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A. Purpose, Applicability, and Background.

1. Purpose and Intent. Ashland’s Historic District is very important to all of the City’s residents. Not only does this area contain the City’s beginnings, but it is also the area of some of the most prominent landmarks in Ashland including the Plaza, East Main Street commercial area, Lithia Park, and many important residential districts. For the most part, the main architectural themes have already been laid down and must be considered in the design of any new structures or renovation of existing structures. This does not mean that all new structures must be a lavish imitation of an architectural style whose heyday is past, but sensitivity to surrounding buildings and the existing land use patterns is essential to the successful development.

While it is critical that buildings be made habitable and safe, it is equally imperative that the architectural character of a building be respected in the process of structural improvements. Unfortunately, this has not always been done in Ashland. The architectural merit of a building has too often been sacrificed for a more contemporary design. For this purpose, the following standards were conceived as a guide to design decisions in the hope that the architectural integrity of Ashland’s homes and commercial buildings will no longer be unnecessarily lost.

It is suggested that you think of your building as a whole – a single unit with no removable parts. Every change that you make can chip away at the integrity of the whole, like surgery. Efforts to personalize and update the building will leave you with an assortment of miscellaneous parts that bear no relation to each other or to the original design. Wrought iron columns, asbestos shingles, and aluminum frame windows have only one thing in common – the local hardware store. Older buildings in Ashland were built one at a time and such added options can obscure their individuality.

2. Applicability. The City of Ashland has adopted ordinances to assure that all development in the Historic District overlay remains compatible with the existing integrity of the Historic District.

a. In new construction of single-family residences, the Historic Commission will use these standards to make recommendations to the applicant.

b. If a development requires a Type I, II, or III review procedure (e.g., Site Design Review, Conditional Use Permit) and involves new construction, or restoration and rehabilitation, or any use greater than a single-family use, the authority exists in the law for the Staff Advisor and the Planning Commission to require modifications in the design to match these standards. In this case the Historic Commission advises both the applicant and the Staff Advisor or other City decision maker.

Figure Historic District Overlay

B. Historic District Design Standards. In addition to the standards of part 18.4, the approval authority uses the following standards for new construction, and restoration and rehabilitation of existing buildings within the Historic District overlay.

1. Transitional Areas. For projects located at the boundary between zones or overlays, appropriate adjustments to building form, massing, height, scale, placement, or architectural and material treatment may be considered to address compatibility with the transitional area while not losing sight of the underlying standards or requirements applicable to the subject property.

2. Height.


Construct new buildings to a height within the range of historic building heights on and across the street.


New construction that varies in height (i.e., too high or too low) from historic buildings in the vicinity.

3. Scale.


Height, width, and massing of new buildings conform to historic buildings in the immediate vicinity.


Height, width, or massing of new buildings that is out of scale with historic buildings in the vicinity.

4. Massing.


Small, varied masses consistent with historic buildings in the immediate vicinity.


Single, monolithic forms that are not relieved by variations in massing.

5. Setback.


Front walls of new buildings are in the same plane as facades of adjacent historic buildings.


Front walls that are constructed forward of or behind setback line of adjacent historic buildings.

6. Roof.


Roof shape, pitches, and materials consistent with historic buildings in the immediate vicinity.


Roof shapes, pitches, or materials not historically used in the immediate vicinity.

7. Rhythm of Openings.


Pattern or rhythm of wall to door/window openings on the primary façade or other visually prominent elevation is maintained. Maintain compatible width-to-height ratio of bays in the façade.


A pattern or rhythm of window/door openings that is inconsistent with adjacent historic buildings.

8. Base or Platforms.


A clearly defined base, or platform characteristic of historic buildings in the immediate vicinity.


Walls that appear to rise straight out of the ground without a distinct platform or base at the ground level.

9. Form.


Form (i.e., vertical/horizontal emphasis of building) that is consistent with that of adjacent historic buildings.


Form that varies from that of existing adjacent historic buildings.

10. Entrances.


Well-defined primary entrances with covered porches, porticos, and other architectural features compatible but not imitative of historic counterparts.


Façades with minimally defined primary entrances.

11. Imitation of Historic Features.


Accurate restoration of original architectural features on historic buildings. New construction, including additions, that is clearly contemporary in design, which enhances but does not compete visually with adjacent historic buildings.


Replicating or imitating the styles, motifs, or details of historic buildings.

12. Additions.


Additions that are visually unobtrusive from a public right-of-way, and do not obscure or eliminate character defining features of historic buildings.


Additions on the primary façade or any elevation that is visually prominent from a public right-of-way, and additions that obscure or destroy character defining features.

13. Garage Placement.


Garage placed behind the primary historic building with access from a side street or alley if available.


Garage placed beside or in front of the primary historic building.

