Historic Designations and Regulations
Is the building I am listing a landmark?
In Connecticut having a building designated or listed as a "landmark" can mean several different things. There are designations at the local, state and national level. Below are brief descriptions of the different types of designations found in Connecticut. However, more detailed information can be found in the "Preservation" section of our web site about the process of listing a property for each designation and the restrictions, if any, which come with the listing.
National Historic Landmark: This is the highest level of designation available. Properties given this foremost form of recognition are deemed significant to all Americans because of their exceptional values or qualities, which help illustrate or interpret the heritage of the United States. Once selected a National Historic Landmark (NHL) there is limited protection. Listing a private property as a NHL does not prohibit the owner from making changes or alterations. The National Park Service may recommend various preservation actions, but the owner is not obliged to follow them. If Federal funding, licensing or permits are involved then the alterations are subject to a Section 106 Review. Section 106 can also ensure that incompatible development projects or other Federal projects are reviewed to avoid or minimize potential harm to the historic property. For more information click here: National Historic Landmark.
National Register of Historic Places: The National Register (NR) is the nation's official list of historic buildings and sites worthy of preservation. Listing on the NR indicates that a property is significant because of its architecture or its association with important persons, events or cultural events and unlike a National Historic Landmark, the NR is more encompassing and includes sites and properties of national, state and local significance.
The Register is maintained by the National Park Service and in Connecticut is administer by the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO). . Listing does not restrict what a property owner may do with the property, unless the owner is using federal assistance. Many people confuse National Register Districts with Local Historic Districts, but they are two distinct designations with very different regulations. The National Register Designation is more of an honorific recognition where as a Local Historic District/Property Designation is much more restrictive in terms of what can be done to a property. These two types of designation are commonly confused. (See Local Historic District below for more information)
Benefits for NR listing include a nomination form which has an in-depth information on the property's historical and cultural significance and a justification for its preservation. Designation can also encourage the preservation of these properties and enable government agencies to consider them in the early stages of preservation activities. Many states and municipalities use the listings as the backbone of their preservation planning process. In Connecticut there are over 40,000 properties listed on the NR including individual buildings, structures, sites, and districts. To find out if your listing is on the National Register, search the links listed below or contact the SHPO office at 860-566-3005. To learn more click here: National Register of Historic Places.
State Register of Historic Places: The State Register (SR) is the official listing of those sites important to the historical development of Connecticut. Listing on the SR does not restrict the rights of the property owner in the use and development of the historic property, but does encourage the preservation of the historic property, provide special consideration under the State Fire and Building Code for historic buildings and special consideration under the American with Disabilities Act. To learn more call the SHPO at 860-566-3005 or click here: State Register of Historic Places.
State Historic Resource Inventory: This inventory identifies and evaluates historic, architectural, archaeological, cultural and industrial resources in each municipality. The inventories serve as the basis for most other designations and is a very helpful tool for officials, planners, preservationist, homeowners and real estate agents. The inventory form includes historical and architectural information, as well as photographs and maps. Surveys in Connecticut have been completed either under a Town Architecture Survey or Thematic Architecture Survey. Over half of Connecticut's 169 towns have been partially or fully surveyed. The survey forms are a good source of information for those seeking historical or architectural data on a specific property. Each property inventoried has its own form, which identifies the original owner, architect, date of construction and original use. The research also evaluates the property's significance within the context of the community's development. These forms are available through the SHPO office at 860-566-3005 or can be found in many town halls, libraries and historical societies. For information on the SHRI please click here:State Historic Inventory Inventory
Local Historic Districts/Properties: Local Historic Districts (LHD) and Properties (LHP) offer the most protection and regulations for significant architectural buildings in Connecticut. State statutes allow municipalities to establish historic districts and properties for which exterior architectural changes are reviewed by a local preservation commission. This ordinance allows towns to ensure that alterations, additions or demolitions are in keeping with and consistent with the special character of the designated area. It is very important for home buyers to know if the prospective property is located within a local historic district because any exterior work they may consider would need to receive a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Local Historic District Commission. To find out if a property is located in LHD or is a LHP, the town hall or SHPO office in Hartford are the two places to look. For information on LHD and LHP click here:Local Historic Districts/Properties
In Connecticut, the State Building Code and State General Statutes recognize the special character of historic structures and allow exceptions from the building code provided the exemptions do not affect the safe design, use or construction of the property. Alternatives may be considered if building characteristics are in jeopardy. Buildings must be listed on the State Register or National Register of Historic Places in order to be considered for an exemption and the State Historic Preservation Office will review proposed rehabilitation work for compliance with established "preservation" standards. A Preservation and Rehabilitation Certificate is issued by the SHPO if the work is done in compliance with standards. A building owner may also seek the intervention of the SHPO in the case of an appeal before a local building official's decision.
State Fire Code
The State of Connecticut's Fire Marshall's may also consider the significance of historic structures when reviewing for code compliance. Although the State Fire Code has no particular section that address historic buildings, the Fire Marshall's office supports the preservation and conservation of significant architectural features when "acceptable" alternatives for compliance exist.
Lead Paint Abatement.
Almost every "historic" house contains some lead-based paint and when the paint deteriorates it can produce chips and lead laden particles that are known to be a health hazard. Lead abatement is the process of safely reducing these lead paint hazards. The State of Connecticut has extensive information from the Department of Public Health outlining regulations, guidance and proper procedures in lead paint abatmentment. Please refer to the links provided below. The National Park Service also has addressed appropriate methods for reducing lead paint hazards in historic housing in Preservation Brief #37. Please refer to the link provided below.