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May 17

Living in Dayton’s Historic Districts - An Intro to COAs

Posted on May 17, 2022 at 9:51 AM by Alex Despain

An Image of buildings on West Third Street

West Third Street in the Wright-Dunbar historic district.

Buildings on Fifth Street, St. Anne's Hill

Fifth Street in the St. Anne’s Hill historic district

Did you know? In the City of Dayton, we currently have 13 locally designated historic districts as well as over 70 individually designated historic landmarks.

A map of historic districts in Dayton

All 13 locally regulated districts.

Historic districts and properties are usually recognized at both the federal and local levels. Federal recognition provides a number of benefits, including tax credits for restoration projects. Local recognition and regulations are mostly intended to ensure the ongoing protection and preservation of the historic integrity and character of these properties.

 Historic districts are designated as such primarily due to their age, but also due to the integrity of the structures in the area.  Original window patterns and style, the massing of a structure, and original materials and details all help to retain the integrity of a building.  If these elements are altered too much, the building can lose its historic status.  To help prevent this, exterior work must be reviewed to ensure that repairs and modifications are done in a way that maintains this integrity and is complementary to the historic aesthetic of the neighborhood.

A house on Park Drive before renovation

A House on Park Drive after renovation

326 Park Drive, before (top) and after a successful rehabilitation.

Getting a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) helps to make certain that work done on your property is going to be done right the first time.

 Depending on the historic designation category of your property, you may need a Major COA if you are looking to do any considerable modifications, such as new construction or changes to door or window layouts. Applications for Major COAs must be reviewed by our Landmarks Commission. But most routine work, such as replacing a roof or door or painting the exterior, requires little more than a phone call or an email to our Historic Preservation Officer.  So long as the proposed changes are all appropriate, a Minor COA can typically be processed and sent out in the mail to you the same day.

An example minor COA placard

An example major COA placard

Minor and Major Certificates of Appropriateness 

Since Major and Minor COAs are issued based on the historic designation category of your property, it is important to understand the differences between the categories. In Dayton, we have three historic designation categories:

  • HD-1 is intended to protect the overall form (style), massing (size), and fenestration (windows) of structures, but it allows for some leeway for painting and minor replacements without oversight from the Landmarks Commission. In many historic districts, commercial areas are designated HD-1 instead of HD-2 to give business owners more freedom to make updates to their structures. For structures designated as HD-1, property owners must acquire Major COAs for any major modifications to the structure but are not required to obtain Minor COAs for routine work.   
  • HD-2 is the most restrictive designation and is generally applied to all residential areas in historic districts and to some significant individual structures. HD-2 requires a COA for any exterior work.  For structures designated HD-2, property owners need to get a Major COA for any major modification, as mentioned above, but also need to get Minor COAs for all other exterior projects.
  • HD-3 is intended to protect individual structures from unwarranted demolition and is usually applied to significant commercial structures.  You will only need a Certificate of appropriateness for an HD-3 if you are seeking approval to tear down the building.

 To see which category your property falls under, visit

 Our historic districts and landmarks help tell the story of Dayton’s past. They give us a glimpse into the lives of those who came before us, and we hope to continue to showcase and preserve the craftsmanship and character of all the contributing structures in our districts. Once historic features have been altered, it can be difficult to return to the original condition, as materials are often lost.

Images of a house on LaBelle Street

La Belle Street in St. Anne’s Hill

So, if you live in one of Dayton’s historic districts, please be sure to reach out to Historic Preservation Officer Holly Hornbeak if you have any questions or are looking to do any work on the exterior of your home! Holly can be reached at or (937) 333-4271.