Chain-Link Gang

Published September 19, 2011

City officials in Alexandria, Virginia ordered a homeowner who illegally removed a chain-link fence in her front yard to put it back because it’s historic.

“While many feel that [chain-link] fences have negative connotations,” a city official said, “this material has played an important role in the development of mid-century vernacular housing and their cultural landscape. … By eradicating this ‘simple fencing solution,’ the applicant would be removing an important contextual clue to the original occupants of this neighborhood.”

Brick row houses in the neighborhood were originally occupied by working-class homeowners. But the row houses are now selling at around $500,000.

The homeowner had scrapped the original fence and couldn’t retrieve it. So city officials at first said the homeowner could keep the replacement, a decorative black aluminum fence with arrowhead finials. Now, though, they are trying to force her to take it out, asserting it’s encroaching on city property.

The city is forcing other homeowners in the neighborhood to keep their chain-link fences. It may eventually require only a few fences to be retained. Either way, litigation seems likely.

Source: John Kelly, “When historic preservation interferes with modern preferences,” Washington Post, August 7, 2011 via