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Downtown may fit as historical district

by Mark Vasto and Ivan Foley
Landmark staff

Would downtown Platte City be eligible for designation as an historical district?

According to a representative of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, it just might.

The topic has come up for public discussion over the past week. Keith Lay, traffic studies engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) said that at a meeting with representatives of Platte City and some members of the downtown business community he offered signage that would point to a historical district if the town was interested in pursuing such an idea, but said that most people in the meeting seemed cool to the idea.

“I kind of threw that out there, but I didn’t get much of a response.”

City Administrator Keith Moody told The Landmark that he has never been pressed by the community to look into a historical designation for the downtown district and was unsure of the exact requirements needed to attain the designation. Moody said the city would not stand in the way of individual property owners who wanted to be placed on the register.

“You don’t have to get the approval of the city,” Moody said.

Diane Pepper of the Platte County Historical Society said she was unaware of any past efforts to place the downtown district on the historic register as well.

“There are several ways a district can be placed on the historic register,” said Tiffany Patterson, national historic register coordinator for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

“The preferred method is where the city conducts a survey of the area they wish to preserve and ask themselves if it's historic and for what reason.”

Patterson said that, in general, the area must be at least 50 years old and look as it did back then. Patterson, who is based in Jefferson City, said she was familiar with Platte City.

“Platte City is a county seat and it has the courthouse square,” Patterson said. “If it looks pretty much like it did 50 years ago, then it’s eligible.”

Patterson said that being placed on the register would make the area eligible for grant money, but would not mean that property owners couldn’t upkeep their property in any way they see fit.

“That’s one of the biggest myths about the register,” Patterson explained. “The person who owns the property is free to sell or maintain their property in any way they want.”

Patterson said that whenever you hear about ordinances preventing certain owners from making changes to their property, they are mandated from a local level, such as the district in Weston.

Patterson put it in better perspective.

“Missouri has more than 20,000 buildings on the historic register. Including myself, we have two national register staffers. We would never be able to inspect every building. It’s not practical. The government didn’t establish the register to tell people what to do with their property.”

Local historian Shirley Kimsey has copies of documents pertaining to several downtown office buildings that were gathered and sent to the Office of Historic Preservation by the Platte City Study Club in 1979. Those documents, filled out by the individual owners of some of the buildings, included information about the age of the structure and legal description of the property, among other things.

It is believed those documents would have qualified many of the downtown buildings to be placed on the historic register, but Kimsey says she is unaware if the area was ever officially labeled an historic district.


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