glass, and permits. The publication on re-pointing and paint removal will also be posted.

Guidelines are informative not only for building owners in the historic District, but also for owners of historic buildings throughout the city. This series has also been used by preservation organizations across the country.

  • Red Brick, Brown Brick, Pressed Brick, and Common: Capitol Hill Brick
    by Judith Capen, AIA
    Includes the history of brick and the use of nineteenth-century brick in Washington and Capitol Hill. Introduces vocabulary about joints, brick construction, mortar, pointing and repointing, and describes Capitol Hill’s own pressed brick with butter joints. Covers masonry repairs: causes, remedies, do’s and don’ts.
  • Repointing and Paint Removal: A CHRS Case Study
    by Marie Fennell, AICP
  • Capitol Hill’s Unpainted Ladies
    by Judith Capen, AICP
    There’s individual preference and taste, and there’s history. Instead of today’s popular colors, this booklet explains what the taste-makers of the nineteenth century thought were the right colors for Capitol Hill buildings.
  • The Stained Glass Windows of Capitol Hill
    by Lyle Schauer
    Learn why the Victorians loved stained glass and what to do about some of the common problems stained glass windows are likely to have.
  • Building Styles in the Capitol Hill Historic District 
    by Judith Capen, AICP
    No, “Victorian” is not a style: it is an era. Nineteenth-century Capitol Hill buildings are mostly Italianate, Queen Anne, French Second Empire, and Richardsonian Romanesque. The booklet identifies architectural styles seen in the Capitol Hill Historic District.
  • Open spaces along residential streets that were included in the L’Enfant plan makes Washington unique among American cities. Much of this open space in Capitol Hill’s front yards is owned by the city, but is used by individual property owners. This unusual situation has led to many laws that regulate the use of these spaces (often referred to as “public parking“) as well as confusion about rights and responsibilities. The District’s Department of Transportation (DDOT) is in the process of developing updated regulations.
  • Cast Iron: Firmness, Commodity, and Delight
    by Patrick Lally and Judith Capen, AICP
    Explains the origin of the “miracle material” of the nineteenth century, and how cast iron differs from wrought iron. Recounts how cast iron helped shape the visual character of Capitol Hill — in fences, stoops and stairs, street furniture, and building ornament — and includes detailed recommendations for everything, from routine maintenance to reconstruction of cast-iron elements.
  • Entrance – When a Door is More Than a Door
    by Judith Capen, AIA
    Many of our original historic doors are literally irreplaceable. They’re like grandma’s sideboard, but on the front of the house. Learn to love your old door if you still have it, and benefit from the booklet’s advice on taking care of it. Includes options for replacing the Colonial number, and thoughts about other front door stuff like knockers, numbers, door bells, lights, and transoms.
  • Windows: The Eyes of a Building
    by Judith Capen, AIA
    Windows are major character-defining features of Capitol Hill buildings, but they also impact the comfort of the people inside. As such, they can be the focus of conflicting impulses: replace for energy efficiency or keep because they’re historic? The booklet explains why our windows are the way they are, makes recommendations about old windows, and offers advice on associated elements like shutters, sills, awnings, and security iron.
  • Replacement Windows
    by Judith M. Capen, AIA and Robert A. Weinstein, AIA

Yours, Mine, and Ours: Front Yards and Public Space on Capitol Hill, by Jill Lawrence, explaining the District’s unusual arrangement of publicly-owned, privately-maintained gardens, “public parking,” between sidewalks and property lines (usually at the building façade), has been superseded by DDOT’s Public_Realm_Design_Manual_2011 (see Chapter 4).  Additional posts on this topic can be found at

How to Order Printed Copies of CHRS Historic Guidelines

Copies of the guidelines (free to members, $3 + postage for nonmembers) can be obtained from the CHRS office by calling 202-543-0425. Or, complete the PDF form (link is below), print and mail with your payment (by check) to:

Capitol Hill Restoration Society
P.O. Box 15264
Washington, DC 20003-0264

Open order form (PDF file)