National Register FAQ

General Inquiries

Eligibility for Listing in the National Register

Benefits of Listing

Regulations & Property Rights

The National Register Process in Texas

Historic Districts

Other Designations


Q: What Texas Properties are Listed in the National Register?

A: National Register documentation for properties in Texas is available from several sources. For more information, visit the National Register page on Researching Listed Properties. Please note that nominations have been created since 1969 following different documentation standards, and most have not been updated since the time of listing. While the boundaries for each listing are firmly established, the status of contributing properties, especially in historic districts, is subject to change.

Q: What types of properties can be included in the National Register?

A: The National Register includes a variety of different property types—specifically buildings, structures, objects, and sites. Common examples include houses, schools, hotels, theaters, skyscrapers, barns, bridges, lighthouses, ships, highways, monuments, statues, battlefields, parks, shipwrecks, and prehistoric archeological sites. The National Register also includes districts, which are groups of buildings, structures, objects, or sites that make up a coherent whole, such as a neighborhood, a ranch, or an industrial complex.

Q: How old does a property have to be to qualify for listing?

A: Generally, properties eligible for listing in the National Register are at least 50 years old. Properties less than 50 years of age must be exceptionally important to be considered eligible for listing.

Q. How can I research the history of my property?

A: The THC and the National Park Service offer numerous free publications to aid National Register applicants, and provides guidance documenting a wide variety of property types. For a complete Visit your local library, historical museum, city hall, county courthouse, and nearby colleges or universities. Among the resources you’ll want to review first are historic photographs, old city directories, Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, city histories, genealogical records, deed records, abstracts of title, church records, census records, tax records, and plans or blueprints. If your building was designed by a prominent architect, the plans may be in the storage of an existing successor firm.

Q: How can I determine if my property has been evaluated for designation by the THC?

A: Contact the THC's History Programs Division to find out whether your property has been evaluated for listing on the National Register or as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in the past. Staff can provide you with a copy of the file and will also help you contact preservation officials in your community.

Q: What are the benefits of listing a property in the National Register?

A: National Register listing provides prestigious recognition to properties and encourages their preservation. Listing also helps promote heritage tourism and economic development efforts. In addition, there are a variety of grants and tax incentive programs available from the federal government for maintaining National Register-listed properties. Some owners of buildings that are listed in the National Register are eligible for federal income tax credits of up to 20% if they undertake rehabilitation projects that meet certain standards. Historic buildings can also be granted variances from some building codes.

Q: Does listing in the National Register provide any protections to my property?

A: Sometimes. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires that any project undertaken with federal money or federal permit must consider the impact that the project may have on buildings listed in or eligible for the National Register. Other laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Department of Transportation Act (DOTA) also provide various levels of protections for properties listed in the National Register from various governmental projects that may affect them. Listing does not guarantee against demolition. Local ordinances, which vary from city to city, may also mandate additional review of construction projects involving NR properties.

Q: Don't historic buildings and archaeological sites stop a lot of important community projects like highways and water systems?

A: No. The mere existence of a historic building or site cannot stop a federally funded construction project of this type. The Texas Historical Commission works with the agencies funding these projects from the earliest stages in an effort to reduce the likelihood of conflict or of wasted time and money by identifying the historic concerns early and incorporating them in planning the project.

Q: How does National Register listing affect my property rights? What changes can I make to the building?

A: As long as there’s no federal money or permit involved, the National Register does not regulate the actions of private owners. Owners do not need permission from the federal government to make alterations to listed properties and can treat or dispose of the property however they choose. The National Register also does not prevent demolition or destruction of listed properties. However, inappropriate work done on a listed building can result in a loss of historic integrity and its removal from the National Register.

While listing in the National Register carries no restrictions, other designations do. Owners of Recorded Texas Historic Landmarks (RTHL), State Antiquities Landmarks (SAL), or locally designated landmarks are required to follow certain regulations pertaining to the treatment of those properties. THC staff can help you determine whether your property carries such designations and can advise you on appropriate treatment options. Furthermore, owners of listed properties who wish to utilize tax incentives or grants to help with rehabilitation or preservation will have their plans subject to prior review and approval by the appropriate state and/or federal agencies involved.

