This program of the Division seeks to cultivate a built environment that reflects Evanston's unique character and history. Members of the Preservation Commission work to sustain the architectural vitality of City neighborhoods by aiding in the restoration, rehabilitation, and conservation of landmark buildings and the preservation of historic districts. The Preservation Coordinator helps owners in the preservation and rehabilitation and conservation of their homes, as well as assisting residents in obtaining a certificate of appropriateness. Both strive to preserve Evanston's diversity through its architecture.
Historic Preservation Certificate of Appropriateness
Approval by the Historic Preservation Commission is necessary for the alteration, construction, relocation, and demolition of landmark buildings and properties in historic districts when a permit is required and when the proposed work is visible from the street of public way. For more information on this process and how approval is obtained, please contact Carlos Ruiz, the Preservation Coordinator at 847-448-4311, or email@example.com.
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2020 EVANSTON PRESERVATION AND DESIGN AWARDS:
2019 EVANSTON PRESERVATION AND DESIGN AWARDS:
PROCEDURAL AND DESIGN GUIDELINES
Preservation Process & Design Guidelines
City of Evanston, Illinois
Diversity, character and harmony best describe the spirit of the architectural heritage of the City of Evanston. Nestled among Evanston tree lined streets is a rich blend of architectural styles ranging from early vernacular frame buildings to the more formal classical and renaissance revival styles to the 20th century clean lines of the Prairie School. Among the many architects who have been responsible for shaping the visual character of Evanston, several deserve special mention.
Daniel Burnham not only designed a number of Evanston buildings, but was also one of the most influential architects and earliest city planners in the country. Thomas Tallmadge, one of the Prairie school architects, was responsible for the designs of several Evanston churches and residences and in addition was the chairman of Evanston’s first Plan Commission. Among other notable architects who have practiced in Evanston are: S.A. Jennings, Walter Burley Griffin, Robert Spencer, George Maher, Myron Hunt and Dwight Perkins.
In order to protect the fabric of our architectural heritage, the Preservation Commission reviews projects relating to landmarked buildings that may or may not be part of a historic district. The Commission also reviews projects relating to structures deemed to be contributing to historic districts, as well as proposed new construction within historic districts, the relocation of landmarked buildings, and proposed demolition of contributing structures within historic districts.
The City of Evanston provides the means to identify where historic districts or individual landmark buildings can be found in the City as well as specific information about every property within the City.
For the map of the Local and Federal Historic Districts within the City of Evanston, go to:
For a Listing of Evanston Landmarks – by Address, go to:
For information about any individual property within the City of Evanston, go to:About My Place
Evanston Design Guidelines: Framework for the Standards for Review
The City of Evanston has established four separate and distinct sets of Standards for Review of all projects that come before the Preservation Commission. These standards are based upon whether the project represents: alteration, construction (both new and additions), relocation, or demolition.
The Design Guidelines are intended to serve as a framework that allows for understanding the Standards for Review. They operate together informing each other in the design of a project. In all instances, the Standards for Review should be read and understood in conjunction with the Design Guidelines.
To see the City of Evanston Preservation Commission Standards for Review, go to:
The historic district forms the visual starting point for construction, alteration, additions, relocation and demolition to individual buildings within the district.
1. The physical characteristics of a historic district are significant as a collective whole and must be seen and protected in their entirety. This is the primary overreaching goal.
2. Additions and remodeling to contributing or non-contributing structures within the district as well as demolition and relocation of contributing or non-contributing structures should be examined within the context of the historic neighborhood before they are examined as separate structures.
3. New construction must respond to and protect the integrity of the overall district in much the same manner as an addition should respond to a historic building.
4. The relationship of all proposed construction, relocation, and demolition must respond to the characteristics of the site and streetscape of the district.
5. The relationship of all construction and alterations of a project must respond to the architectural character of the neighboring buildings.
Every existing building within a historic district or a landmark building outside of a historic district forms the visual starting point for additions or modifications to that structure.
1. Additions and modifications must respond to and protect the integrity of the existing landmark or contributing structure to the historic district.
2. Attention should be paid to the existing character of a building when being altered including the relationship of details, massing, scale, and window type and opening.
