Historic Registers

Legacies at All Levels

A historic property in Palo Alto may be eligible or listed, either individually or as a contributing structure in a district, on the Palo Alto Historic Inventory, California Register of Historical Resources or the National Register of Historic Places. While a nomination to the local, state or national register generally requires review by the Historic Resources Board, these distinct registers and inventory provide different management guidelines and tax incentives for listed properties.

Local Inventory

Palo Alto Historic Inventory

The Palo Alto Historic Inventory is the official list of sites, structures and districts designated by the City Council as possessing significant historical and/or architectural value.  Originally adopted in 1979, the Inventory has been updated and added to over time.  Any individual or group may propose designating a historic structure, site or district to the Inventory according to the procedure found in the Historic Preservation Ordinance (Municipal Code Section 16.49.040).  Properties nominated for designation are recommended by the HRB and decided upon by the City Council.

The following Criteria for Designation, along with the definitions of historic categories and districts in Section 16.49.020, is used to designate historic structures, sites and districts to the historic inventory:

  • The structure or site is identified with the lives of historic people or with important events in the city, state or nation;
  • The structure or is particularly representative of an architectural style or way of life important to the city, state or nation;
  • The structure or site is an example of a type of building which was once common, but is now rare;
  • The structure or site is connected with a business or use which was once common, but is now rare;
  • The architect or building was important;
  • The structure or site contains elements demonstrating outstanding attention to architectural design, detail, materials or craftsmanship.

Properties listed in the Palo Alto Historic Inventory are organized under the following Historic Categories:

  • Category 1: An "Exceptional Building" of pre-eminent national or state importance. These buildings are meritorious works of the best architects, outstanding examples of a specific architectural style, or illustrate stylistic development of architecture in the United States.
  • Category 2: A "Major Building" of regional importance. These buildings are meritorious works of the best architects, outstanding examples of an architectural style, or illustrate stylistic development of architecture in the state or region.
  • Category 3 or 4: A "Contributing Building" is a good local example of an architectural style and relates to the character of a neighborhood grouping in scale, materials, proportion or other factors.

In addition to Historic Category properties, the Palo Alto Historic Inventory includes structures and sites located within the boundaries of two locally designated historic districts, Professorville and Ramona Street.  Visit our Historic Districts page for more information about historic districts within Palo Alto.

Want to learn more?

Check out these resources to learn more. 

California Register

California Register of Historical Resources

The California Register is the authoritative guide to the state's significant historic and archeological resources.  Properties listed in the National Register are automatically listed in the California Register; however, properties may be listed in the California Register without being listed in the National Register.

The California Register is administered by the California Office of Historic Preservation (OHP). It encourages public recognition and protection of resources of architectural, historical, archeological and cultural significance, identifies historic resources for state and local planning purposes, determines eligibility for state historic preservation grant funding, and affords certain protections under CEQA.

The Criteria for Designation is as follows:

  • Criterion 1:  Associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of local or regional history or the cultural heritage of California or the United States.
  • Criterion 2:  Associated with the lives of persons important to local, California or national history.
  • Criterion 3:  Embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, region or method of construction or represents the work of a master or possesses high artistic values.
  • Criterion 4:  Has yielded, or has the potential to yield, information important to the prehistory or history of the local area, California or the nation.

Consent of owner is not required, but a resource cannot be listed over an owner’s objections. The State Historical Resources Commission (SHRC) can, however, formally determine a property eligible for the California Register if the resource owner objects.

Want to learn more?

More information is available on OHP’s website.

National Register

National Register of Historic Places

The National Register of Historic Places serves as the Federal government’s official list of those properties deemed worthy of preservation. It is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.  Listing on the National Register is primarily a tool to encourage preservation, recognition, and rehabilitation of our national landmarks. It is a strong reminder that the preservation and re-use of historic properties may also be economically feasible. Please visit the National Park Service's website on the National Register of Historic Places for more information.


