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Questions and Answers about the National Register

Q     What is the National Register of Historic Places?
A     The National Register, which is maintained by the National Park Service, was designed to identify historic places across the country whose preservation should be encouraged. It is a list of buildings, sites, structures, objects, and districts significant in our nation’s past. These properties must be important in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, or culture at the local, state, or national level.

Q     How does National Register listing affect my property rights?
A     The National Register does not impose limits or restrictions on private owners of listed properties. Owners enjoy the same rights after listing as they did before and they do not need permission from the Federal government to make alterations or additions to listed properties.

Q     Can properties listed in the National Register be demolished or altered?
A     The National Register does not prevent demolition or destruction of listed properties. The National Register is an honorific designation that provides incentives to preserve properties, but does not control the actions of private owners. The Federal government is required to consult with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) regarding their undertakings that may effect listed and eligible properties. Local governments may afford some protection for listed properties via historic preservation zoning. 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     Are funds available to repair National Register properties?
A     There are limited opportunities available to receive funding assistance for preservation of historic properties. Local, state, and federal tax incentives are available and a limited amount of federal grant funding is available through the SHPO.

Q     What is a National Register historic district?
A
     A National Register historic district is a concentration of historic buildings, structures, sites, or objects united historically or aesthetically by plan or physical development. Any one of the properties in a historic district may not have particular historical, architectural, engineering, or archaeological distinction, but the collection must have significance in one of these areas.

    How are boundaries drawn for historic districts?
A
     Boundaries for historic districts are drawn to include a significant concentration of historic properties while excluding properties that do not contribute to the character of the historic district because they are less than 50 years old or have been substantially altered. Although most historic districts include noncontributing properties, their number and scale must not overwhelm a district’s sense of time and 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 its "integrity." In other words, the property must retain enough of its historic physical features to convey its significance as part of the district. Alterations can damage a property’s historic appearance and its integrity.

Q     What is a noncontributing property?
A
     Historic properties that do not contribute to the significance of the district are called "noncontributing properties." These properties may be less than fifty years old, they may be older properties that have been significantly altered, or they may be properties 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?
    The first step is to determine if your property is within the boundaries of a National  Register historic district. Use these online tools to locate and learn about National Register districts in South Carolina:

National Register of Historic Places - Search Records by County
ArchSite(GIS)
Use the Archives Online Records Index to search National Register records by individual, location or topic (on the search page, under Record Group, select National Register Properties)

National Register paper file records are also available by request in the Archives & History Center's Research Room.

National Register nominations completed after about 1980 include inventories of contributing and noncontributing properties, but earlier nominations do not include inventories. For earlier nominations you will need to provide information to help SHPO staff determine if your property is contributing or not. If you plan to apply for federal or state rehabilitation income tax credits and your property is within a National Register historic district, you will need to complete a Part 1 -- Evaluation of Significance application for federal and state rehabilitation tax credits for income-producing buildings or an S-1-- Evaluation of Significance application for the state rehabilitation tax credit for owner-occupied residences.

Q    What is the process for listing a historic district in the National Register?
A
     Though anyone may nominate a historic property for inclusion in the National Register, 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 Andy Chandler, SHPO Architectural Historian  to discuss the potential for a particular district. The National Register staff may request photographs, maps, and other information to help them evaluate whether or not a district nomination should be researched and written, and may make a site visit to help establish boundaries and to assess the contributing and noncontributing status of historic properties in those boundaries. If a district appears to be eligible for listing, the SHPO will advise interested parties on how best to make a case in a formal National Register nomination.

   Is there opportunity for public input on a historic district nomination?
A
     Yes. At least thirty days before the Review Board meeting when a nomination will be considered, the SHPO 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.

If a majority of the property owners submit notarized objections, the historic district will not be listed in the National Register. However, if the Review Board determines that the historic district meets the National Register criteria, the nomination will still be submitted to the Keeper of the National Register. If the Keeper agrees that the district meets the National Register criteria, it will be Determined Eligible for the National Register, but not actually listed.

Q     What happens if several owners in a proposed historic district object to National Register listing, but the majority of the owners support the listing? Can the owners who object to listing keep their properties out of the National Register historic district?
A
     No. The entire district will be listed if a majority of the owners do not object to listing and the district is determined to meet the National Register criteria.

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 limited protections afforded properties that are individually listed in the National Register. Owners of contributing properties can also purchase and display National Register plaques.