Guidance for Consultation under Chapter 5 (The Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Act) of the State History Code for Commonwealth Agencies and Applicants

As early as possible in the planning process, and prior to any funding, licensing or permitting of a project by a Commonwealth Agency, the Commonwealth Agency or its applicant, must submit the project plans for review for its effect on historic resources, to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Bureau for Historic Preservation (BHP), when any one or more of the following conditions apply:

  1. The projects are on Commonwealth lands or involve Commonwealth property;
  2. The projects require state licenses or permits or they are funded by Commonwealth agencies;
  3. The projects are undertakings of Commonwealth agencies or instrumentalities.
  4. Commonwealth property will be sold or otherwise transferred out of State ownership.

Review of the project is required to determine whether the project will have an adverse effect on any resources listed or eligible for listing on the Pennsylvania Register of Historic Places. BHP’s review extends to the entire project area, whether licensed, permitted or funded in whole or in part by the Commonwealth. Upon a determination of adverse effect by BHP,  BHP, the State Agency and the project applicant, if involved, shall immediately consult to discuss ways to avoid, minimize or mitigate the adverse effects.

Unless there are federals funds or permits involved, the projects are reviewed under the authority of the Environmental Rights amendment, Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution and the Pennsylvania History Code, 37 Pa. Cons. Stat. Section 500 et seq. (1988).  However, if there is federal involvement, projects are reviewed in conjunction with the appropriate federal agency (for example, Corps of Engineers, HUD, USDA, etc.) under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).  (See Section 106 of NHPA guidance section)


All requests for consultation and/or review of projects for their potential effects on cultural resources must be submitted in writing and should use the Project Review Form.  This form is used to initiate consultation from an applicant, regardless of whether the project will be reviewed under Chapter 5 of the State History Code or Section 106 of the NHPA.  The information on the form should provide information that assists the BHP in determining whether the project should be reviewed under the authorization of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act or Chapter 5 of the Pennsylvania History Code.

To access the form, follow the directions below.

Select “Forms and Guidance”.  When that page opens, look to the upper right under “Project Review Forms and Guidance”.  Select “Request to Initiate Consultation Form” from that list.  Fill in all applicable entries, then print and mail the completed form to the address on its last page.  No electronic submissions are accepted at this time.
All applicable items on the form must be submitted to enable review of the project for its potential effect on historic and archaeological resources. The required information includes:

  • An explanation of what state funds, permits, or licenses will be involved in the entire proposed project.  (If there is any federal involvement in the project, please explain what federal funds, permits or licenses are involved. Please identify all applicable state or federal agencies and/or the specific federal or state program.)
  • A detailed written description of the project, including related activities that will be carried out in conjunction with the project.
  • Supporting project information
    • Project location on a U.S.G.S. 7.5 minute quadrangle map outlining the exact limits of the project;
    • Acreage of the project and proposed ground disturbance;
    • Current photographs of the project area
      Preliminary drawings or plans (site plans, floor plans, elevations) and work/project description;
    • Site plans of existing conditions;
    • Site plans of proposed development

If there are buildings or structures over 50 years of age in the project area that have the potential to be affected by the project, you will need to submit additional information on the Pennsylvania Historic Resources (HRS) Form.  This information will be used by BHP staff to evaluate the historical significance of the properties using the criteria of the National Register of Historic Places. This form requires submission of information on the history, integrity and significance of the building.  This does not mean that the building is being nominated for listing in the National Register; rather, it will only determine if the building meets the National Register criteria for historical significance.  These criteria are standards by which all properties are evaluated.

The National Register serves at the Pennsylvania Register of Historic Places. Chapter 5, §502(2), of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute, Title 37, Historical and Museums, also known as The Pennsylvania History Code, empowers the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (Commission) to compile, maintain, revise and publish a selected inventory of significant historic resources in the Commonwealth, to be known as the Pennsylvania Register of Historic Places, pursuant to criteria of significance approved by the Commission. The policy and practice of the Commission is, and has been, that properties listed in or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places shall constitute the Pennsylvania Register of Historic Places. The Commission's Policy of Maintaining a Pennsylvania Register of Historic Places that parallels those listed in or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places was officially approved at its quarterly meeting on March 15, 2006 and recorded in the minutes of that meeting to confirm the existing practice.

