Guidelines for Compliance-Generated Determinations of Eligibility (DOEs)
As part of the “Section 106” process required by the National Historic Preservation Act and its equivalent state law, federal and state agencies must identify historic properties that might be directly or indirectly affected by their projects. These properties can include any building, structure, archeological site, object, landscape, or district that meets at least one of the National Register of Historic Places Criteria for Evaluation, specified in 36 CFR 60.4. Section 106 affords consideration to properties that are listed in the National Register as well as unlisted properties that are eligible for inclusion. Thus, agencies must assess the National Register eligibility of resources that have not previously been evaluated.
Agencies most often identify historic properties through the Section 106 procedures outlined in 36 CFR 800.4. This process allows agencies to study a property, recommend it as either meeting or not meeting the National Register Criteria, and present their findings to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) for concurrence. The Maryland Historical Trust (MHT), Maryland’s SHPO office, uses the Determination of Eligibly (DOE) form to reach these “consensus determinations” between an agency and MHT for resources evaluated in Maryland. MHT permanently documents these determinations in the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties (MIHP) and associated databases.
Efforts to identify and evaluate historic and archeological resources should follow the appropriate MHT guidance and procedures established in the Standards and Guidelines for Archeological Investigations in Maryland (Cole and Shaffer 1994) and the Standards and Guidelines for Architectural and Historical Investigations in Maryland (MHT 2019). Survey efforts should build upon existing information, include relevant research and field investigations, provide defensible evaluations, and generate pertinent documentation of the resource being studied. Agencies and their consultants should contact the project reviewer in MHT’s Project Review and Compliance Unit for guidance on the appropriate level of effort for a given project or resource.
Purpose of the Determination of Eligibility Form
The primary purpose of the DOE form is to fulfill a federal or state agency’s obligations under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act or the Maryland Historical Trust Act of 1985 (State Finance and Procurement Article §§5A-325 and 5A-326 of the Annotated Code of Maryland). In the spirit of these laws, DOE forms should provide accurate and meaningful documentation of historic properties that can benefit the public and future researchers. Professionals completing DOE forms should approach them as they would any other piece of research: begin their project with relevant research questions; approach their sources in a critical manner; consider the place of their work within larger efforts to understand Maryland’s past; and provide citations, bibliographic notes, and recommendations for future research whenever appropriate.
DOE forms should be objective, non-editorial, and uninfluenced by the nature or possible impacts of the proposed project. It is the responsibility of agencies and their designees to provide a complete and appropriately formatted DOE form with attachments. Incomplete materials may be returned, and the Section 106 process cannot proceed until a satisfactory form is provided.
DOE forms become a permanent part of the MIHP and its associated databases. Government agencies, MHT, and a variety of other users may rely upon the eligibility determinations documented through the DOE process to inform project planning and cultural resource management decisions, as well as for general research purposes.
When to Complete a Determination of Eligibility Form
Agencies or their representatives should consult with the MHT project review staff prior to completing a DOE form. Depending on the nature of a project and the needs of the agencies involved, it may be appropriate to evaluate every building in the area of potential effect with either a regular DOE form or a DOE “short form.” Certain circumstances, such as the evaluation of whole neighborhoods, a complex of resources, or an expansive geographic area may warrant special considerations. Sometimes it is necessary to reevaluate a resource that was previously determined eligible or ineligible – due to the passage of time, changes to the property’s integrity, new information about the resource, or changing views of significance. Completion of a DOE form for a property that is already included in the National Register is not warranted since the property is already listed.
The following guidance applies to most projects and agencies.
- A map and digital photos, but not a DOE form, are needed if the potentially-affected property does not have a MIHP number, is not in a historic district, and is subject to one or more of the National Register Criteria Considerations (e.g. a building that is less than 50 years old).
- A DOE “short form” is generally sufficient if the potentially-affected property has not been evaluated in the past, does not have a MIHP number, is not in a historic district, and is unquestionably ineligible (e.g. a building that has been greatly modified in recent decades and displays very little integrity from any time more than 50 years ago).
