Historic Districts

The historic districts were created for the promotion and preservation of Portsmouth’s educational, cultural, and economic interests. The Truxtun, Cradock, Port Norfolk, Olde Towne, and Park View Historic Districts are established and continued as shown on the City’s Zoning Map.

New development, rehabilitation, or redevelopment within a historic district requires approval of a Certificate of Appropriateness, COA, (in addition to any other required permits) in accordance with the procedures and requirements in Code Section 40.2-536. An approved COA is required before any other applications can be filed.

Applicants are encouraged to consult the appropriate historic district design guidelines below. These guidelines help property owners, as well as the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), decide what are appropriate changes for structures in the historic districts as well as appropriate new construction. The guidelines are organized into sections that indicate appropriate building materials and design for each site feature. For information on the dimensional requirements and district specific standards in historic districts, please see Code Section 40.2-206.

Depending on the proposed activity, the review and decision on a COA application may be undertaken administratively by staff or by the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) at one of their monthly meetings. See Appendix A - Approval Matrix in district guidelines to identify the appropriate review body based on the proposed project type.

Click here for more information on the Historic Preservation Commission.

2023 Historic Preservation Commission Meeting Schedule and Submission Deadlines

Certificate of Appropriateness Application Form Fillable (PDF) 

Electronic/digital submission of applications and other materials is encouraged whenever feasible. Consult the Staff Directory or the specific subject page for staff contact information.

Mailed items can be sent to:


Credit card payments can now be accepted over the phone. Please call the Planning Department at 757-393-8836 for more information. Please note that a signed credit card authorization form is required to be submitted before a credit card payment can be processed.

Credit Card Authorization Form (PDF)

Historict Districts Map. Click on map for full size PDF.

Historic Sub-Districts Map
Historic Districts guidelines update page header

The Portsmouth Planning Department has initiated a project to review and update the historic districts guidelines for the City’s five locally designated historic districts.

Click here for more information on the guidelines update project.

Related Documents

Download the HPC approved paint color references for the Olde Towne, Port Norfolk, Park View, Cradock, and Truxtun Historic Districts.

The Cradock Style House Plans and the Truxtun Infill House Plans are pre-approved plans that may be utilized for new construction of single-family dwellings in the respective historic districts. A COA application is required for pre-approved Cradock and Truxtun plans that will be administratively approved. Any deviations from the plan will require review by the HPC.

Cradock Neighborhood Strategic Plan

Truxtun Plan 2008

Historic Preservation Commission Roof Analysis (PDF)


National Park Service Preservation Briefs

Preservation Briefs provide information on preserving, rehabilitating, and restoring historic buildings. These National Park Service Publications help historic building owners recognize and resolve common problems prior to work. The briefs are especially useful to Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program applicants because they recommend methods and approaches for rehabilitating historic buildings that are consistent with their historic character.

Local Real Estate Tax Exemption

Rehabilitated structures may be eligible for a local real estate tax exemption. The general guidelines are as follows.

  • Building must be at least 25 years old. 
  • Residential rehabilitation must increase the base assessed value by at least 40% with less than 15% structural addition. 
  • Commercial rehabilitation must increase the base assessed value by at least 60% with less than 15% structural addition. 
  • The owner or agent must file application, along with a $50.00 application fee, with the City Assessor within 10 business days after obtaining building permits to perform the rehabilitation. 
  • The exemption period is 10 years.

Additional information can be found at the links below. Contact the City Assessor for additional information.

Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits

The preservation of historic buildings benefits communities and connects us to our heritage, enriching the quality of our lives in many tangible and intangible ways. Their preservation also provides demonstrable economic benefits.

Through the federal and state rehabilitation tax credit programs, property owners are given substantial incentives for private investment in preservation, resulting in enormous advantages to the public.

Both the federal and state tax credit programs are administered in Virginia through the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR).

State tax credits are available for owner-occupied, as well as income-producing buildings. If your property is income-producing, you may also be able to take advantage of federal tax credits. Additional information and assistance with tax-credit projects may be requested from DHR’s Richmond office. Contact Chris Novelli at (804) 482-6097.

What buildings qualify for the tax credit program?

The credits described above are available only for Certified Historic Structures, which are defined as follows:

Under the Federal program, a certified historic structure is one that is either:

  • Individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places, or
  • Certified as contributing to a district that is so listed.

Under the State program, a certified historic structure is one that is:

  • Individually listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register, or
  • Certified as eligible for listing, or
  • Certified as a contributing structure in a district that is so listed.

Comparison of Federal and State Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits

Rehabilitation Tax Credits Frequently Asked Questions

How can I get additional information?

A helpful resource is the DHR Handbook and Resource Guide for Owners for Virginia’s Historic Houses. The goal for this handbook is to help owners of Virginia's historic  homes begin to understand their houses and to learn where to find the answers to protect, preserve, and maintain them. This basic compilation of resources and explanations should help homeowners to understand, plan, investigate, evaluate, and carry out the most sympathetic and cost effective repairs to their historic homes. It is meant to be a simple and readable technical manual, touching on recurring themes and questions that are repeatedly directed to the staff at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
Another helpful resource is the DHR Historic Trades & Consultants Directory.

Please Note: DHR provides the Trades & Consultants Directory as a free service to property owners, local governments, and state and federal sponsors in Virginia seeking the assistance of people and professional firms with expertise in historic preservation. The directory is not an endorsement by DHR or the City of Portsmouth or a demonstration of professional competence. As a government agency, DHR  and the City of Portsmouth cannot recommend the services of an individual consultant and does not accept responsibility for the performance of any consultant. The directory should not be construed as an “approved” list. Determining the suitability of the providers is the responsibility of the property owners. It is also the responsibility of the property owner to obtain all appropriate permits and to ascertain that contractors have the appropriate licenses. For more information, visit the DHR website.

Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits Information Session

On January 12, 2022, Jessica Ugarte, Tax Credit Supervisor with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, provided an overview on the federal and state historic rehabilitation tax credit programs. Watch the recording of the meeting below.

Click here to download a copy of the presentation slides.

"CAN DO" Help Video

Interested in moving to or renovating construction in one of Portsmouth’s Historic Districts? Check out our informational video here! For more information, contact Planning at 757-393-8836.