The City of Key West, Florida

The Southernmost City in the Continental United States


Frequently Asked Questions



What's the Difference Between Contributing and Noncontributing?

Contributing buildings mean structures that "contribute" to the Historic District, historically and architecturally. These are considered more significant historically and architecturally and should be rehabilitated more carefully than noncontributing structures. The regulations for contributing buildings are typically stronger and more stringent than noncontributing buildings. Staff has a survey that contains which structures are contributing and which structures are noncontributing.

Noncontributing buildings may be considered historic, and therefore have stricter regulations compared to non-historic buildings.


What Does “Historic” Mean?

"Historic building means any building or structure which, in whole or in any structural part, was built 50 or more years prior to the current date, and which is located in the historic zoning districts of the city or has been designated as a historic building and/or structure," (Sec. 102-1).

When staff refers to something being "historic," that means it was constructed 50 or more years prior to the current date.


I Want To Install Something On My Property That Is Not Publicly Visible. Do I Need HARC?

Yes. A Certificate of Appropriateness is required for any exterior change to a property located in the Historic District, even if it is not publicly visible. Please see the How To Apply For a Certificate of Appropriateness page for more information.


Can I Replace My Windows?


First, staff will need to visit your property to assess the windows you want to replace.

There are different tiers to when it comes to replacing windows:

  • If a structure has historic windows, the HARC Guidelines and the Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines call for historic windows to be repaired, rather than replaced. You can read those documents here.
  • If a structure has non-historic windows or if the historic windows are beyond repair, then replacements can be made, but with materials and style that matches the original window.
    • If a structure originally had wood windows, then wood windows will need to be installed on the front and sides of the structure. In many cases, the rear of the structure can have alternate materials.
    • HARC does allow wood, impact windows for replacement windows of houses that require wood replacement windows.
    • Glass needs to be clear and untinted for replacement windows.

Important Resources


Historic Windows


Can I Replace My Metal Shingles With V-Crimp?

If replacement of roofing material is necessary, the HARC Guidelines for Roofing state, "that historic roofing must be replaced with similar metal shingles," and the Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for Rehabilitation both state, "Where the severity of deterioration requires replacement of a distinctive feature, the new feature will match the old in design, color, texture and, where possible, materials."


Can You Elevate Structures in the Historic District?

Yes. HARC understands the importance of raising historic and significant structures out of the floodplain, but there are certain restrictions on how much you can elevate your structure. It is important to retain the pedestrian quality of the historic district as well as retain the historic house's proportions and architectural character. As such, it is inappropriate to elevate a structure in order to park a car underneath, as well as elevating a contributing or historic building or structure in order to build a new addition underneath.

Elevating a structure will require a HARC Commission Review.


Can I Build An Addition Onto My House?

Yes - as long as the addition is appropriate to the building and the neighborhood.

Additions shall be attached to less public elevations and shall limit its size and scale in relationship to the historic building. The addition shall be lower than the original building height. Please read the guidelines for Additions and Alterations for all regulations.

Before starting the design process for an addition to a historic building or structure, it is important to study the current interior space and any existing accessory structures on the site, to determine if rearrangement of the interior is possible or may be a better solution rather than altering the exterior of a building. The principle here is to minimize irreversible exterior changes to the three dimensional footprint of an existing building. If the solution for more space requires an addition, then, how minimal can that alteration be in order to accommodate the needed space? In most cases, additions to historic and contributing buildings involve the destruction of historic fabric, such as walls, roofs and structural components, which are important to preservation efforts. Additions may also alter the mass and symmetry of a building and they can negatively affect the scale and proportions of a structure, the relationship of a building to its neighbors, and in consequence, additions can jeopardize a building’s historic architectural character and value, as well as surrounding buildings.

When designing an addition it is important to respect and preserve all character defining and distinctive elements of the existing building and site, and to consider:

  1. Have any existing additions acquired historical value and significance?
  2. How much historic fabric, including but not limited to walls, windows, doors, roofs, structural components are required to be destroyed in order to accommodate the addition?
  3. How is the basic form and scale of a building intrinsic to itself and its adjacent structures?
  4. Which are the primary and secondary elevations?
  5. What existing components of the building contribute to its character?

Additions should be complementary to the original building, and they shall also be clearly but subtly differentiated from the original structure to avoid confusion about the historical record and age of the building. Additions should reflect the on-going history of a building and shall be clearly read as part of its development over time.

