Historic Preservation

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Historic Preservation

The City of Fort Madison is currently a Certified Local Government (CLG) and is proud of their active Historic Preservation Commission. This commission works with the local Main Street program to educate residents and property owners of the financial incentives available to them for the restoration of historic properties. Typically, funding options are only available to properties that are zoned for commercial use.

While there are certain grant opportunities with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and Main Street Iowa, the majority of financial incentives available to property owners consist of tax-related incentives such as tax freezes and credits.

As the downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Main Street supports the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. You may find these standards on the National Park Service website. This site is a great tool for those interested in learning more about the difference between preservation, restoration and rehabilitation as well.

Often, when working with historic structures, contractors and property owners seek guidance and professional help from those with historic preservation experience. We highly suggest reading the 47 different Preservation Briefs available, which are the leading technical guidelines in the industry, in addition to the Secretary of Interior Standards for Rehabilitation. Some of the topics for owners of residential and commercial properties include:

  • Re-pointing Mortar Joints in Historic Masonry Buildings
  • Repair of Historic Wooden Windows
  • Rehabilitating Historic Storefronts.

Downtown Design Guidelines

The Design Committee has partnered with the Historic Preservation to create downtown design guidelines which serve as a guide for recommendations on all future renovations that property owners of downtown buildings may undertake. At this stage, the document serves as a guide on how to retain the historic character of our built environment, while remaining sustainable and practical. There is currently no formal review process for the City of Fort Madison. However, if state or federal funding is used for renovations, typically the designs must adhere to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.

See our Design Guidelines Here.

Old Windows Matter!

Historic 2 Don't throw them out just yet! So often building owners fall into the habit of just buying new, when the old windows just a need a little TLC. There are tons of resources out there to help you determine if: your windows are salvagable; will be energy efficient (yes, that's right!); affordable; and Green! The National Trust for Historic Preservation has a great website that allows you to explore historic windows. Still a little skeptical? Then check out this study from the Center for Resource Conservation in Boulder, Colorado. Fort Madison Main Street has offered window workshops in the past, led by national preservation experts such as Bob Yapp. We have copies of the DVD available upon request, just ask!

Keep checking back to see if we have any upcoming workshops!

Historic 3Got lead paint?

Don't freak out! It's a relatively common issue and precautionary measures do not have to be complicated or expensive. If you are working with a building built before 1978 (and we know most of you are), you can almost be assured painted surfaces may contain lead. In addition, the soil surrounding the building and the dust within the building could test positive. Lead can be extremely harmful, especially when ingested. Children young enough to be chewing on painted surfaces or dust-contaminated objects are especially at risk. But that doesn't mean you must rip out all historic building fabric covered with lead paint. It also doesn't mean that it is impossible to rehabilitate and restore historic buildings in a lead-safe manner.

New regulations regarding working with lead paint went into effect in April 2010. In response to concerns about how the regulations will affect preservation work across the country, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has developed information on lead safety for preservationists. Their website includes information on the new regulations, FAQs, and links to other online guidance. Be sure also to review information at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Several years ago, the National Park Service prepared a preservation brief on lead-based paint in historic buildings. Although it is not updated with information on the recent regulations, it can assist you in reducing lead hazards in your historic building. Here in southeast Iowa and the Fort Madison area, we have contractors who are certified in lead safety and have preservation experience. Don't forget to ask your contractor for proof that they are certified in lead safety and know the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation.

Have historic material/items that you’d like to donate or get rid of?
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Click here to see the architectural terms that describe most of our downtown buildings.

If so, then consider donating them to Preservation Station! Preservation Station is a non-profit organization that salvages material (doors, windows, trim, appliances, tiles, lamp shades, hardware, etc.) from historic buildings. They are located in downtown Burlington (213 Valley Street), and they are a great resource for finding some great buys on original material that once adorned southeast Iowa's historic buildings! And remember, anything you donate is tax deductible! Here's the brochure.

If you ever have any questions about your historic property, please contact Main Street immediately!


We are a proud Preserve America community!

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Interested in Iowa historic preservation?
Consider becoming involved or joining
Preservation Iowa!

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