Purpose of Evanston Design Guidelines
The Design Guidelines are made up of principles that act in conjunction with Evanston’s Preservation Standards to assist property owners in the City of Evanston in making appropriate and historically sensitive design decisions. These design choices primarily pertain to altering and remodeling existing buildings that occur in the Evanston designated historic districts, buildings that are landmarked regardless of location, and proposed new construction within in historic districts.
Additionally, these guidelines may also be used as a reference source for the rehabilitation of structures and new construction not located within designated historic districts.
Design guidelines and standards can assist all owners in maintaining and enhancing the appearance of their property and reinforcing the integrity of the historic district or the neighborhood as a “whole”. They help maintain property values and improve the livability of older neighborhoods. The intent, in all instances, is to promote preservation, with an understanding that to keep historic districts vital, sensitive additions and new construction should be seen as part of the larger whole of the neighborhood.
It is understood that changes to buildings are often inevitable and that frequently additions have already been made to landmark buildings or buildings within historic districts that may not seem compatible with the neighborhood or to the building itself. The task of altering or adding on to these buildings becomes a difficult task of knitting together all of the pieces to make a cohesive whole. The Design Guidelines, in conjunction with the Preservation Standards, can offer insights to solve these complex design problems.
Basis for Evanston Design Guidelines & Evanston Preservation Standards
The U.S. Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historical Buildings serve as the basis for the Evanston Design Guidelines and Preservation Standards. They are used throughout the country by the majority of America's heritage or preservation commissions as a basis for local design review guidelines and for projects utilizing federal funds or seeking tax credits. These federal standards also form the framework for the more detailed City of Evanston Standards.
The National Park Service, an agency of the U. S. Department of the Interior, is responsible for historic preservation programs under the department's authority and for advising federal agencies on the preservation of historic properties listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The intent of the Standards is to assist in the long-term preservation of a property's significance and integrity through the preservation of historic materials and features.
The Secretary of Interior’s Standards, originally published in 1977 and revised in 1990, pertain to historic buildings regardless of material, construction type, size, or use/occupancy. They encompass the exterior and the interior, related landscape features, and the building's site and
environment as well as attached, adjacent, or related new construction. The Standards are to be applied to specific rehabilitation projects in a reasonable manner, taking into consideration economic and technical feasibility.
For additional information regarding the Department of Interior Standards, go to:
The Evanston Preservation Standards are a part of the City of Evanston Preservation Ordinance. That is contained in Chapter 8 Historic Preservation of the Evanston City Code. The Standards may be found in Section 2-8-9 Standards for Review of Applications for Certificates of Appropriateness within that chapter.
To see the City of Evanston Preservation Commission Standards for Review, go to:
When reviewing a project, the Preservation Commission may consider only the Evanston Preservation Standards for Review for that specific type of project. In addition, however, the Commission may also consider the Secretary of Interior’s Standards.
Process: Preservation Review and Certificates of Appropriateness
Preservation review in Evanston recognizes change as an important indicator of a healthy, vibrant community but also aims to ensure that proposed exterior changes to landmark structures or properties in the historic districts will not have adverse impacts on landmarks or the district as a whole. The Historic Preservation Ordinance of the City Code establishes the preservation review process to assist in shaping change that maintains and enhances the uniqueness of a historic district’s assets and the integrity of a landmark, whether located within or outside of such a district.
Any alteration where there is change in the exterior design, materials, or general appearance, addition or new construction, demolition or relocation of any landmark structure or of a property, structure, or site or object within a historic district receives a review by the Preservation Commission. A Certificate of Appropriateness is issued indicating review and authorization of the plans for the proposed project by the Commission.
Certificates of Appropriateness are required for exterior projects that can be seen from the public way (city street, alley, or public sidewalk). The Preservation Commission has no purview over interior projects except where the work may affect the exterior of the building.
There are three types of preservation review: Major Work Projects, Minor Work Projects, and Routine Maintenance:
Major Work Projects are reviewed by the Preservation Commission. In general, major work projects involve a change in the appearance of a structure or site and are more substantial in nature than routine maintenance or minor work projects. Note: New windows, replacement windows and storm windows may be considered major work projects.
Minor Work Projects are reviewed by the Preservation Coordinator when not affecting designated landmarks, significant or contributing structure. Staff can refer minor work projects to the Preservation Commission for review if, in staff’s judgment, the change involves alterations, additions, or removals that are substantial, do not meet the guidelines, or are of a precedent-setting nature. Note: New windows, replacement windows and storm windows may be considered minor work projects.