It is paramount the following principles are achieved:

  • Preserve significant historic materials, features and forms;
  • Be compatible with the existing building or structure and surrounding context;
  • Be differentiated from the historic building in a subtle manner that respects the historic context

Important Resources:

1. Preservation Brief 14: New Exterior Additions to Historic Buildings
2. Secretary of the Interior's Guidelines for Rehabilitation


Can I Install Solar Panels?

Yes, although HARC requires the equipment to not cause damage to historic fabric and that the panels to be as non-publicly visible as possible. Please see the Solar Collectors Guidelines for more information.


Does HARC Have Jurisdiction of Interiors?

HARC only has jurisdiction over the interiors of properties that are listed individually on the National Register of Historic Places.

If there is an interior feature that a property owner wants to be protected, they should look into preservation/conservation easements on our Resources page. There are benefits such as tax deductions for donating an easement.


Is Key West a Certified Local Government? What is a Certified Local Government?

Yes, the City of Key West was added to Florida's Certified Local Government (CLG) Program in 1991. The CLG Program was enacted as part of the National Historic Preservation Act Amendments of 1980. The program links three levels of government - federal, state and local - into a preservation partnership for the identification, evaluation and protection of historic properties. Designation as a certified local government, either as a municipality or a county, makes historic preservation a public policy through passage of a historic preservation ordinance. The ordinance establishes a historic preservation board to develop and oversee the functions of its historic preservation program.

Since its inception in 1986, Florida's Certified Local Government Program has assisted in the survey, designation and preservation of thousands of historic and cultural resources and helped to increase public awareness of historic preservation. Participation in the program is also an important consideration in the local planning process, as governments in Florida are required to address historic preservation in comprehensive planning decisions. By identifying historic resources in a local government's comprehensive plan, proposed development projects will be reviewed for consistency with preservation goals and strategies.

Through the Division’s Small Matching Grants program, CLGs in good standing are eligible to compete for pass-through subgrants funded by the Historic Preservation Fund grant the Division receives annually from the National Park Service. The federal CLG subgrants may be for survey, planning and National Register nomination projects. In addition, Small Matching grant match funding requirements are waived for all grants awarded to CLGs in good standing, whether state or federally funded.

Learn more about CLGs here. The agreement between the City of Key West and the State of Florida can be read here. The Florida Certified Local Government Guidelines can be accessed here.


I Need to Repoint My Historic Masonry or Brick Building. What is Required?

Repointing, also known as replacing mortar and pointing, is common maintenance needed for masonry buildings and structures. Properly done, repointing restores the visual and physical integrity of the masonry. Improperly done, repointing not only detracts from the appearance of the building, but may also cause physical damage to the masonry units themselves

When repointing is needed, the City will require an architect or engineer, hopefully one with extensive knowledge of historic preservation, to prepare a report that includes a mortar analysis and a brick strength analysis. The new mortar should match the original mortar in strength, color, appearance, texture, and materials. The profile of the mortar joint is also important and will need to be replicated.

Please refer to Preservation Brief 2: Repointing Mortar Joints in Historic Masonry Buildings for more information.


Where Do I Get a Plaque or Star or Marker?

National Register Plaque           Florida Keys Star           Florida State Marker           Florida Keys Marker

National Register Plaques: Commemorative National Register of Historic Places plaques are up to the interest of the property owner. As long the plaques are placed on the building or on an existing concrete post, they are not regulated by HARC. For more information on how to obtain a plaque, please click here.

Preservation Star: A preservation star is an award given out by the Historic Florida Keys Foundation to recognize excellence in for preservation, restoration, rehabilitation and new construction. For more information on how to apply for a Preservation Award, please click here. They are not regulated by HARC.

Florida Historic Marker: The Florida Historical Marker Program is a popular program from the Division of Historical Resources. It is designed to raise public awareness of Florida’s rich cultural history and to enhance the enjoyment of historic sites by citizens and tourists. For more information on how to apply, please click here. These markers are reviewed by HARC for their placement on the property/site.

Key West Historic Marker: There is a program by the Key West Historic Marker Tour that places plaques on historic sites and buildings to provide interpretation for a free audio walking tour. These plaques are reviewed by HARC for their placement on the property.


Contact Us

Enid Torregrosa,
Historic Preservation Planner

In this Department