The Connecticut Freedom Trail documents and designates sites that embody the struggle toward freedom and human dignity, celebrate the accomplishments of the state’s African American community and promote heritage tourism. The Trail officially opened in September 1996, and as of fall 2010, there are more than 130 sites in more than 50 towns, and the Trail continues to grow. Currently, the Town of Greenwich has three sites that have placed on the Connecticut Freedom Trail and they are: Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church (organized June 15, 1882), 42 Lake Avenue; First Baptist Church of Greenwich (organized in 1897), 10 Northfield Street; Thomas Lyon House (c1695), 1 Byram Road.
Originally established by The Greenwich Historical Society as “Signs of the Times” in 1987 this program recognizes historically or architecturally significant buildings in Greenwich. Owners of eligible homes are invited to enroll in the program for a fee. The Historical Society conducts deed research, photographs the house and presents owners with a plaque. There are no restrictions or protections placed on the buildings in the program. As of 2016 there were over 300 buildings documented.
Town of Greenwich Planning and Zoning may grant Historic Overlay, either Historic Residential/Office Zone (HRO) or Historic Overlay Zone (HO), or Façade Easement status to properties in Greenwich. The designations allow for zoning bonuses in exchange for a property owner’s agreement to preserve and protect a significant historic or architectural asset. After designation, any application for alteration to the historic structure is referred to the Historic District Commission for a Certificate of Appropriateness.
A Local Historic District (LHD) is an area with clear boundaries enclosing a contiguous set of historically or architecturally significant structures that are related through proximity, ownership, history or use and that together tend to visually represent the community’s heritage.
The LHD is different from a National Register or State Register historic district in that it provides for the local review of any exterior work that is visible from a public street, place or way. Alterations to properties within the LHD are subject to review, regardless of the age or condition of the specific building or structure, by the Historic District Commission.
Local Historic Property (LHP) consists of a single building or site that represents important historical events, trends, architectural style, archaeology and culture of the town and state and is important to the community’s heritage.
The LHP is different from a National Register or State Register historic property in that it provides for the local review of any exterior work that is visible from a public street, place or way. Alterations to a LHP are subject to review by the Historic District Commission.
The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the nation’s buildings, sites, and structures that have a high degree of physical integrity and a documented level of historical or architectural significance. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and administered by the Department of the Interior through the National Park Service, the National Register of Historic Places is a national program to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archeological resources. There are currently more than 80,000 listings on the National Register of Historic Places, representing 1.4 million individual buildings sites, structures, objects, and districts.
Listing on the National Register of Historic Places entails no obligations on the part of private property owners. There are no restrictions on the use, treatment, transfer, or disposition of private property. The National Register does not require public access and does not automatically result in any local preservation designation.
Owners of National Register-listed properties may be eligible to apply for grants or tax credits through particular state and federal programs, subject to the availability of funding.
National Historic Landmarks are nationally significant historic places designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. Today, fewer than 2,500 historic places bear this highest distinction. Working with citizens throughout the nation, the National Historic Landmarks Program draws upon the expertise of National Park Service staff to nominate new landmarks and provide assistance to existing landmarks. The Town of Greenwich has only one National Historic Landmark and that is the Bush Holley House.
Rural and scenic roads are a valuable and essential part of Greenwich’s notable landscape. Designating roads, both state and local, has proven to be an effective method in preserving and protecting these vital byways from alterations that would change and diminish their appearance including widening, rerouting, destruction of stonewalls and bridges, and the removal of mature trees.The Town Scenic Highway Statute authorizes a town’s legislative body to adopt a scenic road ordinance to protect its town roads from improvements that would impair their scenic character. An ordinance would:
Currently, the Town of Greenwich has five recognized scenic roads:
The State Register of Historic Places is the State of Connecticut’s official listing of buildings, sites, structures, and objects that are important to the historical development of Connecticut. The State Register uses criteria for listing that are similar to those of the National Register of Historic Places, except that special-case considerations (such as a fifty-year age requirement) are not applicable.
Since 1975, more than 50,000 properties owned by private citizens, organizations, municipalities, and the State of Connecticut have been listed on the State Register.
The State of Connecticut’s Office of the Department of Economic and Community Development also maintains a historic resource survey and inventory program that identifies and documents historic, architectural, archaeological, and industrial resources. Collectively, these cultural resource surveys comprise the Statewide Historic Resource Inventory (SHRI), which is a useful tool for municipal officials, local planners, preservationists, property owners, and researchers.
The SHRI is a documentation project only. Research and documentation are conducted using public sources and rights-of-way. Inclusion of a property in the inventory does not place any restrictions on the ownership, use, or appearance of an historic building, site, structure, or object. Inventoried properties are not automatically listed on the State or National registers.
The Town of Greenwich Architectural and Historic Resource Inventory is a detailed record of historic buildings, sites, structures, and/or objects within a defined geographical area or multiple resources related to a theme throughout the Town of Greenwich. These documents are based on archival research, fieldwork, and photography. The Architectural and Historic Resource Inventory has been completed by a consultant who has met the Secretary of the Interior’s Professional Qualifications Standards as published in the Code of Federal Regulations, 36 CFR Part 61.
An historic overlay zone is an additional layer of regulations for a specific area that is laid over the underlying zoning regulations. The base zoning regulations continue to be administered, but the overlay adds another level of regulations to be considered. Historic Overlay Zoning is when historic district design review is established through a zoning ordinance rather than an independent process such as establishing a Local Historic District (LHD). This Historic Overlay tier is applied to an area considered worthy of preservation because of its architectural, cultural or historic significance.
In Greenwich the historic overlay or HO designation is “a tool used by the Planning and Zoning to encourage retention of notable structures by providing economic incentive through the easing of zoning restrictions in return for permanent deed restrictions including mandatory review of any changes to historic assets.” These individual properties are located outside the town’s three Local Historic Districts and can be designated as either a Historic Residential/Office Zone (HRO) or Historic Overlay Zone (HO). The overlay zone encourages the adaptive re-use of buildings and allows input from the Historic District Commission on appropriate changes. The greatest benefit is that upon completion of the work an easement is granted to the municipality and enforceable by the Historic District Commission.
Terry J. Tondro in “Connecticut Land Use Regulation” states that creating a historic overlay zone “can be a relatively adequate alternative forum for regulating the design and maintaining the character of older buildings and neighborhoods” when a Local Historic District can not be created. However he goes on to say that establishing a Local Historic District is the preferred mechanism in protecting Connecticut’s historic buildings. His concerns are two fold: 1- A Zoning Commission has many other factors to consider when making decisions and building preservation may get lost or ignored in the process; 2- A Zoning Commission has no authority to prevent the demolition of a building, whereas a Historic District Commission can exercise some control over the destruction of building.