How Do I Get My Property Listed on the National Register?

It’s a lengthy process for Minnesota property owners

By Doug Mentes, Esq. | Last updated on January 27, 2023

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The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. Getting your property on the local or national registers may qualify it for tax benefit. Data also suggests that historic properties show a faster increase in value over nearby, non-historic, comparable properties. The National Register nomination process begins with getting listed with the state historic preservation office, or the local heritage preservation office.

Local Criteria

Getting historic preservation status can be done through a municipality’s heritage preservation commission, and is governed by local ordinance. Both Minneapolis and St. Paul have heritage preservation commissions. To obtain national register eligibility, a property owner or other interested person must demonstrate how the property meets certain criteria. For example, in St. Paul, the criteria used to determine if a property is worthy of historic designation includes:
  • The property’s character, interest or value is part of the heritage or cultural characteristics of the city, state or country
  • The property’s location is the site of an event of historical significance
  • The property is identifiable with a person or persons who significantly contributed to the culture and development of the city
  • The property exhibits a distinguishing characteristic of an architectural or engineering specimen
  • The property is identifiable as the work of an architect, engineer or master builder whose individual work has influenced the development of Saint Paul
  • The property embodies elements of architectural or engineering design, detail, materials or workmanship which represents a significant architectural or engineering innovation
  • The property’s unique location or physical characteristic is established and familiar in the neighborhoods or communities of the city
The criteria are similar for Minneapolis and most other cities or towns. Nomination forms can be submitted to your local or state office from property owners, historical societies, preservation organizations, governmental agencies, and other individuals or groups. The process begins with the historic preservation office giving notice to affected private property owners and local governments, followed by providing a venue for soliciting public comment from the local affected owners. Proposed nominations are reviewed by the local historic preservation office for the ultimate determination.

National Register Listing Process

Once local designation has been received, the owner can apply for listing on the national register of historic places. Proposed nominations are reviewed by the state historic preservation office and the state’s National Register Review Board. The length of the state process varies but will take a minimum of 90 days. Applications are submitted by the state to the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., for final review and listing by the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places. The National Park Service makes a listing decision within 45 days. To be considered eligible, a property must meet the National Register Criteria for Evaluation. This process involves examining the property’s age and integrity: Is the property old enough to be considered historic—generally at least 50 years old? Does it still look much the way it did in the past? And is the property associated with:
  • events, activities or developments that were important in the past?
  • the lives of people who were important in the past?
  • significant architectural history, landscape history or engineering achievements?
Property owners looking to get their listed properties on a local level or national register of historic places will want to consult with an experienced Minnesota real estate attorney early in the process. For additional information on this area, check out our overview of real estate laws.

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