Here are some really interesting things about historically registered homes. Knowing them is important if you are house hunting and have a love of old houses.

As with any other major life decision, you need to look before you leap. Having the facts now allows you to make a more informed choice when the time comes.

So, here is what you need to know if you are thinking about buying a historically registered home. Or, interested in having a property you already own placed on the national registry.

What Are Historically Registered Homes

The National Register of Historic Places run by the National Park Service, “is the official Federal list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture.” The properties on the national registry all have some special “significance to the history of their community, state or the nation.”

At the moment, there are more than 90,000 properties listed in the National Register. Almost every county in the United States has at least one or more historically registered homes.

French Home Trading Post in Beaumont, TX.

The French Home Trading Post in Beaumont, TX. Image by Doug Matthews [CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Requirements for the National Register of Historic Places

Now, for the real question at hand. How do you know if your house is historic enough to be on the National Registry? To be historically registered, a building must meet certain qualifications. First of all, the home must have “significance in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture.” And then, they must “possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association.” The NPS also explains that the property in question must also be:

  • Associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or
  • Associated with the lives of significant persons in our past; or
  • Embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the 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 history or prehistory.

Each home is evaluated to ensure that it meets the criteria required to be listed on the National Registry. In most cases, the following will not qualify on their own:

“Cemeteries, birthplaces, 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.”

However, there can be exceptions made if the property falls into any of the categories below.


  • Religious properties that derive their primary significance from architectural or artistic distinction or historical importance; or
  • Buildings or structures previously removed from their original locations but which are primarily significant for architectural value, or which is the surviving structure most importantly associated with a historic person or event; or
  • The birthplaces or graves of historical figures of outstanding importance if there is no appropriate site or building associated with their productive lives; or
  • Cemeteries that derive their primary importance from graves of persons of transcendent importance, from age, from distinctive design features, or from association with historical events; or
  • Reconstructed buildings when they are 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
  • Properties that are primarily commemorative in intent if design, age, tradition, or symbolic value has invested it with its own exceptional significance; or
  • Properties that have achieved significance within the past 50 years if it is of exceptional importance.

Perks of Having Your Historical Home Registered

Besides bragging rights, what does it mean to have your home registered? Historically registered homes do get a few perks. Some special loans and grants are available to preserve historic properties. Owners of historic homes may also have eligibility for special tax credits.

Surprisingly enough, the biggest perks of a historic property registration are for the property itself. The registry keeps structures safe from claims of eminent domain. The registry also protects these properties from coal mining.

But what about the plaque? Most people are familiar with the commemorative plaques placed at many historical sites. However, these plates are not a requirement. The National Register of Historic Places isn’t issuing these plaques for property registrations. In other words, if you want a plaque, you’ll need to buy one.

The John A. Cuthbert House in Beaufort, SC. Image by Ken Lund Image CC BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr.

Restrictions for Homes on the National Registry

Everyone who is interested in historically registered homes needs to be aware that there are some restrictions are often associated with them. There are no federal laws that restrict what a homeowner can do to their home, even if it is on the registry. However, there may be state and local laws that do restrict what changes the homeowners of historic properties can make. Homeowners should contact their State historic preservation office (SHPO) to check on their rules before beginning any projects. If attached to federal monies in any way, such as through a grant, the rules of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation apply.

How to Get Your Historic Home Registered

In order to be on the National Registry of Historic Places, a home must receive a nomination by either State Historic Preservation Officers, Federal Preservation Officers, or Tribal Historic Preservation Officers. You are able to initiate this process yourself by submitting your home to your SHPO. In fact, you might end up doing much of the research yourself and providing the bulk of the documentation. After a preservation officer has nominated the property, a review board will evaluate the property. This review board will then decide whether to recommend it for listing with the registry.

Is a Historic Home for Me?

For many of us, owning a historically registered home is a dream come true. But it also comes with a lot of responsibility. Even if restrictions don’t govern your choices, obligations come with a historic property. There is a duty to preserve the historical integrity of the home. This, in turn, colors all the renovations you end up undertaking. This is something to consider, but as far as costs and personal preferences are concerned. For example, if you want an updated kitchen, a historic home may not be the best route to go. On the other hand, if you long to have a home with history and are ready to preserve that history, historically registered homes just make sense.

Featured image CC BY 2.0 by David Berry via Flickr

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This