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Board hears review of landmarks; more on the way?

305 N. Main, Davidson

Copeland House, 305 N. Main St. (David Boraks/DavidsonNews.net photo)

Since 1975, the Town Board has designated 15 Davidson properties as historic landmarks, and more could be proposed in the coming years, especially given last summer’s expansion of the town’s historic district, Stewart Gray, of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, told the Town Board Tuesday night.

Mr. Gray told commissioners at their monthly work session that a handful of buildings are “in the pipeline” for potential designation. And more property owners may seek historic status for their properties as they come to understand tax credits and other benefits.

Mr. Gray, who is a Davidson resident, was at the meeting for what he called an annual review local historic landmarks and the landmark designation process.

He told commissioners his organization acts as the town’s historic preservation commission. He said he wanted to make sure the board members “understand that we’re a tool that the town can use for historic preservation but also for strategic planning.”

He reviewed a list of 15 properties that have been designated individually as historic landmarks by the Town Board. (A total of 325 structures around the county have been designated by local governments as historic landmarks.)

Beaver Dam

Beaver Dam

Historic landmarks

Davidson’s town board has declared these structures as historic landmarks:

Armour-Adams House, 626 N. Main St.

Beaver Dam House, Davidson-Concord Road

Chairman Blake House, Chairman Blake Drive (behind CVS)

Bradford Farm, 15908 Davidson-Concord Road

Cashion & Moore family cemetery, McAuley Road & Davidson-Concord Road

Davidson Colored School/Ada Jenkins Center, 212 Gamble St.

Davidson Cotton Mill, 209 Delburg St.

Elm Row, Davidson College campus

Eumenean Hall, Davidson College campus

Philanthropic Hall, Davidson College campus

Helper Hotel/Carolina Inn, North Main Street

Holt-Henderson-Copeland House, 305 N. Main St.

Oak Row/Elm Road, Davidson College campus

Restormel, 829 Concord Road

Unity Church Cabin/Lingle Hut, 219 Watson St.

IN THE PIPELINE

Stewart Gray of the Historic Landmarks Commission said these properties are being considered for landmark status:

The Purcell House, a modernist home on Lorimer Road

Davidson IB Middle School, South Street

Raeford’s Grill, West Side

Curry House, North Main Street

Jackson Court buildings, Davidson College

Mr. Gray said the commission evaluates and reports on properties for local governments so they can approve them as landmarks. Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and all other local governments in the county with the exception of Cornelius use the commission’s services, he said.

Once properties are formally designated, state law requires that the landmarks commission review designs for any “substantive changes” on designated historic properties, he said.

Commissioner Laurie Venzon asked if the commission passes judgment on paint colors or other aesthetics. “We don’t regulate color. … We are only going to review significant structural chaignes … to keep the historic integrity of the property. Roofs come and go, paint comes and goes, but we want to make sure no substantial changes are made to the property that would cause it to lose its historic value.”

The town already calls on Mr. Gray and the landmarks commission staff when it wants an expert opinion, Town Planner Kris Krider said.

For example, Mr. Krider asked the landmarks commission staff to review recent renovations at the Copeland House, at 305 N. Main St. Those renovations, which are designed to help make the old home usable as a bed and breakfast or venue for parties, included adding bathrooms.

“I was a little nervous about somebody going in there, because there was a lot of deterioration. So we asked Stewart (Gray) to review it,” Mr. Krider said. “It was not a formal approval for the change, but it gave me the confidence when we signed off on the building permit that (the landmarks commission was) aware of the project and that (the building owner) was going to be compliant with the standards, because that’s a landmark house.”

Ms. Venzon also asked if the owner of a might be allowed to change from brick to shingle siding.

“Generally not,” Mr. Gray said, “because those would be character-defining elements, and we would like to see those not changed. However, I would have to say we’re extremely pragmatic.”

“The best way for a historic property to survive is to be useful, whether that’s as a home or commercial biulding,” he said.

He said recent changes on the Copeland House were significant, but necessary for its continued use.

THREE DESIGNATIONS

Mr. Krider and Mr. Stewart also helped new and existing commissioners sort out the different designations in town. There are really three different categories of historic status, Mr. Gray said:

  • Individually designated historic landmarks – “The best of the best – the cream of the crop in town,” according to Mr. Krider, are overseen by the landmarks commission.
  • The local historic district, designated by the Town Board and covering a small area downtown. The Town Board has the power to review changes on those properties.
  • The National Register Historic District, approved last fall, which encompasses a wider area of town. This is federal program administered by the state.

Historic landmarks are generally protected more closely than those in the districts, Mr. Krider and Mr. Gray said.

Mr. Gray said the town or property owners may want to pursue historic designation on more properties in the near future. That’s in part because more may now qualify. Last summer, state officials approved the creation of a new National Historic District in Davidson, which encompasses about 580 properties downtown and in the old part of town. Buildings in the district are not automatically designated as landmarks, but they may be eligible.

If a property is approved as a historic landmark, owners could get a 50 percent break on their property tax bills.

From the town’s perspective, it would mean giving up 50 percent of the tax revenue, Mr. Gray said. But he told the board that the lost revenue may be worth it if it helps “preserve the town’s character, further the town’s planning goals or otherwise helps the public good.”

RELATED LINKS

See our Feb. 16, 2010, BizNotes column for an update on possible future uses of the Copeland House on North Main Street.

July 28, 2009, “N.C. approves historic district for old Davidson”

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission

Download a map of the Davidson Historic District (1.8 mb PDF). CLICK HERE>

More about the historic district on the Town Website, http://www.ci.davidson.nc.us/historicdistrict

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