Historic Preservation Legislation in Wisconsin by ert634


									Historic Preservation Legislation
in Wisconsin

State of Wisconsin
Legislative Reference Bureau
Informational Bulletin 96–2, February 1996
                                                                   TABLE OF CONTENTS

SUMMARY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

I.        INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

II.       THE NATIONAL AND STATE REGISTERS OF HISTORIC PLACES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

III.      TAX PROVISIONS FOR HISTORIC PROPERTIES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

IV.       STATE HISTORIC BUILDING CODE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

V.        MAIN STREET PROGRAM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

VI.       1993 WISCONSIN ACT 471 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8


VIII. OTHER RECENT HISTORIC PRESERVATION LEGISLATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

IX.       SOURCES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16


                          IN WISCONSIN

           This bulletin discusses Wisconsin’s commitment to historic preservation in
       the context of evolving views of the importance of preservation and its contribu-
       tion to local economic development. It reviews Wisconsin’s programs, describes
       state legislation enacted in the 1980s and 1990s, and provides examples of urban
       and rural preservation. The recent controversy about 1993 Wisconsin Act 471,
       which required certain local governments to enact preservation ordinances in
       1995, is discussed.


    Historic preservation conserves old buildings and helps people to understand their past,
but it also promotes today’s quality of life through aesthetic, cultural, educational, and eco-
nomic benefits to the community. Conservation of existing buildings and neighborhoods may
help counter the disinvestment, decline, and socioeconomic problems of older urban and rural
     An older definition of historic preservation focused on restoring a building to its
“historic” condition and preserving it in a museum-like state, but the current broader view
sees historic preservation as a living concept. It represents a shift from simply saving notable
buildings where famous people lived or important events occurred to recognizing and pro-
tecting the character of entire communities and neighborhoods. In the latter perspective, some
structures may be kept in good condition and in continuous use for their original purposes,
while other buildings, no longer useful in their original functions, may be adapted to new uses
and yet maintain evidence of their historic fabric. Some buildings may be preserved because
of their individual architectural significance, while others are important as part of an historic
    The Wisconsin Legislature endorsed this view of historic preservation in 1987 Wisconsin
Act 395. The legislative findings section of that act stated, in part:
       The historical and cultural foundations of this state should be preserved as a
       living part of its community life and development . . . to give a sense of
       orientation to Wisconsin residents. . . . Increased knowledge of historic
       resources, the establishment of better means of identifying and administering
       them and the encouragement of their preservation will improve the planning of
       governmentally assisted projects and will assist economic growth and

Prepared by Robert A. Paolino, Research Analyst
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     Support for Preservation. Policies aimed at preserving local heritage can enhance the
quality of life and serve as an economic development tool to revive declining areas by promot-
ing public and private reinvestment and owner-occupied housing. Preservation and rehabi-
litation of structurally sound buildings may be a more effective investment than more costly
new construction and may conserve resources.
     In the short term, the local economy is stimulated by purchases of supplies and materials
used in rehabilitation and the creation of construction jobs (especially because rehabilitation
projects are generally more labor-intensive than other types of construction). Over a longer
period, the community benefits from stable neighborhoods and higher property values be-
cause people are more willing to buy houses in otherwise risky areas if they know that regula-
tions in the historic district will provide an assurance of stability to protect their investments.
Without historic preservation regulation, current or prospective property owners may be hesi-
tant to invest in the neighborhood because of the possibility that other owners will not rehabil-
itate and maintain their properties. Historic preservation regulation also provides some as-
surance that “appropriate” restoration and rehabilitation efforts will maintain the historic
character of the structures and prevent well-intentioned, but inappropriate, remodelling or
alterations that decrease the value of a particular property or surrounding properties.
     In commercial districts, preservation both enhances existing businesses and encourages
the creation of new ones as the area becomes a desirable center for shopping, dining and enter-
tainment. In some cases, revitalized businesses may serve the local population; in others, the
renovated commercial district may be attractive to tourists. Preservation does not, however,
apply only to urban areas. Indeed, historic resources can be found in all parts of Wisconsin.
Many rural communities and smaller cities are taking advantage of their history to promote
tourism and/or the local economy. Historic preservation activities have attracted businesses
and residents back into empty storefronts and previously deteriorating neighborhoods.
    Controversy About Preservation. Historic preservation can become a controversial is-
sue. In some cases, the costs of historic preservation may be too high, opponents contend.
They may agree there are instances where older buildings are still structurally sound and re-
habilitation for new uses may be less expensive than new construction but, they counter, when
the structural integrity of an historic building is questionable, many owners would prefer to
demolish and rebuild.
     A recent controversy in La Crosse regarding the former Michel Brewery building illus-
trates this point. Built in 1905, the brewery is the last surviving Romanesque Revival indus-
trial building in that city. The La Crosse Tribune reported on October 5, 1995, that the current
owner, an automobile dealership that bought the building in February 1995, eventually
wanted to demolish it to make room for an expanded car display lot. (The building is currently
used for storage and retail purposes.)
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Jeffris Flats, Janesville. This pair of identical apartment buildings was vacated and allowed to deteriorate. After reha-
bilitation and restoration in 1993, the buildings are now used as a home for battered women. The vestibule on the front
entrance was removed and the original exterior staircase design was rebuilt. The two buildings are linked by a street-level
passageway that provides disability access. One unit has been converted for use as a day-care center to serve the residents.

