State Register of Historic Places
Many states maintain official lists of inventories or registers of historic and cultural resources. As with the National Register of Historic Places, these registers provide an important planning tool. Along with celebrating a state's history, they identify properties for protection against potentially harmful governmental acts and for special funding and other incentives. In California, for instance, listing or eligibility for listing in the California Register of Historic Places serves as one of the bases for review under the California Environmental Quality Act, and for identification of properties eligible for state tax incentives.
Criteria for Listing Historic Properties
As with the National Register of Historic Places, state historic
registers generally include a wide range of properties such as historic
districts, sites, buildings, structures, and other objects that are
significant in state history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and
culture, and the criteria for listing properties is necessarily broad.
In Illinois, for example, the Illinois Register of Historic Places, a
must have special historical,
architectural, archaeological, cultural, or artistic interest or
value...The criteria shall include, but not be limited to, requirements
that Registered Illinois Historic Places be limited to those places that
possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship,
feeling and association, and: (1) that are associated with events or
the lives of persons that have made a significant contribution to the
broad patterns of our history; or (2) that embody the distinctive
characteristics of a type, period or method of construction, or that
represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or
that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose
components may lack individual distinction; or (3) that exemplify
elements of our cultural, economic, social or historic heritage; or (4)
that have yielded, or are likely to yield, information important in
prehistory or history.
Logically, state registers tend to include properties of
state or local significance. The criteria for listing in California
Register of Historical Places is illustrative:
Resources eligible for listing include
buildings, sites, structures, objects, or historic districts that
retain historic integrity and are historically significant at the local,
state or national level under one or more of the following four
criteria: 1) It is associated with events that have made a significant
contribution to the broad patterns of local or regional history, or the
cultural heritage of California or the United States; 2) It is
associated with the lives of persons important to local, California, or
national history; 3) It embodies the distinctive characteristics of a
type, period, region, or method of construction, or represents the work
of a master or possesses high artistic values; or 4) It has yielded, or
has the potential to yield, information important to the prehistory or
history of the local area, California, or the nation.
While the criteria for inclusion in a historic register may
be set forth under state law, some states have placed the responsibility
for developing legislation in a state historic preservation office or
committee. There is no right approach. However, it is essential that
criteria are officially adopted and published, upon consultation with
experts in the field.
Information on the identification and nomination process and
types of properties listed in a state registered should be made
available to the public. The California Office of Historic Preservation,
for example, has published a technical bulletin on its register.
Probably, the most important consideration in establishing and
implementing a state historic register is the identification process. A
good state program will have clear standards and uniform procedures for
conducting surveys and identifying relevant professional qualifications.
Additional considerations include: who may nominate properties for
listing in a state register, what agency or commission is charged with
the designation, and the necessary professional qualifications to do the
Historic properties are included in a state register pursuant to four types of actions:
- comprehensive surveys;
- the nomination of properties for listing in the National Register of Historic of Places;
- at the request of individuals or organizations; and
- through a state agency inventorying process.
Listing of Properties in Response to a Comprehensive Survey
Many states identify historic and cultural resources within their
state through a comprehensive survey process. These surveys are used as a
basis for identifying properties for listing on state and local
registers and implementing other state and federal preservation
programs, such as the Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation
Although express statutory authority to conduct surveys is not
generally required, state surveys are often accomplished pursuant to a
specific statutory directive. For example, section 42-45-5 of the
General Laws of Rhode Island directs the Rhode Island Historical
Preservation and Heritage Commission to:
(i) Inventory and catalog all
buildings, sites, objects, and artifacts of historical, architectural,
or archaeological interest which are within the custody or jurisdiction
of the departments and agencies of state government. This inventory and
catalog shall include buildings, ruins, and other structures, monuments,
paintings, photographs, flags, furniture, clothing, military equipment
and uniforms, archaeological materials, and all other articles of
historic, architectural, or archaeological interest. All departments and
agencies will assist the commission in making this inventory and
catalog. The commission shall inform each department and agency of those
items contained in the inventory which are within its custody or
jurisdiction by furnishing copies of the catalog or an extract thereof
to each department and agency concerned. Copies of all amendments to the
catalog, or extracts thereof, shall also be furnished to each
department and agency concerned.
