Protection of Historic Properties
“Historic preservation involves recognizing places from our past that are important to the American people, caring for them, and then using them in ways that enrich all of our lives.” (From “A Heritage So Rich” by H. Ward Jandl, et al.)
Historic preservation includes all of those activities that the Delaware State Historic Preservation Office (DE SHPO) does to identify historic places; to assist people in listing important historic places in the National Register of Historic Places; to help federal, state and local agencies in protecting historic places and in preservation planning; and to educate and encourage people to maintain and reuse historic places in appropriate ways. Historic preservation includes the activities of others as well. Preservation Delaware, Inc., our statewide non-profit organization for historic preservation, and local preservation organizations work for the preservation of important buildings and landscapes and lobby for historic preservation issues. Delaware’s many Main Street programs revitalize and renew their historic downtowns. The graduate programs at our universities train students in identifying and documenting historic buildings, in researching the history of all the groups that contributed to making Delaware what it is today, and also in preservation planning. Historical societies and community groups recognize and protect their historic places. Investors rehabilitate and reuse historic buildings for modern commercial or professional needs. Most important to historic preservation are the individual actions of the many people who proudly own and maintain their own historic buildings.
What Is Section 106?
Section 106 is the section of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 that requires federal agencies to consider their effects on historic properties during project planning for any federal undertaking or permitted activity. This includes projects that are funded by federal money through state or local governments or private groups. Federal agencies and their clients must seek local opinions and knowledge about historic properties before they can proceed with their projects. You are entitled to have your wishes heard about what happens to historic properties during federally funded or permitted projects.
What is a Historic Property?
Historic property is the general term we use to refer to any building, structure, site, object or district that is more than 50 years old. This includes all kinds of places that people have built that helped them live, work and play: houses, churches, schools, town halls, mills, canneries, factories, shipyards, lighthouses, bridges, dams, boats, sculptures, amusement parks and landscaped gardens. It also includes the archaeological sites of such places, from camp sites of Native Americans of 10,000 years ago, to urban homes of immigrants of 100 years ago.
What is the DE SHPO’s Role?
The DE SHPO has two main roles in the Section 106 process. First, we help federal agencies and their clients understand and follow the regulations governing Section 106. Second, we ensure that federal agencies and their clients have adequately identified and appropriately treated historic properties that may be affected by their projects.
It is part of the DE SHPO’s role to help federal agencies, such as the Federal Highways Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or the US Department of Agriculture, find the appropriate local governments, organizations and community groups to notify about planned projects. We do this by providing lists of addresses and contact people to federal agencies that conduct, fund or permit projects in Delaware. If you want your organization included on our address lists, please write us at the address listed below.
In addition, the DE SHPO consults with federal agencies or their clients about what is known in a project area and about what needs to be done to look for historic properties in a project area. We review reports on what they find. Once an agency identifies something as a historic property, then we look at how much of its historic appearance is intact (integrity) and what kind of history it reflects (significance) to see if it is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. This is an important step in the federal program, because federally funded or permitted projects are only required to consider properties that are listed, or eligible for listing, in the National Register. Finally, we consult with federal agencies or their clients about what is going to happen to historic properties in their project area, and how they are going to protect or record them if necessary.
How Can You Participate in Section 106 Cases?
Federal agencies and the DE SHPO need your help in finding out about historic properties and deciding how to treat them. The knowledge you have about the history of your community and the notable landmarks of your surroundings assists federal agencies in project planning. By knowing what’s important to your community, project planners can be more sensitive in the design, location or size of a federally funded project. The DE SHPO can be a better advocate for the protection and appropriate treatment of historic properties if we know what your concerns are. Most importantly, you can have a role in deciding what kinds of protection and treatment the historic properties in your community receive.
By placing your name on the list we provide to federal agencies, you can get advance notice of federal projects that take place in or near your community so that you can let them know what you consider historically important in your area and how you want it protected. If your organization is on these lists, you do not have to respond to these notices if you do not want to. If you do have concerns about or knowledge of historic places that could be harmed by a particular federal project, you can respond and be heard as a consulting or interested party in that project’s planning. Let us know if you want your name included in our contact lists for federal agencies by writing to us:
State Historic Preservation Office
29 N. State St.
Dover, DE 19901
Where Can You Get More Information?
If you have questions or concerns about Section 106 and the new regulations, or about your place in federal project planning, please write to us at the above address or call us at (302) 736-7400 and we will be happy to talk to you about these issues. In addition, Delaware’s three counties—New Castle, Kent and Sussex—and the City of Wilmington have preservation planners on their staffs to discuss your concerns and help you with particular projects.