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Heritage homes: Neighborhood proposed for National Historic Registry

By Linda WhitmoreHeritage homes on Fiske, Coolidge and West Main streets have been proposed to become recognized as the Coolidge Neighborhood Historic District, part of the National Registry of Historic Places.

A project is under way to consider placing a Silverton neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Places.

Heritage homes on Fiske, Coolidge and West Main streets have been proposed to become the Coolidge Neighborhood Historic District.

The national registry identifies “properties that are significant in American history, architecture, archaeology and engineering.” The federal program is administered in Oregon by the State Historic Preservation Office and regulated at the local level.

Information packets are being distributed to the neighborhood’s homeowners and a meeting is planned to explain the advantages and requirements of registry.

The project began two years ago with the city applying for a grant to do a survey of the town to determine if any neighborhood could be considered a historical district.

“The consultant said the Coolidge – McClaine (Park) area had enough concentration of resources with enough integrity to do additional inventory,” said Linda Sarnoff, Silverton community development director.
The effort is part of a state program to preserve cultural heritage. Being classified a historic district has two benefits to the city, Sarnoff said.

“One is from the tourism point of view. There are folks who like to go places to look at historic homes. This gives one more reason for people to come to the community.”

Another benefit is that “it creates strong neighborhoods. Homeowners reinvest in their homes and take care of them,” she said, noting that in other areas it’s been shown that neighbors network, sharing information about their common interest.

After the consultant, Dave Pinyeard – who is recognized by the state Historic Preservation Office to do research – determined that the Coolidge & McClaine Park region was suited to be considered as a historic district, he was instructed to continue his study.

“Now it’s up to the local jurisdiction to decide if we want to create that district,” Sarnoff said. “It is a voluntary program.”

Houses of varied architectural styles in the Coolidge & McClaine Park area are under consideration for classification as the Coolidge Neighborhood Historic District.Silverton’s Landmarks Commission is developing the process and talking to property owners. At the next meeting the members will talk about whether there’s enough interest to move forward.

“Part of the effort of the Landmarks Commission is to find the views of the neighbors. It’s not a done deal, but if they want (to be registered), the City will support them,” Sarnoff said.

She noted that “there are some obligations and there are some benefits.”

The federal program allows homeowners to apply to freeze the assessed value of their property for 15 years. Also, when funds are available, there are “Preserving Oregon” historic rehabilitation grants for listed properties. These have matching fund requirements but can be as much as 80 percent of the cost of a preservation project. There is also a federal tax credit program.

Restrictions include regulations on exterior alterations of historic buildings, new construction in historic districts and on demolition of buildings.

Sarnoff said the process of registry as a district is different than pursuing individual listing, which requires extensive research on the history of the house and significance of its early residents.
The study of the district is already complete. Sarnoff said. “It doesn’t have to be done for each house. Pinyeard’s research is adequate for the district.”

If, after they meet to discuss the pros and cons of registry, the neighborhood’s homeowners decide to pursue the classification, they will notify their intentions to city council. The council will draw up an ordinance of support and send it to the state Historical Preservation Officer who will then make a recommendation to the federal level, the Secretary of the Interior, who will confirm the designation.

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