Projects and Services
National Register Nominations
Historic Resource Surveys
Historic Structure Reports
Historic Resource Impact Studies
Municipal Planning Services
Transportation / Section 106
Training & Presentations
Other Major Project Types
Wise Preservation Planning LLC
1480 Hilltop Road
Chester Springs PA 19425
Phone (484) 202-8187
Preservation Planning LLC is a full-service historic preservation
planning firm. We research, document, analyze and ultimately help protect
historic resources and our cultural landscape. Our firm serves a variety of clients,
including municipalities, engineers, architects, historical societies, and owners of
The firm was founded in 1997 by Robert J. Wise Jr., who has 20 years
of experience in the historic preservation field. He is assisted by Seth Hinshaw,
Senior Planner, who has been with the firm since 2001. Both planners have M.S.
degrees in historic preservation from the University of Pennsylvania and
exceed the 36 CFR 61 Professional Qualification Standards established by the
National Park Service for architectural historians.
Historic properties are listed on the National Register of
Historic Places through a multi-part process outlined below. The property owner(s)
must be involved in the process in order for a property to be listed, though
many owners choose to hire a consultant because of the complexity of the process.
Local governments sometimes choose to pursue the listing of historic districts,
though again property owners must be involved. The Pennsylvania Historical and
Museum Commission (PHMC) oversees the nomination process statewide. The following
narrative assumes that no work has been completed on the property; parts of the
process may not be needed if the early portions of the process have been completed
in prior work.
The Pennsylvania Historic Resource Survey Form (HRSF) was
developed to document the appearance of historic resources and the history of the
property. It is a 6-page form with many cells for various types of information
including architectural style, construction date, address, and building materials.
The HRSF is sometimes used by counties or municipalities for their own purposes.
The form includes two important essays: one that provides a detailed architectural
description and one that provides a property history (usually with a chain of title).
Staff at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC)
grant a "determination of eligibility for the National Register", usually called a
"DOE", based on information supplied in the HRSF. Technically, the PHMC staff
decision is tentative, but in 99% of cases the staff decision to grant (or not grant)
a DOE is very difficult to challenge. If the staff believes that a property meets
significance requirements for the National Register, they
will send a letter to the property owner outlining their decision and give
guidelines for how to proceed to the next step.
Note: PHMC staff have decided
that DOEs granted in the 20th century need to be reviewed again if the owner
chooses to pursue a National Register nomination.
The next step involves the completion of the National Register
nomination form. The form, provided by the National Park Service, provides
consistency among nomiations nationwide. It is more detailed than the HRSF, though
it similarly has two important essays: architectural description and significance.
Completion of the NR form begins with the letter from PHMC staff when they grant
the DOE. Their letter includes information that outlines what additional research
is needed and provides guidelines for drafting the significance essay. Most
NR nominations do not need a lot of additional historic research if the research
for the DOE was exhaustive.
The National Register form is usually completed by a consultant. The first draft
addresses the information mentioned in the letter by PHMC staff following their
decision to grant the DOE. After the owner approves the draft, it is sent to PHMC
for the staff to read it. PHMC staff have read hundreds of NR forms and have a
good sense of ways to improve the form. They will issue a response to the first
draft, including additional work that they believe is warranted.
Once the letter with the staff review of the first draft is received, the
consultant can address the outstanding issues mentioned in the letter. The result
is the second draft, which is returned to PHMC staff. If acceptable, PHMC staff will
place the nomination on the agenda for the Preservation Board meeting. They will
also send a formal letter to the owner(s) of the property to make sure that they
are aware of what is happening. Owner(s) may either support the nomination, object
to the nomination, or take no action. Letters by property owners who object to
listing the property must be sent by certified mail. The process will not move
forward if half or more of the property owners object.
The Preservation Board is a group of people from different
professions around the Commonwealth who gather at specified times each year to
review National Register nominations that have been approved by PHMC staff (the
Board also has other responsibilities). Board members read each nomination form
before the meeting and then discuss them together. Some discussions are short,
while others are quite involved in the details of the property being nominated.
During the discussion of a particular nomination, any letters of support or
objections from property owners are read.
At the end of the discussion, the Board has three general choices: (1) formally
nominate the property to the National Register; (2) ask for more information or
clarification; or (3) turn down the nomination. If it chooses (1) above, the
If the Preservation Board chooses to nominate a property,
PHMC staff sends the nomination to the National Park Service (NPS). NPS staff
read through the nomination, identify any technical issues that may be resolved
easily, and then discuss whether to list the property. Pennsylvania has a
rigorous process itself, which means that few nominations from Pennsylvania are
turned down once they have been sent to the NPS. After any technical issues are
resolved, NPS staff send a letter to the property owner(s) stating that the
property has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.