What Does a Building Need to Be Considered Historic?

When buying or inheriting a building, one thing worth asking if the property is historic or not. We may have our own definition of what is considered historic. But there are a few crucial attributes that can help determine if one building is historic or not.

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Three Crucial Qualities of Historic Buildings


One thing we need to consider is how old a property is. As a general rule, a property has to be at least 50 years old.


Historic buildings also need to relatively unchanged. This means the property should have retained its historic physical integrity. A building can no longer be considered to be historic if:

  • The site is already disturbed
  • Affiliated cultural groups can no longer recognize the patterns or layers used
  • There are no essential character-defining features present.


A property also needs to have some kind of significance in a place before we can call it historic. The following are three ways that define a building’s significance.

  • It distinct physical and spatial characteristics common to a type of building, architectural style, fine craftsmanship, or method of construction
  • Certain events or activities happened in the property that helped shaped history
  • It contains information that can be beneficial in understanding the past with the help of physical, architectural, or archaeological investigation and analysis

Why Do You Need to Check If a Building Is Historic or Not?

There are numerous reasons why it is crucial that we preserve historically significant buildings.

Some of these are as follows.

Preserve History

History is an important clue to the past. This also gives character to a city or community. By preserving historic buildings, we can have that physical representation of an era or millstone.

In the U.S., the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966 serves to save historic buildings. This acknowledges the significance of preserving the nation’s heritage from today’s development. By preserving historic buildings, our future generation can learn more about the precious history of each building and continue to inspire people to maintain old and historically-significant buildings.

Economic Benefits

Another reason why rehabilitating historic buildings is crucial is because buildings, especially those built before World War II, are generally constructed from higher quality materials. It is almost impractical to demolish buildings when they can still last for a longer period of time. There is no point in wasting a structurally sound building if this can bring new life to a neighborhood.

Before you do anything with your building, it pays to read the news and see how other historically significant buildings are preserved and repurposed in your area. For instance, you recently acquired a historic building in Detroit. You can keep an eye on development news and check how construction jobs are tackled regarding these types of buildings.

Aesthetic and Environmental Considerations

When historic buildings were constructed, unique and valuable materials were used. These gave the buildings their distinct character and identity. These are not only interesting to look at, but preserving these buildings both have aesthetic and environmental purposes.

Preserving older buildings help retain the workmanship and craftsmanship used in erecting the construction. This also helps reduce the number of wastes generated. Compared to demolishing a building to construct a new one, repairing and reusing an existing building is a lot more economical and environment-friendly.

There’s also the fact that some materials used in old building constructions are known to be health hazards. If we knock down structures that potentially have toxins and pollutants, this can put more people at risk of getting sick. Even the environment can suffer.

Questions You Can Ask to Check If a Building Is Historic or Not

If you are about to buy an old building and you suspect it to be a historic one, here are some questions you can ask:

  • Who are the original and later occupants of the building?
  • Were any of the original occupants able to make significant social, economic, political, or cultural contributions?
  • What year was the building constructed, and who constructed it?
  • Who is the designer, and did they use a style or tradition common during the era it was constructed?
  • Was there any historical event that occurred within the property?
  • Is the property known as a local landmark?
  • Does it look like any other building in the community?
  • Were there any significant changes made in the building?
  • Was the building able to fulfill its original function?

Asking questions that tackle the building’s history, integrity, architecture, and environment can give us a clue if it can still be considered a historic building. It is important that you dig a little deeper before you buy a historic building and before you make any significant changes. This is to ensure you get to take part in preserving the nation’s rich history. It is also since you don’t want to get in trouble for demolishing an essential landmark in your area. If you are not sure, ask the right questions and do your research before you make significant changes to an older building.

Meta Title: What Are the Things That Make a Building Historically Significant?

Meta Description: We need to be careful and check a building’s history first before we make any changes. We could already be dealing with one that holds a historical significance. But how can one know if a building is historic or not?

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