Benefits of Listing on the National Register

There are several Federal incentives available for individually listed National Register landmarks and contributing structures of historic districts. These include:

  • Eligibility to apply for Federal planning and renovation grants, when funds are available
  • Profitable renovation of commercial properties by means of Federal tax credits for approved rehabilitation
  • Assurance that the property will not be altered or demolished by federally funded or licensed projects
  • Recognition in national publications and listings and display of a bronze National Register plaque
  • Generally higher sales value because of listed benefits


Criteria for Listing

The quality of significance in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture is present in districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that possess integrity (see below) and that meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Criterion A: Association with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history
  • Criterion B: Association with the lives of significant persons in our past
  • Criterion C: Embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction, or represent the work of a master, or possess high artistic values or represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction
  • Criterion D: Have yielded or may be likely to yield information important in history or prehistory


Aspects of Integrity

Integrity is the ability of a property to convey its significance.  To be listed in the National Register of Historic Places, a property must not only be shown to be significant under the National Register criteria, but it also must have integrity. The evaluation of integrity is sometimes a subjective judgment, but it must always be grounded in an understanding of a property's physical features and how they relate to its significance.

Historic properties either retain integrity (this is, convey their significance) or they do not. Within the concept of integrity, the National Register criteria recognize seven aspects or qualities that, in various combinations, define integrity.

To retain historic integrity a property will always possess several, and usually most, of the aspects. The retention of specific aspects of integrity is paramount for property to convey its significance. Determining which of these aspects are most important to a particular property requires knowing why, where, and when the property is significant. The following sections define the seven aspects and explain how they combine to produce integrity.

  • Location
  • Design
  • Setting
  • Materials
  • Workmanship
  • Feeling
  • Association

National Register Properties and Districts in Palo Alto

There are 16 properties individually listed on the National Register and 4 National Historic Districts, with hundreds of contributing properties. Visit our Historic Districts and Surveys page for more information on our districts and click on the nomination button below to read each nomination:

Dunker House

420 Maple St
Built: 1926
Architect: Birge M. Clark
Listed: Feb. 19, 1982

Pettigrew House

1336 Cowper St
Built: 1925
Architect: G. W. Smith
Listed: Nov. 25, 1980

Fraternal Hall

140 University Ave
Built: 1898
Architect: S. Newsom
Listed: February 9, 1990

T. B. Downing House

706 Cowper St
Built: 1894
Builder: W. Matlock Campbell
Listed: October 30, 1973

HP House and Garage

367 Addison Ave
Built: 1905
Architect: Unknown
Listed: April 20, 2007

Theo. Allen House

601 Melville Ave
Built: 1905
Architect: Alfred W. Smith
Listed: May 20, 1999

Hostess House

25-27 University Ave
Built: 1918
Architect: Julia Morgan
Listed: July 30, 1976

U.S. Post Office

380 Hamilton Ave
Built: 1931-1933
Architect: Birge M. Clark
Listed: April 5, 1981

J. A. Squire House

900 University Ave
Built: 1904-1905
Architect: T. P. Ross
Listed: March 6, 1972

Wilson House

860 University Ave
Built: 1906
Architect: F. Delos Wolfe
Listed: January 2, 1980

Kee House

2310 Yale St
Built: 1889
Architect: Unknown
Listed: April 11, 1985

Woman's Club

475 Homer Ave
Built: 1916
Architect: C. E. Hodges
Listed: January 17, 2015

Norris House

1247 Cowper St
Built: 1928
Architect: Birge M. Clark
Listed: July 24, 1980

Green Gables
Historic District

Period of Significance:
Listed: July 28, 2005

PA Medical Clinic

300 Homer Ave
Built: 1932
Architect: Birge Clark
Listed: June 21, 2010

Historic District

Period of Significance:
Listed: July 28, 2005

SPRR Depot

95 University Ave
Built: 1940
Architect: J. H. Christie
Listed: April 18, 1996

Historic District

Period of Significance:
Listed: October 3, 1980

de Lemos House

100-110 Waverley Oaks
Built: 1931-1941
Architect: P. de Lemos
Listed: January 10, 1980

Ramona Street
Architectural District

Period of Significance:
Listed: March 27, 1986

Is My Property Historic?

For information on the historic status of a specific property, please review a Parcel Report for the subject property, available at the City's website at or request a Parcel Report from City staff at the Development Services Department.