Routine Maintenance includes repair or replacement where there is no change in the design, materials, or general appearance of the structure or grounds and when a building permit is not required. A Certificate of Appropriateness is not necessary for routine maintenance.
For a listing of types of projects that are considered Major Work, Minor Work or Routine Maintenance, go to:Historic Preservation Rules & Procedures
Building permits are not issued unless a Certificate of Appropriateness is approved by the Commission in a formal review, or by the Preservation Coordinator by administrative review.
If a proposed project involves applications for a planned development, major zoning variances, and special uses that affect the exterior of designated landmarks structures and structures in historic districts visible from the public way, the Preservation Commission reviews and makes recommendations to the Zoning Board of Appeals, Plan Commission and/or City Council.
Process: Application for Certificate of Appropriateness
The process for seeking and obtaining a Certificate of Appropriateness is as follows:
- The applicant is encouraged to request pre-application discussion of the specifics of the project with the Preservation Coordinator or staff.
- The applicant submits a completed Certificate of Appropriateness application for major, minor or windows projects including any plans, drawings, photographs or other supporting exhibits and materials to Preservation staff. The application deadline is the first Friday of the month.
For a Major Work Application form, go to: COA Application for Major Work
For a Minor Work Application form, go to: COA Application for Minor Work
For a Check List to be used in the application process, go to: Refer to Page i - Page iv of the COA Application for Major Work
For replacement of windows and doors
- The Preservation Coordinator or staff may provide administrative review and issue a Certificate of Appropriateness without any further Commission review. If disapproved, the applicant may apply to the Commission for review of the application.
- If the Preservation Coordinator refers the project to the Commission or if Commission review is required, the application for the Certificate of Appropriateness will be reviewed at a scheduled public hearing. The Preservation Commission holds regular monthly meetings on the third Tuesday of every month. Meetings begin at 7:00 pm at City Hall.
- If the Commission votes to approve the application, the Certificate of Appropriateness is prepared and issued. The applicant may begin work once any other necessary City permits, if any are required, are obtained. The Certificate of Appropriateness is valid for 180 days from the date of issuance
- If the Commission votes to disapprove an application, the applicant will be notified and provided with recommendations concerning what changes, if any, in the plans and specifications for the proposed project would protect the distinct character of the landmark or district and would cause the Commission to consider approval. The Commission will also make reasonable efforts to confer with the applicant, offer technical advice, and attempt to resolve differences.
Process: Appeals of a Decision to Deny a Certificate of Appropriateness
There are several options available to any applicant should the application for a Certificate of Appropriateness is denied by the Commission. These involve an appeal process that depends upon on the circumstances of the application and project. These options are:
- Resubmission of an amended application based upon recommendations of the Commission
- Appeal to the Planning and Development Committee of the Evanston City Council
- Application for a Certificate of Hardship
- Application for a Certificate of Special Merit
If the Commission votes to disapprove the application, the applicant will be notified and provided with recommendations concerning changes to the proposed project that would cause the Commission to consider approval. The Applicant may resubmit an amended Certificate of Appropriateness application based upon the recommendations of the Commission.
Appeal to the Planning and Development Committee of the Evanston City Council
Any applicant may appeal a denial by the Commission of a Certificate of Appropriateness to the City Council in accordance with procedures identified in the Preservation Ordinance for such appeals. This appeal process must be initiated within 30 days of the denial of the Certificate of Appropriateness and is directed to the Planning and Development Committee of the City Council.
If the Committee chooses not to accept the appeal, i.e., no motion to accept is made and adopted, the decision of the Commission is final, but it may be appealed to the Circuit Court of Cook County at the applicant’s expense.
If the Committee chooses to accept the appeal, it may affirm, modify, or reverse the decision of the Commission. The review of the appeal is solely on the basis of the record and application of the appropriate standards for a Certificate of Appropriateness. Denial or grant is considered a final decision and may be appealed to the Circuit Court of Cook County.
