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Historic Register FAQs

What is the county historic register?

The Historic Register is an official list of places important to the history of Thurston County and worthy of recognition and preservation.

The Register was established in 1986 when the County Commissioners enacted a Historic Preservation Ordinance. A county-wide inventory of over 140 historic resources was completed in August 1985 and the County hopes to see many of the historic places identified in this inventory placed on the Historic Register.

Chapter 10 of the Thurston County Comprehensive Plan discusses identification, preservation, and protection of Thurston County's archaeological and historical resources.

Where can I find the current historic register?

Click here to view the current Thurston County historic register.

Historic Register Informational Brochure

What qualifies a property as "historic" for the historic register?

The County Historic Register recognizes properties that are at least 50 years old (or of lesser age if of exceptional importance), and which are important for one or more of the following reasons:

1) Historical Importance -- the property is: the site of an historic event with an effect upon society; identified with a person or group who had some influence on society; or exemplifies the cultural, social, religious, economic, political, aesthetic or engineering history of the county.

2) Architectural Importance -- the property is: (a) an individual building that embodies those distinguishing characteristics of an architectural type, period, style or method of design or construction; is the work of an architect or master builder whose individual work has influenced the development of the county; or (b) a group of buildings that may lack distinction individually but together are easily distinguished as a unit and characterize an earlier era, way of living, and construction of the built environment.

3) Archaeological Importance -- the property has yielded or may be likely to yield archaeological information important in pre-history or history.

4) Birthplaces, Graves , Cemeteries -- the property is: a birthplace or grave of a person of outstanding historical importance; or a cemetery significant because of its age, distinctive design features or association with historic events or cultural patterns.

What are the benefits of historic register placement?

Free Advice -- Preservation is encouraged by providing a process for the Historic Commission to review any proposed exterior changes to register properties, as well as relocation or demolition. The review is tied to building permit applications or other review processes applicable to the proposed work. It is to take no more than 30 days. COMPLIANCE WITH THE ADVICE OF THE HISTORIC COMMISSION IS VOLUNTARY, but if the building's historic character is destroyed, the building may be removed from the register.

Educational Program -- From time to time, the County will prepare public information programs on historic properties.

Property Tax Exemptions for Qualified Renovations

A state law enacted in 1985 provides a 10-year “special valuation” property tax exemption for renovations to historic properties on the local register. Such renovations must cost at least 25 percent of the building's value.  Click here for more information.

Building Code Relaxation -- Some relaxation of strict building code requirements is available to properties on the Thurston County Historic Register in the interest of preserving historic character, while still meeting safety requirements. This is discussed on a case-by-case basis with the Thurston County Building Official, located in the Development Services Department.

What is not affected by placement?    

Placement on the Register does not affect the use of the structure, require repairs or restoration and does not apply to interior alterations.

How is the advisory review conducted?

Whenever a building permit or other county approval is applied for on a Historic Register building, the Historic Commission is notified. They arrange a meeting to discuss the proposed project with the owner or person responsible for the project.

The Commission will review the proposed work for the following considerations:

1) For work on an individual historic property: effects of the proposed work in storing, changing, destroying or maintaining significant historic features of the property.

2) For construction of a new improvement or addition: compatibility of its exterior with the existing historic buildings and structures on the site.

3) In the case of work being done within a historic district: the effect of the work on the historic character of the district and how it compares to design standards adopted by the County for the district.

The Historic Commission does not expect that buildings remain exactly as they were when built, nor does it expect that buildings will be restored to their original condition. Contemporary designs for alterations and additions will be encouraged when they do not destroy historical material and when the design is compatible with the size, scale, material and character of the property and its environment. COMPLIANCE WITH THE ADVICE OF THE HISTORIC COMMISSION IS VOLUNTARY.

What is not reviewed?

1) Ordinary Repair and Maintenance

2) Emergency Repair

3) Painting

Where can I find applications?

Applications are available by clicking here.

Contact Us

Sonja Cady, Land Use Clerk. Phone: 360-867-2117. Fax: 360-754-2939. TTY/TDD call 711 or 1-800-833-6388  Email: sonja.cady@co.thurston.wa.us.  Address: Thurston County Historic Commission, 3000 Pacific Ave SE, Suite 100, Olympia, WA 98501.

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