    The owner challenged the historic designation under the city’s new historic preservation
ordinance, and the La Crosse Common Council voted to rescind the designation. Local resi-
dents had presented a petition with about 1,000 signatures in favor of preserving the brewery.
A contractor, hired by the owner, estimated that restoring the building’s structural integrity
and additional rehabilitation would cost $1.5-$2 million. Conversion to warehouse space,
which some said would be the most likely use for the building, would require additional
work. This example illustrates that there are costs as well as benefits to historic preservation,
which may require tough choices.


    Both the federal and state governments have created systems for registering and protect-
ing historic properties. The National Park Service is responsible for the National Register of
Historic Places, which was established by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The
register covers places of national, state, and local significance, including more than 1,400 sites
in Wisconsin.
    The Wisconsin State Register of Historic Places was created by 1987 Wisconsin Act 395,
effective January 1, 1989. According to the legislative findings included in the text of the act,
the preservation programs then in place were inadequate “[i]n the face of ever-increasing ex-
tensions of urban centers, highways and residential, commercial and industrial develop-
ments.” The legislature found a need for the state to encourage state agencies, local govern-
ments and private individuals to expand historic preservation activities to preserve “[t]he
historical and cultural foundations of this state . . . [and] ensure future generations a genuine
opportunity to appreciate and enjoy the rich heritage of this state.”
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    The state register lists “districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects which are signifi-
cant in national, state, or local history, architecture, archaeology, engineering and culture”
(Section 44.36, Wisconsin Statutes). Nominations for the state register are reviewed by the
Historic Preservation Review Board, and to be eligible for the list a resource must meet at least
one of the five statutory criteria:
     1) Association with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns
        of history.
     2) Association with the lives of persons significant in the past.
     3) Embodiment of the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of
        construction or that represent the work of a master or that possess high artistic values.
     4) Representation of a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack
        individual distinction.
     5) Yielding, or likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.
     In addition to creating the state register, 1987 Wisconsin Act 395 contained provisions for
reviewing the state’s long-range building plans with respect to the historic properties under
state control. It established regulations for field archaeology on sites owned by political subdi-
visions and for local designation of historic places. It also created historic structure rehabilita-
tion tax credits. The legislature also adopted a provision that would have established review
of state agency decisions by the State Historical Society, but Governor Tommy Thompson ve-
toed that portion of the bill.

