Determining the best historic preservation designation for the community will rely on several factors. Some questions and considerations worth thinking about are:
a. Geographic Considerations
Do the historic resources in the community comprise a logical and visually coherent district? Are they in close proximity to one another? Do they share boundary lines? Do the resources represent a traditional neighborhood, village, or hamlet? Is the area bounded or defined by natural landscape features (waterways, forests, geological features) or the built environment (streets, city blocks, historic walls or pathways, highways)? Is the area a potential archeological site?
If so, the LHD designation may a good way to preserve that sense of continuity and spatial coherence, even if there are some non-historic structures within the area.
If the historic and architectural resources are widely separated or are interrupted by natural features and modern development sites, the LHP designation may be an appropriate alternative.
b. Stylistic Considerations
Do the historic resources in the community share certain stylistic features along with physical proximity? Do they represent a traditional pattern of development? Do they represent materials, forms, construction techniques, or architectural expressions that are distinct to the community? Do they provide an informative sampling of several different architectural styles and periods? Do the buildings and structures exhibit innovative solutions to geographical constraints?
If so, the LHD designation may serve to highlight and preserve those particular aspects of the community.
If the historic buildings and structures are widely separated or if the visual character of the area is disrupted by modern buildings, highways, new development, large tracts of undeveloped land, or natural barriers, then LHP designations may be a better way to preserve and protect the individual resources for the benefit of the community.
c. Considerations of Significance
Do the buildings and structures retain a high degree of physical integrity? Do the resources represent a major event or trend in the history of the community? Are the buildings or sites historically associated with an important individual or family? Were the structures built by a well-known builder or architect? Is the site likely to contain information that would enhance the appreciation of the community’s heritage?
With LHD and LHP designations, each community has the opportunity to decide which buildings and structures are most significant to the community and would merit preservation. Do the resources represent a geographical entity like a mill village, a town center, or a clustered settlement? If so, then the LHD may be a way to preserve and interpret the history of the area.
Do the individual buildings have strong symbolic significance to the community, even though they are widely separated by modern buildings or incompatible development? An LHP designation may be a good way to preserve a town hall, a school, a church, a theater, a library, or an industrial site that is important to the community, even without a strong visual context.
d. Social and Political Considerations
Is there good historical documentation for the resources? Is the significance of the building or area widely recognized in the community? Are the buildings and structures at risk or under threat? Are there partners in the community to assist with the historic designation process? Are other public policies supportive of historic preservation?
Property owners and residents must endorse the goals of preservation if the LHD or LHP designation is to have a beneficial effect on the community. Since both designations often affect private property, the concerns of the owners have to be considered and addressed in a responsible manner.
If there is inadequate support for an LHD, then designating a few individual LHPs may be an appropriate way to begin identifying and protecting the community’s historic assets.(See Section III.D.3 of this handbook for a further discussion of boundary delineation.)