This is an image of a residence within the Holland Historic District, Michigan. Photo: Karen Padnos.
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Working on the Past in Local Historic Districts

Q. We just moved in to a local historic district with many wood frame houses from the late 19th and early 20th century. We have a 1970s utility shed in back of our historic house. The wood siding on it is rotting and needs to be replaced. We want to use a synthetic (concrete) siding. Do we need permission to change materials on the shed?

A. First, unless there is federal money involved, this would not be a federal decision. You will probably have to take your proposal to the local review board or historic preservation commission to get permission. The board weighs it against criteria in the preservation ordinance your city or county has adopted. Even though the review board may use the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards developed by the National Park Service, this is still a local project, not subject to federal review. Since the outbuilding is not historic and not visible from the public way, we would find your proposal acceptable, but your municipality may not. If the district has written a local design guideline, there may be specific information on the topic.