National Register of Historic Places

The most visible landmarking program is the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).  The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of places, recognized for their historical, architectural, or archaeological significance and considered worthy of preservation. The National Register is maintained by the U.S. Department of the Interior, and nominations of Illinois properties to the Register are processed through the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.  Listings of those properties in Champaign County which are listed in the National Register of Historic Places are found on the drop down menu under Champaign, Urbana, University of Illinois, and Champaign County.

What qualifies a property for listing?

  1. The property must meet one or more of the Criteria for listing;
  2. Generally, the property must be fifty years old or older; and
  3. The property must retain historic integrity.

What is “historic integrity”?

Historic integrity is the authenticity of a property’s historic identity, evidenced by the survival of physical characteristics that existed during the property’s prehistoric or historic period.  Historic integrity is the composite of seven qualities:  location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association.  All seven qualities do not need to be present for eligibility as long as the overall sense of past time and place is evident.  For example, the Urbana Free Library is not eligible for National Register listing due to the overwhelming size and placement of the addition and the relocation of the main entrance to a side elevation.  However, distinguishing between integrity and condition is important.  A building could be in poor condition, but could still possess historic integrity.

Criteria for Evaluating a Place

Properties eligible for listing on the National Register include buildings, districts, sites, structures, and objects that are significant to local, state, and national history through the integrity of their location, design, setting, materials, feeling, and association.  A building, district, or site must meet one of the following criteria:

A.     Association with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history;

B.     Association with the lives of persons significant in our past;

C.     Represents 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 [a historic district]; or

D.     Yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important to prehistory or history.

Additionally, the National Register allows for seven Criteria Considerations or exceptions.  Ordinarily cemeteries, birthplaces, or graves of historical figures, properties owned by religious institutions or used for religious purposes, structures that have been moved from their original location, reconstructed historic buildings, properties primarily commemorative in nature, and properties that have achieved significance within the past fifty years are not considered to be eligible for the National Register.  However, such properties will qualify if they are integral parts of historic 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 significant primarily 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 other appropriate site or building directly associated with his or her productive life; or

D.     A cemetery which derives its primary significance from graves of persons of transcendent importance, from age, from distinctive design, features, or association with historical events; or

E.     A reconstructed building when accurately executed in a suitable environment and presented in a dignified manner as part of a restoration 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 historical significance; or

G.     A property achieving significance within the past fifty years if it is of exceptional importance.

National Register listing DOES

  • bring national recognition to an area by identifying it as an important place
  • protect properties from any federally funded or licensed projects (such as a state highway or sewerage plant using federal funds) affecting National Register sites by comment through an Environmental Impact Statement
  • under Illinois law, mandate consideration of historic properties in state funded, licensed, permitted, or assisted projects
  • allows owners of income producing properties (both commercial and rental) to take advantage of benefits (20% federal tax credit) concerning historic properties as provided for in the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981
  • allows property owners to be eligible for the Illinois Property Tax Assessment Freeze Program for the certified rehabilitation of an owner-occupied single-family residence, condominium, or a building with up to six residential units, providing one of those units is owner-occupied
  • often increases the value of property
  • increases community awareness of local history and creates a sense of pride in achievements

National Register listing DOES NOT

  • disallow private property owners from making changes or painting their house
  • prevent a property from being demolished or insensitively renovated
  • mandate that a property be restored to its original appearance
  • force property owners to make any improvements on their property
  • force businesses to change signs
  • create a review commission
  • limit the use of buildings
  • cost the property owner anything to be listed on the register
  • make the owners erect or buy any signs or plaques or open the property to the public
  • request the owners to research their property
  • prevent future changes to the property
  • allow a property owner to be eligible for the 10% federal tax credit for the rehabilitation of properties built before 1936

The National Register Process

Any individual may nominate a property to the National Register, but nominations require substantial documentation through a property description and establishment of significance.  Applications to the National Register must pass through a four-step process coordinated by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency’s (IHPA) National Register Staff.  For more information about the process see the IHPA website at or the National Register website  The nomination process usually takes six months and may take as long as one year.  Copies of National Register nominations for Illinois properties are available on line from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.  PACA can help interested building owners with the process of nominating their property to the National Register.