Elements of historic architecture and preservation can be found throughout Saint Paul's many unique neighborhoods! HPC staff have developed an architectural 'I Spy' on your next neighborhood walk during this time of social distancing. Click here for Architectural I Spy.

As Minnesota's capitol city, Saint Paul features numerous historic sites and properties that are important to preserve. Led by the Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC), the City of Saint Paul is committed to working with property owners to ensure that the history of our community can be enjoyed for years to come.

The Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) serves as an advisory body to the Mayor and the City Council on municipal heritage preservation matters. It was created by city ordinance in 1976 to protect and promote the heritage of the City of Saint Paul. The Commission consists of thirteen voting members who are residents of Saint Paul and are appointed by the Mayor with the advice and consent of the City Council. One of the members is a representative of the Ramsey County Historical Society and three of the members are professionally registered architects. The City of Saint Paul is a Certified Local Government (CLG) in the National Historic Preservation Program. The City is certified as having a heritage preservation commission and program that meets federal and state standards. Saint Paul's status as a CLG confirms its commitment to support a qualified heritage preservation commission, maintain a system for the survey and inventory of historic properties, enforce appropriate state and local legislation for the designation and protection of historic properties, and provide for public participation in its preservation program

A Brief History of the Heritage Preservation Commission

The first notable historic preservation efforts in the United States came prior to the Civil War with efforts to preserve the homes of John Hancock and George Washington. In 1925, efforts to preserve the historic buildings of the French Quarter in New Orleans let to the creation of the Vieux Carre Commission and later, to the adoption of a historic preservation ordinance. In 1930 a similar historic preservation ordinance was adopted in Charleston, South Carolina.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation began in 1949 with goals to provide leadership, education, advocacy, and resources to save America's historic places. In New York City, the destruction of Pennsylvania Station in 1964 shocked many nationwide into supporting preservation. 

The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966 was established as a program for the preservation of historic properties throughout the nation as a response to widespread loss of historic resources due in part to Urban Renewal. The NHPA resulted in the creation of the National Register of Historic Places (NHRP), National Historic Landmarks, State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO), and state laws relating to preservation and cultural resources.

The loss of neighborhoods for the construction of Interstate 94, the demolition of the Ryan Hotel in 1962, and the near loss of the Federal Courts Building (Landmark Center) in 1972 caused Saint Paul citizens and politicians to recognize the need for protections for Saint Paul historic resources. In 1974 the City drafted a historic preservation ordinance which led to the creation of the Saint Paul Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC).

The only comprehensive survey of Saint Paul was completed in 1983 as part of a study of Saint Paul and Ramsey County. The study and report included inventories of approximately 5,000. In 2000, the City of Saint Paul funded The Historic Resource Survey, 1997-2000. This survey led to the development of six historic context studies; Pioneer Houses, Transportation Corridors, Neighborhood Commercial Centers, Churches, Synagogues & Religious Buildings, Residential Real Estate Development, and Downtown Saint Paul. This survey project also resulted in a database of approximately 6,000 inventoried historic structures in Saint Paul.

In 2010 the City of Saint Paul added a chapter in the Saint Paul Comprehensive Plan on historic preservation. The chapter examined past preservation activities in the community and identified new strategies and policies.

The HPC engages the community with a variety of events that span preservation of the built and natural environment, exploration of our historic neighborhoods, and celebration of our diverse communities that define Saint Paul's history.


Last Edited: August 11, 2021