Casper’s Downtown Headed For National Historic Register Listing
Putting central Casper on the Downtown National Register of Historic Places sounds good, but it means much more than that, a consultant said Monday.
"One of the main benefits is just a sense of place and a sense of community," Kerry Davis said after speaking to a group of civic and business leaders -- many of whom own property downtown -- at Casper City Hall.
"Those are tangible artifacts of Casper's history," said Davis, who owns Preservation Solutions LLC, in Boise, Idaho. "While modern buildings and new construction is necessary, it needs to happen and it happens all the time, it is important for us to keep a handle on where we've been so we know where we're going."
This marked the fourth and final meeting about the process to nominate central Casper to the Register.
Peggy Brooker of the Casper Historic Preservation Commission has been working with Davis toward the nomination and the hoped-for listing on the National Historic Register, which is overseen by the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Other Wyoming cities such as Sheridan have this recognition, Brooker said.
The work has been happening quietly for several years, with Davis and the Commission gathering information about more than 210 buildings. Some of those buildings, such as the Rialto Movie Palace, are already listed individually on the Register.
The Commission will meet with the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office for review on June 9, Brooker said. If the office approves the nomination, it will be sent to the National Historic Register office in mid-July. If all goes well, the city will have the designation probably by October, she said.
Davis said Casper has a lot going for it to make it on the Register.
Architectural styles downtown include late 19th and early 20th century designs, Classic Revival, Gothic Revival, Art Deco, and Mid-Century Modern, she said.
"You have a little bit of everything, first of all," Davis said. "There are things here that you see in a lot of communities nationwide. But what makes Casper unique, and being an outsider when I showed up, is the various economic booms and busts periods are very manifest in your built environment.
"So you can tell when there was money flowing in town because it was spent on the design and construction of buildings," she said. "You can definitely see that, and so that pattern is there. There are very few communities where I have seen that so well represented."
The designation will bestow an honor and an emotional community identity, and will bring some economic benefits to owners of properties that are considered historic, Davis said.
For historic buildings within districts in the National Register, there is a federal tax credit in the amount of 20 percent of rehabilitation expenditures. Buildings in historic districts that do not meet the qualifications as historic can receive a 10 percent tax credit, she said. Other benefits can include some tax deductions and grants, she said.
The listing will not affect zoning, does not need formal government approval, doesn't affect property taxes, nor decisions made by building owners, Davis said.
"The National Register listing is another tool in the tool kit of revitalization for downtowns," she said.