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.


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