Historic districts in the United States

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The federally designated Sycamore Historic District in Illinois Sycamore Il District Streets1.jpg
The federally designated Sycamore Historic District in Illinois

Historic districts in the United States are designated historic districts recognizing a group of buildings, properties, or sites by one of several entities on different levels as historically or architecturally significant. Buildings, structures, objects and sites within a historic district are normally divided into two categories, contributing and non-contributing. Districts greatly vary in size: some have hundreds of structures, while others have just a few.

Historic district section of a city which contains older buildings considered valuable for historical or architectural reasons

A historic district or heritage district is a section of a city which contains older buildings considered valuable for historical or architectural reasons. In some countries or jurisdictions, historic districts receive legal protection from certain types of development considered to be inappropriate.

Property, in the abstract, is what belongs to or with something, whether as an attribute or as a component of said thing. In the context of this article, it is one or more components, whether physical or incorporeal, of a person's estate; or so belonging to, as in being owned by, a person or jointly a group of people or a legal entity like a corporation or even a society. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner of property has the right to consume, alter, share, redefine, rent, mortgage, pawn, sell, exchange, transfer, give away or destroy it, or to exclude others from doing these things, as well as to perhaps abandon it; whereas regardless of the nature of the property, the owner thereof has the right to properly use it, or at the very least exclusively keep it.

Contributing property key component of a place listed on the National Register of Historic Places

In the law regulating historic districts in the United States, a contributing property or contributing resource is any building, object, or structure which adds to the historical integrity or architectural qualities that make the historic district, listed locally or federally, significant. Government agencies, at the state, national, and local level in the United States, have differing definitions of what constitutes a contributing property but there are common characteristics. Local laws often regulate the changes that can be made to contributing structures within designated historic districts. The first local ordinances dealing with the alteration of buildings within historic districts was in Charleston, South Carolina in 1931.

Contents

The U.S. federal government designates historic districts through the United States Department of Interior under the auspices of the National Park Service. Federally designated historic districts are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but listing usually imposes no restrictions on what property owners may do with a designated property. State-level historic districts may follow similar criteria (no restrictions) or may require adherence to certain historic rehabilitation standards. Local historic district designation offers, by far, the most legal protection for historic properties because most land use decisions are made at the local level. Local districts are generally administered by the county or municipal government.

National Park Service United States federal agency

The National Park Service (NPS) is an agency of the United States federal government that manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations. It was created on August 25, 1916, by Congress through the National Park Service Organic Act and is an agency of the United States Department of the Interior. The NPS is charged with a dual role of preserving the ecological and historical integrity of the places entrusted to its management, while also making them available and accessible for public use and enjoyment.

National Register of Historic Places federal list of historic sites in the United States

The National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is the United States federal government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation for their historical significance. A property listed in the National Register, or located within a National Register Historic District, may qualify for tax incentives derived from the total value of expenses incurred preserving the property.

U.S. state constituent political entity of the United States

In the United States, a state is a constituent political entity, of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a political union, each state holds governmental jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory and shares its sovereignty with the federal government. Due to this shared sovereignty, Americans are citizens both of the federal republic and of the state in which they reside. State citizenship and residency are flexible, and no government approval is required to move between states, except for persons restricted by certain types of court orders. Four states use the term commonwealth rather than state in their full official names.

Wellsville, Pennsylvania, population 282, is a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places A Walk up Main Street (video - 3 minutes)

History

The first U.S. historic district was established in Charleston, South Carolina in 1931, predating the U.S. federal government designation by more than three decades. [1] Charleston city government designated an "Old and Historic District" by local ordinance and created a board of architectural review to oversee it. [1] New Orleans followed in 1937, establishing the Vieux Carré Commission and authorizing it to act to maintain the historic character of the city's French Quarter. [1] Other localities picked up on the concept, with the city of Philadelphia enacting its historic preservation ordinance in 1955. [2]

Charleston, South Carolina City in the United States

Charleston is the oldest and largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina, the county seat of Charleston County, and the principal city in the Charleston–North Charleston–Summerville Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city lies just south of the geographical midpoint of South Carolina's coastline and is located on Charleston Harbor, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean formed by the confluence of the Ashley, Cooper, and Wando rivers. Charleston had an estimated population of 134,875 in 2017. The estimated population of the Charleston metropolitan area, comprising Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties, was 761,155 residents in 2016, the third-largest in the state and the 78th-largest metropolitan statistical area in the United States.

