National Register of Historic Places Frequently Asked Questions
The National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is a National Park Service (NPS) program that recognizes buildings, sites and structures important in our nation’s history, however, it also sometimes conjures up fears of regulation and concerns about private property rights. In reality, the NRHP is an honorific program, and it carries with it no restrictions whatsoever to a private property owner. There are many misconceptions about the NRHP; please read on to learn the true facts about the program.
- Identify historic buildings/structures/sites that are of local, state, or national importance.
- Provide formal recognition of a property’s significance.
- Increase public awareness and appreciation for historic properties.
- Provide archival and research documentation for historic properties.
- Help qualify publicly- or nonprofit-owned properties for certain grant programs.
- Restrict the rights of private property owners to change or dispose of their property in any way – up to and including demolition.
- Automatically provide grants or low interest loans for a property.
- Require that historic properties be restored once listed.
- Require property owners to open their property for public visitation at any time.
- Guarantee the preservation of historic properties.
Generally, a property must be at least 50 years old, possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association, and it must meet at least one of the four criteria below:
A. The property is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history (history); or
B. The property is associated with the lives of significant persons in or past (people); or
C. The property embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or represents the work of a master, or possesses high artistic values, or represents a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction (architecture); or
D. has yielded or may be likely to yield, information important in history or prehistory (archaeology).
Generally, a property must be at least 50 years old to be considered historic and eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. However, properties that have clear, exceptional significance, or that are fragile or disappearing, can be recognized by National Register listing before they are 50 years old.
Anyone may nominate any property to the National Register of Historic Places; however, private property owners are given the opportunity to object to the listing of their individual property and if they do so, their property will not be listed. If a nominated property is part of an historic district, at least 50% of the owners must object or the district will be listed in its entirety.
The NRHP is largely an honorific program and it carries with it no restrictions whatsoever to a private property owner up to, and including, demolition. National Register listing only regulates the use of federal funds that may affect the property and does not impose legal requirements on the private property owner. Once your property is listed, you are free to make any alterations with private funds and do not need prior approval from our office or anyone else to do so.
Please note: Some localities in Idaho have passed local ordinances that may regulate what a property owner can do with their historic property. To find out if your property may be affected by this type of regulation, contact your community’s planning and zoning department.
- The first step toward getting a property listed is to complete and submit a National Register Questionnaire (NRQ) to the SHPO with current photographs. The information in this questionnaire will allow SHPO staff to evaluate the property and determine whether it is likely to be eligible for the NRHP.
- If it is determined that the property is likely eligible for listing, the SHPO will contact you and the next step would be the completion of a National Register Nomination Form.
- Completed nominations are submitted to the Idaho SHPO, with two sets of photos and a full, original USGS Quadrangle map with the property located on it.
SHPO staff reviews the nomination. The nomination may be sent back for revisions by the preparer if substantive changes or additions are required. SHPO staff is available to work with property owners to provide assistance and guidance in completing the form.
- Once a completed document is in-hand, the nomination is scheduled before the next meeting of the Idaho State Historic Sites Review Board.
30-60 days prior to the meeting, legal notices are sent to the property owner and local governments.
- The Idaho State Historic Sites Review Board meets and either approves the nomination, rejects the nomination, or conditionally approves it pending modifications.
- Approved nominations are sent to the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places at the National Park Service, and if approved, the property is formally listed in the NRHP.
This process generally takes at least 1 year from beginning to end.
Unfortunately, there are limited financial resources available for restoration/rehabilitation work for your historic property. Although some federal grant programs exist on the books, it has been a number of years since Congress has appropriated funds for most them. Properties in Certified Local Government communities can reach out to their local Historic Preservation Commission about the CLG Grant program for help. Owners of certain income-producing properties that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places may qualify for a federal tax credit under the Federal Tax Credit Program.
Other organizations may have limited grant funds available for historic preservation projects for public- or non-profit-owned properties; check their websites for more information:
The Idaho SHPO has scanned all of it National Register nomination forms and most of them are available for download through our interactive map of Historic Places in Idaho. Contact our office to have a digital copy emailed or a hard copy mailed to you. For copies of NRHP nominations for properties located in other states, contact that state’s State Historic Preservation Office.
The National Register of Historic Places nomination form, instructions, and other NPS guidance publications can be found on the National Park Service’s website.
If you have further questions about the form or how to complete it, call (208) 488-7468 or e-mail the Architectural Historian at the Idaho SHPO.
State Historic Preservation Office Hours and Location
Open 5 Days a Week
Monday – Friday
Closed State Holidays
8:00am – 5:00pm
210 Main Street
Boise, ID 83712
Please call us with any questions: