On October 22, 2010, after years of work by neighborhood activists and historians, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior added the Irvington neighborhood to the National Register of Historic Places. This federal designation — with just over than 2,800 structures — made Irvington the largest historic district in Oregon, and one of the largest in the entire United States. The district is 98% residential structures, 1% commercial buildings and 1% other uses such as schools or churches. The Portland building boom following the 1905 Louis and Clark Centennial Exposition kicked off several decades of increased construction in Irvington with 14% of the district built in the 1900s, 25% in the 1910s, and 44% in the 1920s. As one might expect in the timber-oriented town that was early 20th century Portland, 70% of the structures have wood exteriors.
Irvington now benefits from important protections that encourage preserving the area’s character and livability for future generations.
The nomination for the historic district designation was supported and funded by the Irvington Community Association. A professional architectural historian oversaw the work. During a three-year process, hundreds of volunteers collected historical data, identified building characteristics, researched neighborhood history and documented the neighborhood with more than 9,000 photographs. To become a National Register Historic District in Oregon meant that the nomination for Irvington went through several reviews beginning with the Portland Historic Landmarks Commission and moved from there to Oregon's State Historic Preservation Office. Finally, the district nomination was accepted by the keeper of the National Register at the National Park Service.
What are the benefits of living in the Irvington Historic District?
- The character and quality of the Irvington Historic District is now federally protected. The City of Portland is the Certified Local Government overseeing this process.
- All across the country, National Register Historic Districts have typically led to more stable and often enhanced property values for owners as compared to areas directly outside the district..
- National Register Historic District designation influences the City's interpretation of zoning and building codes for maintaining and restoring properties within the district.
- National Register Historic District designation provides notice and protection from demolition of contributing structures.
- Historic districts, having fewer tear-downs, are environmentally friendly. It is often said the the "greenest" building is the one that is already built.
- Historic Resource Reviews insure compatibility of scale and massing for larger remodels and new infill construction.
- Compatibly scaled remodels are less likely to involve removal of mature trees.
- Cell phone companies tend to avoid building towers in historic districts rather than face the increased scrutiny of the historic overlay.
- The rules governing Portland's historic districts provide avenues for dialogue and for appeal with the City that are not available to areas without historic designation.
- Structures identified as contributing to the district's character may be eligible for the State of Oregon Special Assessment program which freezes the taxable value of your property for 10 years in return for a program of rehabilitation and major maintenance projects.
- Structures identified as contributing to the district’s character may be eligible for the State of Oregon Special Assessment program which freezes the taxable value of your property for 10 years in return for a program of rehabilitation and major maintenance projects.
- Income producing buildings, whether commercial or residential, in a historic district may also qualify for the Federal Tax Credit program.
How does living in a historic district affect property owners?
In order to preserve the historic character of the neighborhood, the City of Portland officially began regulating the Irvington Historic District on November 2, 2010. These regulations state that all new construction and most exterior alterations are subject to historic resource review.