     The State of Wisconsin recognizes the importance of historic preservation through its tax
laws by offering both property tax exemptions for historic properties and income tax credits
for rehabilitation expenditures.
    Property Tax Exemption. Historic property is exempt from property tax under Section
70.11(34), Wisconsin Statutes. To qualify for the exemption, an historic property must be real
property that meets all of the following qualifications. It must be:
    1) Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Wisconsin or the State Register of
       Historic Places.
    2) A public building, as defined in s. 101.01 (2) (g). (Renumbered to s. 101.01 (12), effective
       July 1, 1996.)
    3) Owned or leased by an organization that is exempt from taxation under Section 501 of
       the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, as amended to December 31, 1986.
    4) Used for civic, governmental, cultural or educational purposes.
    5) Subject to an easement, covenant or similar restriction running with the land that is
       held by or approved by the State Historical Society (or by an entity approved by the
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        society) that protects the historic features of the property and that will remain effective
        for at least 20 years after January 1, 1989.
      Income Tax Credits for Income-Producing Property. The federal government offers a
20% investment tax credit for rehabilitation of income-producing buildings listed (or eligible
for listing) on the national register, provided that the work complies with the standards for
rehabilitation established by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. A property owner may apply
for the credit even after work has begun. (A 10% federal credit is available for income-produc-
ing buildings built before 1936 but not listed on the national register.)
      The Wisconsin supplement to the federal historic rehabilitation credit, as specified in Sec-
tions 71.07(9m), 71.28(6) and 71.47(6), Wisconsin Statutes, provides an additional 5% invest-
ment tax credit against state individual and corporate income tax liability, up to the amount
of the taxes otherwise due, to owners of income-producing property who qualify for the feder-
al credit. Unlike the federal credit, however, the state supplement requires application before
work begins.
      Income Tax Credits for Personal Residence. The state historic rehabilitation credit, estab-
lished in Section 71.07(9r), Wisconsin Statutes, is a credit of 25% of the costs of preservation
or rehabilitation of historic property, not to exceed $10,000, or $5,000 for married persons filing
separately. Unlike the federal and state investment tax credits for income-producing property,
the state historic rehabilitation credit is for owner-occupied personal residences not actively
used in a trade or business, and a taxpayer may not claim both credits for the same rehabilita-
tion expenses. Costs applicable to the rehabilitation credit may include architectural fees and
costs incurred in preparing nomination forms for listing in the National Register of Historic
Places in Wisconsin or the State Register of Historic Places, if the nomination is made within
five years prior to submission of a preservation or rehabilitation plan. Expenditures for pres-
ervation or rehabilitation must exceed $10,000, and the costs may not include the acquisition
of any building or interest in a building.
      Credits under both state programs must be prorated and repaid if the property is sold
within five years or if the State Historical Society certifies to the Department of Revenue that
the historic property has been altered to the extent that it does not comply with standards. The
federal credit contains a similar repayment provision.


      Section 101.121, Wisconsin Statutes, provides for an alternative building code in the case
of preservation or restoration of historic buildings. The Department of Industry, Labor and
Human Relations is allowed to promulgate alternative rules that accomplish the same general
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purpose as rules that apply to other structures. The alternative standards are intended to al-
low for the use of original materials or duplicates of original materials, maintenance of the
original appearance of all components of an historic building and the use of original construc-
tion techniques. The law also promotes proper and cost-effective restoration by giving the de-
partment the flexibility to grant variances to either the regular or the alternative rules if the
property owner can show that the proposed variance accomplishes the same purpose.
     Except in the case of hospitals, nursing homes or other health care facilities, an owner of
a qualified historic building who elects to be subject to the historic building code is exempt
from the provisions of any other building code (including county or municipal codes) if the
local provision concerns a matter dealt with in the state’s historic building code.

      Old City Hall, Merrill. Built in 1888-89, the Merrill City Hall was altered significantly in various remodelling
efforts, and a number of the original interior and exterior features were obscured or destroyed. The building was vacated
when the city government moved to a new building in 1977. After being abandoned for over a decade, the historic structure
was renovated by a private owner as apartments. During the rehabilitation, the doors were reconstructed to original design;
vestibules added during previous remodelling were removed; and exterior stairs rebuilt. The building is now listed on the
National Register of Historic Places.
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     Economic activity in small-city downtowns declined during the 1960s and 1970s, and
even earlier, as commercial development increasingly focused on shopping malls in outlying
areas. Downtown businesses sometimes responded by trying to modernize their properties
to compete with suburban malls, but covering up architectural details on storefronts with met-
al siding and fake facades and demolishing historically significant structures seemed to accel-
erate decline.
     In response, the National Trust for Historic Preservation initiated the Main Street Project
as a pilot program in 1977 to develop a strategy for local economic development and historic
preservation. In 1980, the National Trust created the National Main Street Center, which helps
communities preserve historic commercial buildings as an economic resource and a source of
community pride in downtown districts. Through information, advocacy, research, and train-
ing and technical assistance, the Main Street program focuses on a four-part strategy incorpo-
     1) Design elements to enhance the physical appearance of historic commercial districts;
     2) Cooperation of community groups and individuals to revitalize the local economy;
     3) Promotion of the commercial district to customers, businesses, potential investors, lo-
        cal citizens, and visitors; and
     4) Economic restructuring to strengthen and expand the economic base, improve sales
        and create new jobs. Nationally, the Main Street program involves over 1,100 commu-
        nities in more than 40 states.
    The Division of Community Development in the Wisconsin Department of Development
administers the Wisconsin Main Street program, which was created by 1987 Wisconsin Act
109, and 26 Wisconsin communities currently participate.* Municipalities apply for the pro-

