Property, lots & housing

Nominate a historic property or district

The Philadelphia Register of Historic Places is an inventory of places, areas, and objects that have been designated as historic by the Philadelphia Historical Commission. The register includes:

  • Buildings.
  • Structures, such as bridges.
  • Public interiors.
  • Districts.
  • Sites, such as Penn Treaty Park.
  • Objects, such as memorials and fountains.

The Philadelphia Historical Commission maintains the register and considers new nominations.

Who

Anyone can nominate a place to the register at no charge.

Criteria for designation

To be considered for the register, the property must meet at least one of the following criteria. It should:

A. Have significant character, interest, or value as part of the development, heritage, or cultural characteristics of the City, Commonwealth, or Nation or be associated with the life of a person significant in the past; or

B. Be associated with an event of importance to the history of the City, Commonwealth, or Nation; or

C. Reflect the environment in an era characterized by a distinctive architectural style; or

D. Embody distinguishing characteristics of an architectural style or engineering specimen; or

E. Be the work of a designer, architect, landscape architect or designer, or engineer whose work has significantly influenced the historical, architectural, economic, social, or cultural development of the City, Commonwealth, or Nation; or

F. Contain elements of design, detail, materials, or craftsmanship which represent a significant innovation; or

G. Be part of or related to a square, park, or other distinctive area which should be preserved according to a historic, cultural, or architectural motif; or

H. Owing to its unique location or singular physical characteristic, represent an established and familiar visual feature of the neighborhood, community, or City; or

I. Have yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in pre-history or history; or

J. Exemplify the cultural, political, economic, social, or historical heritage of the community.

How

First, check the register to see if the property has already been designated. If it’s not on the register and you think it meets at least one of the criteria, you can begin the nomination process.

1
Discuss your nomination with the staff of the Historical Commission.

Before preparing your submission materials, discuss the property with the commission staff. They can give you advice and tell you if there’s information on the property in the commission’s files.

2
Prepare and submit your nomination.

Gather your submission materials, including the nomination form, your essays, and photographs. Once you turn in your nomination, it will go through three levels of review.

3
Review by commission staff.

The commission staff will review your nomination for correctness and completeness. They may ask for more information or revisions. Or, they might make the changes on their own.

The staff will then notify the property’s owner and inform them when the Committee on Historic Designation will consider the nomination. This notification will take place at least 30 days in advance of the meeting.

Beginning on the notification date, the commission will have authority to review any building permit applications for the property.

4
Review by the Committee on Historic Designation.

At a public meeting, the committee will consider the nomination and decide if it meets at least one criteria for designation. The committee will also hear testimony from you, the commission staff, the property owner, and the general public. You may be asked for more information or revisions.

The committee then makes a recommendation to the Historical Commission.

5
Review and action by the Historical Commission.

Usually, the Committee on Historic Designation’s recommendation is presented at the Historical Commission’s next monthly meeting. The commission will review the nomination and hear public testimony.

The commission will then vote on the nomination. If approved, the property will be listed on the register.

Submission materials

Your submission materials will vary depending on the type of property you’re nominating. For a complete list, review the nomination submission requirements in the commission’s rules and regulations.

The key parts of your nomination include:

  • An official nomination form. This form will include basic information like the location, type, use, and condition of the property. You’ll use the:
    • Individual nomination form for buildings, structures, sites, or objects.
    • District nomination form for historic districts.
    • Interior nomination form for public interiors.
  • A physical description of the property. This narrative should help the reader picture the property and its setting.
  • A description of the property’s historical significance. This narrative, also known as a statement of significance, should explain how the property meets one or more of the register’s criteria.
  • Photographs of the property.

Where and when

You can contact the Historical Commission staff at (215) 686-7660 or preservation@phila.gov. The Historical Commission office is located at:

1515 Arch St.
13th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Office hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.


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