Alice Campbell Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Eighteen commercial buildings in Havre have been identified as immediately qualifying for the National Register of Historic Places. Kate Hampton with Montana Preservation Association said Tuesday night during a Tax Credit & Rehabilitation of Historic Buildings & Havre Downtown Survey Educational Session sponsored by the Havre/Hill County Historic Preservation Commission that eight more could be eligible with a "sensitive restoration or rehabilitation." Havre has an historic residential district that was established several years ago, preservation officer Becki Miller wrote in an e-mail. Because of the scattered nature of the buildings eligible in the downtown area, a district could not be established and instead will be a Multiple Properties Documentation. The listing of properties comes after a survey that identified historical themes in Havre create a Multiple Properties Documentation with a broad historic context to allow for future building additions and recommended buildings eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. There were several "no-brainers" and others that would require some rehabilitation, Hampton said. An inventory form for each identified property has been filed that lists things such as the materials used for construction, a survey report with historical context and recommendations for nomination, and the Multiple Properties Documentation have all been created from the survey. The Multiple Properties Documentation makes it easier to designate individual buildings instead of creating a district. The era from 1889-1959 was identified as the time period of historical interest. Therefore, buildings must have been built in That time to be eligible. Most buildings in Havre were built between 1904 and 1914 after a large-scale fire that destroyed much of downtown and during the railroad boom and homesteading Hampton said. Then, "before 1919 things really slow(ed) down," she said, adding that most buildings constructed during that time were associated with motor vehicles, natural gas and oil development or catastrophic events such as fires. After the end of the Depression and World War II, the style tended to be more modern, at least on lower-level store fronts, Hampton said. "They have an important story to tell." Buildings must be associated with the historic context written in the Multiple Properties Documentation Form and "retain sufficient integrity to convey that significance," Hampton said during her presentation. That integrity should encompass things such as location, setting, association, feeling, design, workmanship and materials, among other things. Buildings must also meet one or more of the following criteria: Be associated with historical events or the patterns of history in Havre; Be associated with a significant person locally or otherwise; Be architecturally significant or have significant engineering attributes; Have the potential to yield important research information, i. e. archaeologically significant information. "Listing of a building ... also affords it prestige that can enhance its value and raise community awareness and pride," an informational brochure on the registry said. The same brochure said that being listed on the registry does not affect what owners can do in terms of renovations, additions or selling unless they use tax credits from the federal government. Pete Brown, an historic architecture specialist with the State Historic Preservation Office, shared 10 rules for rehabilitating buildings on the registry with educational session attendees: A property must be used for its historic purpose or a new purpose that entails minimal change; A property's historic character must be "retained and preserved”; No changes can be made that inhibit recognition of a property as an accurate physical record of its place, time and use; Changes that have occurred to a property over time that hold significant historical value must be kept; A property's characterizing distinctive features, construction techniques, finishes or examples of craftsmanship must be preserved; A property's deteriorating historic features must be repaired if at all possible instead of replaced; Harsh treatments, such as sandblasting that can damage historic features are prohibited in favor of gentler methods; Archaeological resources on a property that might be affected by a rehabilitation project must be preserved if at all possible. If preservation can not take place, mitigation measures must; and new construction on a property must be differentiated from the old but must also be compatible with the historic features to protect the structure's historic integrity; New construction must take place in a way that allows for the building's integrity to remain intact. To qualify for federal tax cuts, property owners must pass the Substantial Rehab Test that stipulates what owners must pay for rehabilitation work: the cost of the building what was actually paid for it instead of market value plus the cost of capital improvements, minus depreciation and minus the cost of land what was paid for it instead of market value equals the amount owners must exceed on allowable expenses, or $5,000, whichever is greater, Brown said. Federal tax credits and cuts can total 20 percent and similar state tax incentives can total 5 percent even though a bill is in the Legislature that would increase that amount to 20 percent, Brown said. Rehabilitation projects create an average of 42 new mainly local jobs, with more than 50,400 jobs created nationally in 2004, a informational brochure on federal tax incentives said. Sean Holden, owner of Holden's Hot Wheels, bought the Bramble Building located at 422 1st St. that has been identified as a qualifying property. He hopes to move his business from its current location to the historic building, but will have to complete some renovations first. He's considering applying to be listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in order to be eligible for some of the tax cuts Brown talked about. "I have to see what the restrictions are" first, he said. Montana State University- Northern is hoping to take advantage of some of the tax benefits, said Judy Bricker who works with Alumni Affairs at the school. Brown addressed some of the issues the school is dealing with concerning Donaldson Hall, including funding for the project that was previously estimated to cost between $5 million and $6 million, Bricker said. "We're looking at all options right now, trying to meet a need for Northern," she said. Returning the building to its original use as a dorm is high on the list because of the possibilities it would afford the school in student retention and student life. She added. The school is also considering options to make the building energy-efficient while remaining within guidelines that would create optimal tax and grant benefits. "We'd love to be the first green dorm in Montana," Bricker said. "Donaldson Hall is eligible to be on the registry," Miller wrote and added that there are several other buildings on MSU-N's campus that might be eligible as well. To move forward with the downtown process, " ... one property must be nominated for the National Historic Registry to turn in with the MPD ... ," Miller wrote. The educational session was part of a project funded through a Montana Preservation Association grant that will also pay for the creation of an educational walking tour map and Web site if properties are listed on the registry. For more information on the project, call Havre/Hill County Historic Preservation Commission officer Becki Miller at (406) 376-3230, e-mail Kate Hampton at kate@preservemontana. Org or call Pete Brown at (406) 444-2696.