Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Where can I find information on things to do in greater Portland?
A: For great information on what to do here in Portland, visit the Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Q: How is Greater Portland Landmarks role in historic preservation different from the City of Portland's Historic Preservation Program?
A: Greater Portland Landmarks is a community nonprofit organization that provides advocacy, research, and education about historic preservation, architecture and the built environment. A major role for the organization is to provide information, educational workshops, helpful contacts, and resources for owners who are restoring, maintaining, and enhancing historic properties.
The city of Portland's Historic Preservation Program is part of the Department of Planning and Development and is in charge of enforcing the city's historic preservation ordinance. The ordinance governs designated historic districts and landmark buildings in Portland.
Q: Does Greater Portland Landmarks oversee historic properties?
A: Greater Portland Landmarks interprets and provides educational programs at the Portland Observatory (1807), which is owned by the City of Portland.
LIVING IN A HISTORIC DISTRICT
Q: How do I know if I am in a historic district? Who should I talk with to get approval of exterior changes to my historic building?
A: In Portland, the includes maps of historic districts and landmark properties. Owners who are planning exterior changes to properties in Portland’s historic districts should contact the historic preservation program of the City of Portland at (207) 874-8726 for information on the approval process. Some projects may require additional permitting: for example, structural changes to the building require a building permit. If you live in a community outside Portland, please check with your town planning office for further information on historic districts and permitting.
Q: Where can I research information about my old house in greater Portland?
A: Greater Portland Landmarks’ Peabody Research Library houses more than 1,000 books on preservation techniques, architectural styles, and local history; more than 6,000 architectural surveys including parts of Portland, Westbrook, Falmouth, Scarborough, and Cape Elizabeth; and files organized by street address on many properties in Portland and, to a lesser extent, in surrounding towns. In addition, there are local histories, maps, vertical files, and city directories that can provide useful information for the researcher.
Additional information can be found at the Maine Historical Society Library at 489 Congress Street, the Portland Room of the Portland Public Library on Monument Square, the City of Portland Assessor’s Office at 389 Congress Street, and in the records at the Cumberland County Register of Deeds, 142 Federal Street, Portland.
RESTORATION & PRESERVATION
Q: Where can I find information on techniques and best practices in historic preservation?
A: Greater Portland Landmarks offers books and vertical files on preservation techniques in our Peabody Research Library. In addition, Landmarks presents workshops on preservation best practices through our Restoration Academy program and at the Old House Trade Show. The National Park Service offers excellent technical information through its Preservation Briefs. Additional resources are listed on the Maine Historic Preservation Commission site.
Q: Where can I find information on contractors and tradespeople who specialize in restoring historic buildings?
A: Greater Portland Landmarks publishes the Northern New England Preservation Directory, which lists a variety of contractors and tradespeople who specialize in historic buildings. In addition, Landmarks sponsors the Old House Trade Show, an event that brings together contractors, tradespeople, product representatives, and artisans with specialized skills in historic restoration projects.
Q: Are there grants available to restore my historic house?
A: There are no grants available for restoration of private residences. However, a variety of grant programs may be appropriate for buildings operated by nonprofits and government entities for the public benefit. Buildings that have a commercial use and that are listed or eligible for listing in the National Register, may qualify for historic preservation tax credits, either through the state of Maine or through the federal government. For summary information on these programs, contact the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.
Historic Tax Credits
Q: Do federal and state tax incentives assist developers of historic buildings in the district?
A: Historic tax credits are federal and state tax incentives to assist anyone restoring a historic income producing property. Developers of income producing commercial or residential projects could use a 20% federal tax credit and 25% state tax credit if they meet standards established to ensure that the character-defining features of these buildings are maintained in the course of the rehabilitation work. An additional 5% is available for rehabilitation projects that include affordable housing. For more information on historic tax credits see Historic Tax Credits.