Utilize critical evaluation to identify and preserve Lexington’s historic assets, while minimizing unsubstantiated calls for preservation that can hinder the city’s future growth.
With any future development of Lexington, reverence and critical review of the city’s history is imperative. Through the utilization of existing preservation policies, specifically through the Division of Historic Preservation, and through partnership with organizations like the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Register of Historic Places, Lexington can protect, preserve, and enhance its stock of historic properties, which act as a bridge between present day and Lexington’s 243-year history.
While the preservation of Lexington’s historic properties is important, it is equally critical to distinguish between properties that contribute to the historical record, and those that are less significant historically. During the development process, the age of properties is frequently utilized as a guideline for preservation in opposition to new construction. However, the 50-year test, which is often referred to as the test of longevity, must be corroborated with levels of historic significance. Historical significance of a site considers the impact on or importance to American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and/or culture, and can be attributed to districts, sites, buildings, structures, and/or objects (National Register Criteria for Evaluation).
The significance of the property can generally be broken down into four primary criteria of influence: an area of important events, association with significant persons, a unique or distinctive type, or the potential to yield important information. Furthermore, the property must possess high levels of integrity regarding location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. These criteria for preservation and/or enhancement of a structure should be employed to analyze the importance to the history and character of Lexington. Through this crucial evaluation process, properties and districts that contribute to the historical record, as well as representative samples of architectural stylings, will be preserved for future generations to experience. However, without a critical review of a property’s contribution, Lexington will see a proliferation of unsubstantiated calls for preservation that can hinder the growth and densification within the urban service boundary.
Additionally, a proactive and comprehensive inventory of historic assets should be undertaken by the Department of Planning, Preservation, and Development to identify architecturally and historically significant properties. This should result in the initiation of additional H-1 Districts, as appropriate, to supplement the 15 existing districts that fundamentally contribute to Lexington’s urban fabric. Ideally, this assessment should be completed prior to development proposals to eliminate confusion as potential developments are evaluated.