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Historic registry might not be what you think

 

Michael Houser, of the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, addresses chamber members Thursday. – Scott Hunter photo

A state preservation official Thursday dispelled myths and disclosed some little-known facts about what happens when property is declared "historic" and entered on a registry.

The Grand Coulee Dam Area Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Coulee Dam had invited Michael Houser, of the Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation, to speak about the registry issue at a joint noon meeting last Thursday held in the community room at town hall.

There was interest in the town to see if some of the older buildings might qualify for a registry, and Houser said there are actually three kinds - local, state and national.

The chamber had an interest in learning if the old B Street might qualify for registry recognition.

Houser revealed that the Coulee Dam Bridge is already on the registry, and that several places he visited while in town could qualify, namely, such places as town hall, Crown Point, Grand Coulee Dam itself, the Visitor Center, Douglas Park, Cole Park, Engineer's Town (west Coulee Dam) and the Coulee Dam Federal Credit Union building, once the Columbia School.

When asked, he said the Coulee Dam Community Church might also qualify.

Houser stated that in order to get on one of the registries the building or site has to be at least 50 years old and meet criteria, including some that are subjective, such as the "feel" of a place. And some buildings you might not think qualify just might, he said, even ranch-style houses that meet the age limit.

He also sought to dispel common myths his office encounters, such as the idea that a listing is tied to grant money. It's not, although a national listing might qualify your restoration project for federal tax credits of about 20 percent of the cost.

And imagined restrictions don't necessarily exist. If your house is listed, you don't have to restore it or maintain it in a certain way.

Of the three types of listings, local can be the most restrictive, while a national listing is the least restrictive, he said.

"You can do what you want to," he said. "You can demolish it."

He said queries start at his office and that he is prepared to assist anyone who applies.

Houser said that anyone wanting to put their house on the local registry could do so. He said it was largely a prestige thing. Other registries require more detailed information, such as historic significance.

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