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Historic naming procedures enshrined

Tuesday, October 31, 2017 by Elizabeth Pagano

Following up on a request from one historic home owner, the Historic Landmark Commission has filled a gap in their rules and officially established naming conventions for historic buildings.

Up until this point, according to Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky, historic buildings were named by him at the time of application for historic designation using the convention that the name would include the first owner and the most significant person or persons associated with it.

Following a unanimous vote, the commission will now follow the new rules established by its operations committee.

Those rules are divided into two sections. The first, for newly designated homes, stipulates that “The official name of record for a City of Austin Historic Landmark should reflect the historic association(s) of significance for which landmark status is sought, or the name of the property during the period of significance.”

The name of record doesn’t have to reflect the original owner of the home, or even the original name of the home itself. Instead, names should be associated with the period of significance that makes the home historic. If all else fails, and there is no other appropriate name, landmarks can be named with a descriptive title.

The rules also address cases where a historic association is discovered after a landmark is established. Significantly, it establishes a baseline for new names, saying “a new association for which a name change is proposed should have begun at least 50 years ago. A new association warranting a name change must also have a significant, documented link to the property,” though the new rules allow for exceptions to convention “for associations of exceptional importance that began less than 50 years ago.”

Commissioner Kevin Koch acknowledged that the new rules might be disappointing for Mo Olian, who at the Sept. 25 meeting of the commission requested to have his name added to the name of his house at 1600 Rio Grande St. He has maintained the home since 1974, and brought forward the application for historic zoning in 1989.

“I think it’s important to keep history in history,” Koch said. “And keep the naming within the realm of historic importance of the building.”

Photo by Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link.

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