The Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission is the state agency for historical preservation and heritage programs. The RIHPHC operates a statewide historical preservation program that identifies and protects historic buildings, districts, structures, and archaeological sites. The National Register of Historic Places in Rhode Island is managed by the RIHPHC in conjunction with the National Parks Service. The RIHPHC also develops and carries out programs to document and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Rhode Island's people.
Several state preservation programs are administered by the RIHPHC including:
an annual Statewide Preservation Conference in April
the State Preservation Grants that fund capital preservation projects for public historic sites, museums, and cultural art centers located in historic structures.
the Certified Local Government Grants for communities with Historic District Zoning.
- the Homeowner Tax Credit where property owners can earn significant income tax credits when they rehabilitate their properties according to preservation guidelines.
- the Historic Preservation Loan Program provides low-interest loans to public, non-profit, or private owners. Loan money may be used for needed restoration work, or for acquiring and rehabilitating an endangered historic property.
- the Preservation Easement Program which protects a historic property from destruction by future owners and may qualify the current property owner for tax benefits.
Please visit the RIHPHC website for information on preservation, archaeology, and heritage programs in Rhode Island. www.preservation.ri.gov
The RI Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission has an extensive list of grant sources for Rhode Island non-profits involved in preservation. Please visit their grants webpage for more information.
The National Register of Historic Places is the Nation's official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. Authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect our historic and archeological resources. Properties listed in the Register include districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that are significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. The National Register is administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Rhode Island also has its own State Register of Historic Places. The criteria for inclusion in the State Register are the same as those for the National Register. The RI Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission reviews nominations for listing on the National Register and passes them along to the National Parks Services, where the property is officially lists on the National Register of Historic Places.
The RIHPHC has recently developed the RI National Register Property Search, a searchable database of more than 16,000 listed structures, buildings, and sites in the State of Rhode Island. You can search this datebase to see if your property is listed.
Please visit the RI Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission's National Register webpage to view common questions and answers about listing your property to the National Register.
You can begin researching a historic property by visiting the local city or town hall and looking through deeds, historic maps and plat maps. You may also find information in the local historical society's collections or archives, as well as the Rhode Island Historical Society Research Library.
The National Parks Service has created a National Register Bulletin entitled Researching a Historic Property (PDF). This publication can assist you in researching a property following the standards for listing a property on the National Register of Historic Places. If the property is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places, much of the research has been done and you have a great start to continue additional research!
Many historical and preservation organizations in Rhode Island have historic marker programs to designate local properties as historic. Contact your local organizations to see if they have a program. Preserve Rhode Island does not currently have a maker program.
A local historic district zone is a special zoning area created by a community to help save historic buildings and to preserve the special sense of time and place that exists in some parts of a community. When a community adopts historic district zoning, it monitors and guides construction activity in its historic areas.
The city or town council must pass an ordinance to establish a historic district commission and to identify areas for designation as historic district zones.
In a local historic district zone all exterior alterations and new construction must be reviewed and approved by the historic district commission. This review ensures that the historic character of the buildings is maintained when necessary changes are made.
The historic district commission only reviews changes proposed by the property owner. When the owner applies for a building permit, the historic district commission will review the proposed work. Each commission has its own written procedures and standards which will help a property owner in preparing for review.
For futher information visit the RI Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission's Local Historic District webpage.
The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties describes the differences between these commonly used terms in the field of historic preservation. Please visit the National Park Services Technical Preservation Services website to learn more. You can also view the same information in the PDF of The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.
There are general principles which should guide the rehabilitation of historic buildings. The most common formulation of these general principles or standards is known as the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation. Many local historic district commissions have adopted these standards as their own when reviewing projects. The RI Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission also uses these standards when reviewing tax credit, loan, and grant projects for approval. For example, if you are a homeowner that wants to take advantage of the Homeowner Tax Credit, the work on your house would have to follow these standards in order to qualify for the tax credit program.
You can find a complete introduction and details on materials and techniques of the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation on the National Park Service's Technical Preservation Services website.