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Frequently Asked Questions
What are the benefits of registration?
Registration is an honor bestowed on historic properties by the state and federal governments. It
recognizes the historic value of a property and encourages present and future owners to continue to exercise
good stewardship. Owners of registered properties may donate historic preservation
(which can reduce real estate taxes), qualify for
the state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits
receive technical assistance from department staff for maintenance and rehabilitation projects, and purchase
plaques that mark the propertyís significance.
Is registration expensive?
No fees are charged for any part of the registration process. Many property owners successfully
complete the Preliminary Information Forms and National Register of Historic Places nominations with advice
from department staff. Others, however, may wish to pay a consultant to do the work for them. We suggest
that they review our Consultants Directory
contact several consultants to compare estimated costs. There are costs associated with ordering a
for a historic property, and, again, contacting
suppliers and comparing estimated costs is recommended.
Will anyone be able to stop me if I want to alter or tear down my property once itís registered?
Not as a result of registration. Property owners who donate historic preservation easements, participate in the
federal or state tax credit programs, or accept a federal or
state rehabilitation grant
must abide by certain restrictions on alterations or demolitions associated
with those programs. Otherwise, only local building codes and permit requirements must be satisfied, as with
Some friends live in a historic district, and they tell me that they have to get permission from a board
to repair their porch or paint their house. Will I have officials looking over my shoulder if I register my house?
The owners of the Captain Timothy Hill House, located in Accomack County,
worked with a consultant in completing the state and national
register nomination form. The
house was successfully nominated to the Virginia Landmarks
Register during the June 2011 quarterly meeting of DHR's Board
of Historic Resources. The Hill House, built circa 1800, is
likely the oldest surviving house on Chincoteague Island.
The house has been carefully restored, as is evident in this
No. Only locally
designated historic districts are subject to local zoning ordinances and procedures.
Sometimes, a property or district may be listed at the national, state, and local levels but it is only the local
designation that places restrictions on private owners.
Do I have to open my property to the public if it is registered?
No. Listing in the National Register of Historic Places or the Virginia Landmarks Register does not require
that you open your house to the public.
Will registration or listing increase or decrease my property values and tax burden?
Many factors affect the value of real estate: location, improvements, supply and demand, zoning, surroundings,
local and national economic conditions, business cycles, and actions of national, state, and local governments.
Changes in any of these factors may increase or decrease the value of property. Registration per se appears
to have little effect, although one would expect well-kept, attractive, older properties and neighborhoods
to experience rising values over the long run.
Can a property be nominated individually if it is within a district?
Yes. However, property owners in districts already can receive the same benefits as owners of individually
listed properties. In other words, if a property is listed as a contributing structure within the district, it
is already "just as registered" as if it were listed individually.
Can aluminum- or vinyl-sided buildings be registered?
Yes. Although aluminum or vinyl siding is not a recommended treatment for historic buildings (it conceals
the historic fabric and may damage it through moisture retention), the national and state registers
do not exclude vinyl-sided buildings from consideration.
How are decisions made about what gets listed?
The process consists of evaluation and nomination. During the evaluation phase, preliminary information
about the property is examined by the Department of Historic Resources regional office and the National
Register Evaluation Committee, which then recommends to the State Review Board properties that appear to
meet the criteria for registration. Once the evaluation phase is completed, the nomination phase usually
results in the listing of these qualified properties.
Isnít it true that only sites associated with famous people or events get registered?
Longs Chapel, in Rockingham County, is a Reconstruction-era
chapel and schoolhouse built circa 1870 by former slaves on
land deeded to them to establish a church and school. It was
the heart of a rural African American community, called
Zenda, that existed during the latter quarter of the 19th
century and the first quarter of the 20th century. The
building, after years of neglect and abandonment, had nearly
vanished before it was saved and listed on the state and
national registers in 2006. It was restored after it was
listed in the registers.
No. The register criteria apply to places of local as well as of national or statewide significance. Many
places are listed in the registers because they exemplify themes or architectural styles important in local history.
If my property is listed in the national or state registers, will it be protected from undesirable development
or destruction by government projects?
Not necessarily. Only easements
protect property in perpetuity.
Registration informs owners, local planners, government agencies, and others involved in land-use planning of
the existence of a historic resource. Neither the National Historic Preservation Act nor the
Code of Virginia
, however, requires
property owners, developers, or government agencies to avoid affecting or destroying historic resources. The
National Historic Preservation Act does require, however, that federal agencies take historic properties
into account when planning projects. In many cases, state and federal agencies work around the historic
property or mitigate the effects of a project on the property. However, in most cases, the federal or
state project usually proceeds even if it affects or destroys the resource. In some instances, the force of
public opinion has persuaded developers or government agencies to spare a registered property.
Will I be able to leave my property to my children or to anyone I want if it is listed?
Listing in the national or state registers in no way affects the transfer of property from one owner to another,
or any other rights or responsibilities of property ownership.
My property is included within the boundaries of a historic district even though my house is too new
to be historic. Why canít I just be left out of the district?
The concept of a district precludes its looking like a doughnut or a slice of Swiss cheese. The boundaries of
a district are drawn to include the highest concentration of resources that contribute to the significance of
the district, but there will often be properties within the district that do not contribute to it. (For
instance, a historic farm complex is likely to have modern structures that do not contribute to the
significance of the complex.) These properties are included within the district boundary but are recorded
as noncontributing. This has the same effect as "leaving them out" without compromising the integrity of
the district as a whole.