National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the United States government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects worthy of preservation. The National Register was established in 1966 with the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). Out of the over one million properties on the National Register, 80,000 are listed individually, the others are contributing members within historic districts. Each year 30,000 properties join the National Register as part of districts or through individual listings.
For most of its history, the National Register has been administered by the National Park Service (NPS), which is under the auspices of the United States Department of the Interior. Its goals are to help property owners and groups, such as the National Trust for Historic Preservation, coordinate, and identify and protect historic sites in the United States. While National Register listings are mostly symbolic, they do provide some financial incentive to listed property owners. During the nomination process it is determined whether or not a nominee adheres to at least one of the four criteria for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The application of those criteria has been the subject of criticism by academics in the fields of history and preservation, as well as the public, and politicians.
Occasionally historic sites outside the country proper but associated with the United States (such as the American Embassy in Tangiers) are also listed. Properties can be nominated in a variety of forms including individual properties, historic districts and Multiple Property Submissions (MPS). The Register categorizes general listings into one of five types of properties, building, structure, site, object, and districts. Historic districts consist of contributing and non-contributing property types. Some areas are added to the National Register automatically when they come under the aegis of the National Park Service. These include National Historic Landmarks (NHL), National Historic Sites (NHS), National Historical Parks, National Military Parks/Battlefields, National Memorials and some National Monuments.
On October 15, 1966 the Historic Preservation Act created the National Register of Historic Places and the corresponding State Historic Preservation Offices. Initially the National Register consisted of the National Historic Landmarks designated before the Register's creation as well as any other historic sites within the National Park system. The passage of the act, which was amended in 1980, and 1992, represented the first time the United States had a broad based historic preservation policy. The 1966 act required those agencies to work in conjunction with the SHPO and an independent federal agency, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) to confront adverse effects of federal activities on historic preservation.
To encompass the newly created National Register of Historic Places, the National Park Service under the U.S. Department of Interior, under director George B. Hartzog, Jr., established an administrative division called the Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation (OAHP). Hartzog charged OAHP with creating the National Register program mandated by the 1966 law. Ernest Connally was the Office's first director, within OAHP new divisions were created to deal with the National Register. The division oversaw several existing programs, including the Historic Sites Survey, and the Historic American Buildings Survey, as well as the new NRHP and Historic Preservation Fund.
The first official Keeper of the Register was William J. Murtagh, an architectural historian. In the Register's earliest years, the late 1960s and early 1970s, organization was lax and SHPOs were small, understaffed and underfunded. Indeed, money was tight, but funds were still being supplied for the Historic Preservation Fund to provide matching grants-in-aid to listed property owners, first in house museums and institutional buildings but later in commercial structures as well.
A few years later, in 1973, the NPS history programs affiliated with both the U.S. National Parks system and the National Register were formally categorized into two "Assistant Directorates." Established were the Assistant Directorate for Archeology and Historic Preservation and the Assistant Directorate for Park Historic Preservation. From 1978 until 1981 the lead agency for the NRHP was the Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service (HCRS) within the United States Department of Interior.
In February 1983 the two assistant directorates were merged to promote efficiency and recognize that the programs are both directorates were interdependent. Jerry L. Rogers, described as a skilled administrator who was sensitive to the need for the NPS to work with SHPOs, academia and local governments, was picked to lead this newly merged associate directorate.
Though not initially spelled out in the 1966 act reliance on the SHPO eventually became important as part of the process of listing properties on the National Register. The 1980 amendments to the 1966 law further laid out the responsibilities of SHPO concerning the federal National Register. 1992 amendments to the NHPA added a classification to the National Register known as Traditional Cultural Properties; properties associated with Native American or Hawaiian groups.
The National Register of Historic Places has grown considerably from its beginnings as legislation in 1966. In 1986 citizens and groups nominated 3,623 separate properties, sites and districts for inclusion on the NRHP, a total of 75,000 separate properties. Out of the over one million properties on the National Register, 80,000 are listed individually, the others are contributing members within historic districts.
