Cemeteries and the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO)
WV SHPO has a very limited role with respect to cemeteries anywhere in the state. At the Federal level, SHPO’s role is defined by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, and specifically in 36CFR800. At the state level, WV Code § 29-1-8a defines SHPO’s role. In general, SHPO has the authority to comment upon whether a cemetery is historic – that is, whether it is eligible to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places. If a cemetery has been determined to be historic, then under Federal code, we work with Federal agencies to either avoid the cemetery or have it excavated by professional archaeologists. Under state law, we have the authority to issue a permit so that it can be archaeologically excavated. If a cemetery is determined to NOT be eligible for the National Register, our role ends.
What SHPO can do:
- We work with the general public when asked to help document cemeteries.
- We provide limited guidance with respect to the care and maintenance of cemeteries.
- We provide our opinion about whether a cemetery may be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
- We can work with the public to list a cemetery in the National Register of Historic Places if the cemetery is considered to be eligible.
- If a cemetery is listed in the National Register, it may be available for Development Grant funding to restore items that are contributing resources, such as mausoleums.
What SHPO cannot do:
- The office has no authority to enforce applicable state laws.
- The office has no authority to investigate complaints about disturbance/damage to cemeteries.
- The office does not have the authority to grant or deny someone permission to access a cemetery.
- The office does not have the authority to move cemeteries and generally does not maintain records on cemeteries that have been moved.
- The office does not have the authority to establish cemeteries or to tell someone how to establish a cemetery.
- The office does not have the authority to create a plan for protecting a cemetery.
- The office does not have funding for routine maintenance of cemeteries, such as mowing, weed-whacking, or routine work to headstones.
- Cemeteries 101: An Overview of Tools and Techniques for Basic Cemetery Rehabilitation
- West Virginia’s Cemeteries and the National Register of Historic Places
- Pushing Up Yucca…And Other Traditional Cemetery Plants
- West Virginia Cemetery Codes