Historic Resources Commission (HRC)

Historic Resources Commission

The Historic Resources Commission is charged with promoting, enhancing, and preserving the character of historic districts as well as landmarks, including the Courthouse Square Historic District.

The HRC has several responsibilities including administering the annual Facade Grant program, publishing design guidelines for local historic district(s), reviewing Certificates of Appropriateness (COA’s), conducting educational programming, recommending  properties for designation as historic landmarks to the City Council, and researching areas to consider for future historic districts.  

HRC Members (Term Expiration):

Cary Worthy – Chair (2022)

Elaine Murrin – Vice Chair (2021)

Matthew Haley (2024)

Grace Baldwin (2021)

Karen Chin (2024)

William Copeland (2021)

Stephen West (2021)

Melody Wiggins – City Council Liaison

Nathan Page – City Staff Liaison

Local Historic District

The Courthouse Square Historic District was designated as a local historic district on March 4, 1980. Properties located within the red boundaries of the map below are part of the Courthouse Square Historic District and must seek a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) for exterior alterations, construction, or demolition. 

Local designation should not be confused with listing in the National Register of Historic Places, which is a federal program administered by the State. Some properties may carry both types of designation, but the National Register and local designation are totally separate and independent programs with different requirements and benefits.

National Historic Districts

There are also four National Historic Districts located within Graham. Properties which are only listed in a national historic district are not subject to regulation and therefore don’t require a COA for exterior alterations, construction, or demolition. The following are listed as National Historic Districts:

  • Courthouse Square Historic District designated on April 7, 1983
  • Kerr Scott Farm designated in 1987
  • North Main Street Historic District designated on June 10, 1999
  • Oneida Cotton Mills and Scott-Mebane Manufacturing Company Complex designated in 2014
For more details about the location of these historic districts along with the properties which fall within these areas please refer to the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office (NC SHPO) interactive online map HPO Web.

Certificates of Appropriateness (COA’s)

For small projects, all that may be required for exterior alterations or construction in the Courthouse Square Historic District is a minor Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) which may be granted administratively by the Staff Liaison.

For major projects, the HRC reviews COA to determine if it meets the development standards in the Design Guidelines. Decisions on COA’s are considered quasi-judicial and as such must follow specific procedures in order to protect property owners due process rights. 

Anyone who wishes to provide evidence or testimony on a COA must be sworn in to attest that the information they provide is factual and is relevant to the case. The Commission is then charged with determining whether the facts presented are consistent with the regulations in the HRC Design Guidelines. Decisions are based on conformance with the Design Guidelines along with consideration for the special significance of the property and overall character of the district. Below are the relevant documents:





The façade grant program provides matching funds for exterior improvements to historic non-residential structures. It is designed to provide incentive funds to property owners in the Historic District to encourage rehabilitation downtown. It promotes the beautification of the Historic District and its importance to the history of Graham and its residents. Applications for funding are approved by the Historic Resources Commission (HRC).

 Examples of improvements include: 

  • Removing of false fronts and metal canopies
  • Safe cleaning of brick and stone fronts
  • Sign replacements
  • Canvas awning installation
  • Window and door repairs or replacements
  • Repainting
  • Structural repair to exterior
  • Historic reconstructions
  • Store front reconstruction 

For more details about eligibility, project scoring, and guidelines please refer to the following documents. 




The HRC is also responsible for recommending  properties for designation as historic landmarks to the City Council. Currently there are two local historic landmarks and one national register landmark.

Local Historic Landmarks

  • Onieda Cotton Mills designated on August 4th, 2015
  • Mont-White Opera House designated on June 7, 2016
National Historic Landmark
  • Alamance County Courthouse designated in 1979 

If you would like your property to be considered for local landmark status please complete the application below.




The North Carolina General Assembly authorizes City Council to create and appoint a Historic Resources Commission. The specific language of the state statute can be found below. 


Local Regulations 

The Graham City Council has a Historic Resources Commission with purview over historic districts as well as landmarks in its territorial jurisdiction. The Commission is charged with the development of Historic Resources Design Guidelines which outline the standards for exterior alterations, construction, or demolition of properties in a historic district or landmarks in Graham. 

The goal of these regulations is to maintain the character of the district on the basis of architectural history and design considerations. Property owners are required to follow established design review procedures, just as they are required to conform to building and fire codes and other regulations. See COA’s tab for more details. 


Meeting Details:

Regular meetings of the HRC are held monthly on the first Tuesday of the month at 6PM in the Council Chambers of City Hall at 201 South Main Street unless otherwise cancelled. 


Interested in volunteering to serve on the Historic Resources Commission? There are a few important things to consider. All members must live in the City of Graham. Meetings may last up to 4 hours and it is anticipated that members will spend additional time prior to each meeting reviewing proposed projects. Applicants should have a demonstrated special interest, experience, or education in history, architecture, archaeology, or related fields. 

We encourage potential volunteers to attend a meeting and talk with the staff liaison or Chairperson to answer any questions you may have prior to completing an application. 

Note: Your address may not always reflect whether you are a City of Graham resident. If you are unsure about your residences status you may wish to reference the City of Graham map or contact the City Clerk 336-570-6700 to inquire.

Have a Project Downtown?

Exterior alterations may require a Certificate of Appropriateness. Learn More...

