Historic resources survey is an official record of historic sites recorded on survey forms that are compiled through fieldwork and research. The process is designed to answer the questions "what historic sites exist and where are they?" Each historic site is documented with photographs, mapping, written description on a form, and an entry in the Historic Sites Database. The survey files are maintained at the Heritage Council.
The Federal Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires states and territories across the nation to establish this record, calling for the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) to “conduct a comprehensive statewide survey of historic properties and maintain inventories of such properties.” The survey is used to help select resources for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. National Register listing establishes a site’s eligibility for grants and tax benefits, and provides planning data for federal, state, and local projects.
By examining historic resources (buildings, structures, sites, and objects), gathering data from those examinations, conducting related research, and maintaining records of that research, the SHPOs establish the baseline data needed to help make informed decisions about historic properties. States, including Kentucky, also inventory archaeological resources, preserving a record of both prehistory and the early historical period. In Kentucky, the archaeological survey is maintained by the Office of State Archaeology and the Kentucky Archaeological Survey.
The KHC’s Historic Resources Inventory program has been actively recording Kentucky's historic places for over 50 years. In general, the first survey projects concentrated mainly on houses associated with high architectural style, Kentucky's wealthiest or most famous residents, and the oldest structures. In the 1970s, the KHC began a comprehensive statewide architectural survey, typicaly undertaken at the county or city level.
The focus of survey activities has broadened to better reflect the ethnic and cultural diversity of Kentucky's historic and cultural resources. This required a shift to a more comprehensive view of the cultural and historic resources that make Kentucky unique, now including resources such as barns and outbuildings, commercial buildings, industrial sites, cemteries, monuments, objects, and landscapes. This comprehensive approach continues to expand our view of the state's rich past. Survey is an ongoing process of discovery and learning.
To date, the KHC, with the assistance of numerous local groups and many individuals, has documented over 90,000 historic sites, many of which contain multiple historic resources. These resources range from houses to battlefields to agricultural and industrial complexes to entire streetscapes of commercial buildings. They range in size from very small - a war monument or a highway marker - to quite large - a whole distillery complex or a lock and dam. They cover a broad historic period, from Kentucky’s settlement period in the eighteenth century to the recent past.
Marion and Washington Counties were the focus of a recent survey project in conjunction with the Rural Heritage Development Initiative. More information and the final report on the project can be viewed here.
Do you have a historic site you would like to know more about? Call us at the Heritage Council and we'll be glad to assist you. For more information about the Kentucky Historic Resources Inventory, contact:
(502) 564-7005, ext. 124