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What is the National Register?

The National Register of Historic Places is a National Park Service program dedicated to identifying, evaluating and protecting America’s historical resources. It was authorized when Congress passed the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

The National Register is the “official list” of buildings, sites and districts that are significant to American architecture, archeology, history or culture.

The National Register helps historic property owners identify incentives and benefits for preservation. The distinction is also a badge of honor for private and public historic buildings, and in some cases can enhance a grant application for funding preservation projects.

The nomination process is rather involved. The National Register recommends that individuals contact their State Historic Preservation Office first. A representative of a state, federal or tribal agency must certify and submit the nomination form in order to be considered.

Eligible candidates for the National Register include properties that are associated with a historic activity, event or person; a distinctive design or physical characteristics; or the potential to provide important historic or prehistoric information, according to the NPS bulletin How to Complete the National Register Registration Form.

Generally speaking, a property must be at least 50 years old in order to be considered for the National Register. Applicants must also demonstrate the significance of the property in relationship to the historical context of the community, state or nation.

After listing a property on the National Register, the owner(s) may be eligible for certain tax credits and deductions, based on the way the property is used.

There are no federal restrictions on what can be done to a property listed on the National Register, as long as no federal funds were used to complete projects on the structure. However, there may be state and local preservation laws to consider. An individual’s State Historic Preservation Office will be able to provide specific information on what local laws govern a National Register property.

Once a property is listed on the National Register, the owner may want to designate the award with a plaque. The National Register does not provide this service to property owners. Local trophy or plaque stores should be able to create the desired plaque.

Although there is no official wording required, the National Register suggests the following text:

This property has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior.

or

(Historic name of your house) has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior.

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