Historic District Guidelines

Wilmington’s historic district, which spans over a hundred blocks throughout the heart of the city, is one of the largest in the United States. Extraordinary old houses and shady, oak-lined streets are on display in the district’s residential areas, which are nestled quaintly among an ever-evolving commercial sector full of local businesses, bars, restaurants, and nightlife. The district is overseen by the Historic Preservation Commission, a board composed of nine members who are appointed by the city council to “promote, enhance, and preserve the character of the Wilmington historic districts.” In order to ensure that the overall identity and historical integrity of the district is maintained, exterior alterations to properties located within the historic district require design reviews by the commission. The design guidelines do not enforce any particular architectural style, but they do promote both traditional and contemporary designers that are consistent with the unique historical charm of the area.

Additionally, the Commission hears and considers requests for Certificates of Appropriateness, which must be issued for approved exterior changes to properties within the historic district. Approval is based on the Wilmington Design Guidelines for Historic Districts and Landmarks. According to the City of Wilmington’s official website, the purpose of this is to, “provide guidelines which enable the Commission to act responsively and responsibly in reviewing design changes in the historic districts. It states the organizational framework within which the Historic Preservation Commission must work. It identifies Wilmington’s historic districts and describes the review authority of the Commission in each district. It contains the local design guidelines which are used in conjunction with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. All Commission decisions on design changes are based on this document and the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards.”

If only minor property changes need to be made, the Commission provides an Administrative Bypass System, which allows approvals to be made by a Historic Preservation Planner. If you wish to appeal a commission decision, contact the Wilmington Board of Adjustment and be sure to file the appeal within ten days from the date of the Commission hearing. For more information about the historical district, its design guidelines, the Historic Preservation Commission, or to review the official forms and brochures mentioned in this article, please visit the city of Wilmington’s website at http://www.wilmingtonnc.gov