The Monterey Peninsula is a region of California rich with historic significance. From its early settlers and Missions, fabled artists, writers and poets, to its ranches, fisheries, and coastal habitats, the storied past of the Monterey Peninsula beckons to be explored. One fascinating feature of the Peninsula are the historic homes found in the quaint coastal town of Pacific Grove.
Historic Architectural Styles
In the quaint coastal town of Pacific Grove, you will find many historic homes. In fact, there are over 1350 structures on Pacific Grove’s Historic Resources Inventory. Some of these are officially designated historic landmarks, such as Chautauqua Hall and the Pt. Pinos Lighthouse. The majority of these historic buildings, however, are houses. Pacific Grove’s real estate market is filled with these charming and well-preserved historic homes.
When you explore Pacific Grove, you will find houses with a variety of architectural styles.
* The descriptions below are taken from chapter 7 of the city’s 1994 general plan, found here.
Vernacular Architecture (1874-1940)
Vernacular Architecture is the term applied to the traditional American architecture passed on to successive generations of builders and designers. These “pioneer houses” were of simple shape with “I” or “L”-shaped plans, gabled or hip roofs, and materials, shapes, textures, proportions, and ornamentation imported from older Eastern forms.
Gothic Revival (1887-1890)
Gothic Revival, also called Carpenter Gothic, was imported from England in a revolt against the rigidity of classical forms. It features irregular composition, steep gable roofs, lancet windows, trefoil and quatrefoil porch trim, and board-and- batten siding.
Queen Anne (1880-1910)
Queen Anne displays a variety of decorated eaves and porches, gables, towers and turrets, bay windows, stained glass, and patterned shingles. Structures vary greatly in size and design.
Colonial Revival, also called Georgian (1840-1950)
Colonial Revival, also called Georgian, reinterprets the English and Dutch houses of the Atlantic Seaboard. Typical examples append Palladian windows, classical portico entries, and windows of small square or diamond panes to Queen Anne, Stick, and Shingle structures.
Historic Plaques from the Heritage Society
Those little green plaques you see on homes when walking about the neighborhoods of downtown Pacific Grove? Those are created by The Heritage Society of Pacific Grove. Since 1978, they have gifted over 700 of these plaques to homes built before 1926.
The Heritage Society is not directly linked to the city's Historic Resources Inventory. They are a non-profit, whose mission is to "...foster an appreciation of the city’s historical and architectural resources through preservation activities and public education. The Heritage Society also works to encourage the preservation and restoration of the buildings that contribute to the beauty and unique character of Pacific Grove."
One way they share this education is through their historic home property tours. You can find an interactive map with descriptions and facts historic homes on their website, here: Heritage Society Tours
What Defines a Historic Building?
There are varying criteria for qualifying as a historic building, whether at the national, state or local levels. A property can be on one or more of these lists. The National Register of Historic Places oversees this registration at the national level, and is actually under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. At the state level in California, historic preservation is overseen by the California Office of Historic Preservation. At the city level, the Pacific Grove Historic Resources Inventory is overseen by the Historic Resources Committee.
In Pacific Grove, several factors are taken into consideration when an applicant wishes to modify, remodel or renovate a historic home. The following criteria are taken from the Pacific Grove Municipal Code's Chapter 23.76 HISTORIC PRESERVATION
City of Pacific Grove - Evaluation Criteria for Historic Homes
(a) Whether the structure has significant character, interest or value as part of the development, heritage or cultural characteristics of the city of Pacific Grove, the state of California, or the United States;
(b) Whether it is the site of a significant historic event;
(c) Whether it is strongly identified with a person who, or an organization which, significantly contributed to the culture, history or development of the city of Pacific Grove;
(d) Whether it is a particularly good example of a period or style;
(e) Whether it is one of the few remaining examples in the city of Pacific Grove possessing distinguishing characteristics of an architectural type or specimen;
(f) Whether it is a notable work of an architect or master builder whose individual work has significantly influenced the development of the city of Pacific Grove;
(g) Whether it embodies elements of architectural design, detail, materials or craftsmanship that represent a significant architectural innovation;
(h) Whether it has a unique location or singular physical characteristics representing an established and familiar visual feature of a neighborhood, community, or of the city of Pacific Grove;
(i) Whether it retains the integrity of the original design;
(j) Whether it contributes to the architectural aesthetics and continuity of the street;
(k) Whether it is located within a geographically definable area possessing a concentration of historic properties which visually contribute to each other and are unified aesthetically
Guidelines for Making Changes to the Home
The city does have preservations in place when it comes to making changes to the home, such as when remodeling, renovating, or making changes to the viewable exterior parts of the structure. However, while you may assume that nothing can be done to these homes, it is actually quite possible to make modifications, or even add-on entire new rooms or stories to the structure! However, the plans need to be reviewed and approved by the Historic Resources Committee.
