Historic Preservation

Historic Preservation in Wake Forest

The Town of Wake Forest has a rich history in northern Wake County and piedmont North Carolina. Tangible evidence of that history is visible throughout the town and especially within the core surrounding the old campus and downtown. Wake Forest takes great pride in its history and historic built environment. In 1979, the Town established the Historic Preservation Ordinance, Historic Preservation Commission and Local Historic District as a means of protecting and promoting its historic significance.

The Historic Preservation Program is part of the Long Range Planning component of the Town of Wake Forest Planning Department.  Staffed by the Senior Planner (Historic Preservation) the program is responsible for overseeing the historic preservation ordinance, demolition of historic structures ordinance, and other local, state, and federal historic preservation laws and regulations. In addition, the Historic Preservation Program staff provide technical historic preservation assistance, identification and evaluation of historic properties, grant writing for the Town's historic preservation projects, planning public outreach materials and events to raise awareness of the Town's historic resources, and as the staff liaison to the Historic Preservation Commission.

Historic Preservation Commission

The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) was established by the Town of Wake Forest on May 10, 1979 with the adoption of the first historic preservation ordinance as part of the zoning ordinance. The original commission was called the "Historic District Commission" but was later changed to the "Historic Preservation Commission." The HPC is a board of nine citizens with experience or demonstrated interest in history, architectural history, archaeology or closely related field appointed by the Board of Commissioners. 

The Historic Preservation Commission reviews all proposed alterations, renovations, and new construction to Locally Designated Historic Landmarks or properties in the locally designated historic district. The purpose of this oversight is to ensure that the special character of the historic property and district are preserved by meeting the historic district and local landmark design standards and the Secretary of Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation. These reviews result in the issuance of a permit for the historic district and local landmark called a "Certificate of Appropriateness" which means that the proposed work is "appropriate" to the special character of the historic property or district.  

The Historic Preservation Commission and Wake Forest Board of Commissioners adopted the Historic Preservation Plan Update to guide historic preservation practices in Wake Forest for the next ten years. The plan received a 2023 Marvin Collins Award for Specialized Plan from the North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association. 

Read the Historic Preservation Commission's monthly newsletter.


The Historic Preservation Commission currently meets on the fourth Tuesday of every month at 6:30 pm in the Board Chambers, 2nd floor of Town Hall, 301 S. Brooks Street. All meetings are open to the public. The full agenda packet for the most recent meeting is available here. The HPC's 2024 calendar with COA Application deadlines is here

The next HPC meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 23, 2024 at 6:30 pm. 

Vision Statement & Slogan

The Historic Preservation Commission's slogan is "Preserving the Past for the Future" and their vision statement is: "To safeguard the heritage of the Town, by preserving districts and landmarks that embody important elements of its culture, history, architectural history, or prehistory and to promote the use and conservation of such districts and landmarks for the education, pleasure, and enrichment of the residents of the Town, the County, and the State as a whole." 

Special Activities

The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) also sponsors a variety of other historic preservation-related activities. The most popular and long-standing is the Christmas Historic Home Tour. Currently, the HPC is rehabilitating the historic Ailey Young House. From time to time the HPC holds public outreach and educational workshops. Topics of past workshops include using the historic tax credits, appropriate materials for historic rehabilitations, and identifying and preserving historic cemeteries. Past projects that the HPC worked on are beautification of the median along North Main Street, historic district signage, pedestrian lighting along North Main Street, and  walking tour brochures and apps for the Local Historic District and Downtown National Register Historic District.

Historic District Design Standards 

The original historic district Design Guidelines were adopted in September 1999 by the Historic Preservation Commission. In 2019, the Historic Preservation Commission updated and revised the document to be a "Historic Property Owner's Handbook with Design Guidelines for the Local Historic District and Local Landmarks. This document was updated due to Legislative changes in 2020 and now called "Historic Property Owner's Handbook with Design Standards for the Local Historic District and Local Landmarks effective January 1, 2021.. This comprehensive document is meant to provide guidance to anyone who owns for cares for a historic building in addition to being the guiding document for the Preservation Planning Staff and HPC's decision making process. The updated Historic District Design Standards  

Secretary of Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation  

The Secretary of Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation were created by the Department of the Interior to serve as the overarching standards for appropriate rehabilitation and renovation efforts on historic properties that are used by property owners and local, state, and federal agencies nationwide. They can be found on many web sites including here North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) within the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.