Apply for a COA

Ready to get started on your exterior improvement downtown?
Click Here
COA Application DuePublic Notices + MailingHRC MeetingAgenda PacketMeeting Minutes
12/21/2012/24/201/5/21HRC Meeting Agenda[LINK]


Local designation should not be confused with listing in the National Register of Historic Places, which is a federal program administered by the State. Some properties may carry both types of designation, but the National Register and local designation are totally separate and independent programs with different requirements and benefits.

The National Register is our country’s official list of historic properties and resources worthy of preservation. It includes individual buildings, structures, sites, and objects as well as historic districts that are considered to be significant in American history, architecture, engineering, archaeology, and culture. National Register listing recognizes the significance of properties and districts. By doing so, it identifies significant historic resources in a community. Boundaries of National Register districts are tightly drawn to encompass only concentrated areas of historic buildings. Information compiled to nominate a historic district can be used in a variety of planning and development activities. National Register listing also makes available specific preservation incentives and provides a limited degree of protection via review of the effects of federally funded, licensed, or permitted activities. It is important to note that National Register listing does not prevent the demolition of historic buildings and structures within designated areas.

A local historic district is a district designated by a local ordinance that falls under the jurisdiction of a local historic preservation commission. A local historic district is generally part of an overlay district on the existing zoning classifications in a community. Therefore, it deals only with the appearance of the district, not with the uses of those properties. A local historic district is a geographically definable area, urban or rural, which contains structures, sites, and/or works of art which have special historical or aesthetic interest or value; represent one or more periods or styles of architecture typical of one or more eras in the history of the municipality, county, state, or region; and cause that area to constitute a visibly perceptible section of the community. The designation of a local district protects the significant properties and the historic character of the district. It provides a community with the means to make sure that growth, development, and change take place in ways that respect the important architectural, historical, and environmental characteristics within a district. Local designation encourages sensitive development in the district and discourages any unsympathetic changes from occurring. This happens through a process called design review. The historic preservation commission reviews major changes that are planned for the district and issues Certificates of Appropriateness which allow the proposed changes to take place. It is important to note that locally designated historic properties may be subject to restrictions which delay the demolition of historic buildings and structures within designated areas for up to one year.


The Historic Resources Design Guideline has a table of major vs. minor works. Alternatively, we encourage applicants to contact the Planning Department at 336-570-6705 to provide details about the proposed project and based on the scope of work, the HRC Staff Liaison will then help determine whether the project may be approved administratively by staff or whether the case must be referred to the Historic Resources Commission for further review.  



It depends. If the project only requires a minor COA staff can approve the work administratively. Typical approval within 1-3 business days. 

On the other hand, if the project requires a major COA then the property owner must submit a COA application prior to the submission deadline (listed above in the HRC Calendar) along with all supporting documentation about the project. The case will then be heard by the HRC on their next regularly scheduled meeting. If sufficient evidence is provided to make a ruling the HRC will issue a decision. Typical decisions rendered within a month of the date of the application submission.

However, the HRC has the authority to table a COA if the applicant fails to provide sufficient detail or they need to consult with the State Historic Preservation Office (NC SHPO) before making a determination. This can take up to two months for a decision.   

The Standards are ten principles developed by the Secretary of the Interior to guide work on historic properties. The Graham Historic Resources Design Guidelines are based off of these principles and are used to judge the appropriateness of the proposed work to historic properties. These principles include the following:

  • A property shall be rehabilitated for its historic purpose or a compatible use that requires minimal change to its distinctive materials, features, spaces, and spatial relationships.

  • The historic character of a property will be retained and preserved. The removal of distinctive materials or alteration of features, spaces, and spatial relationships will be avoided.
  • Each property will be recognized as a physical record of its time, place, and use. Changes that create a false sense of historical development, such as adding conjectural features, shall not be undertaken.

  • Changes to a property that have acquired historic significance in their own right will be retained and preserved.

  • Distinctive materials, features, finishes, and construction techniques or examples of craftsmanship that characterize a property will be preserved.

  • Deteriorated historic features will be repaired rather than replaced. If replacement is necessary, the new feature will match the old in design, color, texture, and, where possible, materials. Replacement of missing features will be substantiated by documentary and physical evidence.

  • Chemical or physical treatments, if appropriate, will be undertaken using the gentlest means possible. Treatments that cause damage to historic materials will not be used.

  • Archaeological resources will be protected and preserved in place. If such resources must be disturbed, mitigation measures will be undertaken.

  • Additions, exterior alterations, or related new construction will not destroy historic materials, features, and spatial relationships. New work will be differentiated from the old and will be compatible with the historic materials, features, size, scale and proportion, and massing to protect the integrity of the property and its environment.

  • Additions and adjacent or related new construction will be undertaken in  such a manner that, if removed in the future, the essential form and integrity of the historic property and its environment would be unimpaired.

It depends. Income tax incentives for the rehabilitation of historic structures are important tools for historic preservation and economic development in North Carolina. A federal income tax credit for the rehabilitation of historic structures first appeared in 1976 and today consists of a 20% credit for the qualifying rehabilitation of income-producing historic properties. The Restoration Services Branch review and provides technical assistance to all preservation tax credit projects, both state and federal.

For non-income producing properties, homeowners may receive a 15% state tax credit for qualified rehabilitation of owner-occupied residential properties. For details about the program please refer to the fact sheet below. 

Non-income Producing Tax Credit Fact Sheet