Historic Designations in Texas

Historical designations are official recognitions of historic resources. The Texas Historical Commission (THC) offers four types of designations to recognize and protect historic and prehistoric properties:

  • The National Register of Historic Places is a federal program administered in our state by the Texas Historical Commission in coordination with the National Park Service. Listing in the National Register provides national recognition of a property’s historical or architectural significance and denotes that it is worthy of preservation. Buildings, sites, objects, structures and districts are eligible for this designation if they are at least 50 years old and meet established criteria. Plaques are available, but not required, for this designation.
  • Recorded Texas Historic Landmarks (RTHLs) are properties judged to be historically and architecturally significant. The Texas Historical Commission awards Recorded Texas Historic Landmark designation to buildings at least 50 years old that are judged worthy of preservation for their architectural and historical associations. Participation in the Official Texas Historical Marker process is an integral part of the RTHL designation.
  • State Antiquities Landmarks are designated by the THC and receive protection under the Texas Antiquities Code. State Antiquities Landmarks have legal protection. Listing in the National Register is a prerequisite for State Antiquities Landmark designation of a building or structure.
  • Historic Texas Cemetery designations are issued by the THC. Cemeteries or burial sites that are at least 50 years old and worthy of preservation for their historical associations can receive this designation. A special medallion and marker are available, but not required, for this designation.
  • National Historic Landmarks possess national significance and illustrate the nationwide impact of events or persons associated with the property, its architectural type or style, or information potential. A nationally significant property is of exceptional value in representing or illustrating an important theme in the history of the United States, while most properties listed in the National Register are usually of state or local significance. Some properties are recommended as nationally significant when they are nominated to the National Register, but before they can be designated as National Historic Landmarks, they must be evaluated by the NPS National Historic Landmark Survey, reviewed by the National Park System Advisory Board, and recommended to the Secretary of the Interior. Other NHL properties are identified for the first time during Landmark theme studies or other special studies.

Historical Designations:

  • may help qualify property owners for grant funding or tax incentives
  • give property owners priority access to technical assistance from the Texas Historical Commission staff
  • guide travelers to places of historical interest, although owners need not provide public access
  • identify properties in Texas that deserve protection
  • assist government and private groups planning new development
  • recognize properties of local, state and national significance.

What are the Regulations?

  • National Register designation imposes no restrictions on property owners. Those receiving grant assistance or federal tax credits for rehabilitation projects, however, must adhere to certain standards. With a National Register designation, the property receives extra consideration before any federal projects, such as highway construction, are undertaken. To nominate a property, the owner’s consent is required.
  • Recorded Texas Historic Landmark designation helps preserve the state’s historically and architecturally significant resources. Property owners planning exterior changes to these buildings must notify the THC 60 days in advance of changes to allow time for consultation with THC. Unsympathetic changes to these properties may result in removal of the designation and historical marker. To nominate a property, the owner’s consent is required.
  • State Antiquities Landmark designation stipulates that the property cannot be removed, altered, damaged, salvaged or excavated without a permit from the THC. This designation encourages preservation and ensures that resources that cannot be preserved are at least properly documented. The designation of State Antiquities Landmarks on private land is recorded in the county deed records and is conveyed with the property when sold. To nominate a site or building on private property, the property owner’s consent is required.
  • Historic Texas Cemetery designation is an official recognition of family and community graveyards and encourages preservation of historic cemeteries. The designation imposes no restrictions on private owners’ use of the land adjacent to the cemetery but provides for the recordation of the cemetery into the county deed records as a historically dedicated property worthy of preservation. To nominate a cemetery, the owner, who is considered a trustee of the land dedicated for cemetery purposes, will be notified, though the owner’s consent is not required.

What about Local Designations?

In addition to these federal and state designations, some municipalities allow designations of local historic landmarks or districts. These may convey certain restrictions upon property owners to maintain the integrity of the community’s historic areas and significant properties. The THC does not administer local designations, so check with your local planning office for more information.