Long before Walla Walla became a destination for wine lovers, it attracted those interested in history — Pacific Northwest history, to be specific.
And, in fact, many of the tourists who venture to the Valley now are interested in exploring the past. On Main Street, for example, is the site where, in 1878, the state’s first constitution was drafted in a room above what is now Falkenbergs Jewelers.
It only makes sense to offer even more incentive for history aficionados to visit.
On Friday, it was announced by city officials that Walla Walla gained a bit more fuel — as in cash — for its effort to make downtown an official National Historic District.
Of course, part of this process must be to reach out to downtown property owners to make sure they understand the ramifications of historic designation and then make sure a majority are in favor.
The city received a $17,000 grant from the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. That money will be used in the effort of establishing a historic district, which could yield potential investment downtown through tax incentives to property owners.
This is the third grant the city has received to help in the process. Previous work came in 2008 and 2017 for a survey of downtown’s historical buildings and then a more intensive examination of buildings.
A final nomination for the downtown historic district — the boundary will likely run along Rose Street to the north, Alder Street to the south, Third Avenue to the west and Palouse Street to the east — is expected by July 2020.
While downtown already feels historical, which is hardly a surprise since it was founded 32 years before Washington statehood in 1854, being listed as a National Historic District will give it some extra cachet.
According to the city, historic district recognition on a national register will result in technical assistance to property owners for support maintenance and rehabilitation and potential federal income tax credits of up to 20 percent of the value of qualified projects for property owners.
But — and we see this as being an important consideration — the buildings ultimately listed in the historic district do not have maintenance restrictions nor restrictions on alterations to the property. They are not required to be maintained to historical standards by government or private entities, unless income tax credits are sought, according to the city.
Still, it’s highly likely the bulk of property owners of historical building will see the benefit of maintaining the historic look and feel. It’s good for the value of their property.
And all this would give a nice boost to the pride those in the community already feel about this city’s historical contributions to growth of the Pacific Northwest.