Learn More About the History of Your Building
Want to learn more about the history of their property but are not sure how to go about it?
Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, Inc. (HFFI)—A large collection of files on properties in Fredericksburg. Stop by or call to see if there is information on your property.
1200 Caroline Street, Fredericksburg, 540-371-4504. Open 9:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m. M–F.
Central Rappahannock Heritage Center—An amazingly diverse collection of pictures, documents, letters, and ephemera connected to the City of Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Stafford, King George, and Caroline counties. Access the CRHC archives online or at the center.
900 Barton Street #111, Fredericksburg (Basement of Maury Commons), 540-373-3704. Open 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. Tu/W/Th, 9:00am–Noon on the first Saturday of each month.
Central Rappahannock Regional Library (CRRL), Virginiana Room—Books, postcards, newspapers on microfilm, city directories, and a vast collection of documents organized by subject as well as street address can be found in this resource room.
Library Headquarters, 1201 Caroline Street, Fredericksburg 540-372-1144. See website for hours, call ahead to check when Virginiana Room is staffed.
Fredericksburg Courthouse—Deeds, wills, plats, and the court archives are all available in one location. Visitors can search most of the information on their own although most court archives are only available with staff assistance. Generally staff in the archives room is able to help with your search, but the court clerks are prohibited from assisting. Note: no cameras, phones, food, drinks, or large bags are allowed in the new courthouse.
701 Princess Anne Street, Fredericksburg. Open 8;30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. M–F.
Sanborn Maps—Insurance maps of Fredericksburg from 1886 through 1947 that identify the footprint, use, and other details about buildings within the city. Limited areas available depending on year. Accessible on the CRRL website with library membership number.
University of Mary Washington Fredericksburg Research Resources—Compiled by UMW Professor Gary Stanton, the copious information found on this site is amazing! Census records, tax records (taken from Fredericksburg Court Archives listed above), building permit records, city directories, Embry Index to Wills, newspaper indexes, index of City Council Minutes, miscellaneous images and plats.
Virginia Department of Historical Resources – downloadable publications from the DHR. How to Research Your Historic Virginia Property, A Handbook and Resource Guide for Owners of Virginia’s Historic Houses, Classic Commonwealth: Virginia Architecture from the Colonial Era to 1940, and more.
In 1966, Congress created the National Register of Historic Places as part of the National Historic Preservation Act. The National Park Service administers the National Register of Historic Places as an evaluated group of historic properties that are listed as sites, districts, buildings, structures, or objects. Whereas we tend to look at individual buildings and structures, when there is a geographic area with a “significant concentration, linkage, or continuity of sites, buildings, structures, or objects united historically or aesthetically by plan or physical development,” you have a historic district.
Districts may have national, state, or local significance. Their evaluation and recognition should provide some level of preservation and protection for the qualities determined to be historically significant. Historic districts listed in the National Register only receive consideration when projects receiving federal funds effect or impact the historic property. Local recognition and accompanying laws, reviews, and permits must be in place to provide local protection.
Historic District Benefits
- Historic districts often experience an increase in property value.
- Owners in historic districts may apply for historic tax credits (if all other criteria are met).
- Increased community awareness of the overall landscape and sense of place.
Fredericksburg (Downtown) & Washington Avenue Historic Districts
Fredericksburg has two National Register historic districts, which are locally recognized as well (See map of historic districts). The City of Fredericksburg Community Planning and Building Department administers the local ordinance that provides protection for some aspects of the districts.
Exterior changes to the primary structure visible from the public right-of-way or sidewalk, may require a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) from the City’s Architectural Review Board (ARB).
The following changes require ARB review:
- Siding and/or roof replacements with a different material (not replacement-in-kind)
- New windows
- Alterations to front porches
- Alterations to decorative details
- Removal of contributing structures in the historic district
- New construction on a vacant lot within the historic district
- Change(s) to character-defining features
If in doubt, it never hurts to review your proposed changes with the Fredericksburg Community Planning and Building Department at (540) 372-1179.
You can also get assistance by working with ARB in the early phases your project. If you think you may need a COA, then the best practice is to get approval from the ARB and avoid problems in the future.
Remember: When you bring your project to the ARB early, you will hear from experienced professionals – architectural historians, architects, contractors, and real estate agents, etc. – who have an interest in the value of your home and neighborhood.