    *Wisconsin’s Main Street communities and the year they were selected to participate in
the preservation program are listed below:
    Antigo (1989)                  Marshfield (1990)           Sheboygan Falls (1988)
    Beloit (1988)                  Mauston (1993)              Sharon (1994)
    Chippewa Falls (1989)          Mineral Point (1993)        Shawano (1990)
    Clintonville (1995)            Park Falls (1993)           Sparta (1990)
    Columbus (1992)                Phillips (1995)             Sturgeon Bay (1994)
    De Pere (1990)                 Rice Lake (1991)            Tigerton (1993)
    Dodgeville (1991)              Richland Center (1992)      Viroqua (1989)
    Eau Claire (1988)              Ripon (1988)                Wautoma (1993)
    Green Bay (1995)               River Falls (1988)
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gram, and the division may select as many as five each year. Each participating community
establishes a local program and hires a program manager to develop a revitalization strategy
in cooperation with businesses and other interested persons in the community. Main Street
communities selected after July 29, 1995, receive five years of free technical assistance from the
state; those chosen before that date received three. State assistance includes training of volun-
teers and local program managers, workshops, design consultations, informational materials
and on-site visits. Local program managers, in turn, aid individual businesses and coordinate
downtown promotions.
    The Department of Development estimates that during the first seven years, Wisconsin
Main Street communities gained more than 4,700 new jobs, over 900 new businesses, and
about 1,200 rehabilitation projects. The $140 million reinvested as a result of the program has
resulted in an average of $1 million in new investment each year in each of the communities,
most of which are small towns.
    In 1995, four Wisconsin Main Street communities received recognition from the national
Main Street Center. Sheboygan Falls was one of five communities in the United States, chosen
from a pool of 240 entrants in 42 states, to receive a Great American Main Street Award for
overall achievement in downtown revitalization. Since 1988, Sheboygan Falls has attracted
nearly $8 million in downtown reinvestment, including the conversion of an historic woolen
mill into 34 units of affordable, “market-rate” housing and transformation of other vacant
buildings into commercial space. The other three Wisconsin communities – Dodgeville,
Viroqua, and Chippewa Falls – were recognized in the national competition with honorable

VI.   1993 WISCONSIN ACT 471

    1993 Wisconsin Act 471 made historic preservation a required part of the local government
planning process by mandating that cities that have properties listed on the national or state
registers of historic places adopt an historic preservation ordinance by the end of 1995. Prior
law, enacted by Chapter 341, Laws of 1981, merely “encouraged” local governments to adopt
such ordinances. The original bill to require local ordinances included county governments,
but that provision was dropped in the substitute amendment that ultimately passed.
     Although Act 471 required certain municipalities to enact historic preservation ordi-
nances, it did not require that they meet the standards for certification by the State Historical
Society under the Certified Local Government Program. Participation in this decentralized
federal-state-local program provides certain benefits to a certified community, including eligi-
bility for federal Historic Preservation Fund subgrants and the option of applying the state’s
LRB–96–IB–2                                                                                                        – 9 –

500 Broadway Block, Sheboygan Falls. The Sheboygan Falls Main Street Economic Restructuring Committee found
investors to restore all three vacant commercial buildings in the 500 block. Two of them (pictured in “before” and “after”
views, left to right) were renovated by 1993 and house 10 new businesses. The third building, the J.W. Smith Building,
shown under reconstruction at the far right, is an anchor in the renovation of downtown Sheboygan Falls and has become
the logo of the statewide Main Street program. It was built in 1880 and originally housed a meat market and the
Sheboygan Falls Post Office. Acquired by Bemis Manufacturing in 1994, it has been restored as a showroom and outlet

Historic Building Code to locally designed historic structures. Section 44.44, Wisconsin
Statutes, specifies that four conditions must be met before the historical society certifies an his-
toric preservation ordinance. The ordinance may be certified if it:
    1) Contains criteria for the designation, on the register of a political subdivision, of histor-
       ic structures and historic districts which are substantially similar to the criteria for
       inclusion in the national register of historic places in Wisconsin.
    2) Provides a procedure for the designation of historic structures or historic districts
       which includes, at a minimum, a nomination process, public notice of nominations and
       an opportunity for written and oral public comment on nominations.
    3) Provides for the exercise of control by a political subdivision by ordinance, to achieve
       the purpose of preserving and rehabilitating historic structures and historic districts.
    4) Creates an historic preservation commission in the political subdivision.