C. Rehabilitation Standards for Existing Buildings and Additions.

1. Purpose. Because there is so much activity these days in the improvement of older housing, new terminology has been introduced. The difference between “restoring”, “rehabilitating”, and “remodeling” may seem academic, but each results in a major difference in the way the job or project may turn out. See also, definitions of restoration and rehabilitation in part 18.6.

To “restore” is to return a building to its original condition as if it were a precious museum piece. This technique it typically used for structures of particular significance, such as historic landmarks where accuracy will serve an educational purpose as well as a visual one. Restoration is the most painstaking improvement process and usually the most expensive because it requires technical skill and historical precision for successful results. It can involve the removal of extraneous elements as well as the recreation of original features which may have become deteriorated or been destroyed. A fine example of a restoration project in Ashland is the Swedenberg home found on Siskiyou Boulevard. Great care has been taken to assure that the architectural integrity of the building exterior is practically identical to that when it was built in the early 1900s.

Remodeling a building is normally at the opposite end of the improvement spectrum from restoration. Unless it is done with sensitivity, to remodel a building is to redesign it so that the generic features are obliterated and the basic character destroyed in the name of modernization. A remodeling job is to often considered a success if the original structure is unrecognizable in the end result. Remodeling is appropriate only for buildings which are not historic and have fallen into a state of disrepair due to vacancy or vandalism. Remodeling can also be a proper course of action when a non-historic structure undergoes a change in use, say from a single-family residence to commercial office space.

Unfortunately, it is quite common for a house to be remodeled and totally divested of its valuable characteristics when conditions do not require such radical treatment. Hence, the expression “remodel” can have bad connotations. To many people it suggests a waste of valuable resources. It is possible, however, to remodel with sensitivity, especially with the help of a talented architect.

To “rehabilitate” is to take corrective measures which will make a structure livable again. Some aspects of rehabilitation entail renovation and the introduction of new elements. For example, it is likely that inadequate electrical circuits would be required to be brought up to code to ensure safety and to provide adequate service for today’s modern appliances. When rehabilitating a building, it is essential to protect those portions or features which convey its historical, cultural, and architectural character. These are the very features through which the visual integrity and the economic value of the building are preserved. Modern elements shall only be introduced when absolutely necessary and in a manner which is sympathetic to the original design. An excellent example of a successful rehabilitation is the Ashland Community Center on Winburn Way.

The rewards of sensitive home improvements are many. First there is the satisfaction of knowing you have done the job right. Second, there is the gratification from compliments of other people who appreciate what you have done. Third, there is the pleasure of living in an attractive, comfortable and historically preserved home. While these benefits are difficult to measure, such restoration or rehabilitation can result in significant economic benefits. A perceptive combination of restoration and remodeling will actually contribute to the resale value of your home. Finally, a good rehabilitation project can be surprisingly influential on an entire neighborhood.

2. Rehabilitation Standards. In addition to the standards of part 18.4, the approval authority uses the following standards for existing buildings and additions within the Historic District Overlay. These standards apply primarily to residential historic districts, residential buildings in the Downtown Historic District, and National Register-listed historic buildings not located within the Historic District Overlay. The purpose of the following standards is to prevent incompatible treatment of buildings in the Historic District Overlay and to ensure that new additions and materials maintain the historic and architectural character of the district.

a. Historic architectural styles and associated features shall not be replicated in new additions or associated buildings.

b. Original architectural features shall be restored as much as possible, when those features can be documented.

c. Replacement finishes on exterior walls of historic buildings shall match the original finish. Exterior finishes on new additions to historic buildings shall be compatible with, but not replicate, the finish of the historic building.

d. Diagonal and vertical siding shall be avoided on new additions or on historic buildings except in those instances where it was used as the original siding.

e. Exterior wall colors on new additions shall match those of the historic building.

f. Imitative materials including but not limited to asphalt siding, wood textured aluminum siding, and artificial stone shall be avoided.

g. Replacement windows in historic buildings shall match the original windows. Windows in new additions shall be compatible in proportion, shape and size, but not replicate original windows in the historic building.

h. Reconstructed roofs on historic buildings shall match the pitch and form of the original roof. Roofs on new additions shall match the pitch and form of the historic building, and shall be attached at a different height so the addition can be clearly differentiated from the historic building. Shed roofs are acceptable for one-story rear additions.

i. Asphalt or composition shingle roofs are preferred. Asphalt shingles which match the original roof material in color and texture are acceptable. Wood shake, woodshingle, tile, and metal roofs shall be avoided.

j. New porches or entries shall be compatible with, but not replicate, the historic character of the building.

k. New detached buildings shall be compatible with the associated historic building and shall conform to the above standards.

l. The latest version of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings shall be used in clarifying and determining whether the above standards are met.