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Enid News & Eagle, Jan. 13, 2014

Cherokee Terrace’s new historic designation doesn’t add up

The National Register of Historic Places is a federal designation for buildings that are - according to the NRHP website - “significant in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering and culture.”

Properties listed, again quoting from the NRHP website, “have significance to the history of their community, state or the nation.”

That’s what has us puzzled somewhat by the addition of Cherokee Terrace Apartments in Enid to the National Register of Historic Places.

The apartments were constructed between 1936 and 1938 by the Housing Division of the Public Works Administration as affordable housing for people suffering from the Great Depression.

To be eligible, a property must meet a couple of guidelines:

- Age and integrity. Is the property old enough to be considered historic (generally at least 50 years old), and does it still look much the way it did in the past?

- Significance. Is the property associated with events, activities or developments that were important in the past? With the lives of people who were important in the past? With significant architectural history, landscape history or engineering achievements? Does it have the potential to yield information through archaeological investigation about our past?

- While Cherokee Terrace Apartments certainly meet the first criteria, we aren’t sure about the second. Specifically, they were not created to be architectural marvels. They were built to be what they still are: apartments.

Enid has a number of other properties on the National Register of Historic Places, including Broadway Tower, Clay Hall, Garfield County Court House, H.H. Champlin House, McCristy-Knox Mansion and Rock Island Depot. Those properties do much more to follow the guidelines of significance than Cherokee Terrace Apartments.

Listing in the National Register is an honorific designation that provides recognition, limited protection and, in some cases, financial incentives for the properties. Owners of properties listed on the National Register may be eligible for a 20 percent investment tax credit for the certified rehabilitation of income-producing certified historic structures such as commercial, industrial or rental residential buildings.

From a federal standpoint, unless federal money is attached to a property on the National Register, the owner can do whatever they want to the property. However, state rules also may come into play.

Unless the designation was done with an eye toward receiving the tax credit for rehabilitation work, we have to question the logic of the listing.