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Local Landmarks | National Register | Forms

What is a Local Historic Landmark?

A local landmark is a house, office building, factory, bridge, or other structure deemed by the city to be historically significant and thus worthy of protection.

Historic significance can be based on the design of the building or the notability of its architect. It can also be based on the fame of one of its owners or occupants, or on the building’s role in a historic event. In addition, as a general rule, a structure should be at least fifty years old to be eligible for landmark status.

Why Seek Landmark Status?

The City of Joliet gives a landmarked building a bronze plaque denoting the building’s historic name and date of construction. The plaque should be affixed to the front façade of the structure, usually near the front door or entrance.

A landmarked building is given extra protection through a city ordinance. Before it can be altered or demolished, the Joliet Historic Preservation Commission must review and approve the plans for any such changes. When making changes to a building, any building that is not landmarked only needs a building permit; landmarked buildings need a building permit and a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission.

There can be are financial advantages for the owners of landmarked buildings, too. Property taxes can be frozen – meaning no increases – for ten years. Also, in some cases, Federal income tax credits for renovations are possible. Contact the Historic Preservation Commission for more details.

What Else is Involved in Having Landmark Status?

Landmarked structures need to obtain approval before they can be altered. Significant changes made to the front and possibly side facades may involve an administrative review by the Historic Preservation Commission Secretary, a process that can be done quickly. Major changes will probably require a certificate of appropriateness. Most landmark owners find these procedures coincide with their desires to maintain and enhance their historical properties. The Joliet Historic Preservation Commission can offer assistance in planning for the changes.

Again, do note that this extra approval only applies to exterior modifications that can be seen from the street. In other words, additions or alterations on the back, and any interior modifications, are not subject to Commission approval. Normal maintenance is not covered. Landmark status does not force a landmark owner into restoring the property. If the owner decides to make major changes subsequent to the landmark status, then the review and certificate of appropriateness procedures must be followed.

Of further interest is that although a landmark has some protection, its neighbors are not necessarily protected unless they, too, are landmarked. To preserve the character of an entire neighborhood or area, a local historic district can be formed. Contact the Historic Preservation Commission for details.

What Rules Exist for Altering Landmark Buildings?

The City of Joliet has an Historic Preservation Ordinance which was passed in 1990 and amended in 1991. This ordinance gives guidelines under which a landmark is nominated and details the process that must occur for landmark status to be granted. The Joliet Historic Preservation Commission recommends nomination to the Joliet City Council, who in turn, vote to approve all local landmarks.

The guidelines of the Joliet ordinance are based on a set of federal standards known as the Secretary of the Interior’s Guidelines. This assures that Joliet’s historic landmarks can meet acknowledged standards of historic preservation.

The guidelines for landmarked buildings are a little stricter than those for buildings in a local historic district. Joliet has a local historic district on the near west side, called the Upper Bluffs Local Historic District. The guidelines used for any proposed alterations within the District were prepared by the City with input from the residents of the District. Contact the Historic Preservation Commission for copies of both sets of guidelines.

Another type of landmark status is placement on the National Register of Historic Places, which is granted to very notable buildings and sites. National Register status, however, does not necessarily offer the protection that a local historic landmark can have.

How Can I Find Out More?

Contact the Secretary of the Historic Preservation Commission for landmark application forms and guidelines at 815-724-4050.

Call one of the Joliet Historic Preservation Commissioners to answer any questions and assist with the paperwork. Also, residents are welcome to attend any of the Commission’s regular meetings. They are held on the fourth Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. in the City Building, 150 West Jefferson Street.

The Joliet Public Library has a number of resources for exploring the history of a home or structure.