Preservation Resources

19th Century Carpenters - Prang's Aid for Object Teaching, L. Prang & Co. 1874. Library of Congress

19th Century Carpenters – Prang’s Aid for Object Teaching, L. Prang & Co. 1874. Library of Congress

The core of Napa County Landmarks’ mission is to protect and preserve a living record of the past for the enjoyment and appreciation of future generations. We’ve created this resource page to help you do the same. Whether you are experienced in restoration, an aspiring “do-it-yourselfer” or are simply looking for more information, we aim to help take some of the mystery out of historic home research, maintenance and repair.

Table of Contents:

Commonly used Historic Preservation Terms and Definitions

NHPA or The Act means the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended, 16 U.S.C. 470 et seq.

Advisory Council or Council means the agency, fully titled the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, established pursuant to section 201 of Title II of the NHPA, that is to be afforded a reasonable opportunity under sections 106 and 110(f) of the NHPA to comment with regard to proposed undertakings, as defined in section 301(7) of the NHPA; that reviews Federal programs pursuant to section 202(a)(6) of the NHPA; and with whose regulations outlining the procedures for complying with the requirements of section 106 of the NHPA (“Protection of Historic Properties,” found at 36 CFR Part 800) in accordance with section 110(a)(2)(E)(i), other Federal agencies procedures for compliance with section 106 must be consistent.

Historic property or historic resource is defined at section 301(5) of the NHPA and means any prehistoric or historic district, site, building, structure, landscape or object included in, or eligible for inclusion in the National Register, including artifacts, records, and material remains related to such a property or resource. Section 101(d)(6)(A) of the National Historic Preservation Act provides that “properties of traditional religious and cultural importance to an Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization may be determined to be eligible for inclusion on the National Register.”

Memorandum of Agreement means the document that records the terms and conditions which have been agreed upon to resolve the adverse effects of an undertaking upon historic properties.

National Register is defined at section 301(6) of the NHPA and means the list of districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture established under section 101 of the NHPA and maintained by the Secretary of the Interior and fully titled the “National Register of Historic Places.”

Preservation or historic preservation as defined in the NHPA at section 301(8) includes identification, evaluation, recordation, documentation, curation, acquisition, protection, management, rehabilitation, restoration, stabilization, maintenance, research, interpretation, conservation, and education and training regarding the foregoing activities or any combination of the foregoing activities.

Secretary’s Standards means the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for Archeology and Historic Preservation (available from the National Park Service), the project and program standards and guidelines for implementing the NHPA. They are technical guidance concerning archeological and historic preservation activities and methods. The complete Secretary’s Standards currently address each of the following activities: Preservation Planning, Identification, Evaluation, Registration, Historical Documentation, Architectural and Engineering Documentation, Archeological Documentation, Treatment of Historic Properties (including Rehabilitation), and Professional Qualifications. The principles derived from The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards include:
∙   “To do no harm”
∙   “Less is more”
∙   Preserve historic materials
∙   Preserve historic character-defining features
The conservation principles above and the principles of The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards are similar and philosophically inclusive of each other.

State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) means the official appointed or designated pursuant to section 101(b)(1) of the NHPA to administer the State historic preservation program or a representative designated to act for the SHPO.

“Key” Preservation Websites


Federal Level

The Secretary of Interior Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties [Link]

National Trust for Historic Preservation [Link]

Advisory Council for Historic Preservation [Link]

National Park Service [Link]

State Level

California Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) [Link]

California Historical Resources List [Link]

California Preservation Foundation [Link]

Local Level

City of Napa Planning Division [Link]

City of St. Helena Planning Department [Link]

Town of Yountville Planning & Building Department [Link]

City of Calistoga Planning & Building Department [Link]

City of American Canyon Planning Division [Link]

County of Napa Planning Division [Link]

California Preservation Foundation Webinars

Click here to view some helpful recorded webinars by the California Preservation Foundation. Topics include Preservation Financing, the Mills Act, California Modern Architecture, and Energy Efficiency & Historic Preservation.

Tax Incentive Programs

There are several preservation incentive programs at the local, state, and federal levels to encourage property owners to repair, restore, or rehabilitate historic properties. Many of these tax incentive programs are currently at work in Napa County and around the state of California. Together, the Tax Reform Act of 1986 and the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program provide an advantageous 20% historic preservation investment tax credit to property owners who wish to apply the Mills Act to the costs of rehabilitating their historic property. In California, these beneficial programs have already incited over a half billion dollars of private investment to preserving and revitalizing the historic character of the state’s historic resources.

The Mills Act

The Mills Act provides for an up to 50% reduction in property taxes in exchange for the rehabilitation, preservation, and long-term maintenance of historic buildings. Within Napa County, the Mills Act is offered in the following jurisdictions: City of Napa, City of Calistoga, City of St. Helena, and Unincorporated Napa County. Follow the links below for information about the Mills Act in Napa County:

City of Napa [Link]

City of St. Helena [PDF – 92Kb]

City of CalistogaContact the Calistoga Planning Department for information

County of Napa [PDF – 297Kb]

Federal Tax Credits

A 20% Rehabilitation Tax Credit is available for the rehabilitation of income-producing properties listed individually in the National Register or as contributors to a National Register Historic District. This significant tax savings is applied only to buildings rehabilitated according to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. Call Napa County Landmarks for more information: 707.255.1836.

