The National Register of Historic Places is the federal government’s official list of the nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Established by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is a key component of the national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.
The National Park Service has assigned much of its authority over National Register-designated properties in each state to its State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Bureau for Historic Preservation, which is part of thePennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, serves as the SHPO. The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission is Pennsylvania's official history agency, and its Executive Director is designated as the State Historic Preservation Officer.
The Philadelphia Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places are not equivalent. Although the registers overlap, properties listed on one may not be listed on the other. Moreover, the local and federal jurisdictions are very different. For properties listed on the National Register, a review is required only for projects in which there is a federal involvement such as a federal grant, tax credit, or permit. If there is no federal involvement, the federal government conducts no review of proposals to alter, add to, or demolish historic properties listed on the National Register. For example, one may demolish a building listed on the National Register without federal review if there is no federal involvement. On the other hand, the Historical Commission is authorized to review all building permit applications for properties on the Philadelphia Register regardless of governmental involvement. It has no authority to review proposals to undertake alterations or demolitions at properties listed on the National Register, unless the property in question is also listed on the Philadelphia Register.
In addition to the National Register of Historic Places, the federal government maintains a list of National Historic Landmarks. National Historic Landmarks are nationally significant historic places designated by the Secretary of the Interior because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. Today, fewer than 2,500 historic places bear this national distinction. Nearly 70 National Historic Landmarks are located in Philadelphia, including Carpenters’ Hall, Christ Church, Eastern State Penitentiary,Elfreth’s Alley, Fort Mifflin, Laurel Hill Cemetery, Mother Bethel Church, Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania Hospital, and the Wagner Free Institute. For more information on National Historic Landmarks, see the National Park Service’s National Historic Landmark Program webpage.