Historic Preservation in Decatur

The historic, cultural, and aesthetic heritage of Decatur is one of its most valued and important assets. The Historic Preservation Commission was established in 1990 by municipal ordinance to stimulate revitalization of historic neighborhoods, enhance opportunities for federal and state tax benefits, and provide for the designation and protection of historic properties and districts within the city. The Historic Preservation Commission and the Architectural Review Board are the municipal bodies that are tasked with overseeing these undertakings.

Historic Districts in Decatur

Decatur has five National Register Districts, and several individually listed National Register buildings. Bank Street/Old Decatur encompasses portions of the original Old Town plat map, and the New Town plat map as well. East Old Town and West Old Town are two National Register Districts that encompass a portion of the city’s original Old Town plat map that has historically been populated with African American residents and businesses. Although all three of these districts were lived in before the Civil War, only a handful of antebellum buildings remain. Most of Decatur was razed to the ground during Union occupation. The buildings that fill these districts now are predominately from the reconstruction era through the early 20th century. Charming Victorians share streets with quaint Craftsman and stately Colonial Revivals. Bank Street is the remaining commercial street in these districts, and is anchored by the individually listed 1833 Old State Bank.

Albany Commercial District (along 2nd Avenue) represents the city’s second growth stage, after the Civil War. The Decatur Land Improvement and Furnace Company formed in 1887 by a group of southern and northern investors. They purchased over 5,000 acres and platted an entirely new city, originally named New Decatur. The famous landscape architect Nathan Franklin Barrett was hired to design the planned city. The commercial core of New Decatur (which later changed its name to Albany, thus the Albany district today) is 2nd Avenue. The residential portion of the district, which has housing stock similar to Old Decatur, surrounds Delano Park, our city’s oldest municipal park. Portions of Old Decatur and the Albany National Register Districts are also locally zoned historic districts, meaning properties in these neighborhoods go through municipal design review for exterior work. The city’s Architectural Review Board reviews proposed changes to properties in those districts.

Historic Buildings in Decatur

The city owns five National Register buildings which are some of the most iconic structures in the city. Old State Bank (1833) is Alabama’s oldest bank building, with a significant Civil War history. Union Depot (1905) houses offices for the Decatur Police Department and a railroad museum. Both the bank and the depot are open to the public and have museum exhibits. The Carnegie Center for the Visual Arts is located in a former Carnegie Library built in (1904). The center houses a rotating art exhibits that are free to the public. The Princess Theatre (1941) is an Art Deco jewel that serves as the city’s performing arts center. More than 60,000 people attend events at the center each year.

Managing and Promoting History in Decatur

The City manages and promotes our shared history through two municipal boards: the Historic Preservation Commission and Architectural Review Board. The Historic Preservation Commission works with city staff on overseeing community outreach, promoting historic preservation, historic tax credits, 106 review, survey and inventory work, and grant funding. The Architectural Review Board is charged with maintaining the integrity of our two locally zoned historic districts (portions of the Old Decatur and the Albany residential districts) through design review. For more information on each board, and what their responsibilities are, please visit the Historic Preservation Commission and Architectural Review Board pages.

The Historic Preservation Commission, the Architectural Review Board, and Certified Local Government staff serve as a resource and advocate for history and preservation efforts throughout the entire city. For additional information and assistance please contact: historicpreservation@decatur-al.gov .

Visit the Historic Preservation Downloads page for access to helpful documents, maps, and resources.