National Register Sign Program

The Montana Historical Society developed the National Register Sign Program to improve public knowledge of Montana's rich and colorful heritage, to encourage others to seek Register listing, and to promote the preservation of our historic resources.

Each exclusive National Register sign includes a special logo and brief description of the property's historic significance.

Since the program began in 1990, hundreds of National Register signs have been placed across Montana. Montanans and visitors have come to recognize that a Montana National Register sign marks a place important to the history of our state. Other organizations have been soliciting orders for National Register plaques, but this is the only official sign program for the State of Montana and the only one that includes interpretive text detailing the history of your property. 

Most of the state's National Register sign texts are now online as part of a spreadsheet on the Montana Data Portal. You can sort the spreadsheet by county to find signs in your area, or read any sign by placing your cursor over the text in the "Text (Description)" field to cue the expandable text box.  You can search for a particular property, building type, or architectural style by typing the name or key word ("Hangman's Building," "Craftsman," or "Masonic Temple," for example) into the search bar and pressing "Enter". Curated tours of select Montana sites--using these National Register sign texts--are also featured on Explore Big--Montana's Historic Places. Explore Big is a website and mobile app curated by the Montana Historical Society to the history and architecture of selected buildings, neighborhoods, and cultural sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

If you would like a sign for your National Register property, please submit an application. You can download the form in either MS Word (.doc) or  (.pdf) formats.
  
National Register Sign Application (Word)
National Register Sign Application (PDF)

For more information on the sign program, contact Ellen Baumler, National Register sign Program Coordinator at 406-444-1687; ebaumler@mt.gov; or the Montana Historical Society, 225 N. Roberts, Helena, MT 59620.

 

Who Can Apply?

Owners of individually listed National Register properties
Owners or representatives of listed historic districts
Owners with contributing properties within listed historic districts

If you are not sure about your property's status, your local preservation office can answer your questions. If your community does not have a preservation office, contact the State Historic Preservation Office: 406-444-7715 or jboughton@mt.gov.

The Process

After a property owner submits an application, Historical Society staff carefully craft each interpretive sign text, drawing from the site's National Register of Historic Places nomination and a variety of other primary and secondary resources. Each text is designed to highlight the property's distinctive history and pique the reader's interest. Applicants will receive a draft text for review and approval prior to preparation of final sign copy.

Applications are processed in order of receipt and on the basis of geographic distribution, so some time may elapse before applicants receive text for approval. After they approve the text and submit payment, signs are submitted to the manufacturer. Applicants can expect to receive their signs eight to ten weeks after final approval of the text.

The Cost

Applicants are responsible for installing their signs outside, where the public can enjoy them, within a reasonable time of receiving their order. Mounting instructions can be found here.

Owners or sponsoring organizations pay less than 10% of sign manufacturing costs. The Montana Historical Society pays for all other costs (including research/writing time) with its allocated portion of the Accommodations Tax.

The current cost of each district/individual property sign is approximately $740. The cost of a contributing property sign, either style, is approximately $475. Post mount brackets for the freestanding type mounting option cost $100. Cost to applicants is only $55 for an individual/district sign, $35 for a contributing sign, and $7 for the post mount bracket.

Types of Signs

 

Individually listed and district properties receive Type A signs with approximately 250 words of interpretive text.

Owners of properties that contribute to listed historic districts may choose either Type B or Type C signs, each of which has up to 180 words of interpretive text.

Hardware is included for the mounting of your choice, but the applicant is responsible for installation. Freestanding installation requires a threaded pipe (not included).

All plaques are pewter-finished anodized aluminum with dark etched letters and are designed to withstand harsh weather.

 
Type A

Type A signs are 20" x 24". They can be mounted on the building or on a post. If you plan to mount it on a post, you will need to order a post mount. (This option is NOT available to owners of contributing properties.)

 

Type B

Type B signs consist of two 8"x 12" panels. One panel features the National Register logo. The other features the interpretive text. These panels can only be mounted on the wall. If you plan to mount your sign in a narrow space, you may want to order a "Type B" sign.

Type C

Type C signs are 13" x 16". These are the most popular type of sign for contributing properties. They can be mounted either on a building, fence, or stone wall, or on a post. If you plan to mount it on a post, you will need to order a post mount