Historic District Information

A local historic district is an area of historic, cultural, or architectural significance that has been formally designated as such by City Council per Section 21-2 of the 2019 Detroit City Code.  An historic district may contain one building or multiple buildings, or may consist of a single site such as a cemetery.

Every local historic district in Detroit meets one or more of the following National Register of Historic Places Criteria for Evaluation:

        A. That are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or

        B. That are associated with the lives of persons significant in our past; or

        C. That embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or

        D. That have yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory of history.

Once a local historic district has been established, the city’s Historic District Commission (HDC) will review all building permit applications for exterior alterations to properties within the district. Building interiors are rarely designated. For more information on the HDC review process, please visit their webpage.

Local Designation Process

If you are thinking about requesting a local historic district, we ask that you first please provide a community forum for a brief presentation by HDAB staff.

The historic designation process is initiated when any person residing, doing business, or owning property in Detroit submits a request to City Council. The request should state the reason the designation is being sought and describe the significance of the proposed district with respect to at least one of the evaluation criteria.  It should also precisely describe the location of the proposed district by providing specific street addresses or by describing the proposed district’s boundaries. The request must be in the form of a letter addressed to:

        Detroit City Council
        c/o Detroit City Clerk
        200 Coleman A. Young Municipal Center
        Detroit, MI 48226

Please also send a copy of the request to:

        Historic Designation Advisory Board
        218 Coleman A. Young Municipal Center
        Detroit, MI 48226

The City Clerk will then assign a petition number to the request, and forward it to City Council. The petitioner will receive a postcard from the City Clerk, including the petition number, to confirm receipt of the request. A waiting period may then occur, as requests for designation are generally addressed by City Council in the order in which they are received.

The complete procedure for establishing new historic districts is described in Section 21-2-31 of the 2019 Detroit City Code.

Districts Under Study

For more information about local historic districts currently under study, please reach out to HDAB staff at [email protected]

  • Eastern Market
  • William E. Higginbotham School
  • Johnson Recreation Center and Joe Louis Playfield
  • Detroit City/Coleman A. Young International Airport

Established Local Historic Districts

The Historic Designation Advisory Board produces a final report for each proposed local historic district under study. Once a historic district is designated, the final reports continue to be valuable sources of information and include the historic significance and architectural description of each district. All final reports can be found online here. 

Please note that final reports were not produced for historic districts established prior to 1976. These include West Canfield, Orchestra Hall, Indian Village, St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, Detroit Cornice & Slate Building, and Boston-Edison.

Each historic district is enacted by an ordinance defining the legal boundaries and elements of design. This information can be requested from the City Clerk or found online here

For an interactive map of all local historic districts, please click here. 

Other Types of Historic Designation

Please note that these programs are not administered by the Historic Designation Advisory Board.

The National Register of Historic Places is the nation's list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. The National Register (NR) is a program of the National Park Service, an agency of the United States Department of the Interior, and includes all National Historic Landmarks (NHL). Neither NR nor NHL designations affect what private owners can do to their property unless they are utilizing federal historic tax credits or other sources of federal funding. In Michigan, the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), a division of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), administers the program.

The Michigan Historical Marker Program is administered by the Michigan History Center, a division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. These historical markers mark various historical sites across the state to educate the public about significant people, places and things in Michigan history.

 

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