     Act 471 was introduced as 1993 Senate Bill 47 by Senators Brian Burke and Brian Rude,
with 30 cosponsors, at the request of the Public Policy Committee of the Wisconsin Trust for
Historic Preservation. SB-47 originally required disclosure of historic status in real estate
transactions and provided penalties for unauthorized demolition of historic buildings, but
these provisions were not included in the senate substitute amendment adopted on February
15, 1994. The assembly concurred with the senate action by a vote of 95-3 on March 23, and
the governor signed the bill, with a partial veto, on May 4. The bill passed by the legislature
set January 1, 1995, as the deadline for the historic preservation ordinances. The governor
delayed that deadline for almost a full year by vetoing the words “January 1”.
    Other provisions of the law prohibit cleaning procedures that use abrasive materials or
high pressure water on the exterior of qualified historic buildings, except as permitted by ad-
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ministrative rule. Protection of historic buildings from damage extends to buildings that are
on either the state or national register or have been nominated for listing on either register.
Act 471 also applies to buildings included in an historic district that is listed or has been nomi-
nated for either register.
     The law expanded eligibility for the historic rehabilitation tax credit by including archi-
tectural fees and costs incurred in preparing nomination papers for the state or national regis-
ter of historic places.
    Recent Activity. The requirement for local ordinances took effect on December 31, 1995.
As of January 5, 1996, the State Historical Society estimated that of the 220 municipalities af-
fected by the law, far fewer than half have ordinances, and that number included the 45 that
already had them prior to Act 471. To date, at least 125 local governments have not complied
with the law, but many are in the process of developing ordinances.
     Local governments may enact historic preservation ordinances either through the exercise
of municipal police powers or as part of local zoning ordinances. Ordinances enacted to date
illustrate a considerable range of stringency, from stronger ones that require owners of listed
properties to obtain approval from a preservation commission before demolishing or making
major alterations to buildings to weaker ones that merely recommend appropriate alterations,
leaving the property owner free to act upon or ignore the advice. Other ordinances provide
for voluntary historic designations that allow owners of historic resources to decide whether
to have their buildings designated as historic.
    At least one village voted against passing an historic preservation ordinance. The
Menomonee Falls Village Board voted 4-2 to reject a proposed ordinance in December 1995.
Opponents said that an ordinance would place too many restrictions on property alterations.
They also expressed concerns about the potential cost of improvements if the work had to be
historically appropriate.
    Other communities have recognized that historic preservation can require significant in-
vestments and that public dollars may be needed to supplement private efforts. The City of
Brookfield is exploring the possibility of asking the Waukesha County Community Develop-
ment Block Grant office to set aside funds to be used as grants to assist individuals, groups,
and communities with historic preservation projects.
    Many property owners fear that they will be required to make investments they cannot
easily afford, even with the favorable building code and tax provisions provided by the state.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported on January 5, 1996, that Representative Gregg
Underheim (R-Oshkosh) is seeking sponsors on a bill he proposes to repeal the ordinance re-
quirement, because he views it as a mandate imposed upon property owners. As of February
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7, 1996, no bill has been introduced. Senator Rude, one of the coauthors of Act 471, was quoted
in the same article as saying that the law does not dictate how communities must deal with
historic properties and that the content of the required preservation ordinance remains a mat-
ter of local control.


   Milwaukee’s Brewers Hill and King Drive together form a 24-square-block district of
commercial and residential properties, located near downtown Milwaukee north of the for-
mer Schlitz brewery. This area was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984
and was designated a city landmark in 1985.
    Until the 1960s, King Drive was a vital commercial street, but it declined during the next
two decades as businesses abandoned the area. A number of buildings were demolished and
others left boarded up. Since then, the City of Milwaukee has acquired much of the property
and resold it to small developers who agree to rehabilitate the remaining buildings or
construct new buildings consistent with the architecture in the area.
    Brewers Hill itself is a residential area of single-family and two-family middle class
houses, built primarily between 1850 and 1910. The neighborhood suffered deterioration as
a result of disinvestment during the 1970s, but began to turn around in the 1980s as people
started investing and moving into the neighborhood again.
    The emphasis on the historic character of the district and controlling its appearance has
made it an attractive area in which even unrestored houses are in high demand and the few
vacant lots are being purchased for construction of upscale single-family houses. In addition,
affordable housing is being promoted through low-interest loans to renovate existing homes
and city financing to increase low-income rental opportunities by rehabilitating older houses
and building architecturally compatible rental units. Provision of housing for low-income
renters was a response to concerns that the district was becoming gentrified and long-time res-
idents were being forced to move because of increasing rents. The neighborhood considers
maintaining its post-war racial, ethnic, and economic diversity a priority. As one of the closest
residential areas to downtown, Brewers Hill is extremely important to central city develop-
ment. By creating middle class housing adjacent to downtown, the city hopes not only to add
to the tax base of the district itself but also to encourage additional private investment in
nearby depressed areas.
    Financing the improvements on King Drive and Brewers Hill has involved a combination
of public and private investment. Public aid has included a combination of federal, state and
local funding for acquisition and improvement of property. Federal assistance included
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grants and loans, the use of federal investment tax credits and Small Business Administration
funding. A tax incremental financing district and a business improvement district were
created under state law. The state also made the area more attractive for redevelopment when
it built a Department of Natural Resources regional office building on King Drive, rather than
at the suburban site originally selected. Whereas previous redevelopment strategies had
failed, the district is now successfully using the historic theme to take advantage of existing
buildings and the area’s past reputation to unify the community. The city’s strategy is not only
to create desirable housing and promote local businesses, it is also to preserve one of the city’s
oldest and most architecturally interesting neighborhoods.