Property owner incentives
Until 1976 tax incentives were virtually non-existent for buildings on the National Register. Before 1976 the federal tax code favored new construction over the reuse of existing, sometimes historical, structures. After 1976 the tax code was altered to provide tax incentives which promote preservation of income-producing historic properties. The responsibility of ensuring that only rehabilitations that preserved the historic character of a building would qualify for the federal tax incentives fell to the National Park Service. Properties and sites listed on the Register as well as those considered contributing properties to a local historic district "approved by the Park Service" became eligible for the federal tax benefits.
Owners of properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places can be eligible for a 20% investment tax credit for the "certified rehabilitation of income-producing certified historic structures." The rehabilitation can be as commercial, industrial or residential, for rentals. The tax incentives program is operated by the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program, which is jointly managed by the National Park Service, SHPO, and the Internal Revenue Service. Aside from the 20% tax credit the tax incentive program offers a 10% tax credit for rehabilitation to owners of non-historic, non-residential buildings constructed before 1936.
In addition, some property owners may qualify for grants as well, including the Save America's Treasures grants which apply specifically to NRHP properties which were entered in the Register at a national level of significance or designated as National Historic Landmarks.
The NHPA made no distinction between properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places and those designated as National Historic Landmarks concerning qualification for tax incentives or grants. This was deliberate on the part of the 1966 act's authors, past experience had shown that categories of significance caused the lowest category to become expendable. Essentially, this reduced the Landmarks to little more than the "honor roll" of the National Register of Historic Places.
|“||It is hereby declared to be the policy of the United States Government that special effort should be made to preserve the natural beauty of the countryside and public park and recreation lands, wildlife and waterfowl refuges, and historic sites.||”|
|— (49 USC 303)|
Any individual can prepare a National Register nomination although historians and historic preservation consultants are often employed for this work. The nomination contains basic information on the type of significance embodied in the building, district, or site. The State Historic Preservation Office receives National Register nominations and supplies feedback to the individual or group preparing the nomination, which is done via a standard nomination form. The SHPO sends each nomination to the state's historic preservation advisory board which then recommends whether the State Historic Preservation Officer should forward it to the Keeper of the Register. Only the State Historic Preservation Officer can officially nominate a property for inclusion in the National Register. The nomination is sent to the National Park Service which then approves or denies the nomination. If approved, it is officially entered by the Keeper of the Register into the National Register of Historic Places. Owners are also informed of the nomination during the review by the SHPO. If an owner objects to a nomination, or in the case of a historic district, a majority of owners, then the property cannot be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
For a property to be listed it must meet at least one of the four NRHP key criteria. Information on architectural styles, association with various aspects of social history and commerce, and ownership are all integral parts of the nomination. Each nomination generally provides a narrative section which describes the site or building in detail and justifies why it is historically significant. The NRHP criteria fall into four categories. To meet the "Event" category, criterion A, the property must make a contribution to the broad patterns of American history. Criterion B, "Person," is associated with significant people in the American past. The third criterion, C, "Design/Construction," is affiliated with the distinctive characteristics of the building through its construction and architecture, including having high artistic value or being the work of a master. The final criterion, D, "Information potential," is satisfied if the property has yielded or may be likely to yield information important to prehistory or history. The criteria are applied differently for different types of properties, for instance, maritime properties have different application guidelines than buildings.
There are also specific instances where properties usually do not merit listing on the National Register. As a general rule, cemeteries, birthplaces, graves of historical figures, properties owned by religious institutions or used for religious purposes, moved structures, reconstructed historic buildings, commemorative properties, and properties which have achieved significance in the last 50 years are not qualified for listing on the Register. There are, however, exceptions to every category on that list and as such there are mitigating circumstances which allow for properties which fall into one of those groups to be included.
A listing on the National Register of Historic Places is governmental acknowledgment of a historic district, site, building or property. However, the Register is mostly "an honorary status with some federal financial incentives." The National Register of Historic Places automatically includes all National Historic Landmarks as well as all historic areas administered by the National Park Service. Besides Landmarks these include: National Historic Sites (NHS), National Historical Parks, National Military Parks/Battlefields, National Memorials and some National Monuments. Occasionally historic sites outside the country's traditional borders but associated with the United States, such as the American Embassy in Tangiers, are also listed.
