What does it mean to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places?

The National Register is the official Federal list of sites or buildings that are “significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture”.   Importantly, contrary to what most people think, being listed on the National Register of Historic Places does not mean the property cannot be modified.   Owners of buildings listed on the National Register can modify, paint, remodel, build an addition or even tear down the building under Federal law. Many historic buildings do stand in designated local historic districts.  Those districts can, and do, place restrictions on what changes can be made to buildings in that district.   For example, in Asheville, the Montford Historic District places restrictions on structures within that district. Chiles House is not in a designated historic district, which means there are no federal or local restrictions on modifications.  For more information, you can go to this website:  https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nationalregister/faqs.htm

Applying for National Register status is a huge effort.   It requires a significant amount of research regarding the past owners of the house. We obtained a subscription to newspapers.com and, with Mr. Google at our side, we started our research.   We also researched property records in the courthouse, and spent many hours in the North Carolina Room at the Pack Library.   Thankfully, the Chiles Family had a scrapbook on file at the library so that helped us immensely.   We used this research to collect oral histories as well.  We talked to the Chiles family, neighbors, and tradesmen who worked on the house.   We heard lots of stories.  Many unverified…and many variations of the same story!  Ultimately, we hired a consultant with a focus in historical architecture to help us write the application.  Part of the approval process required that the City and State review the application and grant approval.  After obtaining those approvals, our application was finally approved by the US Government in January 2018.  Here is the submitted application: https://files.nc.gov/ncdcr/nr/BN1883.pdf

So,  why would anyone want to go through the trouble (and significant expense!) to appear on the National Register of Historic Places?   Well, one reason, is that as an owner you are taking part in a process larger than yourself.  We always said that we were fixing this place up for the NEXT owners.   And National Register status is a validation that the house is deserving of your money and effort.  But, also, any renovations and improvements that go to the stability or integrity of the house are now eligible for state tax credits.   The tax credits offset a good portion of your renovation expense!  Also, the tax credits are available for every future owner (provided current law stays the same) who engages in repairs, painting or remodelling.   That helps encourage future owners to continue to care for the property.   Here’s a resource to check out if you are interested. https://www.ncdcr.gov/about/history/division-historical-resources/nc-state-historic-preservation-office/restoration-2