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What is Historic Preservation?

Local landmarks, either in the form of structures, buildings, and/or sites, collectively form our cultural heritage. Recognizing this cultural heritage is important - both to honor the past and to understand the present and the future.  Historic preservation seeks to continually identify, protect and preserve our landmarks that constitute our cultural heritage for - our use, for education, for observation and for pleasure. Historic preservation is present on a national level, a state level, and, here in Ottawa, on a local level.

How Does Historic Preservation Work?

In the federal government, the Secretary of the Interior is responsible for establishing standards and guidelines; for advising on the preservation of historic properties, sites and objects; and, for administering preservation tax incentive programs. These programs and others were established through the National Preservation Act of 1966. Historic areas can be designated as Historic districts - while specific sites can be designated as “landmarks.” The purpose of both designations is to offer protection for sites - and allow for compatible modifications of them. There is also national organization chartered by Congress to promote preservation - its called The National Trust for Historic Preservation.

At the state level, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency oversees the functions of the national preservation program. This agency administers several incentive programs for rehabilitating historic buildings, including state and federal grant programs. The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency identifies, protects and promotes historically significant sites and districts in Illinois communities through its Certified Local Government program.

A community can show support for historic preservation by enacting an ordinance and working with state and federal agencies and organizations.

Why Have Historic Preservation?

Preservation of our local resources provides important cultural, educational and economic assets for our city. Local landmarks show a sense of civic pride for all of us. Designation as a local historic district or urban conservation district helps maintain neighborhood stability and character. The character of historic buildings and neighborhoods need not be lost through inappropriate expansion, alteration, or through change of use or appearance. We can all participate in the preservation of sites, buildings and objects significant to our history and culture.

What is a Local Historic Landmark?

A local landmark is a house, office building (civic or commercial), factory, bridge or other structure deemed by the city to be historically significant and thus worthy of protection.

Architectural significance can be based on the design of the building, or the notability of its architect.  Historic significance can be based on the fame of one of its owners or occupants, or on the building’s role in a historic event. In addition, as a general rule, a structure should be at least fifty years old to be eligible for landmark status.

What Rules Exist for Altering Landmark Buildings?

Preservation of our local resources provides important cultural, educational and economic assets for our city. Local landmarks show a sense of civic pride for all of us. Designation as a local historic district or urban conservation district helps maintain neighborhood stability and character. The character of historic buildings and neighborhoods need not be lost through inappropriate expansion, alteration, or through change of use or appearance. We can all participate in the preservation of sites, buildings and objects significant to our history and culture.

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