Episode 63: National Register of Historic Places

Welcome to Slow American English, the podcast for learners of American English. I’m your host, Karren Tolliver.

This is episode number 63: National Register of Historic Places

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Visit Patreon.com/SlowAmericanEnglish for FREE bonus material. Download a pdf file containing the National Register of Historic Places listing for the Statue of Liberty, including pictures. Please enjoy!

Now for the podcast:


The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of historic things in the USA believed to be so important that they should be preserved, based on national standards. The list contains not only buildings but also sites like battlefields, structures like bridges, objects like artworks, and districts such as neighborhoods.

The National Register is similar to the idea of UNESCO’s World Heritage List, except the National Register contains only items within the United States. In fact, there are 24 UNESCO sites within the US, such as the Statue of Liberty and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Both of these are on the National Register, too.

The National Register was established by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. It is managed by the National Park Service, which is part of the Department of the Interior. Today, the list contains over 95,000 items. Almost every county in the country has at least one item on the list.

Here is the process for getting something on the National Register:

Someone must nominate the item to be listed. This could be a local city government, a Native American tribe or a private owner of the item. They would probably contact their State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) for research information, forms to fill out and so on.

The SHPO and others evaluate the nomination based on several characteristics. One is age, and, generally, the item should be at least 50 years old. In addition, the item should still look much like it did in the past and be associated with important historical events or be an important example of engineering, architecture, archaeology or other categories.

The SHPO also asks for public comments. If the owner doesn’t want the item to be listed, the item cannot be listed. But the SHPO can send the nomination to the National Park Service for further evaluation.

If the item passes the first evaluation, it is recommended to the National Park Service in Washington, DC. Then the National Park Service makes a final decision. If the item passes, it’s placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

After being put on the National Register, the item’s owners or caretakers can now apply for tax cuts and grants from federal and private organizations. That money is then used to help preserve the item. Listing on the National Register does not prohibit changes to the item, but getting tax cuts and grants might.

Many items on the National Register have plaques displayed about them. Plaques are not required, but many owners and caretakers get one because they are so proud. In addition, if the item receives tax credits and grants that prevent it from being changed, the National Register listing qualifies it for alternative fire and safety equipment codes. For example, if an old building cannot be changed to have modern fire and safety equipment, different rules are allowed.

The National Park Service maintains a free, public online database with all the information about all the items on the National Register. This month’s free bonus material at Patreon.com/slowamericanenglish is a copy of the listing for the Statue of Liberty from the database.

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That’s the podcast for this time. Slow American English is written and produced by Karren Tolliver. Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.

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This has been Slow American English. I’m Karren Tolliver. Thank you for listening.