Listing in the National Register does not restrict private property owners from the use of their property. Some states and municipalities, however, may have laws that become effective when a property is listed on the National Register. If federal money or a federal permitting process is involved, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 is invoked Section 106 requires the federal agency involved to assess the impact of its actions on historic resources. Statutorily, it is the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation that has the most significant role under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The section requires that the head of any federal agency with direct or indirect jurisdiction over a project which may effect a property listed on the National Register of Historic Places must first report to the Advisory Council. The head of said agency is required to "take into account the affect of the undertaking" on the National Register property as well as afford the ACHP a reasonable opportunity to comment.
While Section 106 does not explicitly mandate that any federal agency head listen to the advice of the ACHP it is practically "awkward" to rebut their advice, especially given the statutory obligations laid out in the NHPA requiring federal agencies to "take into account the effect of the undertaking."
In cases where the ACHP determines federal action will have an "adverse effect" on historic properties, mitigation is sought. Typically, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) in which the parties involved agree to a particular plan, is created. Many states have laws similar to Section 106. In contrast to a federally Registered Historic District, a local historic district often has enabling ordinances at the municipal level that restrict certain kinds of changes to properties, protecting the property more than a National Register listing does.
The Department of Transportation Act, passed on October 15, 1966 - the same day as the National Historic Preservation Act - included language that dealt heavily with historic preservation. The language of the DOT Act is much broader than Section 106 NHPA in that it refers to properties beyond those listed on the Register.
The broader language has allowed more properties and parklands to enjoy status as protected areas under this legislation, a policy laid out early on in its history. In 1971, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the 1971 case Citizens to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe. That ruling gave parklands the same protected status as "historic sites."
Multiple Property Submission
A Multiple Property Submission (MPS) is a thematic group listing in the National Register of Historic Places which consists of related properties. The properties are of a common theme and can be submitted as a group. The multiple property submissions outlines basic criteria for National Register inclusion for properties of a certain type.
The process begins with the Multiple Property Documentation Form, which acts as a cover document rather than the nomination to the NRHP. The purpose of the documentation form is to establish the basis of eligibility for related properties. The information outlined in the Multiple Property Documentation Form can be used to nominate and register related historic properties simultaneously or, to establish criteria for properties that may be nominated in the future. Thus, additions to an MPS can occur over a period of years. The actual nomination of individual properties in an MPS is done in the same manner other nominations are made. The name of the "thematic group" denotes the historical framework of the properties; it is considered the "multiple property listing." Once an individual or group of properties are nominated and listed on the NRHP the Multiple Property Documentation From, combined with the individual National Register of Historic Places Nomination Forms constitute a Multiple Property Submission. Examples of MPS' include the Florida Lee County Multiple Property Submission, and the Illinois Carnegie Libraries. Before the term Multiple Property Submission was introduced, in 1984, such listings were known as "Thematic Resources" (TR) or "Multiple Resource Areas" (MRA).
Types of properties
Listed properties generally fall into one of five categories, though there are special considerations for other types of properties which do not fit into these five broad categories or fit into more specialized subcategories. The five general categories for NRHP properties are: building, structure, object, site, and district. In addition, historic districts consist of contributing and non-contributing properties.
Buildings, as defined by the National Register, are distinguished in the traditional sense. Examples include a house, barn, hotel, church or similar construction. They are created primarily to shelter human activity. The term building, as in outbuilding, can be used to refer to historically and functionally related units, such as a courthouse and a jail or a barn and a house.
Structures differ from buildings, in that they are functional constructions meant to be used for purposes other than sheltering human activity. Examples include, an aircraft, a grain elevator, a gazebo and a bridge. Objects are usually artistic in nature, or small in scale when compared to structures and buildings. Though objects may be movable they are generally associated with a specific setting or environment. Examples of objects include, monuments, sculptures and fountains. Sites are the location of significant events which can be prehistoric or historic in nature and represent activities, buildings (standing, ruined or vanished). With sites it is the location itself which is of historical interest and it possesses cultural or archaeological value regardless of the value of any structures which may currently exist on the location. Examples of sites include, shipwrecks, battlefields, campsites, natural features and rock shelters. Historic districts possess a concentration, linkage or continuity of the other four types of properties. Objects, structures, buildings and sites within a historic district are united historically or aesthetically, either by choice or by the nature of their development.
