26 December 2012

Using the National Register of Historic Places Database


Genealogical research can lead you in so many different directions, and investigating the origins of a specific site or building can really make an impact in the stories you are trying to tell. The United States is lucky to have an amazing resource in the National Register of Historic Places, and researcher’s in all disciplines can utilize the database made available to us via the National Park Service website.

Using this tool can prove to be incredibly exciting, especially for those researching a general area or community that has been put on the list. In work done relating to the Town of Breckenridge, Colorado, I was able to find the original (scanned) application that was submitted, dated 1980; all 38 pages of it! The document included a typed list of contributing buildings, and a color coded map of the town indicating “Historic”, “Contributing” and “Intrusion” properties that factored in to the decision.


Frisco, Colorado, Summit County, history, historical, genealogy, research, Rocky Mountains, National Register of Historic Places, 1983, Main Street, museum, schoolhouse
The Frisco Schoolhouse, now a
Museum. Main Street, Frisco, CO. 
Certainly individual properties are listed as well, and are more frequent than the “districts”. This includes site such as the Frisco Schoolhouse, which is now a museum on Main Street of Frisco, Colorado. The picture seen here was available on the site to be downloaded, (the material is considered public domain according to the site "Disclaimer") and dates from 1983.  I was also able to learn that the addition in the back of the building was put on in the 1950s, and that’s also when the double door was added to the main entrance. The diamond shaped window in the upper eaves appears to be original (ca. 1909).

Records relating to individual residences include written descriptions and in several cases, a floor plan of the building. There is also a required “Significance” summary that generally gives a historical background of the building, and why it is being pursued as a addition to the list.


Not every site has the application and images online yet, but many do. This is a site you will want to add to your bookmarks list and go back to recheck on a regular basis. For advanced viewing, printing or downloading the documents,  you will need the DjVu Plugin. There is a link at the bottom of the screen when you open the files.


Colorado, Salida, Rocky Mountains, NPS Focus, Digital Library, National Register of Historic Places, genealogy, ancestry, historic, history
Screenshot of the NPS Focus site, allowing you to see the original application records. This example is from a residence in Salida, Colorado.