Historic Preservation - Frequently Asked Questions

Preserving historic sites and properties helps ensure that we will not forget our past. Preservation saves precious resources in a time and location where sustainability is of tremendous importance. It adds character and flavor to our City, stylized as “The West’s Most Western Town.” An expression which harkens back to the days of the Wild West where fortunes were made or lost, where old legends were reborn or newly minted, where the stars were your GPS and a horse your best friend. Saving what we have not only helps us remember these simpler times but develops a real sense of community, enabling our citizens to make the most of themselves when a break can still be hard to find.

Historic property owners benefit the most from preservation, but these advantages can be felt throughout the entire community. Property values increase across the board and tax cuts are available for qualifying homeowners. Heritage tourism is one of the most popular forms of travel, ranking fourth among City of Scottsdale visitors that were surveyed. More revenue from tourists means more money for the community and local businesses. This enables improved public service at reduced costs for residents. The best part is that most don’t even have to do anything to preserve Scottsdale history. Largely, historic sites preserve themselves unless manually replaced. Not to say that there is no effort required, but nothing beyond regular maintenance, upkeep, and restoration rather than reconstruction, is necessary.

Our Historic Residential Exterior Rehabilitation Program offers assistance for homeowners in Historic Districts. Other helpful information can be found within the Resources section of this website.

No! A variety of categories qualify for historic recognition and these categories are not the same in every city. Historic preservation in Scottsdale is codified primarily under Zoning Ordinance Article VI of our City’s municipal Code of Ordinances. Sub-section 6.113 defines six categories of historic resources that can be preserved by the City. They are as follows (including a non-exhaustive list of examples):

Stores and homes
Petroglyphs and other archaeological resources
Canals or bridges
Sculptures, airplanes, or trees
A collection of related properties such as a residential neighborhood or commercial area
A district, site, building, structure, or object that meets all the criteria for designation as an historic resource. It must also possess exceptional significance in United States, Arizona, or Scottsdale history, archaeology, architecture, engineering, or culture. This determination is made by the City Council.

The short answer is that archaeology is defined as a historic resource in Sub-section 6.111 of Scottsdale Zoning Ordinance. Archaeology fits well within the category of historic preservation; being an area of research principally concentrated around the study of artifacts, architecture, and cultural remains. Each of these categories directly connects with history which can be either excavated or preserved. New archaeological sites can be discovered at any time. Don’t go walking around with a metal detector and a shovel as you’re more likely to discover pipes or cables, but we need proper recourse in the event a new discovery is uncovered. If this occurs, we work with the City Archaeologist, the Arizona State Museum, as well as other private organizations and interested citizens.

Please be respectful of any preserved archaeological sites or anything you discover independently. If you find something of interest your best course of action is to contact the City of Scottsdale Historic Preservation Office to avoid any accidental damage or legal issues.

Right here! Individual properties and neighborhoods are listed by the date of recognition on the Scottsdale Historic Register. In Scottsdale we have a variety of preserved sites. This list includes everything from schools, churches, cultural buildings, and retail shops. Archaeological sites are not included because this information is confidential to ensure the protection of these cultural resources.

There are separate processes for nominating a site for local or national recognition. Local preservation is appropriate for sites important to Scottsdale or Arizona history and National for those significant to United States history. Either type requires some work and research conducted by the owner when determining why your site is historically significant. Once prepared, you will meet with the Scottsdale Historic Preservation Officer to begin the designation process. This flowchart will help guide you through the process.

For national nomination, you will also want to begin with some research and by contacting our office. Requirements for national recognition can be found using this link.

To nominate a site for the Historic Property designation, please click here. Staff will contact you regarding your nomination.

There are numerous legal distinctions between local and nationally designated resources. Both have a similar review process but qualifying for the national register is generally more complex. The primary distinction is that for national designation your site needs to be of national significance, with local designation granted for sites important to Scottsdale and/or Arizona history. Further, each affords different economic benefits and protections. Economic benefits are generally greater for sites recognized nationally, but local recognition can provide protections that national recognition does not.

Determining what is or is not considered historic is largely subjective. However, sub-section 6.113 of Scottsdale municipal code offers definitions for sites which may be considered for designation. Here is a list of the most common types of sites which may be locally preserved:

  • The historic resource is associated with a significant historical event, OR
  • The historic resource is associated with significant people in our past, OR
  • The historic resource is the work of a master, possesses high artistic value or contains a special type of construction, OR
  • The historic resource yields, or is likely to yield, important information in prehistory (usually applies to archaeological sites), AND
  • The historic resource retains its integrity and has the physical features to convey its historical significance.

