Springfield Downtown Historic District more than just for show

A building or district doesn’t need to be officially recognized as historic to prove its value to the community.

But recognition from the National Register of Historic Places does have its perks, says Kevin Rose, director of revitalization for The Turner Foundation.

“It’s really about saying, ‘This is a landmark. This is important,’” he says.

And beyond that, the recognition by state and federal authorities that a building or district is historically significant provides incentives, mostly in the form of state and federal tax credits. Many projects wouldn’t even get off the ground without the designation, he says.

“It’s a tool for developers to revitalize buildings,” he says.

Clark County is home to a number of buildings on the National Register, which is part of the National Park Service. Local landmarks include the Westcott House, Warder Public Library, Myers Daily Market, several local churches and many other buildings.

There are also several local historic districts, the most recent of which was named in 2021. The Springfield Downtown Historic District is roughly bordered by Columbia, Limestone and Main streets and Fountain Avenue. The complex process of getting a historic district approved takes about 12 to 18 months, and usually up to a year for a historic building, Rose says.

With the addition of the Springfield Downtown Historic District, a large portion of Downtown is now recognized, he says. Others local historic districts include South Fountain Avenue and the campus of Wittenberg University.

“Every district is special for a certain reason,” Rose says.

While historic residential districts often represent a specific timeframe or population, a downtown district is more likely to envelop a broader range of time, people and socioeconomic backgrounds, he says.

“In some ways, it’s more of the community’s historic district,” he says.

An earlier study showed that 87 percent of Downtown Springfield’s buildings have been demolished since the end of World War II, and more have disappeared since the study was completed, Rose says. With 9 out of 10 buildings in the urban core gone since then, it is even more vital to preserve the survivors.

Many of the positive things happening in Springfield – including new construction – can be traced back to the success of the city’s historic buildings.

“Today they’re the backbone of our revitalization,” he said.

Read more articles by Diane Erwin.