The first requirement of most historic tax credit programs is for the property to be listed or eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, either individually or in a district.

Not all old buildings will qualify for this registry. Only those with significance based on architecture, an important historical person or event, or cultural significance are accepted to the National Register as determined by the National Park Service.

How to find a property on the National Register of Historic Places

A link to the NPS database of NRHP properties can be found here. However, the system does not account for every property listed in an historic district. If you know the name of the historic district in which you think the property is located, you can search for the address within the district’s nomination form.

Reading National Register nomination forms

Nominations have been submitted to the NPS since 1976. Changes in submission styles and technology have created a variety of templates for these documents. This means that some nominations are easier to read than others.

The main components of the National Register Nomination to consider when evaluating a project for historic tax credits are:
- Designated criteria
- Period of significance

Multiple Property Designations

While less common, in some cases buildings of a certain type in a related but non-contiguous geography are listed using Multiple Property Designation Forms. Examples of this include Garden Apartments in Arlington, VA and Residential Hotels in Chicago, IL.

Criteria for Evaluation

The quality of significance in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture is present in districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association, and:

A. That are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or

B. That are associated with the lives of significant persons in our past; or

C. That 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

D. That have yielded or may be likely to yield, information important in history or prehistory.

Criteria Considerations

Ordinarily 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 shall not be considered eligible for the National Register. However, such properties will qualify if they are integral parts of districts that do meet the criteria or if they fall within the following categories:

a. A religious property deriving primary significance from architectural or artistic distinction or historical importance; or

b. A building or structure removed from its original location but which is primarily significant for architectural value, or which is the surviving structure most importantly associated with a historic person or event; or

c. A birthplace or grave of a historical figure of outstanding importance if there is no appropriate site or building associated with his or her productive life; or

d. A cemetery that derives its primary importance from graves of persons of transcendent importance, from age, from distinctive design features, or from association with historic events; or

e. A reconstructed building when 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

f. A property primarily commemorative in intent if design, age, tradition, or symbolic value has invested it with its own exceptional significance; or

g. A property achieving significance within the past 50 years if it is of exceptional importance.

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