Preservation Easements

Napa County Landmarks offers a Façade Easement Program to owners of historic properties within Napa County. This program offers charitable income tax deductions to property owners while ensuring the preservation of a property’s significant architectural features. The Façade Easement Program also limits the future owners of a building from demolishing or altering it in a way that negatively impacts its architectural features, providing permanent protection of historic buildings. The National Park Service provides more information on the details and benefits of Historic Preservation Easements in the following PDF [PDF 322Kb]. Call Napa County Landmarks if you are interested in participating in this program: 707.255.1836.

California Historical Building Code (CHBC)

The CHBC provides an alternative building code for the preservation or rehabilitation of buildings designated as “historic.” These regulations are intended to facilitate repair or accommodate a change of occupancy so as to preserve a historic resource’s original or restored architectural features. Issues addressed by the CHBC include: use and occupancy; means of egress; archaic materials and methods of construction; fire protection; alternative accessibility provisions; mechanical, plumbing, and electrical requirements; and alternative structural regulations. Click here to learn more.

Historic Resource Designations

There are three separate levels of designation of historic resources: Local, State (California Register), and Federal (National Register of Historic Places).

Local Designations:

Local Landmark Properties and designations vary by municipality and local government. View the list of landmark properties within the City of Napa [Link].

Historic Resource Inventory (HRI) is an official listing of historical structures, typically buildings and areas over fifty years old. On a fundamental level, the list is a numerical and descriptive document that ranks a property according to age, character, context and condition. View the HRI list for historic properties within City of Napa [Link]. View the HRI list for historic properties within City of Calistoga [PDF 129Kb].

State Designations

The California Register is the authoritative guide to the State’s historical and archeological resources and includes all properties listed in the National Register. For more information, visit the California Register website, or view the list of California Register properties in Napa County.

Federal Designations

The National Register is a list of buildings and sites of local, state, or national importance. This program is administered by the National Park Service through the California Office of Historic Preservation. Buildings listed in the National Register can gain significant tax savings by following the Secretary of Interior Standards for Rehabilitation. Click here for more information about the National Register, or visit the National Register’s online database.

Frequently Asked Questions

According to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), all buildings constructed over 50 years ago and possess architectural or historical significance may be considered potential historic resources and proposed changes to these buildings may require some level of environmental review. CEQA review is a state-mandated process that, in part, determines whether a building is or is not considered a historic resource, and whether the proposed changes will have a negative impact on the resource. The majority of projects reviewed by the Planning Department are subject to this state-mandated CEQA review process.

Why is an HRI important for homeowners and commercial property owners?

The first step in a community’s preservation planning process is to identify, describe and locate buildings, structures, objects and sites that are of historical, architectural or archaeological importance to our community. This survey is intended to be a comprehensive inventory of a community’s historical assets and a basis for all future preservation activities by helping municipal officials, local planners, preservationists, property owners and researchers make informed decisions.

The HRI acknowledges that a community’s historic resources provide character, continuity and sense of place and can be used to increase the public’s awareness of important cultural, historic and architectural properties and aid in their renovation and preservation. Once a property has been documented in the HRI, owners may take advantage of special state and federal grants to help with repair and preservation if they follow mandated guidelines to ensure the historical integrity of the property.

What impact does historic designation have on property value?

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has analyzed numerous studies of property values in Landmark Districts throughout the country. These studies have shown no indication that property values in landmark districts go down simply because of their landmark status. Rather, the studies seem to indicate that the value of homes in landmark districts tends to appreciate at a slightly higher rate than similar building stock outside the district. There is no data that proves why that is, but it is commonly thought that there is more predictability and physical stability in a landmark district. Properties tend to be improved rather than neglected and the neighborhood is less vulnerable to unregulated real estate speculation.

My property is not listed in the HRI, as a local landmark, nor determined eligible for the California or National Registers. Does that mean my building is not historic?

No. According to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), all buildings constructed over 50 years ago may be historical resources and proposed alterations require some level of environmental review.

What is CEQA review of historical resources?

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) provides the legal framework by which historical resources are identified and given consideration during the planning process. Two main steps are involved in the process: first, determination of whether or not the property is a “historical resource,” and secondly, whether the proposed changes to the property would cause a “substantial adverse change in the significance of a historical resource.”

There are three possible outcomes for CEQA review of proposed changes to historic properties:

Categorical Exemption (aka Cat Ex) is required when the change or alteration is minor and if the implementation meets the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Properties.

Negative Declaration or Mitigated Negative Declaration (aka Neg Dec) is required when the proposed project is not minor and would not cause a substantial adverse change to the historical resource or if the adverse change can be mitigated by following the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Properties.

Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is required when the proposed project would potentially cause a substantial adverse change to a historical resource.

Standards and Guides for Preservation, Restoration, Rehabilitation & Repair of Historic Buildings

The National Parks Service has produced preservation guides for the appropriate repair and maintenance of historic buildings. They offer guidance on a variety of topics including conserving energy in historic buildings, repairing stained and leaded glass windows, and repairing historic wood windows. To view the complete list of Preservation Briefs compiled by the National Parks Service, click here.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has several guides regarding the repair and maintenance of historic windows:

Weatherization Guide for Older and Historic Buildings [Link]

Repair or Replace Old Windows: A Visual Look at the Impacts [PDF 5.9Mb]

Window Types: A Residential Field Guide [PDF 5Mb]

Ten Reasons to Repair Your Old Windows [PDF 336Kb]

Historic Wood Windows Tip Sheet [PDF 1.3Mb]

The National Alliance of Preservation Commissions Debunks Popular Window Replacement Myths [PDF 212Kb].

Napa County Landmarks Resource Guide Brochure

Karen Wesson and Napa County Landmarks have put together a brochure on local, state, and federal resources for historic preservation free for you to download! This PDF includes links to relevant websites and resources. To download the PDF, click here.

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