Illinois Historic Preservation Agency

Sarah Sutter

The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, currently headed by Susan Morgan, was designed to protect and help preserve state historic sites. Their mission statement is "to collect, preserve, interpret, and communicate the diverse heritage of Illinois and educate the public by providing access to historic resources of the state." The IHPA is responsible for more than fifty state-owned historic sites. Among them are Cahokia Mounds, Douglas Tomb, Lincoln Log Cabin, the Old State Capitol, and many more. The IHPA also owns a public information office and an extensive research library on the history of the state that are open to the public.

Through the State Agency Historic Preservation Act, Illinois historic sites are secured and preserved for generations to come Any group or agency that is starting a project is required to go to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency to receive a written "sign off" that will give permission for the commencement of a project. Written approval is only to verify that no historic resources will be damaged or destroyed by the project in consideration. If the party requesting approval does not comply with the IHPA regulations, the IHPA reserves the right to file a civil suit.

In order for the approval process to begin, any organization must first contact the IHPA. An in-depth written description must be submitted to the agency along with current photographs of the project site and any obstructions or buildings pre-existing on the site and a location map. Also the name and or names of the financial supporters and licensing agency for the project must be given. The IHPA must be given the address and all project specifications.

If the IHPA sees that there will be no harm done by a project, they will then require the licensing agency or subsidizers to run a complete survey on the property to ensure that there is no historical and archaeological value to the site. All of this must be reviewed within the thirty day time period for review given to the IHPA to either approve or disapprove a project.

If a project is disapproved by the IHPA, the subsidizer or licensing agency of the project must appeal to the director of the IHPA and try to reach reasonable compromise so that the historic value of the project area will not be put in danger.

The State of Illinois has provided has provided an investment tax credit for historic sites registered with the National Register of Historic Places. This tax credit will go to the owners of the specified historic sites. This is a tax of twenty percent of the cost of rehabilitation of the properties in question. The establishment must be income-producing and meet certain designated guidelines. The owners of the establishment may apply at any time during or after the rehabilitation process. Applicants must have already applied and received their certificate from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Determining eligibility, approval of plans, and inspection of the site must be completed before approval is granted. Approval usually takes about forty-five days. If the applicant is denied they may then appeal to the National Park Service. Application fees can range from $250 to $2500 depending on the size of the pending project.


Cahokia illustrates the growing popularity of archaeology in the past few years. Additionally, resurgent interest in aboriginal cultures contributes as well. The addition of movies and fads like Jurassic Park and the Indiana Jones movies had brought attention to the past. Children growing up with these fads and watching these movies learn that archaeology isn't the boring job that it was once perceived to be, but can be dynamic and exciting.

As for the physical features of Cahokia Mounds and the area surrounding them, there has been much damage done by both today's culture and those of days gone by. the original natives of the region are responsible for the deterioration of forestry and over use by farming. this has led to flooding at the side. Modern humanity has fared no better. One of the mounds, called Powel Mound, was privately owned by a farmer in the 1930s. It was bulldozed and artifacts and charred remains that could have been a great assistance in learning more destroyed when the farmer had it leveled for farm land. Who knows what history was lost for just a few more acres of farm land?

Cahokia Mounds itself was not approved for excavation until recently. This doorway to the past needs to be protected from the destruction of those who have shown little regard for an international treasure.

For more information link to:

Illinois Historical Preservation Agency (IHPA)

Illinois Heritage Association

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