Q: If my home is listed in the National Register, can I still paint it the color I want, remodel, or make an addition?

A: Yes. As long as there’s no federal money or permit involved, the National Register program does not place any restrictions on how homeowners treat their properties. Local governments may have historic preservation statutes as part of the local codes that regulate this type of activity, however. Also keep in mind that inappropriate work that severely impacts a property’s integrity could result in removal from the National Register.

Q: Does listing in the National Register allow the government to force me to maintain it?

A: No. Owners of listed properties are not required to maintain or restore their buildings beyond whatever local building codes require for all properties. However, listing in the National Register makes available to owners access to financial incentives and technical guidance so that they can make maintenance projects more affordable and historically appropriate. To request assistance, contact the THC’s Division of Architecture at 512.463.6094.

Q: Will anybody be able to stop me if I want to tear down my National Register property?

A: No. National Register listing alone cannot prevent you from tearing down the property.

Q: Can my property be listed in the National Register against my will?

A: Federal regulations provide that private properties can be listed only if a majority of the property owners do not formally object to the listing. In the case of a district, all contributing properties (those that are considered historic and part of what makes the district eligible for listing) will be listed in the National Register, even if their owners formally objected, as long as the majority (greater than 50%) do not object.

If the majority of property owners object, the nomination may still be submitted to the National Park Service in order to obtain a formal determination of eligibility (DOE). DOE’s provide the same protections given to listed properties, but do not provide eligibility for tax benefits.

Q: Who can nominate a property for listing in the National Register?

A: Anyone can prepare a nomination for listing in the National Register. The THC often recommends that property owners consult with a historic preservation professional to complete the nomination, because the required documentation and process can be complex.

Q: How will I know if my property is being considered for listing in the National Register?

A: The THC will notify owners of individually nominated properties in writing. In the case of a nominated district, those with less than 50 property owners also will receive notification in writing. In districts with more than 50 properties owners, notification is done through the publication of a legal notice in the local newspaper rather than by letter. THC staff will also hold a public meeting in the city in which the nominated district is located; any interested parties are invited to attend this public meeting. All notifications take place at least 30 days before the State Board of Review meeting.

Q: Is there opportunity for public input on a historic district nomination?

A: Yes. At least 30 days before the State Board of Review meeting at which a nomination will be considered, the THC is required to notify all property owners and local governments and give them the opportunity to comment. For historic districts including more than fifty property owners this notification is through a public notice in the local newspaper. For large historic districts, we also hold a public meeting in the area to answer questions and address concerns.

Q: What is a National Register historic district?

A: A National Register historic district possesses a significant concentration, linkage, or continuity of buildings, structures, sites, or objects united historically or aesthetically by plan or physical development. Overall, the district as a whole must have historical, architectural, engineering, or archaeological significance, even if some or all of the properties lack individual distinction.

Q: How are boundaries drawn for historic districts?

A: Boundaries for historic districts are drawn to include a significant concentration of historic properties. Most historic districts include noncontributing properties, but the number and scale of noncontributing properties must not overwhelm a district’s sense of time, place, and historical development.

Q: What is a contributing property?

A: A contributing property is a building, structure, object, or site within the boundaries of the district that adds to the historic associations, historic architectural qualities, or archaeological values for which the historic district is significant. A contributing property must also retain integrity, meaning enough of its historic physical features to convey its significance as part of the district.

Q: What is a noncontributing property?

A: A noncontributing property is a building, structure, object, or site within the boundaries of the district that does not add to the historic associations, historic architectural qualities, or archaeological values for which the historic district is significant. Typically this means that the property is less than fifty years old, has been significantly altered, or is not associated with the historic theme or time period of the district.

Q: How do I determine if my building or site is a contributing property in a National Register historic district?

A: The first step is to determine if your property is within the boundaries of a National Register historic district. Contact THC Staff.

Q: What is the process for listing a historic district in the National Register?

A: Anyone may nominate a historic property for inclusion in the National Register, but districts are special types of historic resources. If an individual, organization, neighborhood, or community is interested in pursuing National Register designation for a historic district, they should contact the THC’s National Register coordinator to discuss the potential for a particular district. The National Register staff will evaluate whether or not a district nomination should be pursued, and will help establish boundaries and assess the contributing and noncontributing status of historic properties in those boundaries.

