The successful creation of Cookeville’s East 8th Street Historic District has the city’s historic commission wanting more.
City Historic Commission member Susan Vandergriff assisted in creating the new overlay late last year. She said establishing the overlays will help draw more people to Cookeville.
“Protecting the beauty of the past by historic district overlay zoning I think is one of the most forward-thinking items that our city planning department has undertaken over the past few years,” Vandergriff said. “My goal would be for the Cookeville community to have more historic district zone overlays than any other community in Tennessee.”
Commission President Alma Anderson said some area residents may have a negative connotation when they think of historic districts.
“This is just an overlay and a lot of times people think it makes things more expensive or more difficult,” Anderson said. “But, for the most part here in Cookeville with our historic zones, it’s not. It’s just a matter of preserving the integrity of a house.”
The historic commission was established nearly 20 years ago with the assistance of current city planning director, James Mills. During its inception, Cookeville City Council required a super-majority of residents in a proposed district to approve the overlay’s establishment, which has since been reduced to a simpler 51-percent of residents.
Anderson said buildings do not have to be in their original form to qualify for a historic overlay.
“One of the things we really wanted to preserve was the facade of the houses so that anything in the interior was not necessarily historic,” Anderson said, “but the exterior, we wanted to keep it the way it was when it first was built.”
The historic commission says the overlays can also attract tourists interested in Cookeville and the area’s history. Senior Planner Ken Young said tourists can soon have the ability to take self-guided tours around the city to learn more about the homes within each overlay.
“They can pull that app up and look at the overall districts, individual properties, the architecture and when it was built, former owners, old photographs,” Young said. “Somebody at their own pace can come in. That’s a wonderful tool, [because] when I print a brochure it becomes obsolete the moment it comes off the press. This we can keep up to date.”
Vandergriff notes efforts are underway from city residents to create a new historic district in the area of Maple Avenue. Citizens interested in making their community a historic district can contact the Cookeville Planning Department for more information.