The Rhode Island Commission has used this authority to survey the
entire state. Professional surveyors have compiled detailed information
on historic and cultural sites, including descriptions of the physical
characteristics and condition of individual properties or sites and
photographs. In addition, the state has prepared short histories on the
physical development of each community, so that properties could be
evaluated within the context of that development. Taking the project a
step further, the commission has produced 60 survey publications about
the state's 39 towns. Survey documentation for each of these properties
is available for review at the Archives and Library of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission.
Other states, like Vermont, have developed historical monographs that
help place historic sites in the context of the state's history.
The process of surveying property for inclusion on a state register
or inventory may be accomplished by SHPO staff, by professional
consultants, certified local governments, state and federal agencies
complying with state and federal legislation, and neighborhood
associations and private property owners. To ensure uniformity, a good
state program will provide detailed instructions on the inventorying or
survey process. For example, the Maryland Historical Society has
published two useful booklets for professional surveyors: Standards and Guidelines for Architectural and Historical Investigations in Maryland.
The publications set forth comprehensive standards for conducting
architectural and archaeological surveys in the state, including
professional criteria and detailed guidelines for completing
The Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has similarly published a historic resources survey manual,
also in an effort to develop a uniform and reliable method of
identifying historic and cultural properties within the state. Finally,
The National Park Service's National Register Bulletin entitled Guidelines for Local Surveys is also instructive.
Some states make their survey results publicly available, thereby
providing greater access to invaluable information and ensuring greater
protection for its historic resources. For example, the Illinois
Preservation Services Division has created the Historic Architectural and Archaeology Resources Geographic Information System
(HAARGIS), providing public access to data, scanned photographs and
background documentation for almost 78,000 buildings, structures,
objects, sites, and districts in the state. New data is to be added
continually. According to the state office:
The new database includes not only the
survey data about properties and historic districts, it also puts the
location of those properties on a map. And it identifies on the same map
other spatial features that place historical properties in their
geographical context. These spatial features include streets and roads;
county and municipal boundaries; section, range, and township lines;
waterways; railroads; floodplains; high probability archaeology areas;
federal lands; and House and Senate district boundaries. Accompanying
topographical map images and aerial photographs can be used as a
background to those map features. It is the next best thing to being
Special considerations arise with archaeological properties, such as
the potential for the presence of an archaeological site, how to
delineate the area of potential effect, professional qualifications, and
so forth. Guidelines for Phase I Archeological Investigations,
published by the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office, provides
detailed information on conduction an archeological survey. The Maryland
Historical Trust has published a similar booklet, Standards and Guidelines for Archeological Investigations in Maryland.
Listing of Properties also Nominated to the National Register of Historic of Places
As may be expected, many historic properties are included on both
State Historic Registers and the National Register of Historic Places.
Indeed, the criteria for listing in a state historic register are often
based on those for listing on the National Register and some states even
insist that the two registers be identical. Consequently, simultaneous
or parallel listings result as part of a state's process for nominating
properties for listing on the National Register. Provided that the
criteria for designation are sufficiently similar and applicable
procedural requirements, such as notice, are met under both laws, this
approach can be useful. It ensures that important properties are
protected under state programs and cuts down on potentially duplicative
administrative time and effort.
Some state preservation programs even require that state listings
meet the National Register criteria and some even insist that the two
registers be identical. This approach helps to ensure that state
listings have the same level of integrity and credibility as those
included in the National Register; helps to decrease confusion among
members of the public regarding multiple registers; and, provided that
applicable state notice and procedural requirements are met, helps to
cut down on potentially duplicative administrative time and effort.
