Birmingham, AL

How To Register A Historical Home In Jefferson County, Alabama

Roxanne Hale

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=1wP1A2_0Z4zRRo400

Photo by Tommy Daspit of Historical Home in Irondale, Alabama

In my work as a realtor in Birmingham, Alabama, a common question I am asked is how to get a home registered with the Jefferson County Historical Commission. If you’ve driven around any of the older communities in Birmingham, you’ve probably seen these plaques or markers on houses that qualify.

The Historical Marker Program through the Jefferson County Historical Commission identifies houses, commercial and public buildings, churches, and sites of historic interest throughout Jefferson County. The marker signifies the year the property was built and typically bears the original owner's name or first long-term owner.

I recently went through the process of registering a home when I purchased a 120-year-old home in Irondale for renovation. I found the process of learning about this old farmhouse fascinating. The staff at both the Jefferson County Historical Commission and the Birmingham Public Library’s Archives were extremely friendly and helpful!

My first step was researching the history of the property. There are several great places to start. If you don’t already have the Parcel Identification Number (typically found in the tax records), you can visit the Library’s Business Department to obtain the property ID number.

Next, you’ll head down to the Library’s Archives and retrieve the Board of Equalization file on your property. I found all kinds of fascinating details in the file on my house, including an original photo. There were tax receipts and bills of sale for each time the home changed hands. This helped me determine both the original owner and the longest-term owner, which became important in establishing the home's name.

The Historical Commission reminds owners seeking a marker that the name and plaque are assigned to the building and not the owners; therefore, they do not allow the building to be named after the current owner (unless they are also the original owner or longest owner).

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Photo from the Birmingham Public Archives Board of Equalization Appraisal Files

There are many additional resources available should an owner need more historical details on their property. The Birmingham Historical Society’s “House Detective: A Guide to Researching Birmingham Buildings” is a great source. City Directories, available at the Birmingham Public Library’s Southern History Department, may also be useful in your search. Asking neighbors and previous occupants can reveal interesting facts too!

While the owner of the house I purchased was deceased, there were many neighbors and friends eager to fill me in on the life and history of its longest-owning occupant. She was born in the house and lived there until she died in her nineties. It was a magnificent home, and when her husband pressed her to sell it one day, she divorced him instead! According to her friends, she could be feisty!

Once I had completed my research, I was ready to fill out the forms and request a marker. The paperwork was easy to complete. I mailed it along with past and present photos, all supporting documentation, and a check for $125 made out to the Jefferson County Historical Commission. The Commission called me with a few questions they had from my notes, and we debated the best name and exact year for the marker. Eight weeks later, I had a plaque! The Howard-Hall-Jones House, circa 1901.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=3lrsxC_0Z4zRRo400

Photo by Tommy Daspit of Historical Home in Irondale, Alabama

Common Questions About Registering a Historical Home in Jefferson County:

What type of buildings qualify?

The building must exist in Jefferson County and retain most of its historic appearance. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, famous, or have even housed a famous person. It can be a commercial space or public building, a residence, a church, or a site of historical interest in the county. The Historical Commission is especially interested in marking buildings associated with the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, regardless of age.

How old does the home need to be?

The Commission follows the age criterion of the National Register of Historic Places. A building must be at least fifty years old to qualify. The markers are intended to indicate historic appearance and character and recognize the people, businesses, or organizations historically associated with it.

Do you get a tax break?

The marker is honorary and does not qualify the building for a tax break.

Can you change the home in any way?

The Historical Commission understands that buildings change over time. While it does not have to be in the same exact condition as when it was constructed, the building should retain some of its original shape, roofline, and exterior materials. Interior changes are not considered unless they significantly affect the general view of the house or detracts from its historic character.

The marker does not prevent an owner from changing the home in the future.

Summary

For me, the process of learning about my home was enjoyable and easy. I took a lot of pride in hanging the marker by the front door of the Howard-Hall-Jones House. If you own a home or property that qualifies, you should definitely get it registered!

Anyone interested in registering their home with the Jefferson County Historical Commission should start at www.jeffersonhistorical.org.

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Roxanne Hale, owner, and broker of Arthouse has spent over 20 years in the real estate business. Here you'll find a collection of stories about buying and selling real estate & home building advice, housing history, and architecture & design tips. Oh, and some fun personal stories every now and then!

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