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Every year, millions of domestic and foreign tourists visit historic national sites such as George Washington’s Mount Vernon, or the infamous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign in Nevada, but many are unaware that the U.S. government typically imposes an array of restrictions on what can be done with that property pursuant to the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.  

Born out of that Act was the National Register of Historic Places, which is an official list of historic properties and archaeological sites at the national, state, and local levels. 

Today, there are over 1.4 million listings, which include buildings, sites, objects, and structures.  

In order to get on the list, property owners, historical societies, preservation organizations, and governmental agencies submit their nominations online, and a committee will review such factors as the property’s age, historical significance, and structural integrity.  (For example, owning a property where an interesting event occurred may not be enough to get listed.) 

Typically, the site must be at least 50 years old and should still look as it did when it was originally constructed and needs to be connected to some historical event.  

The committee will also determine if the site has any significant architectural or landscape related history, or engineering achievements.  

While the NR listing is quite an honor, many worry about being barred from making renovations, having to install a placard or being required to give tours. But that isn’t the case. 

While you may have heard tales of woe, the only time the feds have a say in what owners can (or can’t) do with their NR-listed property is when preservation tax credits are accepted. 

Another misconception is that owners are forced to post educational signage or placards but, in actuality, they aren’t required to do anything of the sort, unless they want to.   

Lastly, if you want to lease, transfer, or sell the property, the government has no standing to object or otherwise interfere with that transaction. 

So, go ahead. Register away and become a part of our country’s rich national heritage. 

To check out what sites are listed by state, follow the link below: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nationalregister/database-research.htm#table 

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Should you have any questions about buying or selling a registered or protected site or have questions about buying or selling any kind of real estate, please do not hesitate to reach out to one of our attorneys at 212-619-5400. 

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