National Historic certification

I promised (a year ago) to discuss the process, so here it is. Note that I only have experience in Pennsylvania; your mileage may vary.

  • First, find someone who has done this many times. Having someone with credibility will make things go much smoother.
  • Second, listen to them. Your house is important to you, but they will tell you if it’s important to everyone else. By the way, “historic” means it’s important; “historical” means it is old. There’s an important distinction.
  • Third, recognize that it’s a lot of work. No doubt you have lots of stories and anecdotes, but they have to research and document everything. As a general timeline, at the very minimum allow two months for the first draft, 1 month for the SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office) review, and another six weeks for the second (and final) draft. After that, the SHPO will schedule it for their quarterly meeting, and either accept or reject it. If they accept it, it then takes about six weeks for the National Park Service to review it and add it to the National Register.

Expect to pay around $4,000 plus fees, and don’t expect anything in return. (You even have to buy the plaque yourself!) As you can see, there’s a lot of expense and not a lot of benefit for individuals, which is too bad. I think they assume that individuals will preserve buildings on their own, while businesses need incentives. I don’t think that’s true. One last note: A property can be listed “eligible” at any time, even without the owner’s consent. I’m not entirely sure what that means, though, except in terms of tax credits, which I’ll discuss another day.