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The National Register of Historic Places is the United States government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation. Having a property on the National Register makes its owners eligible for tax incentives for expenses incurred preserving the property if they are offered by the local taxing districts.

The passage of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) in 1966 established the National Register and the process for adding properties to it. Of the more than one million properties on the National Register, 80,000 are listed individually. The remainder are contributing members within historic districts. Each year approximately 30,000 properties are added to 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), an agency within the United States Department of the Interiormarker. Its goals are to help property owners and groups, such as the National Trust for Historic Preservation, coordinate, identify, and protect historic sites in the United States. While National Register listings are mostly symbolic, they do provide some financial incentive to owners of listed properties. No protection of the property is guaranteed. During the nomination process, the property is evaluated in terms of the four criteria for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. 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 Tangiersmarker) also are 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 properties are added automatically to the National Register 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.

History



On October 15, 1966 the Historic Preservation Act created the National Register of Historic Places and the corresponding State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO). 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 National Register and Historic Preservation Fund.

The first official Keeper of the Register was William J. Murtagh, an architectural historian. In the Register's earliest years during 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 for house museums and institutional buildings, but later for 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 categorized formally 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 National Register was the Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service (HCRS) within the United States Department of Interiormarker.

In February 1983, the two assistant directorates were merged to promote efficiency and recognize the interdependency of their programs. Jerry L. Rogers was picked to lead this newly merged associate directorate. He was described as a skilled administrator, who was sensitive to the need for the NPS to work with SHPOs, academia, and local governments.

Although not initially spelled out in the 1966 act, the role of the SHPO eventually became integral to 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. Several 1992 amendments to the NHPA added a classification to the National Register, known as Traditional Cultural Properties, being 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 National Register, a total of 75,000 separate properties. Of the more than one million properties on the National Register, 80,000 are listed individually. Others are listed as contributing members within historic districts.

Property owner incentives

Properties are not protected in any strict sense by the Federal listing. States and local zoning bodies may or may not choose to protect listed Historic Places. Indirect protection is possible, through state and local regulations on development of National Register properties, and through tax 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 that promote preservation of income-producing historic properties. The National Park Service had the responsibility to ensure that only rehabilitations that preserved the historic character of a building would qualify for the federal tax incentives. 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 may be eligible for a 20% investment tax credit for the "certified rehabilitation of income-producing certified historic structures." The rehabilitation may be as commercial, industrial, or residential property, 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.

Some property owners may qualify for grants as well, for instance the Save America's Treasures grants, which apply specifically to properties 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 authors of the 1966 act. Their 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.

Nomination process

 Any individual can prepare a National Register nomination, although historians and historic preservation consultants often are 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 nominating individual or group, which is accomplished 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 may 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 also are 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.


Criteria

For a property to be listed, it must meet at least one of the four National Register 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 that describes the site or building in detail and justifies why it is historically significant. The National Register of Historic Places 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," concerns 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.

Exclusions

There also are 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 that have achieved significance in the last fifty years are not qualified for listing on the Register. There are, however, exceptions to all the preceding; mitigating circumstances allow properties classified in one of those groups to be included.

Listed properties

A typical plaque found on properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places
An alternate series of plaques.
Buildings on the National Register are often listed in local historic societies as well.
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 Monument. Occasionally historic sites outside the country's traditional borders, but associated with the United States, such as the American Embassy in Tangiersmarker, also are 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, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation 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 that may affect a property listed on the National Register of Historic Places, first must report to the Advisory Council. The head of said agency is required to "take into account the effect of the undertaking" on the National Register property, as well as to afford the ACHP a reasonable opportunity to comment.

While Section 106 does not mandate explicitly that any federal agency head listen to the advice of the ACHP, their advice carries weight practically, especially given the statutory obligations laid out in the NHPA that require 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) is created by which the involved parties agree to a particular plan. Many states have laws similar to Section 106. In contrast to conditions relating to a federally Registered Historic District, often municipal ordinances governing local historic districts restrict certain kinds of changes to properties. Thus they may protect 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 provisions that addressed 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 in its history. The United States Supreme Court ruled in the 1971 case Citizens to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe that parklands could have 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 that consists of related properties that share a common theme and can be submitted as a group. Multiple property submissions must satisfy certain basic criteria for the group of properties to be included in the National Register.


