What is Historic Designation?
Historic Designation is a governmental process to identify and create listings of certified historic resources on a local, state, or national level. Each of the different levels of designation provides varying levels of benefits to the property owners and grants certain limited protections too.
Established in 1966, the National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic and cultural resources. They are significant because of: an event or person, represent an architect/ or style of architecture, or the site has made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history and worthy of preservation.
The list is the maintained by the Secretary of the Interior, and it contains individual properties or larger districts. National Register listing provides several benefits including: 1) Recognition that the resource is National significant, 2) all federally funded projects must go through the "Section 106 Review" process which is designed to minimize the likelihood that federal funds would damage a Nationally recognized property, 3) eligibility to receive 20% tax credits on rehabilitation projects for income producing properties or charitable deduction for an easement on the facade of the building, and 4) qualification for funding for when federal grant and loan funds are available.
National Register of Historic Places
National Historic Landmarks are a rarefied subset of the buildings and sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This NHL program was begun in 1935 to identify buildings that possess exceptional value in illustrating the nation's heritage. Only 3% of all buildings on the National Register are worthy of this designation. These NHL properties are extremely significant to the history of the United States and a very formal review process that is controlled by the National Park Service is required for properties to receive this designation. Federally funded projects must go through an additional level or scrutiny if they are going to impact National Historic Landmarks.
National Historic Landmarks
The State of Michigan Register of Historic Places lists National and State-wide historic properties. In Michigan, properties listed on the State Register must have owner consent at the time of listing. Listing on the State Register is relatively honorific as the State does not have a historic review process to ensure that state-funded project do not harm State recognized properties. Also, the State Historic Preservation Tax Credit is only available in certain instances to properties listed on the State Register (normally to be eligible, the property must be in a State Register Historic District in communities under 5,000 people). The Michigan Department of History Arts and Libraries is responsible for this program, and the State's Historic Preservation Office (MI SHPO) oversees its implementation.
Buildings listed in the State Register of Historic Places are eligible to have a State Historic Marker placed in front of their structure. These markers give the history of the building or the site, and they help to call attention to their significance.
Michigan State Historic Preservation Office
This level of designation offers no financial benefits, but it does offer the most protection to a historic site. Buildings that are designated, as individual sites or contributing to Local Historic Districts, cannot be torn down unless permission has been granted from the local historic district commission. The local historic district commissions regulate what can and cannot be done to historic properties in these districts. To be allowed to demolish a locally designated building, the property owners must demonstrate an economic hardship.