FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Is my property historic?
The City of Aspen Inventory of Historic Landmark Sites and Structures lists the individual landmarks with local historic status. Properties that are not on the Inventory, but are located in the Main Street Historic District or the Commercial Core Historic District also require review by the HPC to maintain the integrity of the Historic District. Please contact Amy Simon (970)429-2758 with any questions.
What makes a building historic?
Buildings, neighborhoods, and landscapes are sometimes thought of as being historic solely because they are old. Does that mean that all old places should be protected and preserved? The decision to protect historic places rests in the meaning they bring to our lives as places that define and mark our history. For example, a building may be historic because it was designed by a well- known architect or was the first county courthouse or is the place where a significant event occurred. A building may also be historic because it signifies patterns of community development, incorporates local materials and innovative methods in construction, or because it is typical of a significant era in a community’s history. There are many factors in determining what is historic, and these factors can differ on federal, state, and local levels.
The City of Aspen adopted the following designation criteria for historic properties:
26.415.030. Designation of historic properties.
The designation of properties to an official list, that is known as the Aspen Inventory of Historic Landmark Sites and Structures which is maintained by the City, is intended to provide a systematic public process to determine what buildings, areas and features of the historic built environment are of value to the community. Designation provides a means of deciding and communicating, in advance of specific issues or conflicts, what properties are in the public interest to protect.
Establishment of the Aspen Inventory of Historic Landmark Site and Structures. The Aspen Inventory of Historic Landmark Sites and Structures has been established by City Council to formally recognize those districts, buildings, structures, sites and objects located in Aspen that have special significance to the United States, Colorado or Aspen history, architecture, archaeology, engineering or culture. The location of properties listed on the inventory shall be indicated on maps on file in the Community Development Department.
1. Criteria. To be eligible for designation on the Aspen Inventory of Historic Landmark Sites and Structures as an example of Aspen Victorian, an individual building, site, structure or object or a collection of buildings, sites, structures or objects must have a demonstrated quality of significance. The quality of significance of properties shall be evaluated according to the criteria described below. When designating a historic district, the majority of the contributing resources in the district shall meet the criteria described below:
a. The property or district is deemed significant for its antiquity, in that it contains structures which can be documented as built during the 19th century, and
b. The property or district possesses an appropriate degree of integrity of location, setting, design, materials, workmanship and association, given its age. The City Council shall adopt and make available to the public score sheets and other devices which shall be used by the Council and Historic Preservation Commission to apply this criterion.
2. Criteria. To be eligible for designation on the Aspen Inventory of Historic Landmark Sites and Structures as an example of AspenModern, an individual building, site, structure or object or a collection of buildings, sites, structures or objects must have a demonstrated quality of significance. The quality of significance of properties shall be evaluated according to criteria described below. When designating a historic district, the majority of the contributing resources in the district must meet at least two of the criteria a-d, and criterion e described below:
a. The property is related to an event, pattern, or trend that has made a contribution to local, state, regional or national history that is deemed important, and the specific event, pattern or trend is identified and documented in an adopted context paper;
b. The property is related to people who have made a contribution to local, state, regional or national history that is deemed important, and the specific people are identified and documented in an adopted context paper;
c. The property represents a physical design that embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction, or represents the technical or aesthetic achievements of a recognized designer, craftsman, or design philosophy that is deemed important and the specific physical design, designer, or philosophy is documented in an adopted context paper;
d. The property possesses such singular significance to the City, as documented by the opinions of persons educated or experienced in the fields of history, architecture, landscape architecture, archaeology or a related field, that the property’s potential demolition or major alteration would substantially diminish the character and sense of place in the city as perceived by members of the community, and
e. The property or district possesses an appropriate degree of integrity of location, setting, design, materials, workmanship and association, given its age. The City Council shall adopt and make available to the public score sheets and other devices which shall be used by the Council and Historic Preservation Commission to apply this criterion.
The following sources may helpful:
Aspen Post WW II Architecture (link to videos, descriptions and time lines)
National Trust for Historic Preservation: How do I research the history of my home?
National Park Service, The National Register of Historic Places www.cr.nps.gov/nr/
Check out the following:
- About The Register
- Listing a Property: What Are The Criteria For Listing?
- How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation
Colorado Historical Society, Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation
Check out the following:
- Publication #1414: How to Nominate a Property to the Colorado State Register of Historic
Properties: Section IV Significance of the Property
- Publication #1501: Information on the National Register of Historic Places and the Colorado State register of Historic Properties
How do I find out more about the history of my building?
The Historic Preservation Office, located in City Hall, has architectural inventory forms, maps, photographs and other information available to the public. Please call Amy Guthrie (970) 429- 2758 or Sara Adams (970) 429 – 2778 to set up an appointment. Another great resource for local history is the Aspen Historical Society: http://aspenhistorysociety.com/ which has extensive archives containing a significantly larger collection of pictures and documents.
Will historic designation prevent me from changing my property?
Historic designation does not seek to freeze a building in time. The goal of the Historic Preservation Commission is to preserve character defining features of a significant property. The Commission uses adopted Historic Preservation Design Guidelines to inform new construction, development and restoration on historic properties.
