The first winter after Greg Peterson bought his nearly 100-year-old home in the Cooper Park neighborhood in 2002, the dog’s water dish froze to the kitchen floor.

Parts of a sink froze and broke off, and the porch sagged more than a foot. He also found hundreds of whiskey bottles tucked into a ceiling on the second floor, likely leftover from when the home was a sorority.

“It was in really bad shape,” he said.

But after 15 years of hard work and “a lot” of money, he said it’s ready to go for another 100 years. Peterson loves living in a historic home, and he’s not the only one. As Bozeman takes measures to beef up its historic preservation efforts, studies show maintaining and buying historic homes will be costly, and high housing prices will make it more difficult to affordably restore houses.

In April, city commissioners voted to keep historic district boundaries largely the same, approving a plan to update preservation efforts and its historic guidelines called the Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District.

That plan included boosting the city volunteer historic board’s oversight and training, getting plans for larger projects to neighbors earlier and creating a program to designate historic spots in town.

As the city considers historic preservation, data show that the demand for housing in historic districts will most likely increase as the city grows.

A 2016 study by found that historic homes are about 5.6% more expensive than similar-size homes within the same zip code, and upkeep costs for things like windows, shutters and roofs can cost anywhere from two to nearly seven times more than a modern house.

A study done in Tucson, Arizona, saw that property values in areas designated as historic appreciated 5% to 35% faster in similar but undesignated areas within a decade.

Though there haven’t been any similar studies done in Bozeman, city historic preservation officer Phil Gonzalez said those numbers are similar to the assumed rate of appreciation across the country.

“That’s kind of an argument for preservation, is that property values in historic districts are higher,” he said.

The median home sales price in Gallatin County for a single-family home was $420,900 as of June, according to data from the Gallatin Association of Realtors.

A quick Zillow search, however, shows a 7,300-square-foot house on Olive Street and Third Avenue that’s over 100 years old going for nearly $1.3 million. A three-bedroom, 4,100-square-foot house on South Wilson Avenue is listed for $1.5 million.

While it may seem absurd to some to pay so much more just to live in a house with ornate moldings and old hardwood floors, Peterson said the cost is worth living in a beautiful space with historic charm, and homes like it make Bozeman what it is. Though he only paid about $250,000 in 2002, he and his wife have taken money from their 401Ks and put every spare penny into the house to fix it up.

“It’s kind of like being pregnant,” he said. “Once the baby’s born, you forget the work you went through to get there.”

He also had to get a certificate of approval through the city to make certain changes. To make alterations or changes to structures in Bozeman’s designated historic districts, owners must work with the city to ensure design elements fit with the neighborhood’s character.

That could include carved wood detail surrounding a window, the shape of a railing or the style of shingles used on a roof. While particular attention is given to the outside of houses, there are some interior features the city has guidelines for as well.

When it comes to making alterations, Gonzalez said nothing is strictly prohibited, and the city has never rejected someone’s application in his time there. City planning works with applicants to find something that works for both them and the city, he said.

Matching new materials to old ones can be painstaking work. Builders doing restoration often rely on suppliers to do certain kinds of duplication, Archer Construction owner Dennis Steinhauer said. To redo some molding, he said a knife has to be made to cut the wood.

As Bozeman has grown, he said demand for restoration and renovations in historic districts has remained steady, but the majority of Archer’s clients want renovations to modernize housing over pure restoration work. It’s been a few years since anyone asked Archer to make their home look exactly like it did in the year it was built.

It’s becoming increasingly common for people to want a more modern look with more finishes, which makes renovation more expensive, he said. People don’t want 7-and-a-half by 8-foot-long bedrooms anymore.

“Oftentimes, they’re trying to strike some kind of balance,” he said.

As Bozeman ages, houses will need more renovation work, he said. Many older homes in Bozeman weren’t built to last that long, he said. He pointed out that many houses on the north side, for example, were built to be smaller and cheaper.

He said the vast majority of people don’t care as much about having a historic home; most people are interested in living in historic districts because of the proximity to downtown.

He also said the historic preservation planning that’s happening right now is trying to define something that’s undefinable.

“I value older homes as part of the fabric of our community, but I think trying to catch history in a jar here is somewhat unrealistic,” he said.

Gonzalez said he thinks the city is dedicated to both preservation and growth, having just relaxed accessory dwelling unit requirements in historic districts that can allow for more people to live there.

Bozeman has a strong historic core as it moves forward, he said. Even as the city grows, it will be able to navigate what it is, what it’s becoming and what it was.

“Preservation keeps a constant in people’s lives, something that’s familiar,” Gonzalez said. “It ties us back to community.”

Abby Lynes can be reached at or 406-582-2651. Follow her on Twitter @Abby_Lynes.

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