Preserving the past in Canal Winchester

By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Canal Winchester is steeped in history—from the canal-era stone blocks within the basement of a downtown restaurant to the tollhouse incorporated into a Columbus Street home—and the town’s past is everywhere.

Walk down local streets and you see residences that once cradled the families who settled the area or structures that were once part of the early life of the town. Threads of history are woven everywhere and keeping history within the reach of today falls upon the city’s Landmark Commission and its mission to protect and preserve historical, architectural, and environmental resources.

Under its purview are historical districts created by the commission from 1983 through 1987. According to city Planning and Zoning Administrator Andrew Moore, the original district included portions of east and west Waterloo Street, south and north High Street, West Mound Street and East Columbus Street.

According to the Canal Winchester Area Historical Society, the historic district includes two mills, the Queen of the Line railroad depot, the restored one-room Prentiss schoolhouse, a large late 1800s era home and a church. The society’s complex is the largest entity in the city’s Oak-High Historic District.

A preservation district was established in 2003 as an expansion to the Old Town District to further protect neighborhoods that have similar qualities as the original historic district and contribute to the historical character of the community.

Homes in the preservation district are not necessarily on the National Register of Historic Places, but are part of the local historical Old Town district.

“The historic district encompasses over 350 properties, including residential homes, schools, churches and businesses,” said Moore. “Only a select few of the properties are designated on the National Register of Historic Places, but all of the properties in the Old Town District are in the Local Historic District. The designation for both districts stay with the home under new ownership. In general, Canal Winchester tries to remind properties that they fall within the Landmarks Review District every few years, but it is ultimately up to the property owner to determine if they are in the district or not.”

According to Moore, property owners are responsible for the long-term care of Old Town historic properties. Guidelines established by the city are intended to assist property owners in becoming caretakers of the architectural legacy of Canal Winchester.

“By ensuring the long-life and appropriate appearance of the community’s older buildings, property owners help enhance the economic value of Old Town properties,” said Moore. “Maintaining a high quality of materials and design is an underlying premise of the Old Town Guidelines.”

Adhering to those guidelines is under the control of the Landmarks Commission, composed of seven individuals appointed by city council to consider and take action on applications for Certificates of Appropriateness for properties within the historic and preservation districts. Its primary responsibility is to preserve and enhance the historic and architectural character of the districts through its process of design review.

Applications for any exterior work on properties within the boundaries of the Old Town district are reviewed by the commission when work is proposed that will result in a change to the exterior of the property such as additions, alterations, building materials, landscaping, and signage.

Commission members review proposals while keeping in mind that projects should conform with Old Town guidelines reflecting the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Rehabilitation.

“Landmarks does not review work that is considered ordinary maintenance that results in no change in the exterior appearance of the property or no change of materials,” said Moore.

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