Nationally, properties are nominated to the National Register of Historic Places by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). In Pennsylvania, PHMC's Bureau for Historic Preservation (BHP) performs the duties of the SHPO. The BHP's role in this process is review and advisory in nature. Only the Keeper of the National Register, at the National Park Service (NPS), has the authority to list a property or determine if it is eligible for the National Register. All other findings by SHPOs or federal agencies are considered to be opinions.
To list a property in the National Register private property owners must apply through the SHPO. Private property owners may apply directly to the office of the Keepers only through the designated appeals process. The listing process is detailed in the Code of Federal Regulations 36CFR Part 60.
The BHP reviews submitted nominations to determine whether they meet the National Register Criteria for Evaluation. The Bureau's National Register review staff reviews adequacy of documentation, assures that the procedures and standards of the National Register program are met, and conducts site visits to proposed historic districts.
Steps in the National Register Process
- Historic Resource Survey Form (HRSF): BHP receives descriptive and historical information on buildings, structures, objects, sites, and districts on the HRSF. Download the HRSF (Word) and view the HRSF instructions (PDF) for completing the form.
- Eligibility: Completed HRSFs are reviewed by a committee of BHP staff (using National Register criteria) to determine if properties are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. (Please also see the re-evaluation policy below)
- NPS regulations 36 CFR parts 60 and 800 give SHPOs 30 days to respond to federal agency requests for evaluation under Section 106 and 60 days to respond to evaluation requests for NR listing from individuals.
- BHP may request additional information if needed.
- After one request for additional information if BHP considers the property to be ineligible or still cannot make a determination, the property owner will be provided with instructions regarding the National Register appeals process according to 36 CFR 60.12.
- Nomination: If a property is determined to be eligible for the National Register, and the property owner approves, the property may be formally nominated to the National Register using the National Park Service registration form.
- BHP's National Register review staff will log receipt of National Register nominations.
- Reviews of nominations are generally completed within 60 days.
- BHP review staff will provide two substantive reviews.
- For historic districts, two field views will be required. The first field view will be conducted by BHP staff and a Historic Preservation Board representative to establish the boundaries of the proposed district. The second will be conducted with BHP staff to field check the inventory.
- Following review of the revised submission the BHP will forward the nomination to the state Historic Preservation Board.
- If the nomination is not forwarded the property owner will be provided with instructions regarding the National Register appeals process according to 36 CFR 60.12.
- Historic Preservation Board: Completed nominations are submitted to the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Board. The Board meets on the first Tuesday of February, June and October. The Board reviews the nomination, considering whether or not it meets the criteria for evaluation and its level of significance prior to its submittal to the National Park Service.
- Nominations are scheduled for review by the Historic Preservation Board 90 days in advance of the meeting date.
- Public notification is issued 30-75 days prior to the meeting according to 36 CFR 60.6.
- The Board will accept or reject the nomination. If the Board rejects the nomination the property owner will be provided with instructions regarding the National Register appeals process according to 36 CFR 60.12, and/or with Board recommendations for revising and resubmitting the nomination.
- If the nomination is accepted, BHP staff will forward the nomination to the National Park Service. 36 CFR 60.11(e) requires that the SHPO submit the nomination to the Keeper of the National Register within 90 days of the Board meeting or advise the owner within 45 days that the nomination will not be forwarded.
- National Park Service: Forwarded nominations from the SHPO are reviewed by National Register staff at the National Park Service in Washington D.C.
- NPS review is generally completed within 45 days.
- NPS posts listings weekly on its website.
- NPS will return nominations to the SHPO that are deemed technically incomplete or inadequately documented. SHPO will provide documentation and guidance if this should occur.
National Register Eligibility Re-evaluation
The Bureau for Historic Preservation requires that properties evaluated for National Register eligibility five or more years ago must be re-evaluated. The intent is to ensure that original evaluations (previously determined eligible or ineligible) were based on adequate information, that additional information about the property is/or is not available, and that the subject property retains integrity.
Interpretation of a property, or a property's eligibility, may also change if new contextual information is available, such as a new statewide or regional context. The BHP may request any one or all of the following: current photographs, additional research, and/or information newly available through internet resources (such as census data, historic maps, historic aerial images, tax records, periodicals and newspapers, etc.).
National Register Appeals
36 CFR 60.12(a) refers to the rights of National Register nomination applicants to appeal a SHPO decision not to nominate a property.
The appeal must include a copy of the nomination form and other documentation previously submitted to the SHPO, an explanation of the reason for the appeal, and relevant correspondence from the SHPO. The request must be made in writing to substantively review the nomination and state the grounds for the petition.
36 CFR 60.6 (t) states that any person supporting or opposing a nomination may petition the Keeper during the nomination process either to accept or reject a nomination.
Please Note: By submitting materials with respect to state or federal historic preservation programs administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), you grant to the PHMC the rights to:
- use the materials for education and promotional purposes and to promote the mission of the PHMC;
- publish the materials on the PHMC Web site; and
- make the materials available to researchers and scholars.