The process begins with the Multiple Property Documentation Form, which acts as a cover document rather than the nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. 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 time. The nomination of individual properties in an MPS is accomplished in the same manner as other nominations. The name of the "thematic group" denotes the historical framework of the properties. It is considered the "multiple property listing." Once an individual property or a group of properties is nominated and listed on the National Register, the Multiple Property Documentation Form, combined with the individual National Register of Historic Places Nomination Forms, constitute a Multiple Property Submission. Examples of MPS include the Lee County Multiple Property Submission, the Warehouses in Omaha, the Boundary Markers of the Original District of Columbia, 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 broad categories, although there are special considerations for other types of properties that do not fit into any one, or into more specialized subcategories. The five general categories for National Register 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 usually are artistic in nature, or small in scale when compared to structures and buildings. Although objects may be movable, they generally are 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 or buildings (standing, ruined, or vanished). With sites it is the location itself that is of historical interest. It possesses cultural or archaeological value regardless of the value of any structures that currently exist at 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. Although the criteria are always the same, the way they are applied may 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 landscape, mining sites, post offices, properties associated with significant persons, properties achieving significance within the last fifty years, rural historic landscapes, traditional cultural properties, and vessels and shipwrecks.

Criticism

Limitations of the NHPA are obvious when historic properties are destroyed, as when the Jobbers Canyon Historic District in downtown Omaha, Nebraskamarker was demolished in 1987 to make way for a suburban-style corporate campus and when Tiger Stadiummarker in Detroit, Michiganmarker was demolished in 2009. However, it could be argued that the NHPA program may have served its purpose in that case and others by ensuring that the debate over keeping or demolishing the site was prominent and public, perhaps in part due to the listing of the site on the National Register.

See also





Notes

  1. National Register Information System, National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service. Retrieved April 11, 2007.
  2. Federal properties can be proclaimed National Monuments under the Antiquities Act because of either their historical or natural significance. They are managed by multiple agencies. Only monuments that are historic in character and managed by the National Park Service are administratively listed on the National Register.
  3. " National Park Service Directors and Directorate," Historic Listing of National Park Service Officials, National Park Service. Retrieved March 22, 2007
  4. National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, Public Law 102–575, National Register of Historic Places, Official site. Retrieved March 21, 2007.
  5. Mackintosh, Barry. " The Historic Sites Survey and National Historic Landmarks Program: A History," (PDF), National Historic Landmarks Program, Official site. Retrieved March 23, 2007.
  6. Ferguson, T. J. " Native Americans and the Practice of Archaeology," (JSTOR), Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 25. (1996), pp. 63–79. Retrieved March 23, 2007.
  7. 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 March 21, 2007.
  8. 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 March 22, 2007.
  9. 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 March 21, 2007.
  10. 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 March 21, 2007.
  11. " About the National Register," National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service. Retrieved March 22, 2007.
  12. The state of Colorado, for example, is very clear that it does not set any limits on owners of National Register properties. See "National and state registers," at Colorado Office of Archeology & Historic Preservation
  13. " 2006 Federal Save America's Treasures Grants," (PDF), National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior. Retrieved April 12, 2007.
  14. " Historic Preservation Tax Incentives," Technical Preservation Services, National Park Service, Official site. Retrieved March 22, 2007.
  15. About the Historic Preservation Tax Incentives, Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives, Technical Preservation Services, National Park Service, Official site. Retrieved March 22, 2007.
  16. " Save America's Treasurers: FAQ" National Park Service. Retrieved March 23, 2007.
  17. " Robie House," (PDF), National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Retrieved April 11, 2007.
  18. " How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation," (PDF), National Register Bulletins, National Park Service. Retrieved March 22, 2007.
  19. " Listing a Property: Some Frequently Asked Questions," National Register of Historic Places, Official site. Retrieved March 21, 2007.
  20. " Strengths of Local Listing," Working on the Past in Local Historic Districts, National Park Service. Retrieved March 21, 2007.
  21. American Legation, NHL Database, National Historic Landmarks Program. Retrieved April 11, 2007.
  22. " What are the results of a listing?," National Register of Historic Places, Official site. Retrieved March 21, 2007.
  23. 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 March 21, 2007.
  24. " Section 106 Summary," Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Official site, April 26, 2002.
  25. " Federal, State and Local Historic Districts, National Park Service. Retrieved March 21, 2007.
  26. 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 March 22, 2007.
  27. " Multiple Property Submission List," National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service. Retrieved March 22, 2007.
  28. (1987) "Historic district at issue in Omaha," New York Times. 12/13/87. Retrieved 7/8/07.


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