New Orleans Largest city in Louisiana

New Orleans is a consolidated city-parish located along the Mississippi River in the southeastern region of the U.S. state of Louisiana. With an estimated population of 393,292 in 2017, it is the most populous city in Louisiana. A major port, New Orleans is considered an economic and commercial hub for the broader Gulf Coast region of the United States.

French Quarter New Orleans neighborhood in Louisiana, United States

The French Quarter, also known as the Vieux Carré or Vieux Carré Historic District, is the oldest section of the City of New Orleans. Founded in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, New Orleans developed around the Vieux Carré, the city's central square. Today, the district is commonly known as the French Quarter, or simply "the Quarter," a reflection of the diminished French influence after the Louisiana Purchase.

The regulatory authority of local commissions and historic districts has been consistently upheld as a legitimate use of government police power, most notably in Penn Central Transportation Co. v. City of New York (1978). The Supreme Court case validated the protection of historic resources as "an entirely permissible governmental goal." [3] In 1966 the federal government created the National Register of Historic Places, soon after a report from the U.S. Conference of Mayors had stated Americans suffered from "rootlessness." [4] By the 1980s there were thousands of federally designated historic districts. Some states, such as Arizona, have passed referendums defending property rights that have stopped private property being designated historic without the property owner's consent or compensation for the historic overlay.

Federal government of the United States national government of the United States

The Federal Government of the United States is the national government of the United States, a federal republic in North America, composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and several island possessions. The federal government is composed of three distinct branches: legislative, executive, and judicial, whose powers are vested by the U.S. Constitution in the Congress, the President, and the federal courts, respectively. The powers and duties of these branches are further defined by acts of congress, including the creation of executive departments and courts inferior to the Supreme Court.

Property types

Walker Hall, part of the University of Florida Campus Historic District Gville UF Walker01.jpg
Walker Hall, part of the University of Florida Campus Historic District

Historic districts are generally two types of properties, contributing and non-contributing. [5] Broadly defined, a contributing property is any property, structure or object which adds to the historical integrity or architectural qualities that make a historic district, listed locally or federally, significant. [6] Different entities, usually governmental, at both the state and national level in the United States, have differing definitions of contributing property but they all retain the same basic characteristics. [6] [7] In general, contributing properties are integral parts of the historic context and character of a historic district. [8]

In addition to the two types of classification within historic districts, properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places are classified into five broad categories. They are, building, structure, site, district and object; each one has a specific definition in relation to the National Register. All but the eponymous district category are also applied to historic districts listed on the National Register. [9]

Federal-level

Helvenston House, part of the Ocala Historic District, in Ocala, Florida Ocala Historic District FK1027.jpg
Helvenston House, part of the Ocala Historic District, in Ocala, Florida

A listing on the National Register of Historic Places is governmental acknowledgment of a historic district. However, the Register is "an honorary status with some federal financial incentives." [10] The National Register of Historic Places defines a historic district per U.S. federal law, last revised in 2004. [9] According to the Register definition a historic district is:

a geographically definable area, urban or rural, possessing a significant concentration, linkage, or continuity of sites, buildings, structures, or objects united by past events or aesthetically by plan or physical development. A district may also comprise individual elements separated geographically but linked by association or history. [9]

Districts established under U.S. federal guidelines generally begin the process of designation through a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register is the official recognition by the U.S. government of cultural resources worthy of preservation. [11] While designation through the National Register does offer a district or property some protections, it is only in cases where the threatening action involves the federal government. If the federal government is not involved, then the listing on the National Register provides the site, property or district no protections. [12] For example, if company A wants to tear down the hypothetical Smith House and company A is under contract with the state government of Illinois, then the federal designation would offer no protections. If, however, company A was under federal contract the Smith House would be protected. A federal designation is little more than recognition by the government that the resource is worthy of preservation. [12]

