Preservation Action: Historic Preservation Fund Part I

Preservation Action recently asked its members a trivia question about when the federal Historic Preservation Fund was established. Below is their answer:

When was the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) established? Bonus points: What was the historic context?

The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA P.L. 89-665, codified at16 U.S.C. 470) laid out the basic framework of the federal preservation program and set out to preserve the nation’s cultural resources. In implementing the Act, the Secretary of the Interior turned to the governors and asked them to partner in the new program to preserve the nation’s heritage. The NHPA also required that all funds appropriated to the States be matched, further solidifying the Federal-State partnership. Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPOs) were later funded by the HPF beginning in FY1996.

The NHPA of 1966 did not, however, establish the HPF.

In 1976, Congress went a significant step further, specifically authorizing the establishment of the HPF thus creating a dedicated funding source to carry out the provisions of the NHPA. The establishment of the HPF in the United States Treasury was one of the key provisions of Public Law 94-422 that amended and enhanced the NHPA of 1966. Senator Henry M. Jackson (D-WA) sponsored the bill that established the HPF in 1976. Jackson was also the sponsor of the bill that became the NHPA of 1966.

The HPF sets aside dedicated funds to support the programs and activities that were identified ten years earlier in the NHPA. Until the HPF was established, the mandates of the NHPA unfortunately were severely underfunded.

Housed in the Library of Congress, testimony surrounding the establishment of the HPF provides much insight to the current state of the American historic preservation movement. In a July 30, 1974 letter of testimony in support of the establishment of the HFP Tersh Boasberg, one of Preservation Action’s founders, stated, “Over 50% of the 12,000 buildings recorded in the Historic Buildings Survey since 1933 have been destroyed.”

The early 1970s saw eager anticipation and a swell of activity in preparation for our nation’s Bicentennial. A heightened sense of pride existed and a desire to preserve our nation’s heritage and its buildings. Coupled with the outrage at the number of significant American buildings that had been lost, the establishment of the HPF was indeed a needed response that added enormous strength to the nation’s historic preservation program.

About Preservation Action: Preservation Action is a 501c4 nonprofit organization created in 1974 to serve as the national grassroots lobby for historic preservation. Preservation Action seeks to make historic preservation a national priority by advocating to all branches of the federal government for sound preservation policy and programs through a grassroots constituency empowered with information and training and through direct contact with elected representatives.

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