A! Magazine for the Arts

Historic district's guidelines vary from location to location.

Historic district's guidelines vary from location to location.

Historic district's guidelines vary from location to location

February 23, 2021

People who own or are thinking of purchasing a house in a historic district should be aware of what the guidelines are in that district. Historic zoning is different from town to town.

Bristol, Virginia’s historic district rules apply only to razing or moving a house in the historic district.

Bristol, Tennessee’s historic district guidelines are voluntary. Johnson City, Tennessee, Kingsport, Tennessee and Abingdon, Virginia’s guidelines are mandatory and are detailed. All of the guidelines apply exclusively to exteriors of the buildings.

Each community’s complete guidelines are available on their websites. The guidelines offer best practices for appropriate maintenance, repair or replacement of design elements common to buildings in the historic district.

The guidelines focus on the exterior of historic buildings, which includes wall treatments and finishes, windows, doors, storefronts, porches, awnings and other improvements or modifications to the original building exterior. The guidelines address nominal repairs and limited improvements to historic buildings and structures. For major renovations and construction decisions, it is highly recommended that property owners seek the expertise of a qualified architect.

Any proposed change or repair to a building in the historic districts with mandatory guidelines require prior approval. Some allow minor repairs with the same materials without formal approval, others do not. Some allow homeowners to repaint using the same colors without permission. Homeowners should check the guidelines before making changes or repairs.

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