If you live in or have visited New York you’ve probably noticed those little plaques on some of your favorite buildings around the city – The National Register of Historic Places. But how does one get their building on the National Register of Historic Places and what makes these properties so special?

The National Register of Historic Places is the list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. It’s our country’s effort to identify, protect, and preserve its most important pieces of history. Given the abundance of historic properties across the island of Manhattan, it is no surprise New York has 183 landmarks… and that’s just South of 14th Street!

Evaluating a Property

Properties under consideration for the program must meet the guidelines set by the National Register of Historic Places. This includes some more obvious elements like – how old is the property? Typically it needs to be at least 50 years old. Also, does it look generally the same as it did back in time?
It’s not just a property’s age that will result in receiving this coveted title. The property also needs to have some kind of significance. Is it a part of an event from history? Were the lives of people who were important to our nation’s history part of this building? Was it an important architectural achievement? Aside from just being a part of history, the property needs to be significant to our nation’s history to be part of the National Register of Historic Places.

Listing Process

So we understand the process of how a property is picked, but how are they brought to the attention of the decision makers? Typically nominations are submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in the property’s respective state. The SHPO will then notify the property owner and the local government to be sure there is no objection to the nomination.

Nominations are reviewed by the SHPO, as well as the state’s National Register Review Board. The time it takes to come to a decision will vary but typically it takes a minimum of 90 days as these nominations are not taken lightly.
If the nomination makes it through the first rounds of reviews, the nomination and state recommendations will be sent to the National Park Service in Washington, D.C. for a final review and decision.

Advantages to Making the List

Sure it’s pretty cool to make the National Register of Historic Places, but what does that mean for a property owner? First of all, the property is publicly noticed for its historic significance and added to the nation’s database. More importantly, the owners are encouraged to preserve the property through incentives like grants, tax credits, and International Building Code fire and life safety code alternatives. The program is also a great platform for them to network with other historic property owners through conferences and workshops.

While it’s interesting to keep an eye out for historic landmarks on almost every corner in the Big Apple, it’s encouraging to know that programs like this support owners of these properties so they will be preserved for future generations to enjoy as we have.

Are you living in a historic landmark? If so, maybe it’s time to make a nomination and share your piece of New York history with the rest of the world.