Maryland, for example, requires that all properties included in, or
determined eligible for, the National Register must be included in the
Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties. Article 83B, Section 5-615 of
the Maryland Code provides:
(a) The Trust shall compile a Maryland
Inventory of Historic Properties which shall consist of all districts,
sites, buildings, structures, and objects of known or potential value to
the prehistory, history, upland and underwater archeology,
architecture, engineering, and culture of this State.
(b) The Trust shall compile a Maryland Register of Historic Properties
which shall include all properties listed in or determined by the
Director to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic
Places by the United States Department of the Interior. The Trust shall
adopt regulations specifying procedures and criteria of eligibility for
inclusion of properties in the Maryland Register of Historic
(c) Determinations of eligibility made by the Director may be appealed
to the Governor's Consulting Committee on the National Register of
Historic Places whose determination shall be final.
(d) Any information from the Inventory or Register relating to the
location and character of a historic property shall be confidential if
the Director determines that disclosure will create a substantial risk
of harm, theft, or destruction to the property or the area or place
where the property is located.
Keep in mind that states incorporating National Register listings
into their own state registers should not rely solely on the National
Register nomination process as the basis for maintaining a state
register. Many times, National Register nominations come forward on a
piecemeal basis in response to a specific tax incentive program. As
noted above, a good preservation program will conduct comprehensive
surveys (see discussion above) to ensure that potential sites are
Listing of Properties in Response to Specific Requests
State historic preservation programs may include a process for
nominating properties for listing in a state register by a wide range of
individuals and entities, including neighborhood groups, preservation
organizations, and others. This approach helps to ensure that properties
qualifying for inclusion are fully considered. Otherwise, properties
tend not to be nominated for listing for reasons that have more to do
with politics than merit.
New Mexico, for example, provides that any individual or group may
prepare a nomination form for a property to be considered for listing in
the State Register of Cultural Properties by completing an Application
for Registration (Form A) in accordance with the Form A Instructions.
Visit the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division webpage for more information.
Illinois, similarly, provides that "any person may apply to have a
place considered for nomination to the Illinois Register of Historic
Places." Specific procedures and documentation requirements are set out
in the state's administrative code (see Ill. Admin. Code § 4140.10).
Listing of Properties Under the Ownership or Control of a State Agency
State agencies are typically responsible for identifying,
documenting, and nominating all properties they own or control that
appear to qualify for a state historic register. While many states place
the primary responsibility for identifying or surveying state-owned
historic properties and archeological sites within each agency, the
state historic preservation office and/or preservation review board (see
discussion on "maintaining the register" below), should have authority
to oversee the identification process and make final decisions regarding
eligibility or listing in a state register.
In California, for example, each state agency is charged with the
responsibility of inventorying all state-owned structures over 50 years
of age within its jurisdiction that may be listed in – or eligible for –
listing in the National Register of Historic Places or as a registered
state landmark. The SHPO, in turn, is charged with determining what
properties will be placed on a "master list of historical resources."
The master list is used by the state historic preservation office to
guide funding decisions and is the basis for reviewing potentially
harmful actions affecting state-owned property.
(a) On or before January 1, 1982, each
state agency shall formulate policies to preserve and maintain, when
prudent and feasible, all state-owned historical resources under its
jurisdiction listed in or potentially eligible for inclusion in the
National Register of Historic Places or registered or eligible for
registration as a state historical landmark pursuant to Section 5021.
The State Historic Preservation Officer shall provide such agencies with
advice and assistance as needed.
(b) On or before July 1, 1983, each state agency shall submit to the
State Historic Preservation Officer an inventory of all state-owned
structures over 50 years of age under its jurisdiction listed in or
which may be eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic
Places or registered or which may be eligible for registration as a
state historical landmark. State-owned structures in freeway
rights-of-way shall be inventoried before approval of any undertaking
which would alter their original or significant features or fabric, or
transfer, relocate or demolish those structures.
