Historic District Design Standards

Historic Property Handbook CoverAdopted in September 1999 by the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) and revised in 2019, the Historic Property Handbook & Design Standards  assist staff and the HPC in their decisions for Certificates of Appropriateness (COAs). 

The central focus of the "Handbook" is the Design Standards 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 standards, 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 Standards, 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 standards 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:

  1. Identify, retain and preserve character-defining features and materials

  2. Protect and maintain character-defining features and materials

  3. Repair character-defining features and materials

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

Also ask these three questions when planning a project:

  1. Will the change alter the special character of the property or the district?

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

  3. 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 Standard Handbook.

The Town of Wake Forest takes pride in the special architectural and historical character of its historic core. The Historic Preservation Ordinance and Historic Preservation Commission are in place to promote and protect the significant heritage of the Town of Wake Forest.  The Wake Forest Historic Property Handbook with Design Standards for the Local Historic District and Local Landmarks is a manual for preserving the special architectural of historic Wake Forest for future generations to enjoy.


Historic District Design Standards
Senior Planner - Historic Preservation