Historic Building Restrictions
Is the "historic" designation a blessing for homeowners, or a curse?
My county has put my 1908 Victorian farmhouse on its historic resource inventory, which will give me access to certain services and advice. Officials are encouraging me to apply for the Clark County Historic Register, Washington State Heritage Register, and the National Register of Historic Places. While I 'm proud of my vintage house, which I am restoring, I don't know if historic designations are a blessing or a curse — especially since I'm hatching a plan to add a period-style solarium on the first floor and a bath on the second floor. Though the regulations don't prohibit additions per se, I'm wondering what impact being on an historic register will have on making my wonderful old house livable for my family. Your opinion?
Heidi, Vancouver, Washington
Steve Thomas replies: I would have a frank discussion with county officials about the restrictions. You may also phone your local building department and ask if the historic designation restricts the issuance of building permits. Having a historic designation can be onerous at times — I speak as an owner of a 1700s house in a strict historic district — but in my own opinion the benefit outweighs the liabilities. In the race for "urban renewal" in the 1950s, we eliminated many of our historic buildings. It's time to save what we have left. Good luck and keep us posted.