Historic Designation

Local vs. National; District vs. Landmark

As a general rule of thumb, a structure must be older than 50 years to qualify for historic designation. However, this fact alone, will not ensure a property's designation should a property owner seek it.  Due to the attractiveness of today's tax incentives, historic properties must exemplify the best of their time period in a given locality, either as an individual landmark or collectively as a district. 
 Historic designations of landmarks and districts are issued through the National Park Service's 
National Register listing and/or a local government's designation program enabled by state legislation. 
"Local designation should not be confused with listing in the National Register of Historic Places, which is a federal program administered by the state. Although some properties may carry both types of designation, the National Register and local designation are totally separate programs with different requirements and benefits. Also, local commissions should not be confused with other local historical organizations such as historical societies or museum groups."
    -Local Designation in North Carolina, State Historic Preservation Office, 2/92
 Here in the City of Burlington, historic preservation is helping to revitalize neighborhoods, restore homes and increase the historical awareness of residents. As you travel around the City, you may see properties that exhibit each of the four types of designation: 
  • National Register District 
  • Locally-Designated District 
  • National Register Landmark 
  • Locally-Designated Landmark

“Many cities and towns have found historic preservation to be a useful tool for stabilizing property values and stimulating new investment in older residential neighborhoods and commercial areas. Cities and towns have benefited from a boost to the tax base accompanied by relatively small public expenditures,.... Preservation efforts have increased tourism and commercial activity, and the improved appearance of areas has enhanced the recruitment of industry."*

Districts: National Register

Districts: Local

Landmarks: National Register

Landmarks: Local

Certainly, these statements ring true for many areas of Burlington. One need look no further than the dramatic increase of property values in the West Davis - West Front - Fountain Place neighborhood, or the resurgence of business in the city's downtown.

Yet, "Perhaps the most compelling reasons for historic preservation are not economic, but psychological-- associated with the continuity and quality of human life. Preservation seeks not to prevent physical change, but to moderate it and to reduce the sense of dislocation that it can produce. Historic landmarks and districts provide a tangible link with the past, with people and events that have made significant contributions to our history and thus have helped shape our present. They help give our communities individual character and ourselves a sense of place and connection."*

* Quotations taken from the Preface of "A Handbook for Historic Preservation Commissions in North Carolina", published by Preservation/North Carolina and the State Historic Preservation Office.