Origins of the Historic Preservation Fund

In 1966, the Special Committee on Historic Preservation of the US Conference of Mayors addressed the need to establish a national historic preservation program. The result was the National Historic Preservation Act which authorized a state preservation official for each state and created the National Register of Historic Places, a mechanism for better federal agency planning. This state preservation official was initially referred to as the "state liaison officer" but this title was later changed to "state historic preservation officer." By extension, each state that met the requirements of the act then had a state historic preservation office. The act also created the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) to provide support to these offices. Today, the HPF is annually appropriated by Congress to support preservation and heritage-based economic development throughout the country. Administered on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior by the National Park Service (NPS), the HPF is funded by Outer Continental Shelf oil lease revenues, not tax dollars, using the exploitation of natural resources to benefit cultural resources.

Authorized at $150 million per year, the HPF was initially created to support states. Amendments to the National Historic Preservation Act in 1980 and 1992 added certified local governments and tribes, respectively. The HPF is implemented through partnerships with State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs), Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPOs), Certified Local Governments (CLGs), nonprofit organizations, and preservation groups in the private sector.

The Park History program offers a history of the Historic Preservation Fund through 1986 in The National Historic Preservation Act and The National Park Service: A History by Barry Mackintosh.

For more general information about the Historic Preservation Fund or the State, Tribal, Local, Plans & Grants Division, check out the About Us page and our division's home page.

How Does the Historic Preservation Fund Work?

The National Park Service (NPS) administers the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior, and uses the majority of appropriated funds to provide matching grants to State and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPO) to assist in their efforts to protect and preserve their historic resources. Each State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), appointed by the Governor for each state, manages this annual appropriation to perform the Federal preservation responsibilities required by the NHPA. Preservation activities may be carried out directly by States, or in the form of subgrants and contracts to public and private agencies, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and individuals. HPF grants to THPOs help them assume SHPO responsibilities on Indian land and undertake preservation activities. Funding is used by States and Tribes to fund HPF eligible preservation projects including: survey and inventory, National Register nominations, preservation education, architectural planning, historic structure reports, community preservation plans, and bricks and mortar repair to buildings. The HPF allows each State the flexibility to shape a program according to its needs, as long as they are meeting the overall responsibilities outlined by the NHPA. Ten percent of each SHPO’s allocation must be subgranted to Certified Local Governments, local governments certified by NPS and the State as having made a local commitment to historic preservation. These funds are spent locally on preservation projects, with selection decisions made at the State level. All HPF assisted projects must follow the relevant Secretary of the Interior’s Standards.

Administration of the Historic Preservation Fund

The State, Tribal, Local, Plans & Grants Divison of the National Park Service administers Historic Preservation Fund grants (financial assistance) to eligilble recipients. More information about our grant programs as well as the technical assistance we provide to our partners in preservation is located below.

Every year, thousands of grant recipients work on projects across the country to preserver historic resources in communities from American Samoa to Maine. The Historic Preservation Fund annual report outlines the broad accomplishment of grants and grantees.

Source: Data Store Collection 6600. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Financial & Technical Assistance

Last updated: May 1, 2024