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In 1990, the City of Portland adopted a historic preservation ordinance to recognize and preserve one of Portland’s major assets – its rich collection of historic architecture and landscapes. The ordinance protects approximately 1800 properties throughout the city, in neighborhoods as diverse as the Old Port, Stroudwater, Congress Street, the West End and Fort McKinley on Great Diamond Island.

The intent of the ordinance is not to prevent change, but, rather, to thoughtfully manage it, so that the unique character of these historic areas is retained. Designated properties are protected from demolition and proposed alterations or additions are reviewed to ensure compatibility with a property’s original design. New construction within designated historic districts is also reviewed to ensure a respectful relationship between new and old.

Today, the impact of the ordinance is clear: preserving historic resources stabilizes neighborhoods and makes economic sense. As walk or drive through any off Portland’s eight historic districts reveals exciting changes, as more and more old buildings are carefully rehabilitated according to historic preservation standards and compatible new buildings are absorbed into the mix.

In the Parkside neighborhood, for example, along streets once marked by deteriorated housing and absentee ownership there are now refurbished houses with owner occupants who take pride in their properties and their neighborhood. Along Commercial Street, exciting new architecture has taken its place beside restored 19th century warehouses, proving that new buildings can be both contemporary and compatible with historic structures. And throughout the City’s historic park system, master plans are being developed to insure that future improvements respect the parks’ original designs. All of these projects have been facilitated by the City’s historic preservation program.

The success of this important program depends on the support and cooperation of the owners of Portland’s historic properties. Before you undertake a project that will affect the exterior of your building or its surrounding lot, please read the information included on this website and call historic preservation staff in the Planning and Development Department to discuss your plans. They are prepared to assist you in finding practical and affordable solutions that meet both your needs and the ordinance requirements.

With your help, we can preserve Portland’s rich architectural legacy and authentic sense of place.