Historic district may expand in Jacksonville

By Jim McCabe on April 16 at 1:46pm

The JHS Bowl is among the areas proposed to be part of the expanded district.

Officials with the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission hope aldermen will vote to expand the city’s historic district later this month.

Two hearings were held last week regarding a proposal to add about 50 acres to the 370-acre district. Specifically, the expansion plan would add houses on Fairview Terrace, Pitner Place, Finley Street, Mound Avenue and the property surrounding and including the JHS Bowl.

Preservation Commission chairman Jim Nurse says the proposal is based on a 2010 survey- the first such survey conducted since 1970 when the district was originally set up- funded by the statewide historic preservation commission.

“Many houses turned 50 years old, and we had not considered them before. Plus, a lot of the homeowners have fixed up their homes, and they’ve changed from what we call ‘non-contributing’ to a ‘contributing’ house,” Nurse says. “So, wanted to recognize that and get that classification changed.”

The current district has national historic status. The hearings last week at the Jacksonville Municipal Building were legally required, and city council is expected to vote on the expansion at its April 28th meeting.

The Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council also must approve the National Register status, something Nurse says could be financially advantageous for homeowners.

“[If] they want to do some major work on their home, they can apply and get a tax freeze for some number of years. That helps them finance the project,” she says.

Nurse says there has been some opposition from homeowners, but not much.

“It’s something that we need to publicize and become more of a destination for people interested in coming to a historic town and seeing something,” he says.

“We in the commission don’t like to think of ourselves as a commission that reviews you, and we don’t let you do stuff. We’d rather be viewed as, if you want to do something to your house, come talk to us. We’ll help you where we can, bring in whatever resources we can to help you design something that is satisfying to them, what they want to do, and still maintains the house in its original historic structure,” continues Nurse.

The present district includes many architectural designs popular in Illinois from the mid-19th century to present. The proposed expanded district includes 95 residences.