Named in honor of the 19th Century poet John Greenleaf Whittier, the City of Whittier has a diverse and bountiful history dating back to when the Gabrielino Indians first inhabited the area, through its Quaker foundations to the agricultural and oil industries that were founded in the City during the 19th and 20th centuries. These industries were supported, in part, by the successful development of water and transportation systems to serve the community. By 1898, when Whittier was incorporated, the City began experiencing a commercial and residential development boom that propelled its subsequent growth and development through the 20th century. The establishment of several schools, including Whittier High School and Whittier College, also gained the City notoriety as a place for quality education. In addition, the numerous religious facilities developed throughout the City during the 19th and 20th centuries continue to serve the spiritual needs of its residents and are an integral part of the community.
To preserve the important historical features of the community, the City of Whittier is committed to identifying, preserving and protecting those historic buildings, structures, objects and places that convey Whittier’s heritage for current and future generations to study and enjoy. This is accomplished through the City’s General Plan Historical Resource Element and its Historic Preservation Ordinance. These tangible links to the City’s past are important icons that promote public understanding, appreciation and civic pride for those people, places and events that contributed to making Whittier a great community to live and work.
Below, you will find information about how to obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness application, financial incentives to maintain historic property in Whittier, the process and criteria related to nominating potential local historic landmarks, descriptions of the City's existing historic landmarks and districts as well as other helpful links.
Historic Resources Application Forms
Certificate of Appropriateness
A Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) is required for work that would change the exterior appearance of a structure that was built prior to 1941. This includes additions, alterations, new construction, window replacements, relocation or demolitions. However, such work as minor exterior repairs, re-roofs, construction of side or rear yard fences etc. are eligible for a COA waiver. More extensive work requires the review and approval of the City’s Historic Resources Commission. An approved COA is required before a building permit can be issued. Review by the Commission ensures that all proposed work is consistent with the requirements of the City’s Historic Resources Ordinance (W.M.C. Chapter 18.84) and/or the applicable ordinance that applies to the historic district the building, structure or object is located in.
Prior to doing any new construction and/or demolition to a building please contact the Community Development Department staff at (562) 567-9320.
The Mills Act is a State law enacted in 1972 that provides a tax incentive to preserve and maintain qualified historic buildings, structures and objects. Under this law, the City of Whittier has the authority to enter into an agreement (contract) with the property owner(s) of a qualified historic resource to preserve and maintain it on their property in exchange for the County Assessor re-assessing the owner’s property at a lower tax rate by utilizing a special formula established by the State, pursuant to California Government Code Section 50280 et. seq. Properties qualifying for a Mills Act agreement must have an historic resource on it that is a recognized and designated local, State and/or National historic landmark or be a contributing resource within a designated historic district. All Mills Act Agreements are perpetual ten year contracts that automatically renews annually until such time as either the City or the property owner give notice to the other, in writing, that they do not wish to renew the Mills Act Agreement contract. Should a property owner breech the Mills Act Agreement contract prior to its ten year expiration period (regardless if it was a prior owner who entered into the agreement with the City), a cancellation fee equal to 12-½% of the current fair market value of the property shall be assessed pursuant to W.M.C. Section 18.84.360. You can find more information about the Mills Act Agreements by clicking on the following links: W.M.C Section 18.84.300 (Mills Act Agreements) and State of California, Office of Historic Preservation.
Identifying and designating buildings, structures, objects and sites of potential significance encourages the preservation and protection of Whittier's historic resources. The City of Whittier's Historic Preservation Ordinance provides a process by which such potential historic resources can be officially recognized and listed on the City’s Local Official Register of Historic Resources.
Within the City of Whittier, there are currently 48 locally designated historic landmarks, and four historic districts. These designated properties include individual sites and districts (e.g. private homes, civic buildings, and residential neighborhoods). Notable structures on the list include: the Southern Pacific Railroad Depot, Bailey House, Murphy House, Cool-a-Coo Ice Cream Plant, Citrus Association Packing House, and the First National Bank/Bank of America building.
There are four historic districts in the City of Whittier: Hadley/Greenleaf, Central Park, College Hills and Earlham Historic Districts. Each district is unique and provides a historical glance into Whittier’s past. For more information on each historic district in the City, click here.
Historic Resources Website Links and Reference Materials
City of Whittier Historic Resource Ordinances
Other City of Whittier Links
Reference Guide for Building Materials and Service Providers
Eligibility Designation Criteria for Historic Landmarks