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Frequently Asked Questions
Historic District Commission

  • What is the difference between a local historic district and a national register district or place?
  • What is the difference between the Historic District Commission and the Historical Society?
  • What determines whether or not a building is historic?
  • What is a "Certificate of Appropriateness"?

  • Q. What is the difference between a local historic district and a national register district or place?
    Local Historic District is a geographic area within a community singled out for its architectural, historic, cultural or archaeological importance. Property in a historic district is protected from unsuitable change. A lot and the buildings on it are part of the historic landscape and remain essentially the same from the time the district is established. The State of Connecticut enacted legislation in 1961 to protect and preserve such areas by proclaiming them legal entities.

    Greenwich currently has two local historic districts. The Strickland Road District in Cos Cob was established in 1975 and the Round Hill-John Street District in 1988. Changes in a historic district are regulated by the Greenwich Historic District Commission, which acts as advisor, promoter and arbiter for the Town's districts.

    National Register of Historic Places are historic properties worthy of preservation because of "a quality of significance in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering and culture...in districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects that possess location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association...with events that contributed to broad patterns of our history, with lives of significant individuals, with distinctive styles of architecture, or with information important to history or prehistory."

    * Listing on the National Register, which was established in 1966, does not preclude changes to a building or its demolition, but it does encourage preservation. In Connecticut approximately 32,000 such resources in more than 140 towns are listed on the National Register. In Greenwich there are 19 properties listed including houses, churches, bridges, mills, municipal buildings, a lighthouse, railroad stations and a parkway. In addition to individual properties, there are six historic districts and each contains many properties.

    * Some properties on the National Register are given the added status of National Historic Landmark for outstanding cultural or architectural importance. Greenwich has one property with this designation, the Bush-Holley House in Cos Cob, which was awarded this distinction for its association with American Impressionist painting. Restrictions apply.

    Q. What is the difference between the Historic District Commission and the Historical Society?
    The Historic District Commission is authorized by the town to oversee the local historic districts, create new districts and advise the Planning & Zoning Commission on issues related to historic properties. The Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich is a private not-for-profit organization that collects and preserves the cultural heritage and ongoing history of Greenwich. They do have historic preservation programs, but they are not a Town agency.

    Q. What determines whether or not a building is historic?
    Generally speaking, a building must be at least 60 years old and retain a majority of its original features. Association with a significant individual or event is also a consideration.

    Q. What is a "Certificate of Appropriateness"?
    A Certificate of Appropriateness is what homeowners within a local historic district, or those with a historic overlay property, must apply for in order to make changes to their buildings. The Historic District Commission has the sole authority to grant or deny an application for a certificate of appropriateness.

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