The A, B, C, and Ds of the National Register of Historic Places
Going about my business on the east side of Cincinnati, I have often passed a historic apartment building named La Tosca at the corner of Observatory Avenue and Edwards Road in Hyde Park. While waiting for the traffic light to change at this intersection, it is very easy to see that the building has a National Register of Historic Places plaque. Built in 1915 by Alfred E. Andersen in the Bungalow/Craftsman architectural style (a style more typically associated with houses), this 3-story brick building has 9, 1- and 2-bedroom apartments.
A quick look at the easily searchable National Register online database, unfortunately and ultimately leads to this message: THE PDF FILE FOR THIS NATIONAL REGISTER RECORD HAS NOT YET BEEN DIGITIZED. This is not to say that the specifics of this property are not available at all (many, many properties already do have their PDF records available), it is just that the turn around time to request the info is 3 weeks from the National Park Service, the National Register administrator.
So what qualifies a property to be placed on the National Register and, more importantly—since this is a blog written by Realtors—if you are interested in purchasing a property that is on the National Register, what does that mean to you?
The National Register is the official Federal list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. Everything on the National Register possesses integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association and meets one of the following National Register Criteria:
(A) Association with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history;
(B) Association with the lives of persons significant in our past;
(C) Embodies distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction;
(D) Has yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.
[Just a hint: Buildings generally are measured against Criteria C.]
In addition to the esteem it brings, a listing on the National Register has the following perks:
1) Consideration in planning for Federal, Federally-licensed, and Federally-assisted projects;
2) Eligibility for certain tax provisions. For example, property owners may be eligible for a 20% investment tax credit for the certified rehabilitation of income-producing certified historic structures such as commercial, industrial, or rental residential buildings;
3) Qualification for Federal grants for historic preservation (when funds are available, of course).
Owners of private property listed on the National Register are free to maintain, modify, remodel, renovate, or dispose of their property as they see fit provided that no Federal monies are involved.
However, before this occurs, the owner—or a potential buyer—should contact the state’s Historic Preservation Office. There may be state or local preservation laws that they should be aware of before they undertake a project with a historic property.