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The first historic preservation movement in America is generally recognized as efforts in the late 18th and 19th centuries to collect, restore, and commemorate artifacts, structures, and places significant to the founding of the United States. These efforts were primarily undertaken by private citizens and organizations, and not through the federal government. In fact, government was often the vandal and not the protector of historic and cultural resources. Although Congress did pass Acts protecting ruins, monuments, and battlefields, and established the National Park Service and the Historic American Building Survey; some of the most devastating effects on historic and cultural resources resulted from other federal legislation. The 1949 Housing Act provided funding to clear slum areas of urban cities with the intent to spur private development. “Urban renewal” contributed to wholesale demolition of historic buildings and residences in what were once thriving downtowns. The Interstate Highway Act, passed in 1956, created the Highway Trust Fund and gave cities and states financial incentives for the construction of interstate highways. To facilitate transportation from suburban residential development to city centers and between urban areas, these highway projects also contributed to the irreparable destruction of historic downtown and rural landscapes.
This obliteration of historic resources with the aid of federal funds mobilized the preservation movement to promote their cause, not only with the public, but also within government. The result of those efforts was the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The Act recognized “that the historical and cultural foundations of the Nation should be preserved as a living part of our community life and development in order to give a sense of orientation to the American people,” that the expansion of development exceeded the means of government and private preservation activities, and finally, that most preservation endeavors had been initiated and financed by the private sector and it was “necessary and appropriate” for the federal government to expand its activities and support for historic preservation. The Act, designated to the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior, created the National Register of Historic Places, provided for matching grants to assist state preservation programs, designed a process to address federally financed projects affecting historic and cultural resources, and created the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. The Act provided for partnerships in preservation with state and local governments, and the Interior Secretary asked each state and territorial governor to appoint a liaison officer to assist with the new directives and mandates. Each state would prepare a comprehensive and coherent historic preservation plan and designate a State Historic Preservation Office and Officer (SHPO), create a state review board, and establish mechanisms for public participation. The SHPO would initiate statewide surveys to identify and document historic and cultural resources and nominate eligible properties to the National Register, and to educate and assist the public to promote preservation. The SHPO is an official partner with the federal government, the Department of the Interior, and the National Park Service.
In Indiana, the General Assembly had recognized important historic properties since the acquisition of the Tippecanoe Battlefield in 1836. The territorial and first state capitols, Native American mounds, and canal systems had been designated as State Memorials, and historic artifacts were collected by the Indiana State Museum. The agencies responsible for these memorials, artifacts, and properties, including the Indiana State Parks System, were merged in 1919 to create the Indiana Department of Conservation which became the Indiana Department of Natural Resources in 1965. To carry out the liaison responsibilities of the Historic Preservation Act, the Director of the DNR was designated as the SHPO. The DNR and the Indiana Professional Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation issued a report in 1972 advocating the continuation of a 1969 survey of historic sites and structures in the state and the necessity of promoting preservation in the public and educate people on the importance of historic and cultural resources in order to build grass roots efforts. To accomplish preservation goals, the report recommended continued cooperation with the U.S. Department of the Interior, the assistance of professional advisory groups and other agencies of state and local governments, the promotion of private preservation organizations and activities, the standardization of forms, procedures, and policies of the program, the periodic review of the plan to update and revise it, and the advancement of the needs and responsibilities of the DNR in order to develop a comprehensive historic preservation program. In 1981, the General Assembly established the Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology within the DNR whose mission was to carry out the federal-state partnership of the 1966 Historic Preservation Act. The Director of the DHPA was named Deputy SHPO and charged with the daily oversight of the state’s preservation programs and policies.
The DHPA is now comprised of six individual, but coordinated, sections: Registration and Survey, Archaeology, Architecture and Tax Credits, Grants, Historic Structures Review, and Special Projects. Information on the DHPA’s mandates, programs, services, and staff is available throughout this website.
Further Reading on Historic Preservation
Keeping Time: The History and Theory of Preservation in America, by William J. Murtagh
Presence of the Past: A History of the Preservation Movement in the United States before Williamsburg, by Charles B. Hosmer
Preservation Comes of Age: From Williamsburg to the National Trust, 1926-1949, by Charles B. Hosmer.
With Heritage So Rich, edited by Albert Rains, et al.
Historic Preservation Law, published by Practicing Law Institute Handbooks