Owning Historic Properties


Designated historic properties are a part of Salem’s rich history and give our City its sense of place. The City of Salem was founded in 1841 and became the capital of Oregon in 1850. The City currently has over 150 individually listed properties, building dates ranging from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries, and four National Register Historic Districts:

  • The Gaiety Hill/Bush’s Pasture Park Residential District (1986) is located south of the central business district in Salem and is notable for its cohesive collection of Bungalows constructed between 1900-1915 along the west side of High Street, opposite Bush’s Pasture Park.

  • The Court-Chemeketa Historic District (1987), a residential district east of the State Capitol Building, is comprised of late 19th nineteenth and early twentieth century residential resources and named for its two east-west streets. Court Street in particular is notable for its unusually large ninety-nine foot width. The street was constructed in the late nineteenth century as a wide boulevard that stretched directly west from this residential neighborhood to the Capitol Mall and through downtown Salem toward the Willamette River.

  • Salem’s downtown commercial core (2001) is a commercial historic district that reflects commercial development within Salem’s downtown commercial core from 1867-1950. The seven block district is notable for its reflection of a wide range of commercial architectural styles which range from late nineteenth-century Italianate, Queen Anne, and Richardsonian Romanesque, to early twentieth century styles like Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern.

  • The Oregon State Hospital (2008) is Oregon’s oldest institution for the housing and treatment of those with mental disorders. Evident in the 130 acres of pastoral design, which includes buildings and cottages set in a landscape of parks, trees, curving roadways, and paths, the District is notable as a physical reflection of the treatment philosophy for mental health issues during the late nineteenth century,


While owning historic properties requires additional reviews for exterior remodeling and construction, it also offers the possibility of tax benefits and grants. As an owner, your benefits include:

  • Financial help maintaining your property
  • Increased investment value
  • Increased neighborhood stability
  • Inclusion in an involved community of historic property owners

You are not required to purchase an historic plaque, but many owners choose to display information about their property for visitors. You can also choose whether or not to participate in local tours of historic properties.

Grant Money

You can get help to enhance, maintain, or restore a historically-designated residential property through the City’s Residential Toolbox Grant. Two grant cycles are offered annually. Grants can help offset the often higher cost of repairing and maintaining a historic home.

Tax Incentives

If your property is designated as “historic contributing” within one of our National Register Historic Districts, you would be eligible for Special Assessment, which could freeze the tax rate on your property for ten years. This is a State program administered by the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office.

Another incentive is the Federal Historic Tax Credit, which is available if your property is income producing. For more information on either of these two programs please contact the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office.


As a Certified Local Government, established in 1986, the City of Salem is required to have a historic design review process administered by qualified staff and a Historic Landmarks Commission in order to ensure that all designated resources on the National Register of Historic Places retain their integrity. Interior alterations are not subject to historic design review, however exterior alterations are subject to review.

Review of exterior changes

Repair and remodeling in the exterior appearance of an historic structure or site, including all the properties within the boundaries of an historic district, requires historic design review either by City staff or the Salem Historic Landmarks Commission. The type of review depends upon the proposed work and whether or not the historic resource is designated as historic contributing or non-contributing. To determine what type of designation your property has, you can contact city staff or look up your property on the Salem Historic Buildings Map.

Examples of changes that must be reviewed include:

  • Replacement of siding or windows with a different type, style, or material
  • New construction
  • Removing or demolishing an historic building

Some work can be done without design review including interior remodeling and ordinary maintenance and repair such as painting.

Table 230-1 in Salem Revised Code 230.020 outlines the type of review needed for specific types of remodeling and repair.

Contact us

Kimberli FitzgeraldHistoric Preservation Officer
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