Frequently Asked Questions
State Register of Historic Places
and the National Register of Historic Places
Wisconsin citizens often have questions about the advantages, or the disadvantages, if any-of having their property listed in the State Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places. What are the implications, or the benefits or restrictions, if any, of having private or public property nominated to and listed in the National Register and the State Register? The following are some of the mostly commonly asked questions, with answers that try to avoid excessively technical language or bureaucratic references.
What are the National Register of Historic Places and the State Register of Historic Places?
The National Register is the official national list of historic properties in America worthy of preservation and is maintained by the National Park Service in the U.S. Department of the Interior. The State Register is Wisconsin's official listing of state properties determined to be significant to Wisconsin's heritage and is maintained by the Division of Historic Preservation at the Wisconsin Historical Society. Both listings include sites, buildings, structures, objects and districts that are significant in national, state or local history, architecture, archaeology, engineering and culture.
How are properties nominated to the State Register and the National Register?
One procedure is used to nominate properties to both registers at the same time. Generally, the nomination process requires two steps:
- First, the submission of a preliminary "Questionnaire" that provides basic information about the property to determine if the property appears to be significant.
- Second, the submission of a "National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form" that is completed according to state and federal standards. Any person or organization may nominate properties to the registers, but because it is a complex process, private consultants are often employed. The owner of the property is informed of the nomination.
How much time does it take to nominate a property to the registers?
This depends on the type and location of the property, among other things. The nominator frequently must research and photograph the property and must, of course, complete the required forms and submit them to the Wisconsin Historical Society, where the nomination is reviewed by staff and scheduled for review and approval by the State Historic Preservation Review Board, which meets quarterly. State Register nominations are approved at the state level. National Register nominations are approved by the National Park Service in Washington, D.C. All of this can take about one and a half years.
If my private property, such as my home, is listed in the State Register and the National Register, am I restricted in what I can do with the property?
Am I required to restore or preserve my property if it is listed in the State Register and the National Register?
No. Of course, because the property is historically significant, you are encouraged to preserve it.
Do I automatically receive funds or other financial assistance when my property is listed in the registers?
No. However, an owner of a listed property is eligible to apply for state or federal income tax credits for the rehabilitation of historic property.
Is the property protected from demolition because it is listed in the registers?
No. Listing a property in the registers does not automatically protect it from demolition (or other alterations). However, listing a property in the registers does "trigger" state and federal preservation laws that require federal, state and local government agencies to take into consideration the effect of their plans or projects on such listed properties.
What are the benefits of having a property listed in the National Register and the State Register?
The principal benefit is the knowledge that you are helping to preserve your local, state and national heritage. To assist you, the state and federal governments provide a number of more tangible benefits: eligibility for state and federal income tax credits for rehabilitating historic properties; eligibility for federal grants, when available; consideration in the planning of federally assisted and state assisted projects, as well as projects of local governments and school boards, when those projects affect the property; eligibility to use the state's Historic Building Code, which may facilitate rehabilitation; qualification for state and federal charitable income tax deductions for the donation of historic preservation easements; and eligibility for official State Register of Historic Places plaques.
What are the disadvantages of having a property listed in the National Register and State Register?
Listing a property in the registers does not impose restrictions on the private property owner. The private owner is free to sell, alter or demolish the property. Of course, if the property owner is utilizing any public federal or state funding or assistance, the proposed projects are reviewed to ensure that historic values of the property are taken into consideration.
Do I automatically receive a plaque to place on my property when it is listed?
No, but you may purchase an official State Register of Historic Places plaque or other appropriate plaques of your choosing.
If the property is owned by the local or state government and is listed in the State Register and the National Register, are there any special responsibilities that state agencies and local governments incur?
Yes. Because these are publicly owned historic or prehistoric properties, the state agencies or local governments, including school boards, must inform the State Historic Preservation Officer at the Wisconsin Historical Society of any plans or proposed actions that will affect any listed property. The State Historic Preservation Officer may require negotiations to reduce or avoid adverse effects.
Please note: The state and federal historic preservation programs are comprehensive and involve a number of statues, regulations, rules and guidelines. For further information or details about the preservation programs, please contact the Division of Historic Preservation-Public History, Wisconsin Historical Society, 816 State St., Madison, WI 53706. Local historic preservation programs are often established by local government ordinances, and property owners are advised to consult their local governments for information regarding local regulations.