The city’s Historic Landmark Commission sent engineers back to the drawing board Monday evening after rejecting a proposed steel-and-masonry fence that would surround the historic Oakwood Cemetery in Southeast Denton.
Commissioners were concerned that they were being asked to provide a “certificate of appropriateness” without knowing what would have been around the cemetery, which was known as the City Cemetery from 1857 until it was renamed by city leaders in 1931.
“We’re really at sea here,” said Karen DeVinney, commission chairwoman.
Tim May, of Teague, Nall and Perkins, said that he walked the cemetery before deciding what the fence should look like. Currently, a 43-year-old chain-link fence surrounds the cemetery. The fence is collapsing in some spots.
Some of the upended stones at unidentified graves inspired the firm to choose native stone as a veneer on concrete pillars, May said. Between the pillars, he proposed fence panels of tubular steel with a finish that is guaranteed to last 30 years.
May said the firm understood what the fence’s design signaled to visitors and that the firm did not want to slight the historical significance of the cemetery by design choices.
However, he questioned whether making choices based on fences around other historic Texas cemeteries was appropriate for Denton.
Since both Oakwood and the IOOF Cemetery are part of the city’s parks department, the city staff told the commission that whatever is chosen for Oakwood would also be installed at the IOOF Cemetery.
Carolyn Phillips, of the Southeast Denton Neighborhood Association, said that normally the association supports measures that improve the neighborhood, which has five historic churches. But she, too, was concerned about the lack of surety about the fence design.
“We need to close the gap on what we don’t know,” Phillips said. “Let’s face it — if we were in other neighborhoods, we would be able to close the gap.”
Peggy Riddle, Denton County Museums director, told the commission that her department’s research has shown that Denton had its own fencing company.
“We’re going to be putting some of that fencing around the Quakertown House,” Riddle said.
The Quakertown House is one of several historical structures at the county’s historical park at Carroll Boulevard and Mulberry Street.
She encouraged the commission to ask for more research before making a decision that could affect so much of the city’s heritage, an increasing draw for tourists.
“I think Denton demands design,” Riddle said. “You will lose that heritage status if you start putting in things that don’t fit.”
The commission denied the request for a certificate, but gave the parks department a chance to come back with a new design and encouraged the department to work with the county on developing the design.
Commissioner Laura Mauelshagen asked the city staff to provide the Historic Landmark Commission with more photos and information about historic fences prior to the matter returning to the agenda.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her e-mail address is email@example.com .