Listing on the National Register of Historic Places, and local historic district designation, are two very different programs that both recognize and protect historic architecture. Lancaster has both types of designated historic districts. For information on the local district, The Historical Architectural Review Board, and the Heritage Conservation District.
The National Register of Historic Places is a federal program administered by the National Park Service in partnership with state governments. The National Register was created by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 to recognize and protect individual properties and districts having historic and cultural significance. These properties warrant consideration in federally funded projects, such as highway construction and urban renewal undertakings. National Register designation is also a requirement to qualify for federal preservation tax credits. View those credits here.
The National Register program is administered in each state by a State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO). In the Commonwealth, the program is overseen by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC). Within PHMC, the Bureau for Historic Preservation coordinates nominations of eligible properties to the National Register, although the final decision to list a property or district in the National Register is made by the National Park Service.
While conveying national recognition to a property, National Register listing is primarily honorary. A listed property has been researched and evaluated according to established procedures, and determined to be worthy of preservation for its historical value. National Register listing does not restrict a private owner's right to use, alter or even demolish the property, unless federal assistance in the form of a grant or tax credit is being used.
There are currently 50 properties in Lancaster City that are individually listed in the National Register, and 11 districts. These districts include residential neighborhoods, and a number of tobacco warehouse districts spread throughout the city. The extensive "Lancaster City Historic District," covering most of the City's limits, was recognized in 2001 and includes nearly 14,000 historic resources -- making it one of the largest National Register districts in the entire United States!