A Stroll along Beach Avenue, Cape May, New Jersey video (3:35)

In general, the criteria for acceptance to the National Register are applied consistently, but there are considerations for exceptions to the criteria and historic districts have influence on some of those exceptions. Usually, the National Register does not list religious structures, moved structures, reconstructed structures, or properties that have achieved significance within the last 50 years. However, if a property falls into one of those categories and are "integral parts of districts that do meet the criteria" then an exception allowing their listing will be made. [9] Historic district listings, like all National Register nominations, can be rejected on the basis of owner disapproval. In the case of historic districts, a majority of owners must object in order to nullify a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. If such an objection occurred, then the nomination would become a determination of National Register eligibility only. [9]

State-level

1848 Duncan House, National Register of Historic Places Cooksville Historic District, Wisconsin Duncan600.jpg
1848 Duncan House, National Register of Historic Places Cooksville Historic District, Wisconsin

Most U.S. state governments have a listing similar to the National Register of Historic Places. State listings can have similar benefits to federal designation, such as granting qualification and tax incentives. In addition, the property can become protected under specific state laws. [12] The laws can be similar or different from the federal guidelines that govern the National Register. A state listing of a historic district on a "State Register of Historic Places," usually by the State Historic Preservation Office, can be an "honorary status," much like the National Register. For example, in Nevada, listing in the State Register places no limits on property owners. [13] In contrast, state law in Tennessee requires that property owners within historic districts follow a strict set of guidelines, from the U.S. Department of Interior, when altering their properties. [14] Though, according to the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, all states must have a State Historic Preservation Office, not all states must have a "state historic district" designation. As of 2004, for example, the state of North Carolina had no such designation. [15]

Local-level

The properties in the Central Park West Historic District, such as 55 Central Park West, are part of both federal and local historic districts. 55 Central Park West (Ghostbusters Building) by David Shankbone.jpg
The properties in the Central Park West Historic District, such as 55 Central Park West, are part of both federal and local historic districts.

Local historic districts usually enjoy the greatest level of protection legally from any threats that may compromise their historic integrity because many land-use decisions are made at the local level. [12] There are more than 2,300 local historic districts in the United States. [16] Local historic districts can be administered at the county or the municipal level; both entities are involved in land use decisions. [17]

Local historic districts are identified by surveying historic resources and delineating appropriate boundaries that comply with all aspects of due process. Depending on local ordinance or State law, property owners permission may be required; however all owners are to be notified and given a chance to share their opinion. Most local historic districts are constricted by design guidelines that control changes to the properties included in the district. Many local commissions adopt specific guidelines for the "tout ensemble" of each neighborhood, although some smaller commissions rely on the Secretary of Interior Standards. For most minor changes, homeowners can consult with local preservation staff at the municipal office and receive guidance on and permission for the changes. Major changes however, require homeowners to apply for a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA), and the changes may be decided upon by the historic commission or architectural review board. [18] The COA process is carried out with all aspects of due process, with formal notification, hearings, and fair and informed decision making.

According to the National Park Service, historic districts are one of the oldest forms of protection for historic properties. The city of Charleston, South Carolina is credited with beginning the modern day historic districts movement. [19] In 1931 Charleston enacted an ordinance which designated an "Old and Historic District" administered by a Board of Architectural Review. [19] Charleston's early ordinance reflected the strong protection that local historic districts often enjoy under local law. It asserted that no alteration could be made to any architectural features which could be viewed by the public from the street. [19] Local historic districts, as in New Orleans and Savannah, Georgia, predate the Register by 10 years or more as well. [20]

Local historic districts are most likely to generate resistance because of the restrictions they tend to place on property owners. [21] [22] [23] Local laws can cause residents "to comply with (local historic district) ordinances." [24]