1843 North 2nd Street, Milwaukee. These photos illustrate residential rehabilitation of an 1870s-era home in the
Brewers Hill neighborhood. The view at left shows the house in 1987 before restoration began. The photo at right was
taken in 1991 after many of the original design features were restored. Some trim and other features were rebuilt from
original materials, and others were replicated to match the original design, based on vintage photographs which identified
original architectural details.

   Cooksville is a well-preserved community settled by Yankees from New York State and
New England in the 1840s. The unicorporated village in the Town of Porter (Rock County)
LRB–96–IB–2                                                                                – 13 –

originated from the combination of two adjacent plats, Waucoma and Cooksville, on opposite
sides of a main street. Like a traditional New England town, Cooksville is built around a vil-
lage green. The homes are predominantly Greek Revival and Gothic Revival architecture,
built in the 1840s and 1850s, with either locally made vermillion bricks or post-and-beam
wood frame construction. In addition to the homes, the village has several farms, a church,
a community center, and the Cooksville general store, which has been in continuous operation
since 1846. Because of the architectural and historic importance of the community, most of
the village is designated as an historic district. The district was listed on the National Register
of Historic Places in 1973 and was enlarged in 1980.
     In 1978, the Town of Porter, the governing unit for the village, used its zoning powers to
create an historic conservation overlay district to provide special protection for all the proper-
ties within the Cooksville Historic District. The ordinance states:
       These regulations are intended to protect against destruction of or
       encroachment upon such areas, structures, or premises, to encourage uses which
       will lead to their continuance, conservation, and improvement in a manner
       appropriate to preservation of the cultural and historic heritage of the town, to
       prevent creation of environmental influences adverse to such purposes, to
       assure that new structures and uses within such districts will be in keeping with
       the character to be preserved and enhanced and thereby to protect and promote
       the general welfare by maintaining and increasing property values, and making
       the district a more attractive place in which to live.
Property owners must contact the Town of Porter Building Inspector to apply for approval of
any proposed construction, alteration, demolition, or changes in use of a property within the
historic district. All requests for building permits and conditional use permits are brought to
the Cooksville Historic District Committee, which reviews the plans, inspects the site and
makes a recommendation to the town planning and zoning committee as to the compatibility
of the proposal with the historic district. The planning and zoning committee votes on final
approval following a public hearing.
    Cooksville has been preserved as a small rural residential community, with most of the
structures (primarily residential) continuing in their original uses. Except for an annual house
tour to raise money for the Cooksville community center, Cooksville is not a destination for
tourism or shopping; it is simply a living example of Wisconsin’s heritage. In contrast, many
other rural communities in Wisconsin – for example those in the Main Street program – have
taken an interest in historic preservation as a local economic development tool and to encour-
age tourism.
    Dodgeville is one of the 26 Main Street communities in Wisconsin. It was initially settled
in 1827 by a group of lead miners and Henry Dodge, later Wisconsin’s first territorial gover-
nor. Other settlers of English, Irish, and Scottish origin from Missouri, Kentucky and else-
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where followed, along with Welsh and Cornish miners who immigrated directly from the
British Isles by the late 1840s. As the most easily extracted lead deposits diminished, some of
the miners moved on, but others stayed, either continuing in mining or taking up new occupa-
tions as farmers and merchants. Dodgeville succeeded in winning the county seat from
Mineral Point, and construction of Wisconsin’s oldest county courthouse still in continuous
use began in 1859.
     Today, Dodgeville is a predominantly agricultural community of about 4,000 people. Al-
though the city is not generally considered a tourism destination, its shops and restaurants do
attract some tourist business because of its proximity to a number of regional historic and rec-
reational attractions, including Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin, the Pendarvis state historic site
in Mineral Point, Governor Dodge State Park and various attractions in Galena, Illinois.
    Dodgeville’s Historic Preservation ordinance, enacted in 1992, requires a building owner
who proposes any changes to the exterior of a building in the historic district – including reno-
vation, rehabilitation, or painting – to obtain a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic
Preservation Commission. The city building inspector cannot issue a building permit without
the required certificate.
    The Dodgeville Revitalization Program, as the local Main Street program is named, can
provide a property owner with assistance in preparing the presentation for the historic pres-
ervation commission. The program, which works closely with the commission, provides free
assistance with design guidelines for owners who wish to improve their buildings and can
also assist owners in obtaining low-interest financing. The guidelines cover a number of dif-
ferent points, such as appropriate materials, colors, signs, lighting, awnings, relation to other
buildings, relation of the storefront to the upper portion of the building, and cleaning meth-
    In the first year of the program alone, 11 building facades were rehabilitated, some at rath-
er modest cost. One concern voiced by some property owners is that rehabilitation of historic
buildings can be a costly undertaking. The Dodgeville program encouraged owners to make
whatever changes they could reasonably afford, based on the idea that the cumulative effect
of many minor improvements in the district can have a greater impact on the appearance of
the area than a major rehabilitation project standing alone.
    Dodgeville’s downtown historic district has seen a great deal of restoration activity in a
relatively short period of time since adoption of the ordinance and has received state and na-
tional recognition for its efforts, including an honorable mention in the Great American Main
Street awards, placing in the top 20 out of 240 applicants. Local officials attribute Dodgeville’s
success to several factors. The program has been successful, in part, because many merchants
and other property owners had already taken an interest in preservation and the historic pres-
LRB–96–IB–2                                                                                – 15 –

