many years of delay, the nomination to place Spruce Hill on the City of
Philadelphia's Register of Historic Places is again moving forward. In
the coming months, UCHS will keep you informed of the nomination's progress
and notify you of informational meetings. In the meantime, below are some
answers to frequently asked questions about Philadelphia Historic Districts.
If you have any other questions, please e-mail
is the Spruce Hill Historic District?
It is a proposed
Philadelphia Historic District shown in the map at right (click
here for a larger version). The boundaries were determined by the
Philadelphia Historical Commission based on the area's historical development,
and are subject to change during the review process. First proposed over
15 years ago, a final nomination for the district is currently being prepared.
is sponsoring the nomination?
City Historical Society, the Spruce
Hill Community Association, and the Spruce Hill Community Trust are
working to prepare the nomination for the district.
is a Philadelphia Historic District?
Historic District is a distinctive area of the City that possesses a significant
collection of buildings, structures, sites or objects-united by past events,
physical development or architecture. The Philadelphia
Historical Commission, under the City's
Historic Preservation Ordinance, Section 14-2007 of the Philadelphia
Code, enters districts on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.
Listing on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places recognizes and
protects the special architectural and historic character of the district.
advantages does an historic district bring?
of an historic district does not stop change. History, after all, is a
continuing process. Rather, designation provides a mechanism to maintain
the basic physical and visual character of a district. Many cities, including
New Orleans, Charleston, Savannah, New York, Boston and Baltimore, as
well as many smaller municipalities in Pennsylvania, have adopted historic
districting successfully as parts of their planning, economic development
and historic preservation programs. Studies demonstrate that local historic
districts contribute to the stabilization of property values, the retention
of an area's fabric and the fostering of community pride. In addition,
the owners of income-producing buildings in a Philadelphia Historic District
may be eligible for federal investment tax credits for rehabilitation
projects, and community-based organizations may qualify for some grant
is a Philadelphia Historic District created?
local community and historic preservation groups, the Historic Designation
Committee of the Commission undertakes a preliminary review of an area's
significance and of the boundaries that reflect that significance. After
that determination, a nomination is prepared that contains a description
of the characteristics of the potential district, its significance, an
evaluative inventory listing, for every property in the district, photographs
and a map. A community group, a preservation organization, or a person
on the Commission staff may write a nomination.
completion of this work, the Commission schedules public hearings to consider
the nomination and to determine whether the proposed district meets the
criteria for designation provided in the Ordinance. At least sixty (60)
days before the hearings, every owner receives written notice of the hearings,
notices are posted in the neighborhood, and a notice appears in the newspaper.
The Commission holds several sessions to receive public testimony and
comment on the proposed district. At least one of these sessions takes
place during the evening in the neighborhood. In addition, interested
persons may submit written comments on the proposed district. Finally,
the Commission will vote to designate-or not to designate-the district
does designation protect the character of a district?
of Licenses and Inspections refers all building and demolition permit
applications for historic properties to the Commission for review and
will not issue a permit without the Commission's approval. The Commission
regulates only the exterior appearance of a building, including window
and sash replacement, masonry painting and cleaning and pointing. It does
not exercise its jurisdiction over the painting of trim. The staff approves
permit applications immediately for interior work that does not affect
a demolition permit, an applicant must show either financial hardship
owing to the property's lack of reasonable economic value, or that demolition
is in the public interest.
is the review process in a Philadelphia Historic District?
conducts routine reviews of plans and permit applications. In recent years,
the staff has approved more than eighty-five percent (85%) of the applications
on the day of submission. More extensive work requires evaluation by the
Architectural Committee, which meets monthly in public, and approval by
the Commission, which also holds monthly public meetings. The Committee
consists of architects, a structural engineer and a builder with knowledge
and experience in the appropriate and economic treatment of historic resources.
guidelines does the Philadelphia Historical Commission use?
uses the Secretary
of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties
with Guidelines for Preserving, Rehabilitating, Restoring and Reconstructing
Historic Buildings. Federal, state and local agencies, as well as private
organizations, throughout the country have adopted the Secretary's Standards.
The Commission's primary concerns are mass, height, appearance, texture,
color, the nature and composition of materials, and visibility from a
the Philadelphia Historical Commission require the restoration of a building?
No. The Commission
works with existing conditions. Its review extends only to the scope of
work an owner chooses to perform. However, in the event that an owner
allows a building to fall into such disrepair as to pose the threat of
demolition by neglect, the Commission may request the Department of Licenses
and Inspections to order the building, repaired, not restored. The Department
has this authority over all buildings in the City under other provisions
of the Philadelphia Code.
an owner appeal the decision of the Philadelphia Historical Commission
on a permit?
An owner who
is dissatisfied with a Commission decision may appeal to the Board of
License and Inspection Review. Usually, however, an owner can avoid a
rejection of plans by consulting with the Commission's staff early in
the design development process.
the Philadelphia Historical Commission regulate the use of a building?
No. The regulation
of use is a function of zoning, not historic preservation.
historic designation affect the tax assessment?
designation is not a factor in the assessment of property by the Board
of Revision of Taxes and will not result in higher taxes.
Philadelphia's Historic Preservation Ordinance, the Commission's Rules
and Regulations, and the Secretary of the Interior's Standards may be
obtained from the Philadelphia Historical Commission. The Philadelphia
Historic Preservation Ordinance can also be found here.
The Secretary of the Interior's Standards can be found here.