The National Register of Historic Places was created in 1966 as part of the National Historic Preservation Act. Before that, important landmarks were sometimes placed on lists reserved for places of “national significance”, but that is a fairly ambiguous statement. By creating the National Historic Preservation Act, the government broadened the criteria for preserving buildings, monuments, districts and sites that hold local significance. This allows the historic landmark status to cover many more historically significant objects.
Generally, properties eligible for listing in the National Register are at least 50 years old. However, age alone does not qualify properties.
The criteria for being included on the National Register is pretty straightforward. To be included, it must fall into at least one of the following four categories:
- The site must be associated with an event that played a significant role in that area’s history.
- The site must be associated with the lives of individuals who played a significant role in the area’s history.
- The site must be a good example of the distinct characteristics of an important architectural style; or,
- The site must have the potential to yield important information about the area’s history or archeology
Even if a property or site falls within one or more categories, there may still be further steps that need to be taken to have it included on the National Register.
Because the National Register criteria is so broad, it can include all kinds of properties! The most common listings are buildings, monuments and districts, but also includes bridges and signs.
What does being on the National Register of Historic Places mean for homeowners?
For many, being on the National Register is simply a matter of prestige! Who wouldn’t want to be able to say that their property is significant? It’s a great way to spark interest in your property, as well as increasing the value.
Owners of houses listed on the National Register are also entitled to tax credits. Additionally, if they restore or renovate the building, a percentage of the money spent on rehabilitation may be tax deductible, as long as they follow specific rules & guidelines.
Being on the National Register may also help protect the property. Section 106 of the Act requires that government agencies account for any potential consequences for anything they do that may have an impact on historic properties. While the National Register and Section 106 place no restrictions on what an owner may do with their property (up to and including demolition), they do call attention to potential effects outside projects will have on listed Historic properties. The owner should contact the state historic preservation office before making any changes, as there may be state or local preservation laws they should be aware of before undertaking any project with their historic property.