ervation ordinance provided a framework to assure appropriate rehabilitation. In addition,
the Main Street program educated the community about the importance of a vital downtown,
assisted individual property owners with improvements that enhanced the overall appear-
ance and image of downtown, and promoted economic development in the district.


    1989 Wisconsin Act 237 created the state’s Heritage Tourism Program after Wisconsin
was selected by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to participate in a demonstration
program (along with Indiana, Tennessee, and Texas). Wisconsin’s pilot project areas are the
Frank Lloyd Wright Heritage Tour, the Lac du Flambeau Chippewa Reservation, the Fox and
Wisconsin Rivers Heritage Corridor, and Wisconsin Ethnic Settlement Trails, Inc.
     1991 Wisconsin Act 162 created a disclosure form for the sale of residences in which the
seller is required to disclose knowledge of various defects and other characteristics of the
property. One of the required disclosures is that the owner is aware that a structure on the
property is designated as an historic building or that the property is located in an historic dis-
     1991 Wisconsin Act 269 allows municipalities to create architectural conservancy districts
(Section 66.609, Wisconsin Statutes) and make special assessments on property owners within
the district. A proposed operating plan for the district will not take effect if the owners of 40%
of the valuation of the property in the district protest the proposed district or proposed operat-
ing plan. Moneys derived from the special assessments are placed in a segregated account to
be used solely for improvements within the district as set forth in the operating plan and im-
plemented by the architectural conservancy district board. A majority of the board members
must be owners of or occupy property in the district. A district may be terminated after one
year if the owners of 50% of the valuation in the district petition for termination.
    1993 Wisconsin Act 141 directs the Department of Regulation and Licensing to include
in the form for the offer to purchase commercial real property a statement that the seller
represents to the buyer that the seller has no notice or knowledge that the commercial real
property is an historic building. This provision was an attempt to alleviate problems buyers
may have previously encountered when they purchased historic buildings and were unaware
that proposed alterations are subject to review.
– 16 –                                                                             LRB–96–IB–2


