To some people “historic preservation” is just a dirty phrase that should not be used, while others believe it is the best thing since sliced bread. I tend to believe the latter. We live in a town that prides itself on being the “Oldest Town in Texas,” and for good reason. Nacogdoches has five National Register Historic Districts, a thriving downtown square full of early nineteen hundreds buildings, multiple museums and historic sites, encompassing some of the most beautiful and unique houses in Nacogdoches. Museums in our Downtown area and the ones in our historic districts are not just beautiful, they are wonderful examples of the history of Nacogdoches, and they show historic preservation at work.
There is, of course, more to it than just adding some civic beauty and charm to the city. If that was all it took, I could just go around planting flowers for the Azalea trail and call it a day. However, there is more to it than planting flowers willy-nilly, and I want to encourage the community to seek out information regarding the important historical aspects that define our unique city. Preserving the history of Nacogdoches increases state and local tax revenues, property values, and leads to an increase in local business incomes with the rise in tourism. Preserving older homes also encourages owners to reuse existing materials and to become more energy efficient by taking advantage of the natural light and cross ventilation generally found in older properties.
Historic preservation is not the idea that every historic building has to stay exactly like it was when it was constructed, rather that the character defining features and historic architecture of the structure remain intact. Guidelines for preservation are in place to serve the public by educating citizens and safeguarding the town’s heritage for future generations. These rules and guidelines are in place to protect these unique buildings, and they are the same for everyone who owns a historic structure. They do not vary based on owner, historic district, income or any other factor.
Buildings located within any of the City’s historic districts, or those individually designated, are subject to Chapter 50 of the Nacogdoches City Ordinance, which outlines the City’s Historic Preservation Guidelines. These guidelines are simple, straightforward and only apply to the exterior of the building. They cover things such as preserving distinguishing qualities of the architecture, consistency of alterations with the style of the building, how to properly clean structures and build additions to homes, just to name a few.
The process that a homeowner has to go through is simple. Prior to starting any exterior work on the property, they must obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness form from the Historic Preservation Officer, fill it out and return it two weeks before the next Historic Landmark Preservation Committee (HLPC) meeting. These meetings are held the 1st Monday of each month at 4:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers. HLPC discusses each case that comes before it to make sure the proposed changes are in keeping with the historic style of the structure. While dealing with rules, regulations, meetings and ordinances may seem cumbersome and confusing, we do not expect you to do it all on your own. Our City Staff is always happy to assist you every step of the way; we regularly conduct site visits, help with the paperwork and assist with researching the history of your property. Even better, twice a year we offer Historic Restoration Grants to help defray the costs that are incurred while maintaining and restoring a historic building. Grants are offered in the fall and spring every year and are available to anyone living inside a historic district.
Preserving the history of your own property is a small step that can have ripple effects throughout the entire community, and I hope future generations will be able to enjoy those effects for years to come.