FAQ: Raleigh’s Black Heritage and Historic Places (1945-1975)


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Summary What is the project? What are the benefits of architectural surveys? Who is conducting the project? When will the project be complete? What are you going to do with the information? How is this project being funded? Why is this project happening? Why is the City spending money to learn about Raleigh’s Black heritage and historic places when Black history is not hidden history? Is this project only about the Biltmore Hills neighborhood? Why is the Biltmore Hills neighborhood included in this project? Why are you only conducting 10 oral histories? Who decides who will be interviewed for oral history and how will they decide? How many consultants responded to the RFP for this project? Were any of the consultants black or minority-owned? Will this project designate my property as historic? Will this project affect my property value? Will this project protect my neighborhood from gentrification? What kinds of historic designations are there? Who decides what buildings are considered significant, eligible, or historic? Does the City designate new historic properties without permission from the owner?

Summary

This project is to identify places of historic significance and does not include the historic designation process. The RHDC and the Planning and Development department play a role in helping make Raleigh a good place to live by encouraging the preservation of historic places that help to tell Raleigh’s full story. We are a small part of the city organization as a whole and just one tool of many public programs working to make Raleigh a place that is more inclusive of all its residents.

At the kickoff meeting for this study (May 2022) we heard a lot of great questions from community members. Below you will find the answers to those questions as well as others we have received.

What is the project?

  • This type of project is known as an architectural survey. This particular project helps the city document buildings and places that are important to Black history in Raleigh. This project focuses on the years 1945-1975 and seeks to find information on:
    • Places designed and/or built by Black architects/builders
    • Churches
    • Entertainment venues
    • Civil rights sites
    • Biltmore Hills
  • At the end of the project, a report will include brief descriptions of the buildings identified and if they are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

What are the benefits of architectural surveys?

  • Architectural surveys identify properties that are eligible for historic designation.
  • Owners of historic properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places, such as Rochester Heights, are eligible to apply for state rehabilitation tax credits through the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).
  • Local historic landmarks, such as the Lillie Stroud Rogers House in Raleigh’s Method community, are eligible for a 50% property tax deferral.

Who is conducting the project?

  • The City of Raleigh Planning and Development Department is conducting the project in partnership with the Raleigh Historic Development Commission (RHDC) and an independent consultant, Mary Ruffin Hanbury. The consultant has significant experience working with Raleigh’s Black communities and historic places. While this effort is led by the City of Raleigh, it is driven by community knowledge.

When will the project be complete? What are you going to do with the information?

  • The project will be completed by February 2023. The final research report will be made publicly available on the City’s website. The oral history recordings and transcripts will also be published when agreed to by the interviewee.

How is this project being funded?

  • This project is made possible with funding from the Historic Preservation Fund. The funding is administered through a program via the National Park Service and NC State Historic Preservation Office.

Why is this project happening?

  • Work Program Item: In 2021, the RHDC identified the research and promotion of Black history and significant historic places one of its top priorities. The City applied for and was awarded a grant from the National Park Service. This project was approved by City Council in 2021.
  • Policy: The City has a policy to maintain accurate inventories of eligible historic properties. This helps to ensure that existing buildings, neighborhoods and landscapes that define our cultural identity are not overlooked.
  • It’s Been a Long Time: The last time Raleigh completed an update to the city’s architectural survey to study Raleigh’s Black heritage and historic places was in the late 1980s to early 1990s. This resulted in the publication of Culture Town: Life in Raleigh’s African American Communities in 1993. Oral history recordings and transcripts from this project are available in the City of Raleigh Museum’s Online Collections Database.
  • Lack of Recognition: There are gaps in the types of historic places that are celebrated and protected. Of the 8 local historic districts and 177 local landmarks, only 2 districts and 38 landmarks are known to be significant exclusively for Black history. (A portion of the Moore Square Historic District is also significant for its inclusion of Raleigh’s historic Black Main Street along Hargett Street).

Why is the City spending money to learn about Raleigh’s Black heritage and historic places when Black history is not hidden history?

