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A nearly clear-cut landscape shows off Gray Ledges, one of Bloomington's most notable historic homes, at 1706 E. Washington St. The Bloomington Zoning Board of Appeals has approved a variance to allow owner Greg Shepard to erect a wrought-iron fence like the one at Ewing Manor.

BLOOMINGTON — Fencing patterned after that in place at Ewing Manor will grace another Ewing brother's historic former home, Gray Ledges.

The Bloomington Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously voted Wednesday to approve a variance to erect an ornate fence in front of the residence that Spencer and Lena Ewing had Prairie-style architect John S. Van Bergen build in 1920-21 at 1706 E. Washington St.

The property's new owner, Greg Shepard, wanted the fence to be identical to the one in front of Ewing Manor, the house built in 1927-1929 by Spencer Ewing’s brother and sister-in-law, Davis and Hazle Buck Ewing, at Towanda Avenue and Emerson Street in Bloomington.

To ensure his fence matched, Shepard had it designed by landscape architect Jim Ash of Pekin, who is the designer of the fence installed in 2007 at Ewing Manor when the Genevieve Green Gardens were established on the Ewing property, which now is the Ewing Cultural Center.

Shepard requested a variance because when he measured the metal panel of the fence at Ewing Manor it was 4 feet 10 inches in height. That's 10 inches higher than the 4-foot maximum allowed in a residential neighborhood.

The board amended the variance to 5 feet after resident Fred Noyes, at a public hearing on the matter, said he measured the fence and it stood 5 feet above ground level. 

"I've never seen such a beautiful house at the corner of Mercer and Washington," said Noyes. "The entire community is talking a lot about it."

But Noyes, who lives on Mercer Avenue near Gray Ledges, said he wanted assurances, which Shepard gave, that the fence would not be placed on top of any man-made berms to make it taller.

The city staff recommended approval of the variance because the fence design improves visibility and sight lines, is compatible with surrounding properties and honors the history of Ewing Manor and Gray Ledges.

In 1952, Gray Ledges was sold by the Ewing family to James and Marie Owen, the owners of Owen Nursery in Bloomington.

Shepard recently purchased Gray Ledges as part of a 4.5-acre land deal for $1.1 million from Frances Owen. He is having the house restored and his son plans to live there.

To make way for the fence, Shepard is having the dense growth of trees and foliage removed. He apologized for the city-owned trees that were cut down by mistake in the process.

Shepard said he is anticipating the installation of the fence to be completed around July 4.

Follow Maria Nagle on Twitter: @pg_nagle

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Bloomington Reporter

Bloomington reporter for The Pantagraph.

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