After local citizens began to advocate for the preservation of Lancaster’s historic buildings and neighborhoods, City Council created a local historic district in 1967 in order to protect the city’s architecture. The Historical Architectural Review Board, or HARB, is the body created by City Council to oversee regulated activities within the historic district. City Council designated the HARB historic district to recognize and protect the quality of the architecture in the district. Lancaster’s historic buildings enhance the quality-of-life for City residents, provide a rich experience for heritage tourists, and offer economic opportunities for businesses. The HARB district was created to safeguard this architectural heritage by establishing a thoughtful review process for all changes to the exterior of buildings in order to prevent hasty or inappropriate alterations or demolition. New construction and alterations are assessed according to how the proposed change will affect the appearance of a building or overall character of the street, and whether significant architectural features will be hidden, damaged or lost. Like building and fire codes, historic district ordinances help to protect the health and welfare of the City.

The HARB is made up of seven individuals appointed by City Council to review all applications for new construction, demolition, and exterior alterations to buildings within the historic district. The HARB includes one registered architect, one licensed real estate broker, and the City’s Chief Building Official. The remaining four members are citizens who own property or live within the historic district.

The HARB members review applications carefully, discuss the project with the applicant, and assess the proposed physical changes using the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards as guidelines.

When is a HARB review necessary?
Generally speaking, exterior changes requiring HARB reviews will involve:

  1. A Change in Design: For example, replacing the front entry door, removing a porch, adding a new attic dormer, blocking up an existing window, adding a new door opening, replacing decorative turned porch columns with straight posts. Additions to a building or site, including new fences, flower boxes, and signs are also reviewed.

  2. A Change in Materials: For example, replacing wood windows with vinyl windows, removing a wooden porch railing and installing wrought iron, replacing wood or slate roof shingles with asphalt.


When is a HARB review not necessary?
The HARB does not review any interior work or exterior painting (including the choice of colors). General repairs and routine maintenance, and replacement of deteriorated features with in-like-kind materials and with an identical appearance to the original, does not require formal review before the HARB, but does require a permit within the historic district. Staff can give “administrative approval” for in-kind repairs that meet certain criteria. These activities include repointing of brick, in-kind replacement of roof shingles, and the installation of storm windows and storm doors.


How do I apply for a HARB review?
To discuss your proposed changes, call and make an appointment to meet with a staff member of the City’s Bureau of Housing and Structural Inspections at (717) 291-4724, between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, at City Hall. You will be advised by staff whether a HARB review is required and what documents you will need to provide.

If a review is required, you must complete a two-page Application for HARB Review . (Completed applications cannot be filed online.) For the application, you will have to describe your proposal in detail and submit current photographs of the property, as well as dimensional plans or drawings of the proposed changes. Call the Historic Preservation Specialist at 291-4726 with specific questions or to find out the monthly application deadlines. There is no application fee for a HARB review.

Completed applications submitted by the deadline will be reviewed by the HARB at their normally scheduled meeting, generally held on the first Monday of each month. The HARB will evaluate the application for appropriateness, and send its recommendation to City Council for action. City Council meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. City Council is responsible for issuing a “Certificate of Appropriateness” for the proposed project, which will permit you to obtain the required building permit (provided that your project also meets the requirements of zoning, engineering, or other city ordinances or regulations).

To find out whether your property is located within the HARB district, please refer to the Local Historic District Map (See Below), or call the Historic Preservation Specialist at 291-4726.

If your property is NOT located within the HARB district, your project may be subject to review by the Heritage Conservation District.

Click here to view a map of the Local Historic District and Heritage Conservation District.