Historic Property Survey and Historic District
Bellevue Borough Historic District
Exciting news! Bellevue now has a designated historic district eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places! Based on the comprehensive historic resource survey sponsored by Bona Fide Bellevue and completed by our consultant Practical Preservation (detailed below), the new Bellevue Borough Historic District was determined to be eligible for National Register listing by the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office in February 2022. We hope this designation will engage neighbors in proactively designing the future of Bellevue’s built landscape to benefit all residents while honoring the area’s heritage.
This determination is one step toward the possible addition of Bellevue to the National Register of Historic Places, but that recognition has not yet been applied for, or received.
What Does Listing in the National Register of Historic Places Mean?
- It provides formal recognition that a property has historical or architectural significance.
- It ensures consideration in the planning for federal or state funded/permitted projects such as highway development, bridge replacements, telecommunications towers, etc. This pertains both to properties listed in the Register and to those eligible for listing.
- It affords the State Historic Preservation Office, local government, and the public a chance to comment on the effects of federal and state undertakings on historic resources.
- It provides grant opportunities for planning studies, main street programs, façade improvements, and other preservation and economic development activities.
- It makes income-producing properties eligible to receive federal and state rehabilitation investment tax incentives.
- It often enhances property values and marketability, aids in economic development and revitalization, builds strong neighborhoods and business districts, and promotes quality of life and pride in community.
What is the National Register of Historic Places?
- It is the official federal list of resources reflecting the nation’s cultural heritage and worthy of preservation and recognition.
- It includes districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects significant in American history, architecture, engineering, archaeology, and culture. These may be of national, state, or local significance.
- It is maintained by the Secretary of the Interior and administered by the National Park Service.
What National Register Listing Doesn’t Mean…
- It does not protect historic buildings or structures from demolition or inappropriate alterations by private property owners who use their personal funds.
- It does not restrict private property owners from demolishing or making changes to their homes or businesses. It does not prohibit or restrict new additions, replacement of windows and roofs, changes to paint colors, removal of trees, or any other alteration by the owner.
- It does not guarantee preservation of the listed/eligible property or require the owner to maintain it.
- It does not impose any restrictions or covenants during sale of a property.
- It does not protect the property from the effects of local government projects unless federal or state funding or permits are involved.
Does National Register Listing Lead to Gentrification and Loss of Affordable Housing?
- Economic development policies and historic preservation initiatives must strike a fine balance as they seek to achieve two goals simultaneously: 1) ensure economic sustainability and high quality of life for all residents by broadening the tax base, attracting investment, creating jobs, and building strong neighborhoods and businesses; and 2) promote a diverse and welcoming community for all residents, in part through the availability of affordable housing for both owners and renters.
- These goals are not mutually exclusive. Neighborhood-building and recruitment/retention of sustainable businesses are the keys. All borough residents desire and deserve nice homes, safe and walkable streets, good schools, and a healthy business district. Historic preservation can be a highly effective tool for achieving these things. It does not inevitably lead to gentrification. If done well it will benefit residents from across the economic spectrum. Doing it well requires careful planning, good communication, and a strong public involvement process that ultimately results in consensus.
Keystone Grant Historic Survey Report
In 2020-2021 Bona Fide Bellevue sponsored a comprehensive historic resource survey of the Borough of Bellevue with the goal of identifying potential historic districts and significant individual properties throughout the 1.1 square mile community. The project was funded by a Keystone Historic Preservation Grant from the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) with matching funds provided by Bonafide Bellevue, and was completed by our consultant, Sandra Scaffidi of Practical Preservation, Fairmont, WV. Despite challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, all work was completed in June 2021.
The survey documented 2,341 homes and businesses in the borough that meet the 50-year National Register age requirement, including 61 that had been documented previously. Most were constructed before 1930. Buildings were mapped and photographed from public streets with care taken to avoid trespassing on private property. The survey also included extensive historical research completed with the assistance of local residents. It found numerous architecturally significant buildings including homes, commercial buildings, churches, schools, and landscape features.
The final survey report recommended that a large portion of Bellevue Borough is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district, with a period of significance of 1865-1950. A total of 1,881 resources in the district were evaluated as contributing, and only 340 non-contributing. Nearly 80% were constructed between 1880 and 1930, most of them during the three decades of intense speculative real estate development at the turn-of-the-century after streetcar lines were constructed from Pittsburgh’s North Side into the area that became the North Boros. The report notes: “This streetcar suburb developed as the desire for orderly, beautiful housing in close proximity to Pittsburgh created a demand to transform farmland into a suburban ideal.”
In February 2022 the State Historic Preservation Office officially concurred with the survey’s recommendations regarding the National Register eligibility of the Bellevue Borough Historic District. The next step will be the preparation of a formal nomination which will be submitted to the National Park Service. National Register status opens the door to a broad array of future historic preservation and economic development initiatives. The intended outcome is to engage neighbors in proactively designing the future of Bellevue’s built landscape to benefit all residents while honoring the area’s heritage.
According to Chris Driscoll, who spearheaded the survey project, “Bonafide Bellevue inspires community-driven vibrancy, and calling attention to Bellevue’s historic assets is a continuous theme that has garnered significant interest and participation in projects such as the Bellevue House Tour and Historic Plaque Program.” Driscoll continues, “This grant will support the further celebration of our community by the documentation of its resources.”
Former State Rep. Adam Ravenstahl expressed his support behind this initiative: “By preserving and building on the past, we can ensure that future generations know about our community’s history while supporting the vibrant evolution of our neighborhoods.”
View the Video Presentation of the Final Survey Report
Practical Preservation Website:
Frequently Asked Questions
How does this benefit Bellevue?
According to county data, Bellevue has over 1,200 properties over 100 years old in approximately 1 sq. mile. The purpose of the project was to identify historic resources of Bellevue for any future planning initiatives that benefit the public and the revitalization of the community. This includes identifying potential National Register-eligible historic districts and individual properties.
Celebrating historic resources and preservation is undoubtedly a key component of revitalizing communities that are lucky to have the number of historic buildings that Bellevue does.
Practical Preservation has also included in the report background research and context of the Bellevue’s history.
They did not be performing detailed research on individual properties.
How does this affect me? What, if any, personal info on homeowners would be used in the assessment?
No effort was required on a property-owners behalf. Property owner data was not included in the survey. Businesses occupying commercial space may be used for reference purposes. They did not perform detailed research on individual properties.
Who is doing the work?
West-Virginia-based preservation consultants Practical Preservation was selected from an RFP (Request for Proposals) process in 2019. They canvassed the Borough throughout 2020.
When was this shared with the public?
A press release was sent out in June 2019. Local newspapers The Trib and The Citizen picked up the story. The Mayor and Chief of Police were informed in January 2020 that ALL properties would be surveyed at ANY point in 2020. We received an acknowledgment and no further conversation was generated. We are not aware of any communication made from the borough to the public.
This question was submitted by a Bellevue resident.
What qualifies a property as historic without surveying?
While this is largely open to individual interpretation, general consensus is that age, architectural style, and integrity and/or a place of a significant event or person in history. Our third party consultant will be developing these definitions based on their expertise.
This question was submitted by a Bellevue resident.
I'm concerned this project will produce too much information on properties.
All information or data collected is already publicly accessible. Additionally, this work is not being used for gentrification purposes or raising taxes.
This question was submitted by a Bellevue resident.