About Historic Districts

An historic district is a contiguous grouping of buildings or sites that share thematic historical significance and periods of construction. Examples include residential areas, commercial districts and industrial complexes.

The city of New Haven currently has twenty-four historic districts: three which are locally designated; five which are listed on the State Register of Historic Places; and nineteen which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Many of these districts have all three levels of recognition, while others stand independent ally. Several of these districts have more than one historic designation, while others have only one.

Local Historic Districts

The State of Connecticut enables municipal governments to establish local historic districts to promote the educational, cultural, economic and general welfare of its citizens through the preservation and protection of buildings and places associated with a period or style of architecture that is locally or nationally significant. Two-thirds of the voting property owners must indicate their support before an area may be designated a local historic district.

Local Historic Districts differ from State and National Register Historic Districts in that local districts provide greater protection for the designated properties. Once a local historic district is established, an historic district commission is appointed to review and act upon applications from property owners who wish to make exterior architectural changes.

In accordance with state enabling legislation, the New Haven Board of Aldermen has established three local historic districts within the city: the City Point Historic District (2001), the Quinnipiac River Historic District (1977), and the Wooster Square Historic District (1970).

State Register Historic Districts

State Register Historic Districts are included in the State Register of Historic Places. These designations are administered by the State Historic Preservation Office of the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, and include local historic districts and historic districts approved for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, that are nominated by individuals, organizations or state and local governments. State Register Historic Districts may also be established by the Connecticut Historic Preservation Council, which bases its decisions on National Register criteria.

A listing in the State Register promotes historic preservation by:

  • lending support to local preservation efforts without restricting the rights of private owners in the use or development of their properties
  • providing for the review of historic properties in the early stages of state-funded or state-assisted activities
  • qualifying properties for Connecticut’s Historic Homes Rehabilitation Tax Credit program
  • qualifying properties for grants from Connecticut’s Historic Restoration Fund
  • providing special consideration for historic preservation under the provisions of the state building and fire codes, the state lead poisoning law, and the American with Disabilities Act

Five New Haven districts are exclusively listed in the State Register of Historic Places. These are the Elm Street Historic District (1986), Fairlawn-Nettleton Historic District (2005), the Redfield and West Streets Historic District (2005), the Suburban Westville Historic District (2003), and the Upper Davenport and Congress Avenues Historic District (2001).

National Register Historic Districts

National Register Historic Districts are included in the National Register of Historic Places, the nation’s roster of properties important in the pre-history, history, architectural history, engineering or culture of the United States and its people. The National Register is maintained by the National Park Service, and is expanded through nominations by individuals, organizations, state and local governments and federal agencies.
National Register criteria identify the range of resources and areas of importance that qualify districts for listing. The Register includes properties determined to have significance at the national, state and local levels. Besides meeting one or more of the National Register criteria, a district must also possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association in order to be eligible for designation. This means, in effect, that if a district has been seriously compromised by many unsympathetic alterations, it may not be eligible for the Register.
Listing on the National Register of Historic Places serves to

  • encourage the preservation of historic districts by documenting historic properties and supporting local preservation activities
  • provide for review of federally funded, licensed or sponsored projects which may affect historic properties
  • make owners of historic properties eligible to apply for available federal grants programs
  • encourage the rehabilitation of income-producing historic properties through federal and state tax incentives
  • provide protection from unreasonable destruction, pursuant to the provisions of Connecticut General Statutes, Section 22a-19s.

To date, nineteen historic districts in New Haven are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. They are the: Beaver Hills Historic District (1986), Chapel Street Historic District (1984), Dwight Street Historic District (1983), Edgewood Park Historic District (1986), Hillhouse Avenue Historic District (1985), Howard Avenue Historic District (1985), New Haven Green Historic District (1970), Ninth Square Historic District (1984), Orange Street Historic District (1985), Oyster Point Historic District (1989), Prospect Hill Historic District (1979), Quinnipiac River Historic District (1984), River Street Historic District (1989), Trowbridge Square Historic District (1985), Upper State Street Historic District (1984), Westville Village Historic District (2003; boundary increase 2006), Whitney Avenue Historic District (1989), Winchester Repeating Arms Company Historic District (1988), and Wooster Square Historic District (1971).