WILLIAMSBURG — The city of Williamsburg has had part of its downtown area added to the National Register of Historic Places.
According to Williamsburg’s Main Street Manager Nannie Hays, Williamsburg’s Historic District begins at the Cumberland River and continues up Main Street until the railroad tracks just before the University of the Cumberlands. The district has 61 contributing buildings and structures and over 40 downtown acres.
Williamsburg already has two historic buildings in its newly appointed historical district.
“The Lane Theater has actually been on the National Historic Registry for a while,” said Hays. The other is a house that sits on a side street across from Williamsburg’s City Hall.
“The armory, which the college now owns, is also on the National Historic Registry already. And the house across the street from Williamsburg’s City School, the old Gatliff House, it is listed on the National Historic Registry. There are four buildings within our town that are on the National Historic Registry,” said Hays. The armory and Gatliff House are located outside of Williamsburg’s Historic District.
Hays says the process began when she and Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison sat down to establish a historical preservation commission.
“Main Street is very strong in historic preservation, it’s one of the main things that we work towards," she said. "So I sat down with the mayor and we worked and got a historic preservation commission established.”
Once established, the city’s seven-member historic preservation commission began the process of applying to have the city’s historic district recognized. Hays said the process took close to a year to complete.
“We probably had a little advantage,” she admitted. Hays and the historic preservation commission had to complete a survey outlining each building's characteristics. “Things like when it was built, who built it, information as far as about how it was built, like windows and roofing and things like that,” explained Hays.
“We were kind of lucky because as Main Street Manager I also have to keep a building inventory," she said. "We have to update it every five years at Main Street, so I had just finished updating all of the buildings downtown that they needed. The only difference is, there’s about five questions difference from what Main Street has to do, and what you have to have on the historic survey.”
There are benefits to having a historic district in your city. Hays says that building owners can benefit from tax credits that are applicable to buildings only found in a historic district.
“It does not keep you from renovating your building," Hays said. "You can do what you want to do to the building. We don’t tell you ‘no, you can’t do that.’ If you want the tax credits, there are some guidelines you have to follow.”
“The focus of a historic district is also on identifying and honoring significant American architecture that tells the American story,” said Lisa M. Thompson, KHC’s National Register program coordinator via a press release. “Being listed on the National Register benefits everyone because it provides recognition of our local heritage and assistance in preserving it.”
There are more places in Williamsburg that Hays would like to see added to the National Historic Registry.
“There are a couple more that I would like to see like the Masonic Lodge. I think it would be a really good addition to it, there’s a lot of history there," she said. "I think the Depot needs to be on the historical registry. I think that’s one that needs to be worked towards getting on there.”
The National Register is the nation’s official list of historic and archaeological resources deemed worthy of preservation. According to a press release, Kentucky has the fourth-highest number of listings among states, with more than 3,400. Listings can be applied to buildings, objects, structures, districts and archaeological sites, and proposed sites must be significant in architecture, engineering, American history or culture.
For more, or to review National Register nominations, visit www.heritage.ky.gov.