Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) FAQ
Who has the authority to designate local properties as significant?
Local designation is made through a municipality's heritage preservation commission (HPC) under provisions specified in a local preservation ordinance (see state enabling legislation).
How does local designation differ from listing on the National Register of Historic Places?
Local designation means that a property has met the criteria of a local preservation ordinance. Protection of such properties falls under the auspices of the local HPC. Listing on the National Register of Historic Places means that a property joins the nation's official list of properties deemed worthy of preservation. The National Register is directed by the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior and administered in Minnesota by the State Historic Preservation Office. It is possible for a property to have both local and National Register designation or to have either one without the other.
What is a historic district?
A geographically defined area with a concentration of historic buildings, structures, sites, spaces and objects unified by past events, physical development or design.
How does local designation affect me as a property owner?
Local designation of a historic building or district will not prohibit you from making changes to your property. However, any exterior changes you make must meet local preservation guidelines, based on the Secretary of the Interior's Standards, and must be approved by your HPC. This review process ensures that proposed alterations are compatible with the nature of the property.
If my neighborhood is proposed for local historic district designation, do I have any say in whether or not it is established?
Yes. Public participation is an important part of the designation process. By law, property owners in a proposed historic district must be notified of the proposal so that they may testify for or against it during public hearings to assess the impact of designation.
If my building is to be locally designated, does that mean I have to fix it up?
No. You may maintain the current look of your building; you are not required to restore it. However, like all buildings, historic properties must meet local housing and building codes. Some preservation ordinances include a provision to prevent "demolition by neglect," which allows the local government to step in if an owner is deliberately letting a building deteriorate. If you wish to make changes to exterior architectural features of your historic building, those changes must be reviewed and approved by the HPC.
What will happen to the value of my property?
Studies around the country suggest that property values increase faster in local historic districts than elsewhere. In Fredericksburg, Virginia, for example, commercial property values located within the historic district increased by an average 480 percent compared to an average 281 percent elsewhere in the city. In some areas, local designation may help turn around a decline in property values. A study of St. Paul's Historic Hill District found that residential property values rose 31 percent compared to an 18-percent decrease elsewhere in the city. One study found that buyers valued the extra protection offered by local historic districts and so were willing to pay higher prices.
Why should I support local designation?
Designation has many benefits. It:
- Helps maintain neighborhood property values.
- Brings recognition to your building and neighborhood.
- Keeps you informed about proposed changes in your neighborhood.
- Demonstrates your community's support for the preservation of its historic properties and neighborhoods.
National Register of Historic Places FAQ
Here is a selection of some of the questions frequently asked about the National Register and this site.
What is the best source of information about the National Register of Historic Places?
The National Register is maintained by the National Park Service in the U.S. Department of Interior and is administered in each state by a State Historic Preservation Office. For information about the national program, go to www.cr.nps.gov/nr/index.htm
How are properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places?
The process for listing a property on the National Register is a rigorous one. It begins with research to establish the property's significance. This information is recorded on a nomination form, reviewed by SHPO staff and presented to the Minnesota Historical Society's State Review Board, a volunteer group of citizens and professionals with expertise in history, architectural history, architecture and archaeology. If the board concurs that the nominated property meets Register criteria, the nomination is sent to the State Historic Preservation Officer for signature and then to the Keeper of the Register at the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., for final review, approval and placement on the National Register.
Where can I find more information about Minnesota properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places?
National Register files for Minnesota properties are located in the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) at the Minnesota History Center. For more information about this material and how to access it, go to www.mnhs.org/collections/shpo/shpo.htm
What properties does the searchable National Register database include?
The searchable National Register database contains over 7,000 entries for Minnesota properties. The properties fall into two categories: approximately 1,500 that are individually listed on the Register and approximately 5,700 properties that are located within historic districts that are listed on the National Register. The database is updated with new listings or corrected or expanded data on a regular basis.
Are the properties open to the public?
Some of the properties are in public ownership or are administered as historic sites open to visitors. The majority, however, are privately owned and are not open to the public.
How do I contact the Minnesota SHPO?
Minnesota Historical Society
345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55102
National Register Properties FAQ
How do I help a threatened property?
Learn the facts about the threatened property. Knowing the answers to a few basic questions will help you determine whether to tackle the problem at the local level or enlist the aid of the SHPO.
- Who owns the property and who is making the decisions about its future?
- Is the property on the National Register of Historic Places? Or has it been designated as historically significant by a local heritage preservation commission?
