Local historic districts are one of the oldest and strongest forms of protection for historic properties. The historic district movement began in the United States in 1931, when the City of Charleston, South Carolina (right), enacted a local ordinance designating an "Old and Historic District" administered by a Board of Architectural Review. This early ordinance said that no changes could be made to exterior architectural features that were subject to view from a public street or way.
Following a 1936 amendment to the Louisiana Constitution, the Vieux Carre Commission was created in 1937 to protect and preserve the French Quarter in New Orleans (top). The City passed a local ordinance that set standards to regulate changes there.
In 1939, San Antonio, Texas adopted an ordinance to protect La Villita,
the original Mexican village marketplace (bottom,
right). In 1950 the U.S. Congress enacted legislation to protect
the Georgetown neighborhood in Washington, D.C. (bottom,
left). By 1965, 51 communities nationwide had enacted preservation
Today, some 60 years later, over 2,300 U.S. communities have adopted
preservation ordinances and the list is growing. These are just a few
of the earliest models for local protection of historic areas. They represent
those pioneering preservationists who led the movement that is now mainstream.