The Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) is the principal source of federal funding for implementing the nation’s preservation programs, including core funding for State and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers. The National Park Service (NPS) administers several competitive grant programs within the HPF that protect and interpret the stories of all Americans. As we look to the upcoming centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment—and beyond—we have a unique opportunity to use these existing programs to elevate and enhance the important stories and places where women made history.
Know of a great women’s history site, program, or project? Read on to learn more about these grants and how to apply!
Historic Preservation Fund Overview
Congress established the Historic Preservation Fund in 1976 administered by the NPS. Several targeted competitive grant programs provide funding for bricks and mortar preservation projects as well as documentation, survey, planning, education, and interpretation.
In FY 2018 and FY 2019, Congress appropriated historically high levels of funding for the HPF, including $102 million in FY 2019. Most of this growth was for competitive grant programs that help tell a more inclusive and broader American story. The National Trust and its partners have led advocacy efforts to increase funding for five competitive grant programs: the African American Civil Rights Grant Program, the Underrepresented Community Grant Program, the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Grant Program, Save America’s Treasures, and the Historic Revitalization Subgrant Program. In total, these competitive grant programs received $41 million in FY 2019.
Competitive Grant Programs and Women’s History
The African American Civil Rights Grant Program helps to preserve the sites and stories of the African American struggle for equal rights. Congress created the grant program in FY 2016, and it provides for documentation, survey, planning, education, interpretation, and oral history efforts as well as bricks and mortar preservation.
In September, the first African American Civil Rights grant focused specifically on women was awarded to the City of Mount Vernon, NY. The $50,000 grant will support the project, “The African-American Civil Rights and Women’s Suffrage Experience in Mount Vernon, NY: Identifying, Evaluating and Nominating Historic People, Sites, Events and Locations.” The National Trust has been working with key members of Congress to expand this program’s funding and its scope to include the civil rights of all Americans, including women. The House Interior appropriations bill passed in June includes language expanding the program—an encouraging step in our efforts to tell a more diverse history.
The Underrepresented Community Grant Program responds to a NPS study that found less than 8% of sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places (National Register) or as National Historical Landmarks (NHLs) represent “underrepresented communities.” First funded by Congress in FY 2014, the program supports projects to survey, inventory, or nominate new sites or amend previous listings to help diversify the National Register and NHLs.
Underrepresented Community Grants have funded several projects to elevate sites and stories directly associated with women’s history. The Maryland Historical Trust will document and celebrate sites in Maryland associated with the women’s civil rights movement; the City of San Francisco is preparing National Register nominations for sites associated with the civil rights of multiple groups, including women; and, most recently, the Nevada Historic Preservation Officer received funding to better understand the historic context for women’s suffrage and social history in Nevada. More projects could be funded to increase the number of women’s history sites recognized on the National Register.
The Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Grant Program was enacted in 1996 to safeguard historic and architectural treasures on HBCU campuses. Appropriations for the program lapsed in fiscal year 2009, but Congress revived the program in fiscal year 2017 and funding has increased by 100% over the past three fiscal years. In the past, grants have helped to restore buildings at two all-women HBCUs: Packard Hall at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA, and Ethel Black Hall at Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, NC.
The Save America’s Treasures (SAT) grant program preserves our nation’s most significant historic and cultural resources. This program allows for preservation and conservation work on historic districts, buildings, sites, and objects as well as collections and art. A matching grant requirement creates opportunities for grantees to engage with their communities to safeguard these treasures.
SAT grants have supported a number of women’s sites and projects all across the United States—from the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in Chicago, IL; to the Rosa Parks Museum at Troy State University in Montgomery, AL; to the Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester, NY.
Finally, the newer Historic Revitalization Subgrant Program—modeled after Vermont’s highly successful Village Revitalization Program—provides competitive grants to revive historic properties in rural areas (defined by the U.S. Bureau of the Census as populations of 50,000 or less). The first round of grants was awarded in August, and includes a grant to the National Main Street Center to provide subgrants for façade improvements on Main Streets. The Senate appropriations bill would rename this program in honor of Paul Bruhn, the former executive director of the Vermont Preservation Trust.
Elevating Women’s History
While women make up half the population, just 3 percent of National Park Service sites are formally recognized for women’s history. Countless stories of great female Americans have yet to be told.
As we approach the centennial of the 19th Amendment, we have an opportunity to use our nation’s existing funding tools to uncover and uplift the stories of generations of female trailblazers from every background, whose names may be forgotten, but whose vision, passion, and determination shaped us into the nation we are today and continue to lead us forward. The National Trust encourages you to use these grant programs to help tell the stories that are important to your communities.
Apply! Upcoming Deadlines
When applications become available, the NPS issues a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) with applications typically due 60 days later. The following applications are currently available online at the NPS website:
African American Civil Rights Grants — applications due December 3, 2019
SAT Grants — applications due December 10, 2019
- Scope of work: The program provides for documentation, survey, planning, education, interpretation, and oral history efforts as well as bricks and mortar preservation.
- Funding & Eligibility: Funding for preservation projects range from $75,000 to $500,000 and grants for pre-preservation work range from $15,000 to $50,000. Eligible applicants include: States and Territories; Federally recognized Indian Tribes, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaii Organizations; local governments; and nonprofit organizations.
- Resources: Please refer to our summary of the program and the grants list.
Underrepresented Community Grants — applications due December 17, 2019
- Scope of work: This program allows for preservation and conservation work on historic districts, buildings, sites, and objects as well as collections and art.
- Funding & Eligibility: Grants range from $125,000 to $500,000 for preservation projects and from $25,000 to $500,000 for collections projects. Eligible applicants include: City, county, or township governments; state governments; independent school districts; private, public, and state institutions of higher education; nonprofit organizations; and federally recognized Native American tribal governments.
- Resources: Please refer to our summary of the program.
- Scope of work: The program supports projects to survey, inventory, or nominate new sites or amend previous listings to help diversify the National Register or NHLs.
- Funding & Eligibility: Grants range from $15,000 to $50,000. Eligible applicants include: State and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers; federally recognized Tribes, Alaska Native Groups, Native Hawaiian organizations; and certified local governments.
- Resources: Please refer to our summary of the program and the grants list.
As of now, the NPS has not opened applications for the HBCU and Historic Revitalization Subgrant programs, but announcements will be made on the NPS’ Historic Preservation Fund Grants website.
Please apply and share with your colleagues and help us increase the number of applications that celebrate women’s history!
Christine Luthy is the associate manager of government relations at the National Trust for Historic Preservation