National Register of Historic Places

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The National Register of Historic Places is the USA's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects worthy of preservation. As of 2004, the list includes approximately 78,000 entries, including many icons of American culture, history, engineering, and architecture.

Administered by the National Park Service, the Register was authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. Its goals are to coordinate and help groups such as the National Trust for Historic Preservation identify and protect historic sites in the United States. Occasionally historic sites outside the country but associated with the United States (such as an embassy) are also listed.

The Register automatically includes all National Historic Landmarks as well as all historic areas administered by the National Park Service.

See List of National Register of Historic Places entries


Process for listing a building, site or district

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:

  • Association with a person(s) in history
  • Association with historical event(s)
  • Architectural significance (design)
  • Informational value (primarily archaeology)

Information on architectural styles, association with various aspects of social history and commerce, and ownership is part of the nomination. A narrative section describes the site or building in detail and justifies why it is historically significant.

The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) receives National Register nominations and supplies feedback to the individual preparing the nomination. Once the SHPO approves the nomination, it is passed to the state's historic preservation advisory board which then approves or denies the nomination. From there 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 into the National Register of Historic Places.

Effects of being listed on the National Register

The National Register of Historic Places is primarily a tool to recognize the historical significance of a building, district, or site. With one exception, there are no laws at the state or federal level that affect the ability of a property owner to make changes to the building, including demolition. If federal money or a federal permitting process is involved, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 is invoked which requires an assessment of the impact of an intervention on a historic resource. The process is purely advisory in nature; the end product is a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) in which the parties involved agree to a particular plan. An MOA often recommends "document and destroy" in which the historic resource is first documented and then demolished. The National Register does, though, prevent local governments from condemning the property or requiring modifications to it.

Many states have laws equivalent to Section 106.

As opposed to a National Register Historic District, a local historic district often has enabling ordinances at the municipality level that restrict certain kinds of changes to properties and thereby encourages changes that are sensitive to the historic character of an area.


  • National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service; ISBN 0471144037; John Wiley 1994.

See also

External link

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