Application for a Certificate of Economic Hardship
Any applicant, upon denial of a Certificate of Appropriateness, may apply for a Certificate of Economic Hardship within 30 days of denial. The Commission may only approve a Certificate of Economic Hardship if it determines that the denial of the Certificate of Appropriateness certificate has resulted in a denial of all reasonable use of and return from the property.
The Commission, in applying this standard of may consider evidence as to soundness of a structure, suitability for continued use, estimates for the costs of renovation, restoration, or rehabilitation, estimates of market value before or after any work, estimates of the economic feasibility of the proposed work, assessed valuation, property taxes, purchase price, mortgages, appraisals, listing prices, and any other documentation deemed necessary to make the determination The application will then be reviewed by the Commission at a public hearing.
The determination by the Commission as to whether or not the denial of a Certificate of Appropriateness has resulted in a denial of reasonable use and return from the property may result in a disapproval by the Commission that can then be appealed to the City Council and, if denied by the City Council it may be appealed to the Circuit Court.
If a determination is made that denial of a Certificate of Appropriateness has resulted in denial of a reasonable use of and return from a property, the Commission will issue a Certificate of Economic Hardship, which may also include an Incentive Plan. This plan would provide a mechanism that would allow a reasonable use of and return from the property without a complete or partial alteration or demolition of the landmark or structure and will be forwarded to the City Council for action on the details of the plan.
For complete procedural details for an application for a Certificate of Economic Hardship, go to: Certificate of Economic Hardship
For application for a Certificate of Economic Hardship Form, go to:Certificate of Economic Hardship
Certificate of Special Merit
Certificates of Merit are issued if an applicant has been denied by the Commission or the City Council and can demonstrate that the project is either consistent with the comprehensive Plan of the City or is necessary and in the public interest and will provide public and civic benefits
The application process for a Certificate of Special Merit requires a public hearing similar to that for a Certificate of Economic Hardship. The standards for approval are:
- There is no feasible or prudent alternative site for the proposed project;
- Use of the existing landmark or area, property or structure for special merit use is not financially and physically feasible; and
- The proposed project includes all possible planning to minimize harm to the existing landmark or area, structure, size or object resulting from such special merit use.
Written findings regarding the significance of the landmark or structure, as well as the standards for the Certificate of Special Merit are presented by the Commission at the public hearing. The public hearing is then followed by City Council action to either deny or approve the Certificate. Denial may be appealed to the Circuit Court of Cook County.
For complete procedural details for an application for a Certificate of Special Merit, go to: Certificate of Special Merit
For application for a Certificate of Special Merit, go to: Special Merit Application Form
These Design Guidelines are intended to accurately reflect, in layman’s terms, the more formal language of Chapter 8 – Historic Preservation - of the City of Evanston’s Code of Ordinances. If any misrepresentation occurs, the Code is the ultimate law.
The entire Preservation Ordinance and all procedures and standards can be found at: Chapter 8 - Historic Preservation
National Park Service Preservation Briefs describe in full detail how to evaluate and restore various historic building components, ranging from repairing wood windows to repointing brick walls to restoring plaster ornament. There are currently nearly four-dozen briefs available.
Preservation Briefs: National Park Service Preservation Briefs
National Park Service Preservation Tech Notes provides practical information on traditional practices and innovative techniques for successfully maintaining and preserving cultural resources. There are currently twelve topics covered.
Preservation Tech Notes: Natiional Park Service Preservation Tech Notes
Visit the Evanston History Center Research Room & Archive for historic records and documents about your Evanston property. Open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday & Saturday 1-4pm. Admission is $5. Evanston History Center Members are free.
Evanston History Center: Evanston History Center
A Sampler of Evanston Styles:
Other Online Resources
Illinois Historic Preservation Agency: IDNR Historic Preservation Division
Landmarks Illinois: Landmarks Illinois
National Register of Historic Places: National Register of Historic Places in Illinois
National Trust for Historic National Trust of Historic Preservation
Illinois Great Places: Illinois Great Places
Preservation Directory: Preservation Directory
Old House Journal: Old House Journal
FAQs (City of Evanston website) Requires a NEW LINK it is now part of Major application link on City Site as are several other items to be separated
For a Glossary of Architectural Terms, go to: Glossary of Architectural Terms
For a Glossary of Preservation Terms, go to: Glossary of Preservation Terms
For Recommended Reading, go to: NTHP: 14 Essential Preservation Books