Printed Sources
Cooksville Community Center, Inc., and Town of Porter. Cooksville Historic District. Town of
     Porter: Cooksville Community Center, Inc., 1988.
Dodgeville Historic Preservation Commission. Walking Tour of Historic Dodgeville, Wisconsin.
     Dodgeville: Dodgeville Historic Preservation Commission, August, 1995.
Dodgeville Revitalization Program. Design Guidelines: A guide to renovation and rehabilitation
     for the business district. Dodgeville: Dodgeville Revitalization Program, undated.
Hartung, Richard P., ed. Cooksville, a guide: Guidebook and maps for Cooksville & vicinity. 2d ed.
      Janesville: Rock County Historical Society, 1984.
Milwaukee Department of City Development. Historic Buildings Tour. Milwaukee: Depart-
     ment of City Development, March 1994.
––––––. Ethnic Commercial and Public Buildings Tour: The rich heritage of immigrant architecture.
       Milwaukee: Department of City Development, September 1994.
––––––. Ethnic Houses Tour: The rich heritage of immigrant architecture. Milwaukee: Department
      of City Development, August 1994.
New Jersey County and Municipal Government Study Commission. The Outlook for Historic
      Preservation in New Jersey. Trenton: State of New Jersey, July 1982. (906/N46)
New York State Legislature, Legislative Commission on Expenditure Review. Preservation of
     Historic Resources. Albany: The Legislature – State of New York, May 1985.
Roddewig, Richard J. “Historic Preservation and the Constitution: Dispelling the Thirteen
     Myths.” Historic Preservation Forum. Vol. 7 (July/August 1993).
––––––. Preparing a Historic Preservation Ordinance. American Planning Association, Planning
      Advisory Service, Report 374. Chicago: American Planning Association, February
South Carolina Department of Archives and History, State Historic Preservation Office.
      Preservation Tax Incentives for Historic Buildings. Columbia: Department of Archives and
      History, June 1991. (906/So8)

Note: Numbers in parentheses are catalog numbers for materials in the Dr. H. Rupert
      Theobald Legislative Library at the Legislative Reference Bureau. Readers are also re-
      ferred to the clippings filed in the library under Historical Societies (906/Z).
LRB–96–IB–2                                                                                   – 17 –

State Historical Society of Wisconsin. The National Register of Historic Places and the State Register
       of Historic Places in Wisconsin. Madison: The State Historical Society of Wisconsin, June
State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Division of Historic Preservation. Historic Preservation
       Commission Manual. Madison: The State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1992.
––––––. Historic Preservation in Wisconsin: A Manual for Communities. Madison: The State
      Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1995. (906/W7b)
––––––. Historic Preservation Ordinances in Wisconsin: Protection of Historic Properties by Local
      Governments. Madison: The State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1995.
––––––. A Model Historic Preservation Ordinance for Small Communities. Madison: The State
      Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1994.
––––––. Wisconsin Preservation. Vol. 20 (January/February 1996).
Washington State Senate, Ad Hoc Committee on Historic Preservation. Historic Preservation
      in the State of Washington. Olympia: Washington State Senate, January 1981. (906/W2)
Wisconsin Department of Development, Division of Community Development, Wisconsin
      Main Street Program. Various annual reports. Madison: Wisconsin Department of De-
––––––. Five Year Strategic Plan. Madison: Wisconsin Department of Development, July 1994.
––––––. Wisconsin Main Street News (newsletter). Various issues, 1992-1995. Madison:
      Wisconsin Department of Development. (State Documents: Dev/MainSt/w)
Wisconsin Department of Development, Division of Tourism. Wisconsin Heritage Tourism
      Program Evaluation. Madison: Wisconsin Department of Development, May 1993.
Wisconsin Legislative Council. New Laws Relating to the Preservation and Restoration of Historic
      Buildings (Chapter 341, Laws of 1981). Information Memorandum 82–12. May 10, 1982.
Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau. State Historical Society. Informational Paper #42. January
      1991. (906/W7f2)
Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation. Wisconsin’s Ten Most Endangered Historic Properties
      and Preservation Watch. Madison: Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation, 1995 and
– 18 –                                                                         LRB–96–IB–2

Workshops and Testimony
National Conference of State Legislatures, Arts and Tourism Committee. Panel discussions
      at the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Milwaukee,
Vollmert, Les, historic preservation officer, Milwaukee Department of City Development.
      Mobile workshop at the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legisla-
      tures. Milwaukee, 1995.
Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation. Testimony from Listening Session on Preservation
      Issues, Preservation Day 1996. Madison: February 1, 1996.
Personal Interviews
Alicia Goehring, bureau director, Wisconsin Department of Development, Division of Com-
       munity Development, Bureau of Downtown Development.
Brian McCormick, preservation architect, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Historic Pres-
      ervation Division.
Richard Mial, reporter, La Crosse Tribune.
Larry A. Reed, local preservation coordinator, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Historic
      Preservation Division.
Amy Yarcich, program manager, Dodgeville Revitalization Program.

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