FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the National Register of Historic Places?
The National Register of Historic Places is a recognition program overseen by the National Park Service with assistance from State Historic Preservation Offices. It is a list of significant historic places that are worthy of long-term preservation. Buildings, sites, objects, and structures must be fifty years old to be considered for inclusion on the list. They may be listed individually or as part of a Historic District, and they may be considered important at the national, state, or local level.
Properties may be considered eligible for the National Register under one or more of these four criteria:
Association with broad patterns of history, such as African American history or industrial history.
Association with a significant person, such as the studio of an important artist or the home of an important politician.
Representing the distinctive characteristics of a specific type of architecture, such as an unaltered Queen Anne style house.
Potential to yield important archaeological information, such as the site of a Native American settlement.
Listing on the National Register is recognition for the historic significance of your property, but does not include any oversight or restrictions. There are financial incentives for listing as well, such as rehabilitation tax credits.
To find out if your home, business, or neighborhood might be eligible for the National Register, click here to contact Firefly.
To learn more about the National Register of Historic Places and search a state-by-state database of all properties included, click here to visit the National Park Service.
How can I get my home or business listed on the National Register of Historic Places?
There is a nomination process to be included on the National Register of Historic Places. The nomination form is a lengthy technical document that includes a detailed architectural description of the property being nominated, a contextual history of the property, and an assessment of the significance of the property at the national, state, or local level. Due to the technical requirements of the nomination, it is usually prepared by an experienced historian or consultant.
Many states have a two-part process for inclusion on the National Register. The first step is complete a preliminary application to determine eligibility for the National Register. The preliminary application usually includes an overview of the architecture and history of the property, and it can often be completed by the property owner. The preliminary application is submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office, who will determine if the property "probably is" or "probably is not" eligible for listing to the National Register. If the property is determined to be eligible based on the information in the preliminary application, the property owner will be invited to submit a full nomination as described above.
The nomination will have a two-part approval process. First, it will be submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office where it will be reviewed by the staff, a committee of historic preservation professionals, and the Historic Preservation Officer. Then the nomination will be sent to the National Park Service for final approval by the Keeper of the National Register.
The full process typically takes about one year, depending on how much research has been done on your property prior to starting the nomination, whether your state requires a preliminary application, and the review time at your State Historic Preservation Office.
To discuss listing your property on the National Register or to obtain an estimate, click here to contact Firefly.
To learn about the National Register nomination process in the Midwest and Southeast regions served by Firefly, click your state from the list below to visit the State Historic Preservation Office.
To learn more about the nomination process, click here to visit the National Park Service.
What is the difference between a Local Historic District and a National Historic District?
Historic Districts may be designated at the local level or the national level. Each type of district has a different goal, so oftentimes one neighborhood will receive both designations. Although they use similar terminology, the two types are quite different.
Local Historic Districts are a zoning overlay established by your local government. Since they are directly linked to zoning, there is a regulatory board that oversees them, usually a Historic District Commission, or HDC. The HDC evaluates applications for exterior changes to the buildings in a Local Historic District using a comprehensive set of Design Guidelines, which outline which changes are architecturally appropriate or inappropriate. These guidelines are based on the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Rehabilitation of Historic Properties and are intended to preserve the historic character of the historic district while accommodating building updates over time.
National Historic Districts are established through a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. Since this is a recognition program, there is no regulation over changes to properties included in National Historic Districts. There are some financial incentives for National Historic Districts, such as Rehabilitation Tax Credits, which require National Register listing.
To learn more about how local historic districts are regulated, or to find out if your neighborhood is eligible for designation as a national Historic District, click here to contact Firefly.
To learn more about the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Rehabilitation of Historic Properties, click here.
What is an Architectural Survey?
An architectural survey is an important preservation planning tool. It is used to create a comprehensive and detailed list of the historic resources (buildings, statues, landscapes, etc) within a specific area. The survey usually only includes resources that are fifty years old or older. Since a survey is technical in nature, it is usually completed by an experienced consultant.
The first step of a survey project is to identify the boundaries of the study area, which may be as small as a single street or neighborhood, or as big as an entire county. Using guidance from the agency requesting the survey, the consultant will make a list of which resources will be surveyed by identifying areas with important history and architecture or areas that may in danger of demolition.
The next step is to complete the survey, also known as the field work. The consultant will thoroughly photograph the exterior of each property included in the survey project and complete a field work form with information such as location, construction materials, and interesting architectural details.
