Historic properties abound

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— When thinking of historic buildings, usually courthouses, old railroad depots or 100-year-old banks come to mind.

People rarely think the houses they live in could be buildings that deserve historic distinction.

But they should look a little closer.

Historic Preservation Specialist Laureen Schaffer said people tend to think about historic preservation in terms of public buildings, but it also can extend to private residences.

Local, state and national programs are in place to give homeowners grants, loans, tax credits, technical assistance and regulatory relief for the upkeep of properties with historic designation.

Depending on the level of historical designation, property owners can receive tax credits for the preservation, restoration or rehabilitation of properties that preserve the historic character.

"I think people understand that keeping a historical house can be expensive in order to keep it livable," Schaffer said. "If you do need to remodel a bathroom and kitchen, you really get some good benefits if you do it right."

Properties can be listed on three different historic registers: the Routt County Register, the Colorado Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places. For each level, the standards increase and the payoffs are bigger.

Generally, properties can qualify for one of the registers if they have historical, architectural or geographical significance.

A property of historical significance would be one that marks a notable historic event, such as a battlefield. Schaffer said examples would be Howelsen Hill or the cabins on Sky Lane, where historian and author Jim Burrows lived.

A property of architectural significance would be one whose architectural style represents a certain period of time. An example is the Reheder Building, which was the First National Bank in 1905 and sits at the corner of Eighth Street and Lincoln Avenue. Schaffer said the building represents the Romanesque style. A less grandiose example is the bungalow-style houses along Seventh Street.

Buildings of geographic significance usually are longtime landmarks. An example is the Routt County Courthouse.

"It is the building that everyone gives directions by, it is so well-known," Schaffer said.

If a property is on the National Register of Historic Places, it is eligible for a 20 percent tax credit for any certified rehabilitation of the structure. Unlike an income tax deduction, a tax credit lowers the amount of taxes owed.

The state also will give homeowners a 20-percent income tax credit for eligible properties.

Those properties include houses on the national or state register. They can be sites that local governments have given landmark status. Routt County has 59 properties that have been given historical status.

If a house is just on the local registry, homeowners still can see a cash savings. Schaffer said they could receive a sales tax rebate on building materials. Grants also are available through the State Historical Board.

"Historic preservation is a tangible link to our past," Schaffer said. "It gives our community an identity."

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