Caring for a Historic Home in West Jefferson

If your home is located within the confines of the West Jefferson Historic District, or even if it is an unlisted historic property, owning a special piece of American history comes with a certain level of responsibility. Here are some tips and resources for West Jefferson real estate owners whose property is more than fifty years old and potentially of cultural or historical relevance.

Who makes “the list”

For properties to be eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, they must generally be older than 50 years, still in a relatively original state, and potentially of local, cultural, or historical significance. This list is maintained by the National Park Service and earning a place on this list can be a way to get connected with resources, grants, tax credits and even investors able to help with restoration projects.

The potential downside to being on the list is that you must be careful to maintain the property’s character, and whenever possible, original building materials. If your property is of sufficient age, but you are unsure of the property’s history, you can access public records at town hall.

Preservation versus replacement

The National Park Service provides extensive guidance on what building components and features contribute to the overall character, and (whenever possible) provide information on how to preserve existing features and materials rather than replacing them. If your property is now being used for residential occupation but was once tied to the local lumber or cheese trade, for example, there may be unique characteristics about the property that are worth preserving even if they may not be conducive to normal residential use.

Some property owners use these unique features to their advantage and may turn the space into a museum or into a specialized office or commercial space if the zoning allows. By changing the present use to suit the restoration and display of features unique to your property, you can continue to generate income while exposing the public to a living piece of history.

Building considerations

While it is well-known that a property owner would need to research zoning regulations and obtain a building permit before beginning any substantial project, buildings located within a historic district are often subject to even more stringent restrictions. Signage and exterior color are some common restrictions, but any plans for the addition, removal or modification of porches and entryways may also be impacted.

Sometimes the replacement or upgrade of windows and doors can be subject to rules regarding a historic property’s outward appearance, and the style and placement of exterior lighting is sometimes a consideration as well. Landscaping can factor into the overall historic character of a home, especially if there may have been a historic garden or gated wall on the property.

Antiques and interior considerations

Sometimes the character of a house really shines through in the small details like door and cabinet hardware, wood trim or built-ins, and even certain kinds of joinery used in handmade cabinets. Treat interior items with care and consideration when determining if something should be replaced or repaired, because many features of historic homes cannot be easily reproduced.

If you frequent the antiques circuit, as well as yard sales or even the annual Old Time Antiques Festival, you will develop an eye for what pieces match the feel and tone of your home, and you can also find everything from old windows to antique mantelpieces at places like auctions and estate sales. You can also check out old historical compilations for inspiration.