The issue of local historic districts and the impact on property values is a concern to many homeowners. The effects have been extensively studied using multiple methodologies including before-and-after analysis and evaluating comparable neighborhoods with and without local designation status. Recent factual analysis has been conducted by independent researchers in a number of states, including New Jersey, Texas, Indiana, Georgia, Colorado, Maryland, North and South Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, and elsewhere. As stated by economist Donovan Rypkema, "the results of these studies are remarkably consistent: property values in local historic districts appreciate significantly faster than the market as a whole in the vast majority of cases and appreciate at rates equivalent to the market in the worst case. Simply put – historic districts enhance property values." [25] In a 2011 study Connecticut Local Historic Districts and Property Values, it was found that "property values in every local historic district saw average increases in value ranging from 4% to over 19% per year." [26] Similarly, in New York City between 1980 and 2000, local historic district properties on a price per square foot basis increased in value significantly more than non-designated properties. [27] Equally important, local historic district property values were found to resist market downturns better than historic non-designated properties. A recent study investigating the data on single-family residential mortgage foreclosures and comparable non-designated neighborhoods found that designated properties were significantly less likely to experience foreclosure. [28] Local historic district designation has proven to protect property values from wild fluctuations and provides stability in the housing market. [28]

Significance

The David Davis III & IV House in Bloomington, Illinois, is another example of a property in a local historic district that is also listed on the federal National Register of Historic Places. Bloomington Il David Davis III & IV House1.JPG
The David Davis III & IV House in Bloomington, Illinois, is another example of a property in a local historic district that is also listed on the federal National Register of Historic Places.

The original concept of an American historic district was as a protective area surrounding more important, individual historic sites. As the field of historic preservation progressed, those involved came to realize that the structures acting as "buffer zones" were actually key elements of the historic integrity of larger, landmark sites. Preservationists came to the view that districts should be more encompassing, blending together a mesh of structures, streets, open space and landscaping to define the historical character of a historic district. [31]

As early as 1981 the National Trust for Historic Preservation identified 882 American cities and towns that had some form of "historic district zoning" in place; local laws meant specifically to protect historic districts. Before 1966, historic preservation in the United States was in its infancy. That year the U.S. Conference of Mayors penned an influential report which concluded, in part, that Americans suffered from a sense of "rootlessness." [4] They recommended historic preservation to help provide Americans with a sense of orientation. The creation of the National Register of Historic Places in 1966, on the heels of the report, helped to instill that sense of orientation the mayors were looking for. [4] The mayors also recommended that any historic preservation program not focus solely on individual properties but also on "areas and districts which contain special meaning for the community." Local, state and federal historic districts now account for thousands of historic property listings at all levels of government. [4]

See also

Related Research Articles

National Historic Landmark formal designation assigned by the United States federal government to historic buildings and sites in the United States

A National Historic Landmark (NHL) is a building, district, object, site, or structure that is officially recognized by the United States government for its outstanding historical significance. Of over 90,000 places listed on the country's National Register of Historic Places, only some 2,500 are recognized as National Historic Landmarks.

Historic preservation preservation of items of historical significance

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National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 legislation intended to preserve historical sites in the United States of America

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<i>Ontario Heritage Act</i> Canadian act

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The History of the National Register of Historic Places began in 1966 when the United States government passed the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), which created the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Upon its inception, the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) became the lead agency for the Register. The Register has continued to grow through two reorganizations, one in the 1970s and one in 1980s and in 1978 the NRHP was completely transferred away from the National Park Service, it was again transmitted to the NPS in 1981.

Frank Lloyd Wright–Prairie School of Architecture Historic District human settlement in Oak Park, Illinois, United States of America

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The City of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board is responsible for designating and preserving structures of historical importance in Seattle, Washington. The board recommends actions to the Seattle City Council, which fashions these into city ordinances with the force of law. The board is part of the city's Department of Neighborhoods.

