The Manassas City Council is expected to vote at the end of this month on its proposed Old Town historic district, a 375-acre commercial and residential district that would provide some protection for about 140 of the city's 160 post Civil War buildings,

Some businessmen oppose the district because it would restrict demolition and alterations to old buildings and would set up an architectural review board that could require that new buildings be compatible with the old, said Randy Hobson, director of the city planning and zoning administration.

But the city, which already has invested several hundred thousand dollars to lay utility wires underground and improve sidewalks in the Old Town area, supports the historic district. The hope is that it would speed a downtown revitilization and preserve "the flavor or an era, a slice of Northern Virginia history," Hobson said.

The city already has one historic district located around the 1820 Liberia plantation house, which was visited by both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis.

"There is little else in Manassas that pre-dates the Civil War, when we were just a railroad junction," City Manager Chesley Moyer said. "But the city has a Victorian aura, and we're now trying to preserve what little we have left."

A Downtown Revitilization Action Committee has been formed by merchants and professionals to capitalize on the charm of the Old Town, but "so far it's all been one way. We've not gotten much response from the business community," Moyer said. "But if they got together with a unified advertising campaign and approached the council, I'm sure the council would be responsive."