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Historic Designations Explained

Historic Designation

There are two primary types of historic designation in La Porte: Local Designation and National Designation.  National designation refers to listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

The National Register of Historic Places

The United States Historic Preservation Act of 1966 created the National Register of Historic Places administered by the National Park Service.  Individuals, groups or organizations apply for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, submitting information about the history and significance of a property for review.  The Parks service grants National Register status for properties that it determines are of national significance.

The National Park Service, in administering the National Register program, has the mission to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archeological resources.

There are currently 31 National Register listings in La Porte County.  These properties are a combination of homes, historic sites, public buildings and historic districts.  Two examples of National Register listed properties are the Marion Ridgway (Door Prairie) Barn , adjacent to the LaPorte County Museum on Hwy 35 and the Francis H. Morrison House, at 1217 Michigan Ave.  The National Register provides recognition for properties, but doesn’t specifically protect those properties from demolition except from government building projects, such as highways.  For example, US Highway 35 traverses this historic district, and it would be difficult for the United States Government to turn US 35 into a four-lane interstate requiring the demolition of many of the properties within the historic district.

National Register listing does makes a property eligible to receive Federal (and State) tax credits and certain types of grants for preservation or restoration work that complies with Federal guidelines for historic rehabilitation. Federal tax credits for up to 20% of qualified expenses are available for commercial property restorations and State tax credits of the same amount are available for residential projects.

Local Historic Designation

Local designation is quite different. Local historic designation is governed by local municipal codes which provide for identification and protection of local historic districts. Each historic district is created by city ordinance.

The city of La Porte provides historic district designation, for which properties within the district are automatically included. It also provides for single-site historic districts, in which a single house can comprise its own district. At the time of this writing, there are 18 Single Site Historic Districts and two Neighborhood Districts (each containing about eight homes) in La Porte.

The Historic Preservation Commission of La Porte provides Historic Preservation Guidelines with the ultimate goal of protecting the value of the properties within the historic districts by maintaining their historical integrity.  Protecting the value within the historic district helps property owners in the district and in the rest of the community, as well as protecting the tax base for the city.

A review board processes applications for a Certificate of Appropriateness allowing material changes to the façade of a historic property. The guidelines and review process apply only to the exterior facade do not deal with interior modifications. 

Why would I want to own a designated property?

The primary benefit of property designation or owning a property in a designated historic district is property value. Property values are proven to be improved inside historic districts compared with comparable non-designated neighborhoods or properties. 

Additionally, the review process within a historic district protects the neighborhood from inappropriate modifications or additions to properties that have an eventual negative affect on the property values within the district.

Other Historic Property Classifications - Preservation Easements

Preservation-minded owners sometimes donate Preservation Easements for their property.  A preservation easement is a special protection that prevents certain types of changes by future owners, usually in perpetuity. For example, a preservation easement on a property may prevent the future owner from tearing down a home to build a new, larger home. Usually the easement (which constitutes a property right) is donated to a qualified organization whose mission includes environmental protection, land conservation, open space preservation, or historic preservation, such as Indiana Landmarks. An easement may also protect landscape or even interior features of a building. Because the easement is a partial property right, it may have a beneficial effect on the property taxes for the donor. Once recorded, the easement restrictions become part of the property’s chain of title and “run with the land” in perpetuity, thus binding not only the owner who grants the easement but all future owners as well. The Scott-Rumely House, at 211 Rose St is protected by an easement held by Indiana Landmarks.