There are four different levels of review for historic properties, which depend upon the scope of the proposed project: exempt, certificate of no negative effect, minor development, major development.
Can I replace my windows and doors?
Typically, HPC does not permit the replacement of historic windows and doors. There are many publications on energy efficiency and historic windows, so do not worry, we will find a solution that works for you!
The main source of energy loss in a building is through air infiltration. The primary cause of air infiltration is not leaky windows, which generally comprise a very small percentage of wall surface and consequently energy loss, but rather it is the fact that older buildings that have not been rehabilitated may lack sufficient insulation overall and/or effective air barriers.
The City of Aspen created and adopted an energy code in 1996. This code requires all construction activities to meet minimum requirements for energy efficiency. Applicants are able to include high energy consuming features in their projects (i.e. snow melted driveways) with the condition that the impact is balanced by other actions, such as high-quality insulation or the use of geothermal heat sources.
The program was developed with an exemption applied to the thermal envelope of a designated historic structure; however, new additions and a new foundation under the historic structure must comply with the Code. While additional insulation is not required to be retrofitted in the historic building itself, according to the Building Department, the majority of homeowners install insulation, air barriers and efficient mechanical equipment in the historic portion of their home for comfort. In this climate and economic environment, effective products such as foam insulation or high density blown in insulation are often used.
Of the historic building fabric that HPC typically requires to be retained, original windows and doors are the only elements that pose some energy efficiency challenges; however, the percentage of original windows and doors in historic structures in Aspen is minimal. Restoring and maintaining the few remaining original examples of these elements are vital to the integrity of architecture in Aspen. The City of Aspen Historic Preservation Design Guidelines clearly state that “windows are some of the most important character-defining features of most historic structures” and “distinct [window] designs help define many historic building styles.” The guidelines refer to the same level of significance for historic doors.
There are many options available to building owners that seek to improve historic windows and doors.
The National Park Service:
Preservation Brief #3 “Conserving Energy in Historic Buildings ”
Preservation Brief # 9 “Preserving Historic Wood Windows.”
Do I need approval to paint my house?
No. HPC does not review paint color on features that are already painted. If an architectural feature is not painted, HPC will review whether paint is an appropriate finish. For example, a brick building that is unpainted will need approval to paint the brick. A wooden building that is already painted does not require approval to paint.
Who is on HPC and when do they meet?
HPC is a volunteer board of Aspen citizens that typically meets twice a month.
How do I find a contractor to work on my historic home?
Contractors are required to take the historic preservation licensing exam before a permit will be issued to work on a historic landmark property. The City and County maintain a list of contractors with the hp license.
Can I move my house?
HPC reviews any proposed relocations of a historic house. Typically, an on-site relocation that respects the historic character of the property and the neighborhood is acceptable, but moving a building to a new site is not. Please download an application here.
Specific review criteria for relocation requests are listed in the Land Use Code:
26.415.090.C Standards for the relocation of designated properties. Relocation for a building, structure or object will be approved if it is determined that it meets any one of the following standards:
1. It is considered a noncontributing element of a historic district and its relocation will not
affect the character of the historic district; or
2. It does not contribute to the overall character of the historic district or parcel on which it is
located and its relocation will not have an adverse impact on the Historic District or property;
3. The owner has obtained a certificate of economic hardship; or
4. The relocation activity is demonstrated to be an acceptable preservation method given the
character and integrity of the building, structure or object and its move will not adversely
affect the integrity of the Historic District in which it was originally located or diminish the
historic, architectural or aesthetic relationships of adjacent designated properties; and
Additionally, for approval to relocate all of the following criteria must be met:
1. It has been determined that the building, structure or object is capable of withstanding the
physical impacts of relocation;
2. An appropriate receiving site has been identified; and
3. An acceptable plan has been submitted providing for the safe relocation, repair and
preservation of the building, structure or object including the provision of the necessary
How do I apply for tax credits?
Tax incentives are designed to promote restoration, rehabilitation, and preservation of historic structures.
A 20% reduction in the amount of income tax owed is available to owners of properties meeting specific criteria. In brief, the property must be income producing (i.e. owner occupied residential structures are not eligible) and listed or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, or a contributing building to a National Register District. Work must follow the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for rehabilitation, be approved by the State Historic Preservation Officer, the National Park Service, and the IRS.
A 10% reduction in the amount of income tax owed is available to owners of historic properties meeting less stringent criteria than the 20% tax credit. This 10% credit is available for properties that are not eligible for the National Register and are not considered contributing to a historic district. The building must be income producing, built before 1936, and reviewed by the IRS.
For details on Federal and State Programs, see:
Colorado Historical Society Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, Investment Tax Credit Program Information
Grants, Tax Credit and Other Assistance/ National Park Service Links to the Past
The State of Colorado offers a 20% reduction in the amount of state income tax owed by owners of historic properties engaged in preservation. Unlike the federal tax credit, these properties do not have to be income producing. The Community Development Department conducts the reviews of these credits and can provide application forms and additional guidance.
For details on eligibility, fees, and criteria, see:
Colorado Historic Preservation Income Tax Credit Information
application forms for state tax credits are found here: