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Getting Technical with Oscar

Posted on: April 28th, 2020 No Comments

By Christine Bush

Greetings everyone, Oscar the Grotesque here, ready to look more closely at Adirondack architecture, historic buildings, and preservation opportunities.

High Style BuildingI hope you had fun drafting up sketches and field notes of your homes last week. Now that you understand your house a little better, perhaps you feel like it is time to start planning your restoration or renovation project.

Before you start, though, you might want to ask yourself: is my old house officially “historic?” Not all older homes and buildings are considered historic under local, state, and federal standards.

If your building is indeed eligible for an official designation as historic, you may want to seek t out the opportunities that come along with this title. A historic designation can offer you benefits in the form of federal and state tax credits for rehabilitation projects. A historic designation may or may not affect how you can use and renovate your property.

The Meaning of “Historic”

To be considered “historic,” your house or building must be historically significant. Its level of significance may be derived from one or more factors, including:

  • Embodying a distinctive architectural style.
  • Association with an important cultural, political, or social event.
  • Identification with an individual who is important to the history or development of a community, state, or nation.

A historic building is one that also retains its architectural integrity. This means that the building’s original appearance has not been compromised through insensitive alteration and still conveys a visual sense of history and place

Types of Historic Designation

If you think your house or building could be considered historic, you can apply for a historic designation. The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of historic properties in the United States that are considered worthy of preservation. This list is maintained by the National Park Service (part of the U.S. Department of the Interior).  A property may be listed either individually or as part of a historic district.

New York State also has a State Register of Historic Properties that is administered by the Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation.  The criteria for listing on the State Register are the same as those for the National Register. This means that if your house or building is eligible for one register, it is eligible for both.

Why would you want to list your property on the National Register? Well, because a listing can be massively influential on the rehabilitation or restoration of historic properties. A National Register listing does the following:

  • Bestows an honorific recognition of historical significance.
  • Qualifies an income-producing property for federal tax credits for rehabilitation projects.
  • Qualifies an owner-occupied residence for state tax credits for rehabilitation projects.
  • Provides for a review of state and federally funded projects and assessment of impacts to historic properties.

A National Register listing does not:

  • Restrict property owners from remodeling, renovating, or demolishing properties.
  • Require public visitation.
  • Guarantee protection from federally funded projects.

You may have some questions about these funding channels, like the Historic Homeowner Tax Credit Program in New York State:

Who is eligible? You are entitled to claim this credit if you:

  • rehabilitate a qualified historic home in New York State, or
  • purchase a rehabilitated, qualified historic home in New York State.

The home must also be located in:

  • a federal qualified census tract or area of chronic economic distress, or
  • a census tract that is at 100% or below the state family median income level, or
  • a city with a population of less than one million with a poverty rate greater than 15%.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) administers the NYS Rehabilitation Tax Credit programs and can help determine whether a building meets these requirements.

To qualify for the credit:

  • You must own and reside in the historic home in New York State in the year for which you claim the credit.
  • Qualifying rehabilitation costs for the project must be $5,000 or more.
  • You must receive preliminary approval and a Certificate of Completion from the New York State OPRHP.

What if your old building is not “historic?”

Every old house has stories to tell.  If only walls could talk, what wonderful stories they would share! As owners and stewards of old buildings, you inherit something of value – materials, workmanship, and character. So whether your house is historic or designated “historic,” my good friends at AARCH are here to help!

Keese Homestead

AARCH can help by providing a wide variety of technical assistance to homeowners, business owners, municipalities, and other not-for-profits on historic preservation matters. Among the kinds of assistance they provide are: helping with building conservation problems, developing preservation plans, identifying sources of funding for preservation projects, doing historical research, mediating disputes between parties over preservation issues, and providing information on historic site surveys and National Register listings. AARCH typically services more than 50 technical assistance requests each year!

We’d love to hear from more of you curious and interested historic building owners out there. I am here to answer all your preservation questions. I may be reached through AARCH’s Preservation Services Director Christine Bush at She knows where to find me.


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