Historic Preservation

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Historic Preservation

MoDOT balances historic preservation concerns with the task of planning, designing, constructing and maintaining the state’s complex transportation infrastructure. MoDOT’s Historic Preservation staff works to identify potential conflicts between the two and to help resolve them in the public interest. MoDOT makes every effort to comply with federal and state historic preservation legislation and regulations, address citizen concerns and maintain environmental responsibility.

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires MoDOT to consider the potential impacts that any federally funded or permitted project may pose to significant cultural resources. Cultural resources include archaeological sites, buildings, structures (e.g., bridges), objects or districts. The significance of a cultural resource is evaluated by applying a specific set of criteria that are set forth by the National Register of Historic Places. Cultural resources that meet the criteria of eligibility for listing on the National Register of Historic Places are referred to as “historic properties.” MoDOT must evaluate the potential impacts of a project on all identified cultural resources, regardless of their significance. Failure to obtain Section 106 clearance could jeopardize federal funding and permits for a project, which could result in project delays. After the review process is initiated, compliance with Section 106 requires three things:

1) Identify historic properties – Determine project’s area of effect, identify historic properties, and evaluate historic significance;
2) Assess adverse effects – Assess if the project will have an adverse effect on historic properties; and
3) Resolve adverse effects – Avoidance, minimization, and/or mitigation of any adverse effect on historic properties.

Section 106 encourages, but does not mandate, the preservation of historic properties. The goal of Section 106 is to ensure that preservation values are factored into the planning process for all federally funded or permitted projects. It provides assurance that agencies will assume responsibility and public accountability for their decisions when dealing with cultural resources.

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The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation’s pamphlet Protecting Historic Properties: A Citizen’s Guide to Section 106 Review is an excellent starting point for citizens seeking more information on their role in the Section 106 process. The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, as per their website, “…is an independent federal agency that promotes the preservation, enhancement, and productive use of our nation's historic resources, and advises the President and Congress on national historic preservation policy.” In Missouri, the State Historic Preservation Office in the Department of Natural Resources is responsible, in partnership with the U.S. Department of the Interior's National Park Service and local governments, in assisting in the Section 106 process.


What is Archaeology? Archaeology is the scientific study of past human cultural behavior based on the analysis of material remains or artifacts (things made or modified by people) and their patterns and distribution within archaeological sites (places where evidence of past human social and cultural behavior are preserved).

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Archaeology and the Public
Learn about Archaeology
Educators and students interested in learning about archaeology can find further information and links to additional resources by clicking the title.
Archaeological Research

MoDOT archaeologists conduct research and field investigations necessary to identify and evaluate the significance of historic and prehistoric archaeological sites in areas that may be affected by proposed or planned transportation projects. MoDOT carries out archaeological investigations in order to comply with federal and state preservation mandates, and as part of its larger commitment to environmental responsibility. Where significant archaeological sites cannot be avoided or impacts to those sites cannot be sufficiently minimized, MoDOT archaeologists may conduct excavations to recover artifacts and other data that might otherwise be lost or destroyed during construction of transportation projects.

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One of the goals of archaeology is to expand our knowledge of history and prehistory by examining how people adapted to changes in their natural and social environment and their responses to contact with new ideas and different people. Information recovered from archaeological sites adds incrementally to the accumulated knowledge and understanding of our shared past.

What Type of Archaeological Sites are Found in Missouri? Prehistoric archaeological sites in Missouri commonly include villages and campsites, cave/rock shelters, cairns and mounds, petroglyphs (i.e., rock art) and specialized resource procurement sites. Historic archaeological sites that are commonly encountered in Missouri include, post-European contact era Indian villages and hamlets, homesteads, farmsteads, cemeteries, trails, early roads, trading posts, forts, shipwrecks, and early industrial sites (e.g., mills & factories).

Examples of MoDOT Archaeological Investigations. MoDOT produced an 11-minute video as part of the investigations conducted at 55 archaeological sites in Lewis and Clark counties, Missouri, in conjunction with highway improvements of US Route 61, the Avenue of the Saints. This video provides background on the project, how large-scale archaeological investigations are conducted, and information concerning the sites that were explored. An example of a MoDOT archaeological investigation that relates to a current issue was featured in MoDOT’s Pathways Spring 2002 issue in the article “Great Quakes!”

Architectural History

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When a transportation project is proposed, MoDOT architectural historians are responsible for surveying and identifying all architectural resources that are located within the project’s area of potential effects (APE). The APE for a project usually includes the project footprint and immediately adjacent areas in order to assess both direct and indirect project effects.

Most of the buildings that are identified during architectural surveys are domestic in nature. Domestic architectural resources include houses, their associated outbuildings and features such as fences and gateposts. Other building types that are commonly encountered include barns, industrial buildings and commercial buildings.