References

  1. 1 2 3 "History of Local Historic Districts" (PDF). Establishing Local Historic Districts. Massachusetts Historical Commission.
  2. 'Philadelphia Historical Commission' http://www.phila.gov/historical/designation.html
  3. 438 U.S. 104, 129 (1978)
  4. 1 2 3 4 Datel, Robin Elisabeth. "Preservation and a Sense of Orientation for American Cities," Geographical Review, Vol. 75, No. 2. (Apr., 1985), pp. 125-141. Retrieved April 4, 2007.
  5. National Register Historic Districts Q&A Archived 2010-03-22 at the Wayback Machine ., South Carolina Department of Archives and History. Retrieved February 19, 2007.
  6. 1 2 Historic and Scenic Preservation Local Option Property Tax Reimbursement, Maine Historic Preservation Commission. Retrieved February 19, 2007.
  7. Ordinance No. 2001-02, (PDF), Daville, California ordinance, California Office of Historic Preservation. Retrieved February 19, 2007.
  8. Iowa City Historic Preservation Handbook, (PDF), Iowa City Urban Planning Division. Retrieved March 26, 2007.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 Title 36: Section 60.3, Parks Forests and Public Property, Chapter One, Part 60. National Register of Historic Places. Retrieved February 19, 2007.
  10. Strengths of Local Listing, Working on the Past in Local Historic Districts, National Park Service. Retrieved February 20, 2007.
  11. "About the Register," National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service. Retrieved April 4, 2007.
  12. 1 2 3 4 Federal, State and Local Historic Districts, Toolbox, FAQ, National Park Service. Retrieved February 19, 2007.
  13. Whaley, Sean. "State adds Goldfield to historic places registry," Las Vegas Review-Journal, December 24, 2005. Retrieved April 4, 2007.
  14. Kreyling, Christine. "Something Old, Something New," Planning; August/September 2006, Vol. 72 Issue 8, p34-39, 6p. Retrieved April 4, 2007.
  15. Nicholson, Scott. "Commissioners Address Alcohol Sales In Valle Crucis," The Mountain Times, August 5, 2004. Retrieved April 4, 2007.
  16. Bringing Preservation Home, Working on the Past in Local Historic Districts, National Park Service. Retrieved February 19, 2007.
  17. "Local laws as neighborhood guardians," Working on the Past in Local Historic Districts (Section B), National Park Service. Retrieved October 5, 2009.
  18. Miller, Julia. "Providing for Economic Hardship Relief in the Regulation of Historic Properties." Preservation Law Reporter 15 PLR 1135, no. 1996
  19. 1 2 3 Early Models Archived 2007-02-05 at the Wayback Machine ., Working on the Past in Local Historic Districts, National Park Service. Retrieved February 20, 2007.
  20. Brown, Kay. " Old Savannah," Chicago Defender, November 17, 1973, p.22, col.3. Retrieved April 4, 2007.
  21. Hu, Winnie. "Council Poised to Intervene on Enclave's Landmark Status," New York Times; March 25, 2006, Vol. 155 Issue 53529, pB1-B5, 2p, 1bw. Retrieved April 4, 2007.
  22. Vandam, Jeff. "Brick Houses, Winding Paths and Unexpected Sharp Elbow," New York Times; December 31, 2006, Vol. 156 Issue 53810, Section 14 p5-5, 1/3p. Retrieved April 4, 2007.
  23. "Rochester Historic District expansion plan overreaches," (Editorial), Foster's Daily Democrat, April 3, 2007. Retrieved April 4, 2007.
  24. Heuer, Ted. "Living History: How Homeowners in a New Local Historic District Negotiate Their Legal Obligations," Yale Law Journal; January 2007, Vol. 116 Issue 4, p768-822, 55p. Retrieved April 4, 2007.
  25. Donovan D. Rypkema, "The (Economic) Value of National Register Listing," CRM, 2002, Vol. 25. No. 1.
  26. Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, 2011, http://cttrust.org/12594
  27. Glaeser, Edward, "Preservation Follies," http://www.city-journal.org/2010/20_2_preservation-follies.html
  28. 1 2 Broadbent, Kimberly A. (2011). Assessing the Impact of Local Historic District Designation on Mortgage Foreclosure Rates: The Case of Philadelphia. (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA., 14
  29. "Davis-Jefferson Historic District Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine .," Bloomington Historic Preservation Commission, City of Bloomington. Retrieved April 4, 2007.
  30. National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service.
  31. Bigolin, Steve. The Sycamore Historic District: Introduction, Daily Chronicle, August 14, 2006. Retrieved February 20, 2007.