Preservation of Historic Architecture, Landmarks and Sites in the City of Monroe

As Michigan’s 3rd oldest community, Monroe has an abundance of historic buildings, structures and sites that define its identity and character.  As early as 1901, information on historic buildings was compiled. In 1978, the city completed a comprehensive historic survey identifying 3,352 buildings and structures and nearly 100 sites pre-dating 1930. In 1998, three historic districts were established including its central business district.  Other areas encompass a War of 1812 Battlefield; historic districts; sacred places; monuments; cemeteries and cultural landscapes including those from Monroe’s French Colonial Period. 

To properly manage locally designated historic resources in the City of Monroe, a Historic District Commission (HDC) was established in 1989 with the purpose of addressing issues of public policy related to the city’s historic district program.  The seven person commission is appointed by the Mayor and meets on a quarterly basis to address historic objectives under the following six (6) categories:

Project Review/Permit Approval

Commission Training/Conferences

Special Projects

Community Education/Workshops

Goals of the Commission

Target Activities

Commissioners have the responsibility to review plans for locally designated buildings using the Secretary of the Interior Standards for Rehabilitation.  These include exterior changes; new additions or construction; moving; or demolition.  The commission provides project guidance and/or technical advice to any resident seeking to improve older, historic structures regardless of the designation status of their home or property.  Technical support and assistance is provided by the Historic Preservation Planner and Planning Office staff.

The HDC’s oversight includes recognition on the National Register of Historic Places for three historic districts (commercial & residential); one historic site; and five individual resources. The commission also oversees one building and a cemetery listed on Michigan’s State Register of Historic Places. 

Mission Statement

The mission of the Historic District Commission is to build strong local preservation through education, training and advocacy for historic landmarks and districts, for the residents and visitors to Monroe to foster civic appreciation. 


The City of Monroe approved the Heritage Resource Historic Preservation Ordinance (# 89-004) in 1989, defining the parameters to designate historic landmarks and criteria to create historic or architectural conservation districts consistent with Michigan’s Public Act 169 (1970).  Updated in 1995 and 2009, the ordinance defines the central elements and goals of its historic preservation program:    

Goal #1:  Enhance Monroe’s quality of life by preserving and protecting the City’s historic resources.

Goal #2:  Promote Monroe’s economic development through historic preservation.

Goal #3:  Foster greater awareness, understanding and support for preserving Monroe’s historic resources.

Monroe is one of nineteen local Michigan governments awarded Certified Local Government (CLG) status for meeting high standards with its historic preservation program.  This strategy is accomplished utilizing the following central elements for the protection and promotion of its historic resources: codes and ordinances; education and advocacy; influencing public perception; and addressing changes resulting from demographic, economic and environmental factors.  These offer the greatest advantages to protect the historic character of the neighborhoods and the central district while preventing insensitive alterations and development on neighboring properties.

Duties & Responsibilities

In order to carry out the purposes stated above, the Commission is charged with certain specific duties and responsibilities by the City Council. Chapter 1466 states:

(1)The Commission shall review the work of the Historic District Committee and provide recommendation to the City Council as to the designation of historic districts and buildings, sites, structures, and objects within the City of Monroe.

(2)The Commission shall ensure protection of designated areas by its review of building, demolition or other related permit applications.

(3)The Commission shall be empowered to investigate tax incentives and preservation funding and recommend to the City Council application for such incentives.

(4)The Commission, with the consent of the property owner of record, may erect or install historic markers and/or plaques on property or properties designated as an historic building, site, structure or object; or as a historic building, site, structure or object located within a designated historic district.

(5)The Commission may initiate, collaborate, assist or carry out surveys, studies, or programs designed to identify and evaluate buildings, sites, structures, objects, or districts worthy of preservation.

(6)The Commission, with the consent of the property owner of record, may inspect and investigate a building, site, structure, object, or district believed worthy of preservation.

(7)The Commission may disseminate information, as well as advise residents throughout the community as to the protection, enhancement and perpetuation of all historic resources located within the City of Monroe.

(8)The Commission may sponsor educational workshops/seminars relating to historic preservation.