Under Pacific Grove's Architectural Review Guidelines for working with these historic homes, you will find some of the criteria considered for approving a plan. Features taken into consideration include:
- Neighborhood context -- considering the late 19th and early 20th century development of that area.
- Historic scale and character -- setting additions in an inconspicuous side or rear placement to the home, setting stories well back from the roof ridge-line, etc.
- Preserving defining characteristics -- including, when possible, siding, windows, entrances and porches, roofs, trim, gables and overhangs, etc.
- Compatibility -- new work should maintain the integrity of the original design.
Understanding these nuances to the preservation of historic homes is important, whether you are looking to buy a house in Pacific Grove, make improvements with the intention to sell your home, or simply update and repair the home to maintain its value.
Potential Tax Benefits to Historic Home Owners
The Mills Act
Aside from the pride that comes with preserving a part of the city's history, owning a historic home also comes with some other benefits. One main potential benefit is tax relief (you will want to consult your own tax advisor, however and verify all information).
If you plan on living in the home, thus deeming it "owner-occupied," you may qualify for state tax relief, thanks to the Mills Act. According to the California Office of Historic Preservation, "The Mills Act is the single most important economic incentive program in California for the restoration and preservation of qualified historic buildings by private property owners."
*please note: The city of Pacific Grove does not currently participate in the Mills Act Program. The city council last voted on it in city council, and you can see that agenda here. To see a list of participating jurisdictions, and their contacts, click here.
While Pacific Grove does not currently participate in the Mills Act Program, our neighbor city of Monterey does. According to their program overview, "A Mills Act Contract is an agreement between the City of Monterey and property owner of a City designated historical building. The property owner benefits from a reduction in property taxes, and the City is ensured the historic building is preserved." These contracts are for 10 years, and are transferrable with the sale of the property. This could potentially make the property more attractive, when it comes to buying or selling a historic home. If you own a historic home in Monterey, contact the city's planner to learn more.
Federal Tax Credit
For non-owner-occupied historic buildings, such as income properties or bed-and-breakfasts, there is a potential federal tax credit available. The tax incentives program is administered by the National Park Service and the Internal Revenue Service, in partnership with the State Historic Preservation Offices. Each plays a specific role. With the recent amendment to the tax code in December of 2017, some modifications have been made to the program, so again consult your tax professional about your own specific case. The basics of the program are:
Federal Tax Credit for Non-Owner-Occupied Historic Homes
- The amount of credit available under this program equals 20% of the qualifying expenses of your rehabilitation.
- The tax credit is only available to properties that will be used for a business or other income–producing purpose, and a "substantial" amount must be spent rehabilitating the historic building.
- Your building needs to be certified as a historic structure by the National Park Service.
- Rehabilitation work has to meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, as determined by the National Park Service.
A Trusted Resource on Your Side
National, state and local laws are always changing. This is why it is important to have a local real estate professional you can trust, to help keep you informed. If you have a question about historic homes, buying or selling your home, or any other questions about the real estate market here on the Monterey Peninsula, feel free to give me a call or text at 831-869-6117.
Well, that's it for now. Thanks for visiting. I hope to see you in the neighborhood soon! -- Nate