Historic District Design Guidelines

Adopted in September 1999 by the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) and revised in 2019, the Historic Property Handbook & Design Guidelines guide staff and the HPC in their decisions on Certificates of Appropriateness (COAs). 

The central focus is the Design Guidelines section, which provides direction for property owners, tenants, commission members, planning staff, architects, contractors, and building inspectors for the preservation of the special character of Wake Forest’s landmarks and historic district properties.

The handbook is divided into three general sections: introduction and history, design guidelines, and appendices. The introduction and history section explains the legal framework for historic preservation in North Carolina and Wake Forest and provides an introduction into Wake Forest’s architectural heritage. Maps of the historic districts and examples of architectural styles are also found in this section. The second section is the Design Guidelines, which contain three chapters: site and setting; exterior changes including specific building components; and additions, new construction, relocation, demolition, and demolition by neglect. Following the design guidelines are appendices with index, glossary, contacts, references, internet resources, ordinances, and application forms.

When considering a change to a historic building or structure there are four guiding principles to follow:

  • Identify, retain and preserve character-defining features and materials

  • Protect and maintain character-defining features and materials

  • Repair character-defining features and materials

  • If deteriorated beyond repair, replace historic features and materials that match the original

Also ask these three questions when planning a project:

  • Will the change alter the special character of the property or the district?

  • Will the change affect the visual qualities of the adjoining properties or the district?

  • Will the change create a false sense of history (i.e. makes it appear older than it is)?

Answering yes to any of these questions means the project does not meet the Secretary of Interior’s Standards and should be reevaluated using the design guidelines.

The Town of Wake Forest takes pride in the unique architectural and historical aspects of its identity and has worked over the years to protect and enhance its architectural and cultural heritage. Various civic groups, the Chamber of Commerce, and local government advisory boards have maintained and improved many of the town's visual and physical qualities, while also promoting community awareness of and appreciation for the town's history and architecture. Recently, Wake County's surging growth has motivated Wake Forest to realize that while a larger population provides many benefits, it also brings the danger of being consumed into an amorphous conglomerate where all unique identity is lost. Thus, the efforts to protect and enhance the town's historic buildings have had to become more thorough and extensive. These guidelines are one step toward preserving the architectural heritage that Wake Forest must cherish if it wishes to remain a unique and intact community.


Historic District Design Guidelines
Senior Planner (Historic Preservation)