Potential National Register Historic District Expansion Areas
In a city as historically significant as Fredericksburg, existing districts may be expanded or new districts considered for nomination. Until then:
Areas that are eligible for listing in National Register of Historic Places are not subject to review by the ARB or COA, but you may still need city permits, check with city offices.
Other Features to be Aware of in a Historic District
Historic districts are woven together by streets and sidewalks, trees and landscape, fences and streetlights. The uniform or uneven setback of the primary structures, the location and width of front walks, the presence or absence of side yards, all contribute to the character of the district and are part of the cultural landscape of the city. Even if there is no official review of these items, be aware of how they contribute to the streetscape and be vocal about their protection. Before removing or changing any of these character-defining features, be considerate of how your yard and property contributes to the entire district.
As defined by the National Park Service, “An historic preservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement made between a property owner (donor) and a qualified easement holding organization (donee) to protect a significant historic property, landscape, or archeological site by restricting future changes to and/or development on the site.”
An easement constitutes a partial ownership interest in a historic property; one that empowers the holding organization with the legal authority to enforce certain protective covenants established to ensure the property’s long-term preservation. These covenants, which are recorded in a deed of easement, help protect historic buildings and landscapes from demolition, neglect, and inappropriate alterations while keeping the property in private hands and on the tax rolls. The easement and its restrictions are typically conveyed in perpetuity, meaning they remain binding beyond the tenure of the current owner. Certain alterations are permitted, but generally must comply with specific preservation standards and receive prior approval from the easement holding organization.
Why Donate a Preservation Easement?
To Help Protect Historically Significant Properties in Perpetuity
For owners seeking additional protections for their historic properties above and beyond those provided by a local historic zoning ordinance, a preservation easement is definitely an option worth exploring. These legally binding covenants protect against threats such as demolition and inappropriate alterations, and, with technical assistance from HFFI’s staff, can help ensure the ongoing maintenance and long-term preservation of your historic properties.
Income, Gift and Estate Tax Benefits
HFFI’s status as a 501c3 nonprofit organization allows donors to treat their donations as a charitable contribution under Internal Revenue Tax Code Section 170(h). For eligible owners, this can mean significant tax benefits, as the value of an easement donation may be deductible from Federal income taxes in the same manner as other non-cash charitable contributions. See Tax Credits for more information.
Owners who donate an easement on their historic property also receive technical support from HFFI’s staff and Real Estate Committee. It is HFFI’s responsibility, as a preservation easement holder, to make certain each property is being maintained in compliance with its covenant agreement. We conduct annual inspections to monitor each property’s condition over time and make recommendations to property owners for maintenance work that will prevent small problems from becoming large problems.
Tax Benefits for Historic Preservation Easements – National Park Service
Historic Preservation Easements – VA Department of Historic Resources
National Park Service Preservation Briefs
Information on 47 different historic materials and/ or topics:
“Preservation Briefs provide guidance on preserving, rehabilitating, and restoring historic buildings. These NPS Publications help historic building owners recognize and resolve common problems prior to work. The briefs are especially useful to Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program applicants because they recommend methods and approaches for rehabilitating historic buildings that are consistent with their historic character.” (NPS webpage)
Printable versions of various National Park Service publications:
General Preservation Websites
National Trust for Historic Preservation
Historic New England
Preservation Virginia Web Resources
Preservation Green Lab
“Launched in March of 2009, the Seattle-based Preservation Green Lab advances research that explores the value that older buildings bring to their communities, and pioneers policy solutions that make it easier to reuse and green older and historic buildings.”
National Park Service – National Register of Historic Places Fundamentals
City of Fredericksburg Community Planning and Building Department
Local and National Register Historic Districts – National Trust for Historic Preservation (National Trust)
Advantages of Establishing a Historic District – National Trust
NPS Preservation Brief 47—Maintaining the Exterior of Small and Medium Size Historic Buildings by Sharon C. Park, AIA
Historic Building Inspection Checklist—Lancaster, PA Dept of Economic and Community Development
Maintaining Your Historic Home—Delaware County Planning Dept, PA (Detailed checklist on page 7 & 8)
Fredericksburg, VA 22401