Guidelines for national designation are specific to each type of location, so cannot be as easily enumerated. If you are interested in pursuing national recognition, you will want to review the forms and content found on the National Register of Historic Places website here.

Historic recognition in no way affects the usage of your property. You can buy, sell, rent, and everything else you might want to do with your historic property. If you own a historic non-residential property, you are welcome to change the type of business and modify the interior as needed. For any historic property owner, we are generally only concerned with the exterior appearance of your property. How your property functions and appears internally is entirely to your liking.

Firstly, congratulations are in order! This is all good news.

If your home is in an historic district it means that at least 75% of the properties in your neighborhood maintained their historic character and were exemplars of their type at the time of designation. It means that your property value is statistically higher, by as much as 70%, than comparable homes in non-historic districts. You might also qualify for lower property taxes and/or for funding for exterior improvements. For a more in-depth explanation of these benefits you will want to review the pages on our site for historic property owners and for the exterior rehabilitation program (found on the this page or by using the search).

If the property has been owned by your family for any considerable amount of time you will want to start with family members. Look over any and all paperwork that accompanied the purchase or sale of any part of the property, the deed of sale often has useful information. Communicate with any previous owners if relevant and if you are able. Additionally, the City and State both provide numerous resources, and staff who are more than willing to help with your research.

Scottsdale Historic Preservation Office and Web Page

Scottsdale City Clerk’s Office and Web Page

Scottsdale City Hall

Our library itself has multiple possible solutions available for your research. The Library has a database which includes all manner of interesting historical documentation such as photos, text, news articles, maps, and more. Their professional librarians are trained to assist with research projects, themselves familiar with various places to start your research and groups you might consider connecting with. The Scottsdale Heritage Connection focuses on historic sources specifically. Even if you think the information that you found at the library was sufficient, Scottsdale Heritage resources might also be worth your time. The friends of the library might be able to directly connect you with other interested and knowledgeable individuals with professional experience in any one or more of several areas who work on a daily basis with the information you’re trying to use. Not to say the same details for the same locations, but the same type of information for various sources for numerous reasons. They might also help you find another interested party, or an expert that is knowledgeable about your property based either on the location, design, architect, or some other piece of information.

Scottsdale Civic Center Library

Scottsdale Heritage Connection

The Friends of the Scottsdale Public Library

No. Maintenance is generally minimal and in line with regular upkeep; special inspections are rare. As with ownership of any property there will be ordinary and routine maintenance that is necessary to retain the value of the property. Alterations and improvements to a historic property are guided by a Historic Preservation Plan which is created during the designation process, pursuant to Zoning Ordinance Section 6.119. The Historic Preservation Commission will approve the Historic Preservation Plan. Standards and design guidelines will be identified for upkeep of the historic character of the property. Your plan will detail any required maintenance or if any special inspections are necessary.

If your property is recognized on the National Register you will want to contact the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office to confirm any additional requirements before any alteration.

During the designation process the owner will create an Historic Preservation Plan pursuant to Zoning Ordinance Section 6.119. The Historic Preservation Commission will approve the Historic Preservation Plan. As part of each plan, standards and design guidelines will be identified for the preservation and maintenance of the historic character of the property. These standards and guidelines will be used by the Historic Preservation Office and the Historic Preservation Commission for any exterior alterations. The owner will receive either a “Certificate of No Effect” for an administrative approval or proceed on to the Historic Preservation Commission for a “Certificate of Appropriateness”, as determined during a meeting with Historic Preservation Office staff.

Alterations must be in keeping with the Historic Preservation Plan created when the historic site was designated. Your Historic Preservation Plan, described in greater detail in the two previous questions, can be appealed to the City Council by mailing the City Clerk within twenty days of the date of approval.

A Pre-Application Request must be submitted by the property owner for any proposed alteration, found here. You are welcome to submit as many of these Pre-Application requests as you like, and we will work with you to help accomplish your goals.

A request by the owner to demolish a building that has HP Historic Property zoning overlay will be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission per Zoning Ordinance Section 6.123. Once issued, a “Stay of Demolition” order may be granted, per Zoning Ordinance Section 6.124, which delays the issuance of a demolition permit for one year while a suitable and economical use is pursued. The owner may appeal a stay by the Historic Preservation Commission to City Council but must do so within twenty days of the Commission’s decision. If no suitable and economical use can be found after the stay has expired the owner may request a demolition permit.