Administered by the National Park Service and state historic preservation offices, the National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of historic and archaeological resources deemed worthy of preservation. The National Register recognizes districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects significant in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering and culture. Authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register is part of a federal program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect our historic and archaeological resources.
The Kentucky Heritage Council has been widely recognized for its successful National Register program. In fact, among states, Kentucky has the fourth highest number of listings (following New York, Massachusetts and Ohio) - with more than 3,200 districts, sites and structures encompassing more than 42,000 historic features.
Since its inception in 1966, the Heritage Council has conducted an ongoing survey of historic sites in all 120 Kentucky counties. Officially called the Kentucky Historic Resources Inventory, the survey serves as a permanent written and photographic record of all known historic buildings, structures and sites in the state.
The data collected and recorded through the survey provides the foundation for many Heritage Council programs including the National Register and the Kentucky Main Street Program. The survey also provides information used for the publication of local architectural and cultural histories, for comparison in evaluating National Register eligibility, and for the development of preservation plans.
The Kentucky Historic Resources Inventory currently consists of 90,000+ surveyed sites and is constantly being updated and expanded as historic places are identified through the agency’s extensive survey process. Survey files are maintained at the Heritage Council office via computer database and vertical files, both of which can be cross-referenced by county, and sites are further documented on topographical maps.
All sites that achieve National Register listing also receive designation as a Kentucky Landmark and receive a certificate signed by the Governor which deems it “worthy of preservation.” The designation is simply an honorary one, yet serves as another valuable preservation tool available through the Kentucky Heritage Council to help foster pride of ownership in historic properties.
In addition to the state landmarks program, 30 sites across Kentucky have been designated National Historic Landmarks, indicating their national significance to all Americans. Heritage Council staff are responsible for monitoring these historic sites on behalf of the National Park Service.