The Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory

In the mid-1970s, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources began awarding matching subgrants using funds from the National Park Service (NPS) for the identification of historic buildings and structures. The Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory (IHSSI) program officially began in 1976 with the first two counties being systematically surveyed to identify and document every building and structure 50 years old or older and meeting survey criteria. Between 1978 and 2010, surveyors completed an average of three county surveys each year using funds from Indiana’s annual Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) grants plus local matching dollars. Along the way, a handful of counties were re-surveyed and five cities – all of them Certified Local Government communities – also had their own separate citywide surveys completed.

The results of these surveys were published in county “Interim Reports.” Each of these publications described the resource types and architectural styles commonly found in the county, provided histories for the county and each civil township, town, and identified historic district, and also included maps and a catalog listing of all the resources identified. This family of county survey publications, available at public libraries and planning agencies across the state, has been the foundation of efforts to nominate eligible properties and districts to the National Register of Historic Places. The original paper survey records are retained in the files at the DHPA and are used to guide both federal and state environmental review processes. In 2012 after three and half decades of continuous survey activity, Indiana achieved the major milestone of having completed a systematic countywide survey of above-ground resources in all 92 counties. In April of this year, the National Park Service recognized this achievement by presenting its first “National Cultural Resources Stewardship and Partnership Award” to the Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology (DHPA) and its major survey program partners, Indiana Landmarks (statewide preservation non-profit organization) and ARCH, Inc. (regional preservation non-profit organization in Fort Wayne).

“Phase 2” of the IHSSI is now underway, with counties being re-surveyed to update information as well as to document resources that were not yet 50 years old at the time of the original survey. In 2008, the DHPA’s own surveyors began field testing and using new electronic survey equipment and methodology. The DHPA made the final step of the complete transition to electronic survey by releasing the software and equipment for use by an outside survey partner organization – ARCH, Inc. – so that no new paper survey records were generated after mid-2011. As of now, six counties have been surveyed electronically with the 7th and 8th counties nearing completion. Electronic survey records are uploaded into Indiana’s cultural resources database in a matter of weeks, making a wealth of information readily available to an even broader audience of preservationists, consultants, governmental agencies, and the general public far earlier than before. Funding from the National Park Service, Federal Highway Administration, INDOT, partner organizations Indiana Landmarks and ARCH, Inc., CLGs, and local level sponsors have made these accomplishments possible.