Unfortunately, National Register designation does not guarantee a property's preservation. The strongest protection is often at the local level, where demolition and building permits affecting locally designated properties must go through a local review process.
If the property has not yet been designated as historically significant, it needs to be evaluated. The significance of the resource will determine the level of effort warranted to save it. How do I find out about a property's history?
- What is the nature of the threat and what is the timetable for decision-making? For historic properties threatened by a government action, state and federal laws provide a measure of protection. Familiarize yourself with the processes for public review and comment. Working within those processes is your best defense. Make your voice heard.
- Is there local support for the property's preservation? Find other preservation-minded people in your community and join forces in support of the threatened property. Be creative and persuasive in making your case. And persevere. Local groups have been especially effective in efforts to save buildings owned by municipal and county governments.
- Have alternative uses for the property been thoroughly explored? Historic properties stand the best chance of being preserved when they are in use. The SHPO's Reuse Study model outlines a strategy for finding viable new uses for threatened and underused buildings. The process can buy some time and ensure input from an expert team of architects, historians and other specialists. Local governments may be willing to help fund a reuse study as part of their decision-making process.
How do I rehab my historic building?
Whether you have just acquired a historic property or owned it for some time, you are the property's steward. That means you assume an obligation to provide care and maintenance in a way that is sensitive to its unique qualities of design, materials, craftsmanship and setting. The challenge lies in your ability to make the right decisions. The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation provide guidelines on preserving historic properties. For more in-depth information, see the National Park Service's Technical Preservation Services.
Things to keep in mind:
- Maintenance is essential to preserving a property. Inspect your property at least twice a year, recording existing conditions and prioritizing necessary repairs. Critical areas of concern: roofs and gutters, windows, foundation, grading, exterior envelope including siding and masonry, and interior building systems such as heating, wiring and plumbing. Avoid the tendency to focus on cosmetics before addressing underlying problems.
- Know your limitations. If the job at hand is beyond your abilities, call a professional contractor. View SHPO's Preservation Specialists Directory who have worked on projects meeting the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation.
- Even with the best maintenance program, some building parts eventually reach the end of their life expectancy. Roofs are a prime example: An asphalt composition shingle roof will require replacement in 20 years; wood shingle roofs have an expected life of 40 years; a slate roof may last 80-100 years. See Resources below for guidance in repairing or replacing deteriorated features.
- It is always best to try to retain original materials. When that is not possible, substitute materials may be considered. Some examples: Timberline fiberglass reinforced asphalt shingles are commonly substituted for cedar shingles. Paintable cement-based siding may replace wooden clapboard; non-breathable materials such as metal and vinyl are strongly discouraged. When retaining historic windows, consider wooden-surround combination storm/screen units in lieu of metal or vinyl combination units.
- The majority of preservation problems are due to water damage - from a leaky roof, faulty gutters, lack of downspouts/rain leaders, improper grading or poor ventilation. Before attempting modern solutions, it is important to understand building systems in use at the time of your property's construction. Avoid over-insulating and resist using sealers or water-repellant coatings on exterior surfaces. Both steps retard the normal evaporation of moisture from within.
How do I prepare a National Register nomination?
- Become familiar with the nomination process.
The National Register program, directed by the National Park Service, is administered in each state by its State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). Nominations for listing a property on the National Register may be initiated by the SHPO or by private individuals and organizations. However, nominations must be submitted through the SHPO.
The nomination serves to make the case for the property's significance. If the Minnesota Historical Society's State Review Board determines that the property meets National Register criteria, the nomination is sent to the State Historic Preservation Officer for signature and then to the Keeper of the National Register in Washington, D.C., for final review and approval.
- Learn the National Register criteria used to measure a property's significance.
Properties listed on the National Register must meet certain criteria of historical significance and physical integrity.
- Determine the property's potential for listing on the National Register.
You may request a preliminary evaluation by the SHPO on the property's potential for National Register eligibility. Contact SHPO to request a preliminary evaluation package for the type of property you want evaluated-school, church, commercial building, residence, etc. Include your address for delivery by U.S. mail. Once you have completed a draft nomination form, SHPO staff will review your draft and notify you of their opinion on the property's eligibility.
- Complete the nomination.
If you decide to proceed, it will be your responsibility to submit a complete nomination for the property, including maps and photographs. You may complete the nomination yourself or retain the services of a Preservation Specialist.
My building is made of Chaska brick. How should I care for it?
For information on the care of Chaska brick, as well as its history and additional resources, please visit our Chaska Brick page.