  • History doesn’t need to be hidden for this kind of project. The City’s Historic Preservation Planning group is tasked in part with learning more about Raleigh’s historic places and making that information readily available to the public. One of the main priorities is to have a more complete and inclusive history of the many different communities that make up the City of Raleigh. New things become historic every day and the City is continually trying to learn more and better fill in our knowledge gaps.
  • This particular project will not tell a comprehensive history of Black Raleigh but will locate additional existing buildings that may help tell the stories. Identifying historic properties makes them known more broadly. The City’s Comprehensive Plan has a historic preservation chapter that focuses on conserving older neighborhoods as well as preserving and protecting cultural and historic resources. Historic preservation is one tool of many public programs working to make Raleigh a place that is more inclusive of all its citizens.

Is this project only about the Biltmore Hills neighborhood?

  • No, the City is studying all of Raleigh as it existed within the 1975 city limits. Because that is such a big area to cover, we are guiding the project with certain research themes. This includes historic places designed and built by Black architects and builders, churches, entertainment venues, Civil Rights sites, and the Biltmore Hills neighborhood.

Why is the Biltmore Hills neighborhood included in this project?

  • Biltmore Hills was made an explicit part of the project scope because it is one of Raleigh’s oldest Black neighborhoods which is still largely intact today and has not been included in any previous city architectural surveys. The nearby Rochester Heights neighborhood, for example, was identified as historic during a previous project in 2006 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.

Why are you only conducting 10 oral histories?

  • Identifying historic places important to the community often relies more heavily on the local knowledge of elders and community leaders. In consultation with the grant funder, we chose to include up to 10 oral histories to supplement other traditional research methods, such as newspapers. The number was selected based on the available budget.

Who decides who will be interviewed for oral history and how will they decide?

  • The selection of people is determined by the willingness and availability of interviewees, the consultant, and city staff. Names have been provided by longtime residents of Raleigh, in addition to the consultant’s contacts from prior projects related to Black history, and Raleigh’s Office of Community Engagement. The final report will likely include a suggested list of other people to interview as a part of future projects.

How many consultants responded to the RFP for this project? Were any of the consultants black or minority-owned?

  • We received one response to the Request for Proposals (RFP) for this project, none of which were black or minority-owned firms. The consultant was selected in part because of her previous work in Raleigh on National Register designations for the Berry O’Kelly Historic District, John Chavis Memorial Park, St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, and St. Augustine’s College Campus.

Will this project designate my property as historic?

  • No, the project will identify potential historic properties and does not include any designation. If the owner of an identified property wishes to pursue historic designation in the future, a separate process is required with more in-depth research.

Will this project affect my property value?

  • This project will not directly affect property values, as its only purpose is to research and recommend places as eligible for historic designation. The project will not place any additional regulations on a property or provide financial benefits.

Will this project protect my neighborhood from gentrification?

  • No, but it is unlikely to accelerate the rate of gentrification in an area. This project is limited to the study and evaluation of the eligibility of properties and neighborhoods for National Register historic designation. Since it is limited to study and evaluation, it will not directly impact neighborhood change.

What kinds of historic designations are there?

  • National Register of Historic Places – This is a federal historic designation program run by the National Park Service. It is largely honorary in nature and comes with the ability for property owners to apply for historic tax credits for building rehabilitation projects. These designations may be historic districts or individual properties and do not add regulations. Projects using federal funds must consider these historic properties during project planning (Section 106).
  • Historic Overlay Districts – This historic designation is a form of local zoning and comes with additional regulatory requirements.
  • Raleigh Historic Landmark – This historic designation is placed on a property with a City Council-adopted ordinance. This is a form of local zoning and comes with additional regulatory requirements. It also comes with a possible 50% property tax deferral.

Who decides what buildings are considered significant, eligible, or historic?

  • The consultant is an architectural historian who makes an evaluation on what properties are likely eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The recommendation is forwarded to the state’s National Register Advisory Committee and then the National Park Service. The Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places makes the final decision.

Does the City designate new historic properties without permission from the owner?

  • Although City Council can designate a property as historic without the permission of the owner, it is a long-standing policy of the RHDC and City Council not to do so. To date, no property has been designated as a Raleigh Historic Landmark (RHL) without owner consent.
  • Local historic districts are a zoning overlay. City Council typically authorizes a rezoning application for historic district designation when a neighborhood demonstrates that it has majority support from property owners.

Contact

 

City of Raleigh
Planning and Development Department

Historic Preservation Unit
One Exchange Plaza, Suite 100
Raleigh, NC 27601
919-832-7238
Historicpreservation@raleighnc.gov

Department:
Planning and Development
Service Categories:
Historic Preservation
Board, Commission or Committee:
Raleigh Historic Development Commission

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