Q: Are there more benefits for properties that are individually listed in the National Register than for those that are listed as contributing properties in National Register historic districts?

A: No. Contributing properties are eligible for the same financial incentives and protections afforded properties that are individually listed in the National Register. Owners of contributing properties can also purchase and display National Register plaques.

Q: My property is in a National Register district, but can I get it listed individually?

A: If a property is a contributing resource in the district, it is already fully listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is given the same level of consideration as properties that are individually listed. Therefore, an individual nomination would be redundant and discouraged by both the National Park Service and the THC.

Q: What Texas properties are listed in the National Register?

A: See section titled “Research Listed Properties” in the main menu.

Q: Is there a Texas state register?

A: Not exactly. Texas does not have a separate state register, but properties may be designated as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark (RTHL), State Antiquities Landmark (SAL), or Historic Texas Cemetery (HTC). Though not technically a “register,” properties with these designations represent Texas’ most significant historic properties worthy of preservation.

Q: Do I have to obtain local and state designation before I can apply for National Register listing?

A: No. Local and/or state designation is not a pre-requisite for listing in the National Register.

Q: Is there a deadline for submitting my nomination proposal?

A: Proposals are received by our staff on a continual basis. Typically proposals require at least a round or two of revisions, and our staff will work closely with you to make the necessary changes. We schedule proposals for review by the State Board of Review only after our staff has approved a final draft.

Final drafts must be received by the THC at least 45 days (75 days for properties in Certified Local Government communities) in advance of the meeting date in order to comply with legal notification requirements. The State Board of Review meets at least three times annually (usually late spring, late summer, and late fall). Contact THC staff for precise cut-off dates, which will vary from year to year.

Q: How long does it take to get a property through the nomination process?

A: It can take anywhere from 6 months up to a year or more, depending on the nature of the property, how quickly the necessary information can be properly assembled, when the Texas State Board of Review Board meets, and the workload of our limited staff.

Q: I am pretty sure that a property is listed, but I cannot find it in your database, why is that?

A: The likely answer is that the property is within a historic district. In most cases, our database does not include every individual address within historic districts. Contact THC staff for assistance.

Q: How do I get a National Register plaque?

A: Contact THC staff with your request. We will first verify that the property is officially listed and confirm its continued eligibility before sending you an order form for your choice of plaque. Plaques range in price from $350 to $550. Owners are not required to purchase or display a plaque.

Q: How does the National Register fit in with the Federal Rehabilitation Income Tax Credit process?

A: Eligibility for the 20% Federal rehabilitation income tax credit program requires that a property be income-producing and listed, or soon to be listed in the National Register. A property is nominated based on its condition at the time of the nomination. For more information visit this page on the THC website.

Q: Are funds available to repair National Register properties?

A: Aside from the Federal Rehabilitation Income Tax Credit and the Texas Historic Preservation Tax Credit, there are limited opportunities available to receive funding assistance from the federal or state government for preservation of historic properties. Local tax incentives are available in some communities, and Texas does allow for sales tax exemption on labor costs during qualified rehabilitation projects.  Federal or state grants are severely limited at this time. Grants from local governments and foundations are available, and NR-listed properties often receive preference.

Q: What is the National Historic Landmarks (NHL) program, and how is it different from the National Register of Historic Places?  

A: Both the National Historic Landmarks and the National Register programs are administered by the National Park Service under the Secretary of the Interior. National Historic Landmarks have been recognized by the Secretary of the Interior as possessing national significance, and illustrate the nationwide impact of events or persons associated with the property, its architectural type or style, or information potential. A nationally significant property is of exceptional value in representing or illustrating an important theme in the history of the United States, while most properties listed in the National Register are usually of state or local significance. All National Historic Landmarks are also included in the National Register. The Landmark designation uses different criteria and procedures than the NRHP program. Some properties are recommended as nationally significant when they are nominated to the National Register, but before they can be designated as National Historic Landmarks, they must be evaluated by the National Park Service's National Historic Landmark Survey, reviewed by the National Park System Advisory Board, and recommended to the Secretary of the Interior. Some properties listed in the National Register are subsequently identified by the Survey as nationally significant; others are identified for the first time during Landmark theme studies or other special studies.