Overview of Preservation Programs
The federal government, state governments, and local governments all sponsor designation and commemorative programs.
Designation programs, such as the National Historic Landmarks Program, are intended to encourage preservation of historic sites. While the guidelines of different designation programs vary, designated sites must possess historic integrity. In other words, these should be places that are relatively unchanged since the period when the historic event associated with this site occurred. Designation can provide historic sites with protection and may help ensure the preservation of historic places.
Designation programs include city and state landmark programs as well as the National Historic Landmarks Program. City and state register programs and the National Register of Historic Places are also designation programs.
Commemorative programs, such as historic marker programs, are intended to commemorate the site where a historic event occurred. While the guidelines for different commemorative programs vary, most commemorative programs do not require that the site possess historic integrity. Commemoration helps recognize important historic sites, even when no above- or below-ground resources or materials associated with a historic event remain.
Municipalities often have their own preservation laws and ordinances. Many municipalities maintain registers of historic sites they regard as worthy of preservation; they may also designate specific sites as landmarks. These landmark programs are run by local governments. The requirements and guidelines for these local programs differ from the National Historic Landmarks Program administered by the National Park Service.
The Certified Local Government Program is a preservation partnership between local, state, and national government focused on promoting historic preservation at the grassroots level. The program is jointly administered by the National Park Service (NPS) and the State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs) in each state, with each local community working through a certification process to become recognized as a Certified Local Government (CLG). CLGs then become an active partner in the Federal Historic Preservation Program and the opportunities it provides.
Example of a local designation program: The Woman's Club of Minneapolis, designated by the Minneapolis Historic Preservation Commission.
State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs) play a critical role in historic preservation. SHPOs often survey, evaluate, and nominate significant historic buildings, sites, structures, districts, and objects to either the National Register of Historic Places or a State Register of Historic Places or a State Landmarks Program. SHPOs can also assist you in learning about historic preservation financial incentives such as tax credit programs, accessing state grants, and technical assistance for preserving a historic property.
- To find contact information for your state's SHPO, please visit the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers website.
- Many states have State Register programs. An example is the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places.
- Many states have State Landmark programs. An example is the California Historical Landmarks program.
Example of a state designation program: Highway marker for the Execution of Gabriel, designated by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
Federally recognized Native American tribes often have direct jurisdiction over their own lands. Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPOs) play a critical role in historic preservation on these tribal lands. Like their counterparts in State Historic Preservation Offices, THPOs often survey, evaluate, and nominate significant historic buildings, sites, structures, districts, and objects to the National Register of Historic Places. THPOs can also assist you in learning about historic preservation financial incentives such as tax credit programs and provide you with technical assistance for preserving a historic property.
- To find contact information for your THPO, please visit the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers website.
The National Park Service oversees two federal designation programs, the National Register of Historic Places and the National Historic Landmarks Program.
Working with State Historic Preservation Offices, Tribal Historic Preservation Offices, and Federal Preservation Offices, the National Park Service maintains the National Register of Historic Places. This is the official list of properties that are deemed worthy of preservation. Places listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) tell stories that are important to a local community, the citizens of a specific state, or all Americans. Properties listed in the NRHP may be owned by private individuals, universities, non-profits, governments, and/or corporations.
Properties designated as NHLs tell important stories related to the history of the nation overall. These properties must also possess a high level of historic integrity.
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance
The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance is the comprehensive government-wide compendium of Federal programs, projects, services, and activities that provide assistance or benefits to the public. Updated annually, the Catalog contains information on both financial and non-financial assistance. The Catalog's website also offers general guidance on applying for federal assistance and tips on preparing successful grant proposals.
Many federal agencies and programs indirectly support historic preservation. For instance, grants from the Fish and Wildlife Service may be used to preserve wetlands, which can result in the preservation of historic viewsheds. Federal programs that promote community development may be instrumental in the adaptive re-use of historic buildings for commerce, social services, training, and housing.
Non-federal programs of national scope provide grants and training as well as technical assistance. Some professional organizations can help stewards of historic properties understand and interpret their properties.
Other Federal Programs
Technical Preservation Services develops historic preservation policy and guidance on preserving and rehabilitating historic buildings, administers the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program for rehabilitating historic buildings, and sets the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.
The National Center for Preservation Technology and Training provides online resources and links to research, information, and educational opportunities in historic preservation.
The Maritime Heritage Program provides in-depth information about National Historic Landmark vessels and lighthouses.
Other Federal Agencies
Some properties are owned directly by the federal government. Federal Preservation Offices (FPOs) assist in ensuring the preservation of these properties. Like their counterparts in State Historic Preservation Offices and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices, FPOs often survey, evaluate, and nominate significant historic buildings, sites, structures, districts, and objects to the National Register of Historic Places and the NHL program.
- To find contact information for your FPO, please visit the Federal Agency Historic Preservation Programs and Officers website.
Private entities also help promote preservation initiatives. Look carefully at the domain name of the websites associated with preservation groups to determine if the entity in question is a public or private one.
Privately-funded preservation groups exist across the country and include organizations which are local, regional, or national in scope. A few examples of these at the national, state, and local level are:
Last updated: August 29, 2018