- A complete DOE form is often needed if a property has not been evaluated in the past, has a MIHP number (including all archeological sites), is in a historic district, or appears to have any reasonable possibility of being eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
Contents of the Determination of Eligibility Form
All DOE forms for built resources must be completed by a qualified architectural historian, historic preservationist, or historian and be accompanied by supporting materials as described in Standards and Guidelines for Architectural and Historical Investigations in Maryland. DOE forms for archeological sites must be completed by a qualified archeologist and follow relevant guidance contained in the Standards and Guidelines for Archeological Investigations in Maryland (Cole and Shaffer 1994). The professional completing the form must be intimately familiar with National Register Bulletin 15; How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation,and with other National Register Bulletins that relate to the specific type of property under evaluation (including archeological resources). The National Park Service offers copies of all the National Register Bulletins on its website.
The process of completing a DOE form should begin with a careful consideration of the nature of the subject property and the contexts, or areas of significance, under which it is most likely to meet the criteria for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Bulletin 15 and The Maryland Preservation Plan may be consulted for lists of the most commonly applied contexts. This initial consideration of a property and its potential areas of significance should be followed by archival and field research and finally by the completion of the DOE form. The form must contain the elements described below – a description of the property, a history of the property, an assessment of the property’s National Register eligibility, and supporting attachments.
Description of the Property
DOE forms must contain sufficient description of buildings, structures, areas of land use, and the overall landscape of a property to evaluate its significance under National Register Criterion C and its historic integrity. This should include a narrative description of each building on the property including information about feature age, form, stylistic elements, methods of construction, materials, and condition. Descriptions should be thorough, objective, and uninfluenced by the possible impacts of the proposed undertaking. A great number of "field guides" and architectural dictionaries are available to assist the preparer in this process. A few of these resources are listed on the DOE Resources page.
Descriptions of archeological sites should include a brief discussion of the level of fieldwork conducted (number and type of shovel tests, excavation units, and other methods of investigation and analyses) along with a succinct description of the identified site remains (features, cultural deposits, surface remains, recovered materials) to evaluate significance under National Register Criterion D, and Criterion C where relevant. Site descriptions should specifically address the site's integrity as revealed through the investigations.
History of the Property
DOE forms must contain sufficient historical information to evaluate a property under National Register Criteria A and B. This should include information derived from historic maps and land records; examination of the existing buildings, structures, and landscape as historical sources; and relevant information from existing reports and other secondary sources. The completion of a DOE form requires the use of all or most of the common sources listed in the Common Sources of Information About Historic Places on the DOE Resources page.
DOE forms for archeological sites should address National Register Criteria A and B as relevant to the resource under evaluation.
Assessment of the Property
Assessments should specifically address historic contexts, which must either be placed in this section or a citation must be provided for a history, context report, or other existing and accessible document. Selected publications about local and regional architectural history, portions of which may serve as contexts, are listed on the DOE Resources page. Assessments should separately evaluate the property under each of the National Register Criteria. The assessment section should define a property's period(s) of significance and its boundaries. Assessments should follow the detailed guidance in National Register Bulletin 15: How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation. DOE forms for archeological sites should provide sufficient justification to support the evaluation, particularly with regards to site integrity, research potential, and ability to yield important information (Criterion D). Archeological sites recommended as eligible under Criterion D must have the demonstrated potential (as revealed through professional investigation) to contribute information important in prehistory or history. The DOE form must identify the specific research topics or questions the site may address along with justification for the importance of those topics. The National Register Bulletin 36: Guidelines for Evaluating and Registering Archeological Properties contains detailed guidance on evaluating archeological sites.
The required DOE form attachments are essential to allow MHT reviewers to agree or disagree with the preparer's findings. They also serve the important function of allowing future researchers to build upon the preparer's work. All attachments must be prepared in accordance with Standards and Guidelines for Architectural and Historical Investigations in Maryland. Attachments must include the items listed in the Attachments section of the How to Fill Out DOE Forms page.