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From the earliest trading posts of the seventeenth century to the modern suburbs of the twentieth century, Connecticut communities have a long history of building to meet the needs of the population. Public buildings range in scale from the majestic State Capitol to the most modest district schoolhouse. Commercial and industrial buildings encompass early wooden sawmills, colossal brick manufacturing complexes, and the sleek glass walls of the Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Company building in Hartford. The state’s residential architecture is equally diverse, representing high-style and vernacular traditions from the symmetrical Georgian Colonial house to the millworker’s cottage.
Connecticut’s cities and towns are defined by the history of human impact on both the natural environment and the built environment. Rural or urban, coastal or hill town, industrial center or suburb – each of the state’s 169 cities and towns has a distinct character derived in part from the buildings, sites, and structures that represent the heritage of the particular community. Preserving community character enriches the lives of Connecticut residents and adds vitality to neighborhoods and downtowns. Municipalities, regardless of size, have the opportunity to support these goals by designating Local Historic Districts (LHD) and Local Historical Properties (LHP) in their community.
LHD and LHP designations are the strongest forms of historic preservation tools available to municipalities in Connecticut. Both mechanisms are administered by locally appointed municipal commissions – the Historic District Commission (HDC) or the Historic Property Commission (HPC) – that have the express authority to review and approve of exterior changes to historic properties that are visible from a public way.
Part One of this handbook outlines the procedures for establishing an LHD or an LHP and appointing the HDC or HPC to administer the review process for the district or property. This chapter is a guide for communities wishing to establish a new LHD or LHP and for existing local HDCs or HPCs that are seeking to improve the administration of a district or property already established.
The general overview summarizes the common reasons and basic procedures for establishing an LHD or LHP and is followed by a more specific discussion of each of the steps involved.
Any valid LHD or LHP must conform to the Connecticut enabling statute (Connecticut General Statutes, Section 7-147 a-q) and the procedures of the Historic Preservation & Museum Division of the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism (CCT). A bibliography of select resources is included at the end of this chapter.