National Register of Historic Places

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archaeological resources.

Properties listed in the Register include districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that are significant in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, and culture. The National Register is administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Maine Historic Preservation Commission (MHPC), a state governmental agency, has been designated as the State Historic Preservation Office, and it oversees the administration of the National Register program in the State of Maine.

All properties listed in the National Register must meet the criteria established by the National Park Service. This criteria is applied national wide, and seeks to ensure that all listed property are both significant, within the areas of architecture, archaeology, engineering, culture or history, and that they retain their historic designs, materials, workmanship and sense of time and place.

There are many misconceptions about what results when a property is listed in the National Register.

The National Register DOES:

  • Identify historically significant buildings, structures, sites, objects, and districts, according to the National Register criteria for evaluation.
  • Encourage the preservation of historic properties by documenting the significance of historic properties and by lending support to local preservation activities.
  • Enable federal, state, and local agencies to consider historic properties in the early stages of planning projects.
  • Provide for review of federally funded, licensed, or sponsored projects which may affect historic properties.
  • Make owners of historic properties eligible to apply for grants for preservation activities.
  • Encourage the rehabilitation of income-producing historic properties which meet preservation standards through tax incentives

The National Register DOES NOT:

  • Restrict the rights of private property owners in the use, development, or sale of private historic property.
  • Lead automatically to historic district zoning.
  • Force federal, state, local, or private projects to be stopped.
  • Provide for review of state, local, or privately funded projects which may affect historic properties.
  • Guarantee that grant funds will be available for all significant historic properties.
  • Provide tax benefits to owners of residential historic properties, unless those properties are rental and treated as income-producing by the IRS.

Where to Start (How to list a property)

The National Register nomination process usually starts with our State Historic Preservation Office, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission (MHPC). Contact MHPC or for National Register information, research materials, and necessary forms to begin the nomination process. 

How are Properties Evaluated?

To be considered eligible, a property must meet the National Register Criteria for Evaluation. This involves examining the property’s age, integrity, and significance.

• Age and Integrity. Is the property old enough to be considered historic (generally at least 50 years old) and does it still look much the way it did in the past?

• Significance. Is the property associated with events, activities, or developments that were important in the past? With the lives of people who were important in the past? With significant architectural history, landscape history, or engineering achievements? Does it have the potential to yield information through archeological investigation about our past?

National Register Listing Process

• Nominations can be submitted to MHPC from property owners, historical societies, preservation organizations, governmental agencies, and other individuals or groups. Official National Register Nomination Forms are downloadable. National Register Bulletins can also provide guidance on how to document and evaluate certain types of properties. Sample Nominations provide additional useful information.

• MHPC notifies affected property owners and local governments and solicits public comment. If the owner (or a majority of owners for a district nomination) objects, the property cannot be listed but may be forwarded to the National Park Service for a Determination of Eligibility (DOE).

• Proposed nominations are reviewed by MHPC and the state’s National Register Review Board. The length of the state process varies but will take a minimum of 90 days.

• Complete nominations, with certifying recommendations, are submitted by the state to the National Park Service in Washington, D.C. for final review and listing by the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places. The National park Service makes a listing decision within 45 days.

*Note: National Register nominations of Tribal properties start with the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer. National Register nominations of federal properties start with the agency’s Federal Preservation Officer.

Results & Owner Information

Listing in the National Register of Historic Places provides formal recognition of a property’s historical, architectural, or archeological significance based on national standards used by every state. Results include:

• Becoming part of the National Register Archives, a public, searchable database that provides a wealth of research information.

• Encouraging preservation of historic resources by documenting a property’s historic significance.

• Providing opportunities for specific preservation incentives, such as:

> Federal preservation grants for planning and rehabilitation
Federal investment tax credits
> Preservation easements to nonprofit organizations
> International Building Code fire and life safety code alternatives

• Possible State tax benefit and grant opportunities. Check with your State Historic Preservation Office for historic property incentives available within your state.

• Involvement from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation when a Federal agency project may affect historic property.

• Find out information on the care and maintenance of your historic property through various NPS Preservation Briefs and Tech Notes.

• Network with other historic property owners, tour historic areas, or chat with preservationists through Conferences, Workshops, and Preservation Organizations.

• Celebrate your listing by ordering a bronze plaque that distinguishes your property as listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Listing and Ownership

•Under Federal Law, the listing of a property in the National Register places no restrictions on what a non-federal owner may do with their property up to and including destruction, unless the property is involved in a project that receives Federal assistance, usually funding or licensing/permitting.

• National Register listing does not lead to public acquisition or require public access.

• A property will not be listed if, for individual properties, the owner objects, or for districts, a majority of property owners object.

• National Register listing does not automatically invoke local historic district zoning or local landmark designation.

• Federal Regulation 36 CFR 60 authorizes the National Register of Historic Places.

• Contact your State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) for any specific state rules or regulations