There are several other different types of historic preservation associated with the properties on the National Register of Historic Places that do not fall into the categories with simple buildings and historic districts. Through the National Park Service, the National Register of Historic Places publishes a series of bulletins designed to aid in evaluating and applying the criteria for evaluation against different types of properties. Though the criteria are always the same, the way they are applied can differ slightly, depending upon the type of property involved. The National Register bulletins cover application of the criteria for: aids to navigation, historic battlefields, archaeological sites, aviation properties, cemeteries and burial places, historic designed landscapes, mining sites, post offices, properties associated with significant persons, properties achieving significance within the last 50 years, rural historic landscapes, traditional cultural properties, and vessels and shipwrecks.
|“||So broad as to be almost useless when evaluating specific properties.||”|
|— Stephen Mikesell on the NRHP criteria|
In 1983 Joseph A. Tainter and G. John Lucas published "Epistemology of the Significance Concept," in American Antiquity. The paper dealt with the notion of significance and the "dilemma" it presented concerning which properties were included on the NRHP and which ones were not. The main idea underlying Lucas' and Tainter's paper was the quest for a "deeper understanding" of the notion of significance as it pertained to historic preservation efforts in the United States. Through that deeper understanding they hoped to "suggest possible courses of action for dealing with some aspects of the significance dilemma." The two criticized the idea of significance as it was applied by the NRHP, stating that three of the criteria for inclusion basically defined significance as "significant." The fourth criteria, they stated, defined the concept as "important." Tainter and Lucas' view drew considerable response from the larger academic community.
Stephen Mikesell argued a similar position in 1986 in his paper, published in The Public Historian. Mikesell called the NRHP criteria "so broad as to be almost useless when evaluating specific properties." A 1987 paper, by Jerry L. Rogers, appeared in The Public Historian and criticized the lack of a "human touch" in the way the program was administered by the National Park Service, which was, according to the author, in a highly decentralized fashion. The same paper noted the lack of training that federal historic preservation officers received.
The shortcomings of the NRHP listings were also called out in 1987, when the Jobbers Canyon Historic District in downtown Omaha, Nebraska was demolished to make way for a suburban-style corporate campus.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to National Register of Historic Places.|
- List of National Register of Historic Places entries
- List of National Historic Landmarks by state
- National Heritage Area
- National Historical Park
- List of heritage registers
- Contributing property
- Cultural landscape
- Historic preservation
- National Register Information System, National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service. Retrieved 11 April 2007.
- Federal properties can be proclaimed National Monuments under the Antiquities Act because of either their historical or natural significance, and they are managed by multiple agencies. Only monuments that are historic in character and under the National Park Service are administratively listed on the National Register.
- "National Park Service Directors and Directorate," Historic Listing of National Park Service Officials, National Park Service. Retrieved 22 March 2007
- National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, Public Law 102-575, National Register of Historic Places, Official site. Retrieved 21 March, 2007.
- Mackintosh, Barry. "The Historic Sites Survey and National Historic Landmarks Program: A History," (PDF), National Historic Landmarks Program, Official site. Retrieved 23 March 2007.
- Ferguson, T. J. "Native Americans and the Practice of Archaeology," (JSTOR), Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 25. (1996), pp. 63-79. Retrieved 23 March 2007.
- Fisher, Charles E. "Promoting the Preservation of Historic Buildings: Historic Preservation Policy in the United States," (JSTOR), APT Bulletin, Vol. 29, No. 3/4, Thirtieth-Anniversary Issue. (1998), pp. 7-11. Retrieved 21 March 2007.
- Scarpino, Philip V. "Planning for Preservation: A Look at the Federal-State Historic Preservation Program, 1966-1986 (in The Intergovernmental Politics of Preservation)," (JSTOR) The Public Historian, Vol. 14, No. 2. (Spring, 1992), pp. 49-66. Retrieved 21 March, 2007.
- Bearss, Edwin C. "The National Park Service and Its History Program: 1864-1986: An Overview (in The National Park Service and Historic Preservation)," (JSTOR), The Public Historian, Vol. 9, No. 2, The National Park Service and Historic Preservation. (Spring, 1987), pp. 10-18. Retrieved 22 March 2007.
