What is the Historic District Commission and what is their role?

The Historic District Commission, overseen by the city's Planning Department, is charged with determining whether properties meet certain criteria for placement in the Local Historic District.  According to the city ordinances, the HDC will (1) safeguard the heritage of Pawtucket by preserving individual structures and historic districts that reflect the special elements of Pawtucket's cultural, social, economic, political, and architectural history, (2) monitor and regulate changes to historic properties and to prevent demolition of historic structures, and (3) promote the use of and growth of historic districts for the education, pleasure and welfare of the citizens of Pawtucket.  

What is the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency and what is their role?

The Redevelopment Agency's mission is to assist in revitalizing Pawtucket’s neighborhood and commercial areas.  They do this through "eliminating blighted areas and replacing them with well-planned, integrated, stable, safe, and healthy neighborhoods." The PRA is managed by the city's Planning Department.

Do I need permission to make changes to my house?

The plaques from the Preservation Society do not have any restrictions or benefits attached to them.  If you have a plaque on your house, you don’t need our permission to change anything.  If your house is in the Local Historic District (i.e. you get a historic house tax rebate from the city), then you need to contact the Historic District Commission about your plans.  The house being “historic” does not alone determine whether it is part of the historic district. An owner of the house would have had to apply for this status.  If you are not getting the tax rebate (call the tax assessor’s office if you aren’t sure), your house is not officially “historic” and you don’t need permission to change it. Getting a plaque and applying for historic status are two completely separate processes with two separate groups.  

How can historic buildings be protected from demolition?

Designation as an historic building, either by the local historic district or by the National Register of Historic Places, will not guarantee the building's protection from demolition.  The only way to do this is to attach a preservation easement.  Easements are binding legal agreements between the building's owner and the easement holder to abide by the easement terms.  Only the building's owner can attach an easement, they cannot be imposed.  Check out Preserve Rhode Island's easement program site to learn more.

How can I research the history of my house?

A good place to start is in the City Clerk's office, with a search of the property's title.  That will in most cases give you the ownership history.  You can also check the old city directories at the Pawtucket Library.  A search in the Library's Digital Newspaper archive will take a little longer, but can uncover lots of interesting information.

How do properties get listed on the National Register of Historic Places?

The process of nominating a property for the National Register of Historic Places is coordinated by the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission (RIHPHC). The nomination form (including essays about the appearance and the historic significance of the property, photos, maps, plans, and the like) is prepared by an expert consulting preservationist and then reviewed by the State Review Board, which is composed of professionals in the fields of American history, architectural history, architecture, archeology, and other disciplines.  Here is a list of current NRHP properties.