Once the field work is complete, the consultant will conduct research using city directories, local newspapers, and other archival materials, then compile a list of properties with detailed architectural descriptions, dates of construction, and names of original owners.
The last step of a survey project is to prepare a survey report for the agency requesting the survey. This is tailored to each individual project, but typically includes a contextual history of the survey area, an overview of the architectural styles within the survey area, and recommendations for ongoing preservation and eligibility to the National Register of Historic Places.
To learn more about how an architectural survey might help ongoing preservation in your community, click here to contact Firefly.
To learn more about how local architectural surveys may be used as planning tools, click here to read National Park Service Bulletin "Guidelines for Local Surveys: A Basis for Preservation Planning."
What are Rehabilitation Tax Credits?
The National Park Service offers tax incentives to encourage the preservation and sensitive rehabilitation of historic buildings. Owners of commercial buildings can apply to receive a tax credit up to 20% of the total cost of the rehabilitation project. To be eligible for the tax credit, the building must be determined eligible for (or already listed on) the National Register of Historic Places, and the rehabilitation project must follow the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Rehabilitation of Historic Properties. The purpose of the tax credit is to encourage investment in historic buildings and sensitive adaptive reuse by offering these tax savings. The program is overseen by the State Historic Preservation Office with final approval by the National Park Service.
Many states also offer additional tax credits for commercial and/or residential buildings. These programs follow the same eligibility requirements and project standards as the federal tax credits, and they are applied in addition to the federal credits.
To learn more about rehabilitation tax credit programs, or to find out if your project might be eligible for tax credits, click here to contact Firefly.
To learn more about the federal tax credit program, click here to visit the National Park Service.
To learn more about state tax credit programs in the Midwest and Southeast regions serviced by Firefly, click your state from the list below to visit the State Historic Preservation Office.
Why should I apply for my home or business to be a Local Landmark?
Many local governments oversee Local Landmark programs, which identify historic buildings, structures, and sites with special significance to that specific place. Although some Local Landmarks are also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, many do not have broad enough significance to be eligible. Instead, Local Landmark programs recognize these properties.
Typically, Local Landmarks are regulated by the local government similar to Historic Districts. Exterior changes, and sometimes interior changes, must go through a local pre-approval process, and generally are held to the Secretary's Standards for the Rehabilitation of Historic Properties. To encourage long-term preservation, oftentimes participation in Local Landmark programs is rewarded with tax incentives.
To learn more about Local Landmark programs, or to find out if your property might be eligible, click here to contact Firefly.
What types of organizations do historic preservation?
Historic Preservation is a broad field whose work is done at the national, state, and local level by governmental, non-profit, and private organizations.
Governmental organizations operate at the federal, state, and local levels. The National Park Service, a branch of the Department of the Interior, oversees a number of federal historic preservation programs, including the National Register of Historic Places and Rehabilitation Tax Credits. The National Park Service manages these programs with assistance from the State Historic Preservation Offices. The Historic Preservation Act of 1966 established a State Historic Preservation Office in each state, overseen by an governor-appointed State Historic Preservation Officer, and tasked with providing assistance to citizens interested in the National Register and Tax Credit programs, as well as awarding federal grant money and other preservation-related activities. At the local level, county and city governmental may elect to establish Historic Districts, Local Landmark programs, or other local preservation initiatives.
Historic Preservation is also a grassroots movement, led by nonprofit organizations. At the national level, organizations like the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Council on Public History offer training opportunities, grants, and other resources for preservation initiatives. Most states also have a statewide preservation organization, which may focus on restoration of historic properties, operating historic sites, providing grants for rehabilitation projects, advocacy efforts at the state and national levels, or a variety of other important preservation activities. Most preservation work is done at the local level, often supported by statewide preservation organizations. Local nonprofits such as preservation societies, historical societies, museums, archives, genealogy groups, and others are best able to identify local places with historic significance and to mobilize their communities to participate in their long-term preservation.
Private participation in historic preservation is typically through direct preservation activities, such as purchasing a home for rehabilitation, or converting a historic building for a new business use. Private foundations often provide funding for local preservation activities as well, ranging from brick-and-mortar projects to educational programs.
To learn more about the many organizations participating in historic preservation activities, or to find out how to get involved in preservation, click here to contact Firefly.