The HRS form and its instructions can also be downloaded from the Forms and Guidance page. There, the form can be found under “Above Ground Resources”. Under that heading, select “Historic Resource Survey Form”.  The form can be downloaded as a pdf or a Microsoft Word document. Accompanying instructions can be downloaded from this list as well. Complete and submit the HRS form with the necessary mapping and photography.   
Submit all forms to:   
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
Bureau for Historic Preservation
Commonwealth Keystone Building, Second Floor
400 North Street
Harrisburg, PA 17120-0053

Agencies/applicants will receive a written response in 15 or 30 days.  The 15-day response is given to privately funded projects needing state permits. The response is in 30 days on projects that are those of state agencies and instrumentalities, projects on state lands, projects of publicly regulated utilities and, and projects with federal involvement.

Our initial response may take one of the following forms, depending on the circumstances:

  • a determination of no resources and/or no effect for the project, indicating consultation is complete;
  • a notification that historic structures and/or archaeological resources exist within the project area and that a survey or other investigation is necessary to provide additional information to evaluate the National Register eligibility of these resources;
  • a notification that, although no known archaeological sites exist within the project area, the physical setting of the project, combined with comparative information from similar settings nearby, suggests a high probability that archaeological sites exist within the project area and that a survey to locate these sites is recommended;
  • a notification that, although no known historic buildings, structures, districts, or objects exist within the project area, U.S.G.S. quadrangle maps show buildings present.  A survey to identify potential historic buildings, structures, districts, and objects is therefore necessary;
  • a determination that the project will have no adverse effect on known or newly identified historic and/or archaeological resources and that, unless plans change, consultation is complete;
  • a determination that the project will have an adverse effect on known or newly identified historic and/or archaeological resources and further consultation is required to design a plan to avoid, minimize or mitigate the adverse effect.
  • A notice that too little information was submitted to provide information for the BHP review. In that case, an attached checklist of items that are needed will be submitted along with the response.
  • If Commonwealth property is being sold or otherwise transferred out of Pennsylvania ownership, and historic properties or areas of resource probability are present, the agency should place a deeded covenant on the property to ensure protection of significant resources in the future. In such cases, the agency should consult with the BHP project reviewer to discuss details and wording of the covenants.

Further consultation on any of the above may, as needed, take the form of face-to-face meetings, field views, exchanges of various types of information such as review of additional plans, modifications to the project, etc., resulting in additional letters or other forms of communication as necessary until all cultural resources issues have been resolved.

In summary, a project review consultation may be complete when:

  1. there are no resources affected by the project, either historical or archaeological, in the project location; or
  2. resources are present but will not be adversely affected; or 
  3. a plan for mitigation of adverse effects has been agreed upon and carried to completion.

Commonwealth agencies that own or manage historic properties are required by law to consult with the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC) before demolishing, altering or transferring any property under their ownership or control that is or may be of historical, architectural or archaeological significance.  The PHMC strongly recommends that agencies maintain an inventory of all these resources keeping in mind that the National Register and the Pennsylvania Register of Historic Places are the same.

The Bureau for Historic Preservation will be happy to meet with you and assist in the development of inventories and management plans for these properties. Having a good working knowledge of the numbers, types and locations of historic and archaeological resources will help to facilitate future planning and save time and effort in the long run.

If you have questions, please contact the Bureau for Historic Preservation
at (717) 782-8946.

  Name Description
MS Word Documents Archaeological Negative Survey Form
MS Word Documents Archaeological Record of Disturbance
MS Word Documents Archaeological Report Summary Form
PDF Documents ArchaeologicalReviewRegions.pdf Archaeological Review Regions
PDF Documents ArchaeologyGuidelines.pdf Guidelines for Archaeological Investigation in Pennsylvania. Revised November 2008
PDF Documents ER_submission_form.pdf Project Review Form: Request to Initiate SHPO Consultation on State and Federal Undertakings
PDF Documents Guidelines for Architectural Investigations in Pennsylvania Guidelines for Architectural Investigations in Pennsylvania July 2014
MS Word Documents Historic Resource Report Summary Form Historic Resource Report Summary Form
PDF Documents HistoricStructuresReviewRegions.pdf Historic Structures Review Regions
MS Word Documents Isolated Find_Non-site Form.doc Isolated Find/ Non-Site Form
PDF Documents Survey Guidelines for Pipeline Projects--Above Ground Resources June 2013.pdf Survey Guidelines for Pipeline Projects Above Ground Resources June 2013
PDF Documents Tutorial - Locating Topo Maps.pdf Instructions for map submissions