Marfa historic district nomination wins unanimous approval from State Board of Review

MARFA — A historic district in the center of Marfa will likely soon be granted an official designation within the National Register of Historic Places, as the long-standing plan’s nomination on Saturday won unanimous approval from a board of advisors.

The Texas Historical Commission’s State Board of Review met over the weekend to consider the nomination of the Central Marfa Historic District, which is defined by Washington Street to the north, Dallas Street to the south, Dean and Russell streets to the east, and Austin and Abbott streets to the west. The nomination’s unanimous approval means the 245-page document detailing the district’s significance will now be finalized and submitted to the National Park Service, which oversees the National Register program, within 90 days.

From there, the path to the National Register should be fairly quick, said Greg Smith, a federal programs coordinator at THC.

“They approve almost every nomination — I don’t anticipate any issues with this,” said Smith, who noted that all nominations are generally approved within 45 days.

The designation would mark the end of a process that began in the mid-2000s, when the City of Marfa first hired a historic preservation consulting firm to survey the city for significant sites and structures. In 2019, the Judd Foundation and Chinati Foundation revived efforts to garner a designation, contracting with Preservation Central to nominate Marfa’s downtown area to the National Register. The boundaries of the historic district were redrawn to include Judd properties, stretching the bounds of the district beyond the downtown core.

Marfa’s Fort D.A. Russell is already on the National Register and will retain its individual listing, said Smith, who called the nomination “an additive process.” 

Representatives from the Judd Foundation and Chinati Foundation were present at the meeting to voice their support for the proposed district and celebrate its eventual passage.

“On behalf of Chinati, we believe that this nomination unifies the designation already bestowed on Fort D.A. Russell while recognizing Judd’s own efforts at preservation and his contributions to the historic and cultural record of Marfa,” said Jenny Moore, director of the Chinati Foundation.

“It was an educational process, even for those of us who manage and are responsible for these institutions and Judd’s legacy,” she continued.

A building’s designation within the National Register is honorific and does not require property owners to take any action. Being on the register comes with benefits, however — mainly, the availability of federal and state tax credits for rehabilitation. 

“For all the ongoing tax credit applications, it’s going to be a lot easier,” noted Smith.