A designated historic property is a special recognition of a building, structure or landscape of historical or cultural significance. The specific process for nominating a historic property for designation can vary depending on the state or local city requirements:
Identification and Evaluation
The process begins with the identification of potential historic property and does not require any special knowledge or qualifications to do so. Any individual, organization or government agency can identify a property that they feel may have historic significance.
Once a property has been identified, it can then be evaluated for its historical, architectural or cultural significance. This evaluation often considers factors such as age, architectural style, association with important historical events or people and overall integrity. It is a good idea to visit your state’s Office of Historic Preservation for detailed information as to how to evaluate a property for historic significance. Some states and cities may require the final evaluation to be completed by an Architectural Historian as qualified by the United States Secretary of the Interior.
To officially designate a property as historic, it must be nominated for inclusion in a historic register. In the United States, this can include being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, state registers or local historic registers, depending on the context of the historic significance. A listing on the National Register of Historic Places will typically allow for a property to automatically be included on a state and local register because the National Register of Historic Places requires the property to have significance that relates to the nation’s history and be proven to have a lasting and widespread importance because of the person(s), community and events related to it. However, a state or local register designation does not always result in an automatic inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
Review and Approval
The nomination is reviewed by a relevant historic preservation authority or commission which often consists of historians, architects, and community members with expertise in historic preservation. They are tasked with assessing whether the nominated property meets the established criteria for designation. This assessment may include research and public hearings.
If the property has been determined to meet the criteria it is officially designated as a historic property. This designation can vary in scope and may apply to the entire property or specific features of it such as the exterior or interior, gardens or landscape, architectural features such as a sign or a bell, or even ancillary structures or statues and murals.
Once designated, historic properties could be subject to certain regulations and protections to ensure their preservation. These regulations can include restrictions on alterations, demolitions, and new construction that might impact the property’s historic character. The regulations are totally dependent on the local, state or national regulations depending on the agency that issued the designation. Most property owners will find that they are still able to make alterations to their properties so long as they do them sensitively in a way that does not destroy the most important historic elements of the property.
Additionally, property owners may be eligible for tax incentives or grants to assist with the maintenance and restoration of their historic properties such as the Mills Act Tax Incentive Program.
Think You Have a Designated Historic Property?
Historia Design & Consulting can consult with property owners and interested parties to understand the exact requirements and benefits associated with historic property designation in their area, as well as provide all the necessary services including the required research and documentation for national, state and local historic register nominations.
Contact us to learn more.