(c) The State Historic Preservation Officer, with the advice of the
State Historical Resources Commission, shall establish standards, after
consultation with agencies to be affected, for the submittal of
inventories and development of policies for the review of historical
resources identified pursuant to this section. These review procedures
shall permit the State Historic Preservation Officer to determine which
historical resources identified in inventories meet National Register of
Historic Places and state historical landmark criteria and shall be
placed in the master list of historical resources.
(d) The State Historic Preservation Officer shall maintain a master list
comprised of all inventoried structures submitted and determined
significant pursuant to this section and all state-owned historical
resources currently listed in the National Register of Historic Places
or registered as a state historical landmark under state agency
jurisdiction. The State Historic Preservation Officer shall inform
agencies with historical resources on the master list of current sources
of funding for preservation activities, including rehabilitation and
(e) On or before July 1, 1984, and annually thereafter, each state
agency shall submit inventory updates to the State Historic Preservation
Officer and a statement of its year's preservation activities.
(f) Each state agency shall submit to the State Historic Preservation
Officer for comment documentation for any project having the potential
to affect historical resources listed in or potentially eligible for
inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places or registered as
or eligible for registration as a state historical landmark.
(g) As used in this section and Section 5024.5, "state agency" means any
agency, department, division, commission, board, bureau, officer, or
other authority of the State of California.
(h) As used in this section and Section 5024.5, "structure" means an
immovable work constructed by man having interrelated parts in a
definite pattern of organization and used to shelter or promote a form
of human activity and which constitutes an historical resource.
See California Public Resources Code § 5024
In New Mexico, the Historic Preservation Division of the Office of
Cultural Affairs is charged with preparing a long-range plan for the
preservation of cultural properties within the state, defined as,
"including identification, acquisition, restoration, and protection of
historic and cultural properties" (N.Mex. Stat.§ 18-6-7). Periodically,
the Preservation Division must provide copies of the state register to
state agencies and departments and advise them on the status of its
identification and registration process (Id. at § 18-6-8.1). The state
has also established a process for the designation of cultural property
located on lands owned or controlled by the state as a "state monument
(Id. at § 18-6-17).
Maintaining Historic Registers
Responsibility for listing and maintaining a historic register may be
placed on a state historic preservation office or a special advisory
commission of individuals with particular expertise in architecture and
archeology, usually established as a matter of state law.
The State of Maryland, for example, charges the Maryland Historical
Trust with maintaining the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties.
Listings are made by the Director of the Trust with appeal to the
Governor's Consulting Committee on the National Register of Historic
Places (Md. Code § 83B-5-615(c)).
New Mexico utilizes the commission approach. Pursuant to state law, a
Cultural Properties Review Committee is established and charged with
implementing and maintaining the states historic register. Committee
members must include:
- The State Historian at the State Records Center and Archives
- One person professionally recognized in the discipline of architectural history
- One person professionally recognized in the discipline of history
- One person professionally recognized in the discipline of architecture
- One person professionally recognized in the discipline of prehistoric archaeology
- One person professionally recognized in the discipline of historic archaeology
- One additional person who is professionally recognized in history,
architectural history or architecture, or archaeology. a special
committee appointed by the governor is charged with identifying cultural
properties within the state
- One person who is a member of a New Mexico Indian nation, tribe or pueblo; and
- One person who is a resident of New Mexico and represents the general public.
Other than the state historian, members of the Committee are
appointed by the Governor (See N. Mex. Stat. § 18-6-4 and 5). Similarly,
in Arizona, a nine-member Historic Sites Review Committee reviews
nominations for listing in the National and Arizona Registers of
Many states now use a review board, largely in response to the
National Park Service's requirements for state historic preservation
programs set forth at 36 C.F.R. Part 31. Regardless of which approach is
taken, it is important to ensure that the individual or entity charged
with maintaining the register has the requisite expertise to make