Criteria for Historical Markers

For a variety of reasons, the state marker program simply cannot mark all historic places in North Carolina. To attempt to do so would be impractical and beyond the authorized scope of the program. Aside from the cost involved, unchecked proliferation of historical markers would create an obstruction to traffic flow and lessen the distinction of those signs designating deserving sites. 

Subjects of primarily local or regional, as opposed to statewide, significance are not eligible for state markers. An individual cannot be considered for a marker until twenty-five years after his or her death. Structures are not marked for their individual architectural value. Rather, an individual or historic event associated with a site is more likely to receive consideration. Architecturally significant buildings may be eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, administered by the State Historic Preservation Office of the Division of Historical Resources. 

Over the years the Marker Advisory Committee has devised the following set of criteria, under which the program presently operates and which are promulgated in the state administrative code (07NCAC 04T.0104): 

  1. All highway historical markers shall designate places, events, or persons of statewide historical significance. Historical Significance shall mean any person, place, or event of the past that has been recorded, documented, or recognized in a primary or secondary source, such as in books, diaries, journals, newspaper articles, speeches, documentaries, textbooks, artifacts, or other items, as having a lasting contribution to North Carolina history. Subjects of local or regional importance shall not be approved for highway historical markers. Statewide historical significance must be documented by the applicant. Applications shall be submitted to determine historical significance as set forth in this Rule.
  2. Applications shall be requested from, 919-814-6625, and submitted in writing to the Historical Research Office of the Division of Archives and History, 4610 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, North Carolina 27699-4610, and include the following:
    1. the subject to be marked;
    2. the location associated with the subject;
    3. a detailed statement describing the subject's significance and its impact on North Carolina's history; and
    4. copies of primary and secondary sources detailing the subject's historical significance to North Carolina
  3. An individual shall be eligible for consideration of a historical marker 25 years following his or her death.
  4. Statewide historical significance shall be determined by the Highway Historical Marker Advisory Committee based on the following factors:
    1.  the relationship of the subject to North Carolina's history;
    2.  the relationship of the subject to existing markers, such as whether the subject is included on an existing marker;
    3.  the subject's contributions to North Carolina; and
    4.  consequence of the subject on North Carolina's history.
  5.  If a person is named in the text of a marker, that individual will not be approved as the subject of a separate marker.

History Note: Authority G.S. 100-8; 121-4(7);
Eff. June 1, 1989;
Pursuant to G.S. 150B-21.3A, the rule is necessary without substantive public interest Eff. July 26, 2015;
Amended Eff June 1, 2017.

Tab/Accordion Items

The Department of Transportation restricts the placement of state historical markers to numbered state or federal highways, such as N.C. 49 or U.S. 64. Interstates, restricted access routes, city-maintained streets, and "SR"'s are not eligible. Markers must not be allowed to create an unreasonable road hazard.
Applicants should specify the distance and direction from the proposed marker location to the site being marked. The members of the Marker Advisory Committee, when reviewing a proposal, will consider the feasibility of placing a marker within a reasonable proximity. Where possible, the marker will be placed at the site being marked. In other cases, they may direct the reader to a nearby site.

If the Marker Advisory Committee declines to approve a subject for a state historical marker, it may be an appropriate topic for a local or private marker. Several counties, cities, and historical groups have in place local historical marker programs for marking places of local and regional significance.
Individuals or groups are free to pursue the purchase of privately funded markers or plaques. A list of manufacturers, with addresses and phone numbers, is provided below. Such markers must be placed on private property outside the highway right-of-way, cannot bear the Great Seal of North Carolina, and should differ from state signs in color. They are not considered part of the official state marker program.
The Office of Archives and History as an agent of the State of North Carolina is prohibited from recommending any particular private supplier. The following companies have sent us material indicating that they manufacture historical markers or plaques. We suggest that interested parties correspond directly with companies listed. The State of North Carolina is not in a position to comment on the quality or reliability of service of these firms. 

Manufacturers for Private Markers (PDF format)