- Hertfelder, Eric. "The National Park Service and Historic Preservation: Historic Preservation beyond Smokey the Bear (in Commentary: How Well Is the National Park Service Doing?)," (JSTOR), The Public Historian, Vol. 9, No. 2, The National Park Service and Historic Preservation. (Spring, 1987), pp. 135-142. Retrieved 21 March, 2007.
- "About the National Register," National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service. Retrieved 22 March 2007.
- "2006 Federal Save America's Treasures Grants," (PDF), National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior. Retrieved 12 April 2007.
- "What are the results of a listing?," National Register of Historic Places, Official site. Retrieved 21 March, 2007.
- "Historic Preservation Tax Incentives", Technical Preservation Services, National Park Service, Official site. Retrieved 22 March, 2007.
- About the Historic Preservation Tax Incentives, Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives, Technical Preservation Services, National Park Service, Official site. Retrieved 22 March, 2007.
- "Save America's Treasurers: FAQ" National Park Service. Retrieved 23 March 2007.
- "Department of Transportation Act," (PDF), National Park Service, Official site. Retrieved 21 March, 2007.
- "Listing a Property: Some Frequently Asked Questions," National Register of Historic Places, Official site. Retrieved 21 March, 2007.
- "Robie House," (PDF), National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, HAARGIS Database, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Retrieved 11 April 2007.
- "How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation," (PDF), National Register Bulletins, National Park Service. Retrieved 22 March, 2007.
- "Strengths of Local Listing," Working on the Past in Local Historic Districts, National Park Service. Retrieved 21 March, 2007.
- American Legation, NHL Database, National Historic Landmarks Program. Retrieved 11 April 2007.
- Gray, Oscar S. "The Response of Federal Legislation to Historic Preservation," (JSTOR), Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 36, No. 3, Historic Preservation. (Summer, 1971), pp. 314-328. Retrieved 21 March, 2007.
- "Section 106 Summary," Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Official site, 26 April, 2002.
- "Federal, State and Local Historic Districts," TOOLBOX, FAQ, National Park Service. Retrieved 21 March, 2007.
- Lee, Antoinette J. and McClelland Linda F. "How to Complete the National Register Multiple Property Documentation Form, (PDF), National Register Bulletin, National Park Service. Retrieved 22 March 2007.
- "Multiple Property Submission List," National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service. Retrieved 22 March 2007.
- Lucas, G. John and Tainter, Joseph A. "Epistemology of the Significance Concept," (JSTOR), American Antiquity, Vol. 48, No. 4. (Oct., 1983), pp. 707-719. Retrieved 22 March, 2007.
- King, Thomas F. "If an Orange Falls in the Forest, is It Eligible? A Comment on Tainter and Lucas (in Comments)," (JSTOR), American Antiquity, Vol. 50, No. 1. (Jan., 1985), pp. 170-172. Retrieved 22 March, 2007.
- Glasgow, Michael A. "Comments on Tainter and Lucas's "Epistemology of the Significance Concept" (in Comments)," (JSTOR), American Antiquity, Vol. 50, No. 4. (Oct., 1985), pp. 879-880. Retrieved 22 March, 2007.
- Mikesell, Stephen D. "Historic Preservation That Counts: Quantitative Methods for Evaluating Historic Resources (in Issues and Analysis)," The Public Historian, Vol. 8, No. 4. (Autumn, 1986), pp. 61-74. Retrieved 22 March, 2007.
- Rogers, Jerry L. "Fulfilling Its Mandate: The National Park Service and Historic Preservation (in Commentary: How Well Is the National Park Service Doing?)," The Public Historian, Vol. 9, No. 2, The National Park Service and Historic Preservation. (Spring, 1987), pp. 143-146. Retrieved 22 March, 2007.
- (1987) "Historic district at issue in Omaha," New York Times. 12/13/87. Retrieved 7/8/07.
References and further reading
- Wiley, John. "National Register of Historic Places," National Park Service, (1994), ISBN 0-471-14403-7
- National Register Information System, National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service. Retrieved 11 April 2007.
- Shrimpton, Rebecca H., ed. "How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation," National Park Service, (1997) National Register Bulletin No. 15, Washington, DC: Government Printing Office. Retrieved 11 April 2007.
- Title 36, U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, specifically Part 60, National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved 11 April 2007.
- National Register of Historic Places
- Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
- National Register of Historic Places.com - unofficial website