Frequently Asked Questions About Preservation

Q: Is my building or house historic?

Not everything that is old is historic, so how do we decide what is and what isn’t? It really boils down evaluating what is important to our history and culture at a local, state, or national level. A resource that is important to your community can still be historic but might never appear on a list of nationally significant places.

Some resources are important because they are such wonderful examples of architecture or engineering. Others are important for their connection to past people or events. Age is a factor - most historic properties are over 50 years old.

In addition to having importance, historic resources also must have what preservationists call “historical.” That is nothing more than the resource’s ability to convey or “tell” its story. A locally important author’s home that looks much as it did when he or she wrote can still give us a glimpse into their world.

An historic resource has something important to tell us about ourselves and our past plus enough qualities to tell that story well.

Q: Is there money to save my historic building or house?

If you are a not-for-profit or a governmental agency, there are competitive grant programs available for the preservation of historic buildings.
If you own the building and are using it in your business, there are tax credits at the state and federal levels available for the preservation of historic buildings.

If you are a private home owner and you live in the house, there are tax credits at the state level available for the preservation of historic buildings.

Q: I want to do something to my historic home or structure. Do I need approval from the DHPA?

Yes, if your project is being funded by a grant awarded by our office, you are using or intend to use rehabilitation tax credits, or you need a permit from another federal or state agency. 

If you are using private funds, you DO NOT need approval from the DHPA. Even if it is listed in the National Register, you DO NOT need our approval.

Even if you do not need state approval, you do need to check at your city level incase there are local historic districts/commissions that require approval before alterations can be made to historic houses.

Q: Who is responsible for cemeteries and their upkeep?

Cemeteries fall under a few categories on who is responsible for them. If someone is paying property taxes on them, that individual or corporation is responsible for the cemetery. There are no state laws that describe the techniques for preservation of cemeteries and gravestones or how they should be maintained – which means they are not required to cut the grass and fix the broken tombstones. Also, there is nothing in Indiana law that says a private landowner has to allow you onto property to visit a cemetery – even if those buried there are your ancestors.

Cemeteries might be owned by a local governmental agency. If owned by a town, city or county there are no state laws that describe the techniques for preservation of cemeteries and gravestones or how they should be maintained. 

If the cemetery is owned by the township (or there are no taxes being paid on the property and no not-for-profit like a church to care for the cemetery) then there are a few things state law requires the township to do. They must fence the cemetery, straighten the leaning tombstones, keep down noxious weeds, and level the ground.

Q: I want a historic marker to commemorate an event?

This is the responsibility of the Indiana Historical Bureau you'll need to contact them (317-232-2535) for information about their program.

Q: How do I get my building/house on historical listings?

To qualify for the National Register of Historic Places, a property should be at least fifty years old and have significance at the local, state, or national level.  It should also have what we call historical integrity. This means it looks very similar to the way it did when it was built.  For more information about the National Register. Once you read over that information, contact for guidance and further explanation.

Q: Are archaeological sites and human burial sites protected in Indiana?

Yes. The Indiana Historic Preservation Act provides protection for archaeological sites and historic burial sites regardless of their location on state or private lands.

Q: Is it legal to disturb the ground in a cemetery to find tombstones or human remains?

With the proper licenses or permits, you can. Contact to learn how to get the proper permits.  

Q: If I see or know of looting of an archaeological site, whom should I contact?

Any disturbance, vandalism or looting of an archaeological site should be reported immediately to local law enforcement officials or the Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology (317-232-1646).