Preserving island’s character requires vision | Island History | June 11

The original Eagle Harbor Congregational Church (circa 1897 above) was dedicated in 1896. It has undergone many additions, but maintains the character expressed by the original steep gables and corner bell tower. - Courtesy of Bainbridge Island Historic Museum
The original Eagle Harbor Congregational Church (circa 1897 above) was dedicated in 1896. It has undergone many additions, but maintains the character expressed by the original steep gables and corner bell tower.
— image credit: Courtesy of Bainbridge Island Historic Museum

Preservation of the special character of Bainbridge Island is the first of the five overriding principles of the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which guides the growth and establishes the long-range vision for the island by identifying characteristics that the community desires to retain, promote or foster.

This monthly column intends to further community awareness of our history and discuss how to preserve the physical character of the island.

The island’s historic inventory contains more than 400 significant structures that are at least 50 years old. Most were built when the island only had a few thousand residents.

In the past year, more than a dozen historic structures have either been demolished, permitted for demolition or are in danger of demolition – and this was a very bad year for construction. At this rate, the stock of structures (and landscapes) that form the special character of the island will soon be depleted.

In order to encourage public advocacy for preservation, we will showcase one building, residence, structure or landscape on the Island Register and discuss a single preservation issue as it applies to the community.

This initial article outlines the process and reasons for placing a property on the Bainbridge Island Historic Register, which consists of buildings, structures, sites or objects, publicly or privately owned, that are significantly associated with the history, architecture, archaeology, engineering or cultural heritage of the island.

No properties can be placed on the register without the owner’s permission and the owner can withdraw the property from the register at any time.

To begin with, the properties must have physical integrity and are at least 50 years old, or less if of exceptional importance.

They also must meet at least one (of 14) criteria for eligibility, including: an association with events that made a significant contribution to broad patterns of settlement history; the embodiment of a distinctive architectural type or style; an outstanding work of a notable designer or architect; or an association with the lives of significant persons in local history.

If the property fulfills the requirements, a nomination is prepared and reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission, which decides whether or not the property qualifies for the Register.

If the property is accepted by the commission and formally permitted by the owner, it is then placed on the register.

Being listed on the register provides exclusive access to city, Kitsap County and state preservation resource support, eligibility for a 10-year special property tax valuation for substantial improvements, special island discount card for building materials and access to state and national rehabilitation grants.

In addition, register listing typically increases property value and promotes sustainable development by recycling existing resources.

Currently, city ordinances are being reformulated to provide additional density, parking and code variance incentives for owners to preserve listed or eligible register properties.

Property owners wanting to know more about being on the island’s Historic Register and the nomination process, go to the Historic Preservation Commission link and download the application form:

Jim McNett is a member of the city's Historic Preservation Committee.

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