Frequently Asked Questions About Historic Houses
Are there grants available for fixing up my old house?
Unfortunately, Indiana Landmarks can make grants only to nonprofits, and this is true of nearly all organizations that make grants. However, people who own and renovate historic commercial or residential properties may qualify for tax breaks. For more information about tax incentives for preservation, see our informational brief on Federal & State Incentives for Owners of Historic Buildings, or contact the Indiana Landmarks office nearest you.
Some cities and local development corporations make grants for the restoration of commercial building facades in historic downtowns and commercial areas.
Indiana Landmarks makes grants available to nonprofit organizations for professional architectural and engineering feasibility studies and other preservation consulting services, as well as organizational development and fundraising projects. With few exceptions, the grants may not be used for physical restoration work.
Can you tell me if my house is historic?
Generally, a property must be at least 50 years old to be considered historic. Outstanding properties may be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, the nation’s list of official landmarks.
To see if a property is listed, check:
Even if your house isn’t listed in the National Register, it may still be historic. Check to see if your house appears in the Indiana Historic Sites and Structures inventory.
How do I get my property listed in the National Register?
Anybody willing to undertake the research and fill out the nomination form can propose a structure for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The property must be considered outstanding from a historical and architectural perspective. The nomination form requires expertise to complete and process is lengthy, with approvals required on the state and federal level. Many people hire professionals to prepare the nomination.
On the federal level, the National Register falls under the administration of the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior, and on the state level by the Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology (DHPA) of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
I want to fix up my old house. Do I have to get permission from Indiana Landmarks?
Not unless we hold a protective covenant or preservation easement on your property. Contrary to what many people think, owners can modify their historic properties as they wish, even if they are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, unless they are using federal or state money to do it.
If you want to alter your property—and you are using private funds—you can do whatever you like. Any restrictions on what you can do to your property come from local or city ordinances, typically overseen by a historic preservation commission. If you live in a locally designated historic district, you should contact your local historic preservation commission for renovation guidelines and to learn about the approval process.
Indiana Landmarks holds covenants or easements on approximately 700 structures in Indiana. Exterior changes to those properties require our permission.
How do I find out if I live in a locally designated historic district?
Call your local government to find out if there is a local preservation commission. If so, the commission should be able to tell you if your home is in a locally designated historic district. You can also call the Indiana Landmarks office nearest you for guidance.
Can you refer me to contractors who work on historic properties?
Indiana Landmarks maintains a database of contractors who work on historic properties, and who have asked to be included on our list. However, caveat emptor! We do not pre-qualify or endorse these contractors. It is up to you to check references and decide if a contractor is right for you. To receive information from our contractor database, contact the director of our Library and Information Center, 800-450-4534, 317-639-4534, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where can I find out more about my historic property?
Indiana Landmarks’ Historic House Research Guide is a good place to start. It describes the process and sources useful in tracking down the history of a property. For additional resources, contact the director of our Library and Information Center, 800-450-4534, 317-639-4534, or email@example.com.
Where can I find DIY advice on fixing up my old house?
You can check out articles on a variety of DIY and home-repair topics right here! Written by our own renovation experts, these articles first appeared in South Bend Tribune:
- Repairing and Replacing Clapboard
- Exterior Paint and Weatherization
- Restoring Vintage Windows
- Uncovering the History of Your Old Home
- The Ins and Outs of Vintage Plumbing
- Heating & Cooling Your Old House
- Rewiring a Vintage Home
- Low-cost Energy Improvements
- ABCs of Insulation
- Plaster and Drywall Repair
- Updating Kitchens and Baths in Vintage Homes
- Refinishing Floors & Woodwork
- Renovating a Historic Porch
For more information on fixing up historic homes, we also recommend the following resources: