How to research your home’s history

Obtaining historic designation for your home or building not only authenticates the home’s history but it is a way to preserve it for future generations to admire and enjoy.

RESOURCES

Historic designation

Historic designation of properties helps the community understand the value of its own history and often encourages others to do the same.

Historic designation in the City of Rancho Mirage

Historic designation by the City of Rancho Mirage is eminently achievable if you own a property that appears on the city’s original 2003 survey of historic resources, and your home (or business) is still in a good state of original integrity. ‘Integrity’ can be a slightly moveable feast. If you have original drawings or early, vintage photos they will be helpful in proving your case.

If you don’t know if your home is on the original survey, contact Ben Torres at the City of Rancho Mirage planning department: bent@ranchomirageca.gov. The city’s Historic Preservation Commission has the application form as well as FAQs on its website, information concerning Mills Act, existing historic resources, and more:

CITY HPC

If your home was not on the city’s 2003 survey of historic resources, but you believe that your home is of architectural significance – perhaps by a well-known architect and / or in reasonably original (exterior) condition, then you will have to go through a process to prove both its provenance and its integrity as well as addressing the normal list of criteria for designation. The city’s application form explains these criteria. This can involve quite extensive research (see ‘home history’), photographs of exterior elevations and details, and proof of its provenance via drawings, photographs, vintage articles, etc. Preservation Mirage can help with this process: with initial advice and introducing homeowners to resources and researchers who can help. The process can be quite lengthy and requires thorough documentation. Again, Ben Torres at the city can advise.

In either case, the city charges $500 per application. The city requires 12 sets of documents to be provided, and if accepted, will also require a set of labels to be provided (via a title company) that costs in the region of $350. The research, writing, photocopies, city fee, labels, etc., can bring the cost up to $3,000 or more if your home is not on the survey. However, the Mills Act tax deductions if your home is approved and you choose to go ahead with the Mills Act paperwork can amount to as much as a 60% reduction in property tax bills.