Update to historic district books starting this week in Old Town

Published 4:45 pm Saturday, May 16, 2015

If you see someone outside taking pictures of your house in Old Town, chances are it is David Schneider, who is in the process of updating the city of Selma’s survey books.

The books contain information on homes and buildings that are part of the city’s four historic districts.

“[Schneider] is doing the Old Town Historic District first, which is our largest district,” said James Benderson director of Planning and Development.

“He will take the existing book, and go back out and compare the last survey to now to update them if there are any properties that have burned or been updated or changed.”

The city updates its surveys every five to 10 years, and they recently received a grant to help them update the books.

“We got a grant from the Alabama Historic Commission for approximately $13,000-$14,000 to update our survey books,” Benderson said.

The city has four historic districts, so they are taking on the largest one first, which has around 700 historic structures.

Selma has the state of Alabama’s largest historic district.

Selma was designated a certified local government by the Alabama Historic Commission, which entitles the city to get funding and other needs from the commission.

“In order to get that designation, you have to have a certain level of contributing properties to the historical significance of that district,” Benderson said.

“So what the surveyor does is, he basically goes out and documents what is on the ground, takes photos and writes the architectural description of the structure and the date and period of the property.”

The surveys are then used by the city’s Historic Development Commission to maintain the integrity of the historic districts.

“The purpose of the surveys is, anytime a property owner wants to make an exterior improvement, upgrades or changes to their property, they have to get a certificate of appropriateness,” Benderson said. “The book is kind of the baseline that tells the board what this property is and how it looks and the architectural significance of the property.”

While updating the survey books is nothing new, this time they are being digitized to give people easier access. The digitized version will contain past and present photos of the properties.

The city plans to update the Ice House, Water Avenue and Riverview historic districts over the next couple of years as other grants are awarded.