Historic Preservation > National Register of Historic Places

National Register of Historic Places

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's cultural resources worthy of preservation. Authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect our historic and archeological resources. The National Register is administered by the National Park Service under the Secretary of the Interior. Properties listed in the National Register include districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects that are significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. These resources contribute to an understanding of the historical and cultural foundations of the Nation. 

The National Register includes all historic areas in the National Park System; National Historic Landmarks which have been designated by the Secretary of the Interior for their significance to all Americans; and properties significant to the Nation, State, or community which have been nominated by the States, Federal agencies and others and have been approved by the National Park Service.

Listing in the National Register has the following results which assist in preserving historic properties:

  • Recognition that a property is of significance to the Nation, the State or the community.
  • Consideration in the planning for Federal or federally assisted projects.
  • Eligibility for Federal tax benefits.
  • Consideration in the decision to issue a surface coal mining permit.
  • Qualification for Federal assistance for historic preservation, when funds are available.

National Register properties are distinguished by having been documented and evaluated according to uniform standards. The Secretary of the Interior's National Register criteria for evaluation and documentation standards are used by every State and Territory and by Federal agencies to identify important historic and archeological properties worthy of preservation and of consideration in making planning and development decisions.

The National Register program provides Federal, State and local governments and the general public the following:

  • National recognition of the value of historic properties individually and collectively to the Nation.
  • Eligibility for Federal tax incentives and other preservation assistance.
  • Assistance in cultural resource planning.

National Recognition

Americans are proud of their heritage and are honored when properties in their communities and States are entered in the National Register. Historic properties in a community are tangible links with the Nation's past that help provide a sense of identity and stability. The National Register, which recognizes the values of properties as diverse as a dugout shelter of an Oklahoma pioneer settler, the Breakers Mansion in Newport, and a 12,000-year-old prehistoric site, has helped many to appreciate the richness and variety of their heritage.

Listing properties in the National Register often changes the way communities perceive their historic resources and gives credibility to efforts of private citizens and public officials to preserve these resources as living parts of our communities. Listing in the National Register, however, does not interfere with a private property owner's right to alter, manage or dispose of property.

Historical commissions, design review committees, or special zoning ordinances are established by State legislation or local ordinances; they are not a part of the National Register program. Information on any State or local law which may affect a historic property may be obtained from the State Historic Preservation Officer and the Mayor, City Council or other community officials.

Preservation Assistance

Private preservation efforts, spurred by the honor of National Register listing and made feasible by financial incentives, have resulted in a rise in the value of historic property and in the creation of construction, business and employment opportunities throughout the Nation. Documentation used for evaluating and registering historic properties is the basis for decisions about which properties merit tax incentives or available Federal assistance and how these properties should be treated to respect their historic character.

State Activities

Most nominations to the National Register are made by the States through State Historic Preservation Officers. State Historic Preservation Programs must be approved by the Secretary of the Interior before the States nominate historic properties to the National Register.

In addition to nominating historic properties to the National Register, the State Historic Preservation Officer prepares and implements a comprehensive Statewide Historic Preservation Plan, administers the State program of Federal assistance for historic preservation within the State, conducts a statewide survey of historic properties, and cooperates with Federal, State and local officials and others to assure that historic properties are taken into consideration at all levels of planning and development. The State Historic Preservation Officer also provides public information, education and training, and technical assistance relating to the Federal and State Historic Preservation Programs.

Local Government Activities 

The State Historic Preservation Officer also assists local governments in becoming certified to participate in the Federal Historic Preservation Program, including the process for nominating properties to the National Register.

Criteria for Evaluation

The National Register's standards for evaluating the significance of properties were developed to recognize the accomplishments of all peoples who have made a contribution to our country's history and heritage. The criteria are designed to guide State and local governments, Federal agencies, and others in evaluating potential entries in the National Register.

The quality of significance in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering and culture is present in districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association and that:

  • are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history;
  • are associated with the lives of persons significant in our past; or
  • embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent he 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
  • have yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.

Criteria considerations: Ordinarily cemeteries, birthplaces, or graves of historical figures, properties owned by religious institutions or used for religious purposes, structures that have been moved from their original locations, reconstructed historic buildings, properties primarily commemorative in nature, and properties that have achieved significance within the past 50 years shall not be considered eligible for the National Register. However, such properties will qualify if they are integral parts of districts that do meet the criteria or if they fall within the following categories:

  • a religious property deriving primary significance from architectural or artistic distinction or historical importance; or
  • a building or structure removed from its original location but which is significant primarily for architectural value, or which is the surviving structure most importantly associated with a historic person or event; or
  • a birthplace or grave of a historical figure of outstanding importance if there is no other appropriate site or building directly associated with his productive life; or
  • a cemetery that derives its primary significance from graves of persons of transcendent importance, from age, from distinctive design features, or from association with historic events;or
  • a reconstructed building when accurately executed in a suitable environment and presented in a dignified manner as part of a restoration master plan, and when no other building or structure with the same association has survived; or
  • a property primarily commemorative in intent if design, age, tradition, or symbolic value has invested it with its own historical significance; or
  • a property achieving significance within the past 50 years if it is of exceptional importance.

Nominations to the National Register

State Nominations. State nominations are submitted to the National Park Service by State Historic Preservation Officers. Ordinarily, National Register forms to nominate properties are prepared by local citizens or by the staff of the State Historic Preservation Officer. These nomination forms are then submitted to a State review board, composed of professionals in the fields of American history, architectural history, architecture, prehistoric and historic archeology, and other related disciplines and may include citizen members. This review board makes a recommendation to the State Historic Preservation Officer either to approve the nomination if in the board's opinion it meets the National Register criteria or to disapprove the nomination if it does not.

During the time the proposed nomination is reviewed by the State Historic Preservation Officer, property owners and local authorities are notified. All property owners are given the opportunity to comment on the nomination and owners of private property are given an opportunity to concur in or object to the nomination. If the owner of a private property or the majority of such owners for a property or district with multiple owners object to the nomination, the State Historic Preservation Officer forwards the nomination to the National Park Service only for a determination about whether the property is eligible for listing. If a majority of owners do not object, a State Historic Preservation Officer may approve the nomination and forward it to the National Park Service to be considered for listing. If the nomination is approved by the National Park Service, the property is officially entered in the National Register.

Further information on the procedures to nominate properties to the National Register and the preservation program within your State may be obtained by contacting the appropriate State Historic Preservation Officer listed at the end of this leaflet.

Federal Nominations. Nominations to the National Register for Federal properties are submitted to the National Park Service through Federal Preservation Officers appointed by the agency heads. Federal agencies prepare National Register nominations, notify local officials and provide the State Historic Preservation Officer an opportunity to comment prior to submitting nominations to the National Park Service. The Federal Preservation Officer approves each nomination and forwards it to the National Park Service for final consideration. If the nomination is approved by the National Park Service, the property is officially entered in the National Register.

Information on Federal nominations to the National Register and other preservation programs of Federal agencies may be obtained from the Federal Preservation Officer for each agency. A list of Federal Preservation Officers is at the end of this leaflet.

Nominations by persons and local governments. The National Park Service may accept a nomination directly from any person or local government for inclusion of a property in the National Register if the property is located in a State where there is no State Historic Preservation Program approved by the National Park Service.

Appeals. Any person or local government may appeal to the National Park Service the nomination or listing of any historic property in the National Register. Appeals for nominations may also be made to the National Park Service if a State or Federal agency fails or refuses to nominate a property. Procedures for appeals are found in the National Register regulations in 36 CFR 60.


For more information go to the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places web site.

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