Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Is my house historic?
A. The Cincinnati area has a rich legacy of historic buildings in a remarkable variety of architectural styles. Many buildings have been recorded by the Ohio Historic Inventory (OHI), an ongoing, statewide survey of buildings, sites, structures and objects of historical and architectural significance. To date nearly eight thousand buildings have been inventoried to date in Hamilton County alone. CPA maintains files of OHI forms for Cincinnati and surrounding communities. We may have your house on file!
Q. What is the National Register and how can I get my building listed?
A. The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of properties recognized by the federal government as worthy of preservation for their local, state or national significance in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, or culture. The National Register is a program of the National Park Service administered at the state level by each respective state.
If you live in Ohio, you should begin the process by completing a National Register Questionnaire for your property, available at the Ohio Historic Preservation Office (OHPO) Web site (www.ohiohistory.org/portal/historicpreservation-p.html). The OHPO’s National Register staff will then review the questionnaire and let you know if your property appears eligible.
National Register nominations are reviewed and approved at the state level, then forwarded to Washington. If you live in a city such as Cincinnati, Covington or Newport with a municipal historic preservation office or preservation commission, the nomination may also be reviewed at the city level.
Anyone may fill out the forms to nominate a property to the National Register. Due to the complexity of the forms and the high level of documentation required, you may wish to hire a professional historic preservation consultant. CPA and state historic preservation offices maintain lists of qualified consultants.
Q. Will National Register listing prevent a building from being demolished?
A. National Register designation alone does NOT prevent demolition unless federal funds are used. If the property is threatened by a federally funded or licensed undertaking, then the project must be reviewed to determine if the adverse impact on the historic building, site or district can be minimized.
Q. How can I protect my house?
A. One of the strongest tools for preservation of historic buildings and neighborhoods is local historic designation. Buildings listed as local landmarks or located in locally designated districts are subject to review before exterior alterations or demolition can take place. (Contrary to widespread belief, National Register listing alone will NOT control changes to buildings or prevent demolition.)
Another powerful historic preservation tool is the preservation easement. By donating an easement, you give the easement-holder (CPA or another organization) the right to prevent all present and future owners from making changes to a historic property that would destroy its historic character, while still retaining other rights of ownership. The value of the easement can then be used as a charitable deduction. (See Preservation Easements under “Stewardship” for further information.)
Q. Are there any grants or financial assistance for my historic building?
A. Due to fiscal constraints very little grant money is available for the restoration or preservation of historic buildings. What little money is available, is targeted to buildings with public use. A 20% federal investment tax credit is available for major rehabilitation of income-producing historic buildings. To qualify, your building must be listed in the National Register or be a contributing building in a historic district. Contact CPA or your state preservation office for details.
Property tax abatement and low-interest loans for rehabilitation of rental housing are not restricted to properties listed in the National Register. For information, call the City of Cincinnati at 513-352-5352.
Rehabilitation projects in the Empowerment Zone may be eligible for low-interest loans (3-4%). The zone includes Avondale, Corryville, Evanston, Fairview Heights, University Heights, Clifton Heights, Mount Auburn, Over-the-Rhine, Queensgate, Walnut Hills and the West End. For more information, call 513-487-5200 or see www.empowercincy.org.
Q. What style is my house?
A. The Cincinnati Old House Handbook is a readable and well-illustrated guide to the historic architectural styles prevalent in the Cincinnati area. It is available for $10.00 at the Cincinnati Historic Conservation Office (513-352-4890). Other good sources of information include the monthly publication Old-House Journal (available in print and online at www.oldhousejournal.com), and A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia and Lee McAlester.
These titles and other resources on architecture and restoration are available at the Art and Music Department of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. CPA maintains a library of books on architectural styles and restoration that may be helpful to you. Please contact us ahead of time to make an appointment.
Q. What color is appropriate for my house?
A. To determine the appropriate right colors for your house, first identify its architectural style and period of construction. The book Century of Color by Roger Moss and Old-House Journal are both excellent resources for information on historically appropriate paint colors. You can also consult the Public Library’s Art and Music Department or CPA’s reference library.
Q. I’m planning to make some alterations to my building. What approvals do I need to get?
A. First, is your building located in a locally designated historic district? If so, you will need the approval of your local historic preservation commission before you can make changes to the exterior. A building permit also may be required; contact your local building department for information. If there is a preservation easement on the property, you will also need the approval of the easement holder.
Q. Can you suggest any contractors qualified to do restoration?
A. CPA maintains lists of qualified contractors. While we do not endorse specific contractors, we are happy to make this information available to people restoring buildings. Please call or email us for details.
Q. How can I find out the history of my house?
A. Both the Cincinnati Historical Society and the History and Genealogy Department of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County have old city directories, archival maps and atlases, and census records. Land records, including deeds, mortgages and plats, are available at county recorders’ offices in Ohio and property valuation offices in Kentucky. CPA also has informational leaflets to help guide you through the process of researching your house.
Q. Where can I find historic photographs of my building?
A. The Greater Cincinnati Memory Project ( www.cincinnatimemory.org ) maintains an online collection of archival photographs and postcards of buildings and streetscapes of Greater Cincinnati and northern Kentucky. You can search by name, address or location. For archival photos of northern Kentucky, you can also consult the commercial site Northern Kentucky Views (www.nkyviews.com). The Cincinnati Historical Society has a large collection of old photographs filed by neighborhood. In addition, the Government and Business Department of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County has streetcar photos on file; if your building is located on an old streetcar line, it might be worth a look.
Q. How can I learn more about historic preservation?
A. The best way to learn more about historic preservation in Cincinnati is to join CPA. We publish an informative bimonthly newsletter and sponsor special events including lectures, tours and restoration fairs. Members also have the opportunity to meet other preservationists and share information.
Q. What volunteer opportunities do you have?
A. Volunteers are important and welcomed at CPA to assist with a variety of efforts. Volunteers assist with tours and events by serving as docents or greeters, provide administrative support by organizing files, assembling mailings and distributing agency publicity, and collaborate with CPA staff on special projects. Please contact CPA Business Manager, Rebecca Stone to learn more about volunteer opportunities.