National Register criteria are designed to guide the officials of the National Register, SHPOs, federal agencies, local governments, preservation organizations and members of the general public in evaluating properties for entry in the National Register. To be listed in the National Register, properties generally must be at least 50 years old and retain their historic character. Properties must:
- Be associated with important events that have contributed significantly to the broad pattern of our history. (Criterion A)
- Be associated with the lives of persons significant in our past. (Criterion B)
- Embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction; or represent the work of a master; or possess high artistic values; or represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction. (Criterion C)
- Have yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history. (Criterion D)
Besides meeting one or more of these National Register criteria, a property must also have integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association. This means that if a property has been dramatically altered or its setting has been lost, it is probably not eligible for the Register.
Certain property types are eligible for listing in the National Register only under special circumstances. These include cemeteries, birthplaces or graves of historical figures, properties owned by religious institutions or used for religious purposes, structures that have been moved from their original locations, reconstructed historic buildings, properties primarily commemorative in nature and properties that have achieved significance within the last 50 years. Such properties will qualify, however, if they are integral parts of districts that do meet the criteria, or if they fall within one or more of the following categories:
- A religious property deriving primary significance from architectural or artistic distinction or historical importance.
- A building or structure removed from its original location but which is significant for architectural value, or which is the surviving structure most importantly associated with an historic person or event.
- A birthplace or grave of an historical figure of outstanding importance if there is no other appropriate site or building directly associated with his or her productive life.
- A cemetery that derives its primary significance from graves of persons of transcendent importance, from age, from distinctive design features or from association with historic events.
- A reconstructed building when accurately executed in a suitable environment and presented in a dignified manner as part of a restoration master plan, and when no other building or structure with the same association has survived.
- A property primarily commemorative in intent if design, age, tradition or symbolic value has invested it with its own historical significance.
- A property achieving significance within the past 50 years if it is of exceptional importance.