(9)The Commission may consider methods other than those provided for in this chapter for encouraging and achieving historic preservation, and may make recommendations relating to the same to the Mayor and Council, the Director of Building, Zoning and Environmental Compliance and other bodies and/or agencies, both public and private.

(10)The commission may issue an appropriate commendation and recognition to individuals, firms and/or areas, which promote the preservation of historic resources of the City.

(11)The Commission shall maintain a roster of all Historic Districts.

  1. (12)The City Council may prescribe powers and duties of the Historic District Commission, in addition to those prescribed by statute, that foster historic preservation activities, projects and programs within the City of Monroe.


The Historic District Commission is made up of seven members nominated by the Mayor and appointed by the City Council. Members are residents of the City of Monroe and include representatives of locally designed historic districts, professionals in the field of historic preservation, architects, and local historical organizations.

Commission Members

James Johnson, Chairperson

Evans Bentley

Harold Caldwell

Barry Egen, Vice Chairperson

Lee Markham

Audie Bates, AIA

James Ryland

City Council Liaison

Gloria Rafko


Jeffrey Green, AICP,

Historic Preservation Officer / City Planner

The Commission meets quarterly on the third Wednesday of the designated month (hyperlink to the schedule) at 7:00 pm at City Hall. A call to City Hall (734) 243-0700 can also confirm meeting dates and times.


1.What is the City’s Historic District Ordinance?

The Historic District Ordinance is a law passed by the City Council that established a local program to identify and protect the city’s historic assets.  This ordinance established a Historic District Commission whose members are nominated by the Mayor and approved by the City Council.  

2.How is a Historic District designated?  How do I designate a property?

When there is support from the property owners in a neighborhood, the City Council can appoint a Historic District Study Committee (HDSC) to gather information regarding the buildings and cultural landscape being considered for designation. The HDSC’s preliminary report will be reviewed by Planning Department Staff and Citizens Planning Commission; then a public meeting will be held with notice to property owners potentially being impacted.  The City Council will approve or disapprove the recommendation of the HDSC; if it agrees to create a new district, the local historic preservation ordinance shall be amended.

3.How will changes to buildings in the Historic District be reviewed?

The Historic District Commission will review plans for changes to the exterior of designated buildings and for new construction, moving or demolition. The Commission will issue a Certificate of Appropriateness after working with the owner to develop a satisfactory solution that addresses the current needs of the owner, does not impose an undue economic hardship and addresses the guidelines outlined in the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation of Historic Properties.

4.How long will it take to receive approval?

The Commission or the administrative staff will act on the application at the meeting after the owner has presented his or her plans. The Commission must act within 60 days or the application will be considered approved.

5.How will the Historic District Designation affect the value of my property?

Historic district designations have an impact on property by preserving the character of the neighborhood, protecting the owners from unwise changes being made to other surrounding homes and creating favorable effects on the prices of homes when compared to similar houses outside a district. Studies conducted in multiple states reached a similar conclusion, that there is no statistically significant evidence that historic district have a negative impact on the appreciation of residential property values and there is no evidence linking districting with consistently lower appreciation.  In fact, homes in historic districts typically will outperform the appreciation rates of non-historic properties.

Property Owners interested in having their homes or buildings considered for designation should send a letter of interest to the Monroe County Council.

6.Can I change the use of my building?

The Historic District Commission does not control the use of historic buildings; appropriate use of a structure is controlled by the City of Monroe’ zoning regulations.

  1. 7.Am I required to restore my building to its original appearance? 


  1. 8.Do I need permission to make repairs and do ordinary maintenance? 


9.What other benefits would designation offer the property owner?

Preservation provides other economic benefits to property owners who are making improvements to residential and commercial properties. The state and federal government offer tax credit incentives up to 25% of the total project cost.

Links to Resources

City of Monroe

Main Street Monroe

Old Village Plat Neighborhood Association

State of Michigan Historic Preservation Office

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust Main Street Center

National Register of Historic Places

U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation

Links to Tax Credit Information

National Trust Tax Credit Guide

State of Michigan Tax Incentives and Grants


Phone: (734) 384-9106

Fax: (734) 384-9108


City of Monroe, Michigan Historic District Commission

120 E. First St.

Monroe, MI 48161