The Downtown Walla Walla Historic District nomination has gained state recognition and moved onto the next step of being listed to the National Register of Historic Places.
On Tuesday, June 29, the Washington State Advisory Council on Historic Preservation met to discuss adding certain Walla Walla buildings to the Washington Heritage Register and National Register.
In the unanimous vote that followed, the local historic district was approved to be added to the Washington Heritage Register and was recommended for listing to the National Register of Historic Places.
This journey began in 2020 with meetings to discuss the advantages of creating such a district.
Not only are the properties within a historic district eligible for extra tax credits, but individual business owners aren’t put through the process alone.
As proposed, the area in discussion roughly runs along Rose Street to the north, Alder Street to the south, Third Avenue to the west and Palouse Street to the east, according to city staff. It includes about 100 properties. Several known historic buildings, including the U.S. Post Office building and Whitehouse-Crawford building, are not included in the boundary but will not be adversely affected.
With a recommendation from the state, that listing can now be forwarded to the U.S. National Park Service. That agency will be able to submit final approval within the next couple of months. If approved, state officials will be notified the district is eligible for listing, be given a formal listing number and sign off on it.
State architectural historian Michael Houser again emphasized one of the major benefits of a listing in the National Register is the federal tax credit program.
“I know there’s a lot of projects happening in town, so one of the benefits of being on the National Register is folks can take advantage of a federal tax credit program to help with the rehabilitation of historic properties,” Houser said. “There’s a couple of properties in the works that are looking to take advantage of that, so they’re anxious to get it listed.”
Houser said another benefit to the National Register listing is the lack of any strict requirements to the listed properties.
“There’s no strings attached,” Houser said. “So there’s no requirements for additional level designers due; there’s actually no protection against demolition. It’s totally honorary.”
Architectural historian Diana Painter submitted the nomination for the Downtown Walla Walla Historical District and attended the June 29 meeting virtually. Painter has done the architectural consulting work for this nomination and has been working in the field for about 20 years.
She described how every state’s register nomination process is a little different, but comparatively Washington state’s process is somewhat brief. After recommendation from the ACHP, corrections from the public or state office are taken into consideration before being sent off to the National Register staff.
“They review it, and if they have any questions or comments they get back to the state preparer, which is what they call the person who wrote it,” said Painter. “But, usually by that time it’s pretty well-vetted and it just goes straight through.
They publish the nomination in the Federal Register, that’s a 45-day process, and then it’s usually approved.”