Buildings and their associated resources that are more than 45 years old are photographed and documented and may involve research into the property’s ownership and history.

After the initial documentation is complete, the architectural historian will consult with the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in order to assess the building’s eligibility for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. If a building is determined to be eligible for the National Register, it is called an “historic property.” After the building is determined to be an “historic property,” MoDOT must consider the potential effects of proposed projects upon the property.

A project can be determined to have either an “adverse effect” or “no adverse effect” upon a historic property. An adverse effect is determined to occur when the proposed project would harm a property’s ability to convey its historic significance. Examples of adverse effects include: demolition; the removal of a resource from its original location; changing the setting of a resource if the setting was determined to contribute to the property’s significance; or the introduction of new elements that could diminish the property’s significant historic features.

If it is determined that a project will have an adverse effect to a historic property, efforts will be made to redesign the project in order to eliminate or minimize its adverse effects. Examples of such efforts include the relocation of a portion of the project encroaching the property, or the construction of retaining walls that will insulate or protect the property.

If it is determined that an adverse effect cannot be avoided, a Memorandum of Agreement is negotiated outlining specific measures that should be taken in order to mitigate the project’s effects upon the resource. Mitigation measures may include: archival photography; detailed floor plan and site plan drawings, which show the relationship of the building with its associated features; archival documentation of the property’s history; and a detailed written description of the property.

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General information on MoDOT’s approach toward historic buildings—as well as information pertaining to particular architectural styles and types—can be found in Historic Buildings and Transportation Projects in Missouri.

Bridge History

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In addressing historic bridges in Missouri, the term “bridges” refers to both public and privately owned highway, railroad and pedestrian bridges, viaducts and culverts. Historic bridges are listed on or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). MoDOT is responsible for identifying and managing historic bridges associated with highway projects.

Unlike most other types of cultural resources in Missouri, historic bridges have been inventoried and evaluated statewide. The Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act of 1987 (STURAA) directed all states to inventory their historic bridges. There are about 24,000 bridges in the state (state, county and city bridges). The 1996 Missouri Historic Bridge Inventory survey evaluated approximately 11,000 of them that were built before 1951. Of these, 399 were considered possibly eligible, eligible or listed on the NRHP. This list, with some modifications, became the Missouri Historic Bridge List (MHB List). It contains about 25 different types of structures including various metal pony trusses and through trusses, wooden trusses, concrete arches and rigid frames, stone arches, and so forth. All were built from 1858 to 1954.

Bridges not on the MHB List are evaluated for eligibility to the National Register of Historic Places, in consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). A project can have “no effect”, “no adverse effect” or an “adverse effect” on a historic bridge.

An adverse effect occurs when a project would harm a historic bridge’s ability to convey it’s historic significance. Examples of adverse effects include demolition, removal from the original location, removal or alteration of original bridge parts, and introduction of new elements that diminish the bridge’s significant historic features.

If a project will have an adverse effect on an historic bridge, efforts are made to minimize the effects through redesign of the project. If an adverse effect cannot be avoided a Memorandum of Agreement is negotiated outlining measures to mitigate the effects of the project on the resource.

Mitigation typically includes archival photographs, and preparation of a thorough history and detailed written description, which are then archived at the state or national level depending upon the range of significance. Mitigation also may include marketing and advertisement for adaptive reuse at the existing location or at a new location, dismantling and storing the bridge for future use on another site, or salvaging important historical components of the bridge for reuse as educational or interpretive materials, or reusing salvaged components on other similar historic bridges in need of rehabilitation. An article in MoDOT's Spring 2002 issue of Pathways magazine, "For a Free Bridge Call MoDOT" describes how historic bridges can be given a new function.

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General information can be found at Historic Bridges of the Midwest and A Context for Common Historic Bridge Types. Additional information is provided in the MoDOT brochure, Historic Bridges and Transportation Projects in Missouri. It is also available in a print version for downloading.


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MoDOT’s historian performs a wide variety of tasks within the department’s Historic Preservation section. First and foremost, the historian is responsible for evaluating MoDOT projects for their potential to impact important historic resources and ensuring that the projects comply with state, federal and organizational historic preservation guidelines. To this end, MoDOT’s historian works hand-in-hand with the Historic Preservation Section’s archaeologists, architectural historians and historic bridge coordinator to provide historical context and archival documentation for proposed transportation projects. Such tasks may be performed at a variety of levels from the initial, scoping phase of a project to the final mitigation of a project’s effects upon historic resources.

Useful links for researchers
Library of Congress
General Land Office Records--Historical land patents and surveys
The National Archives
U.S. Census Bureau
Social Security Death Index
Historical Census Browser
Missouri State Archives
Missouri Digital Heritage
MoGenWeb -- Missouri genealogy
St. Louis Public Library: Maps of Missouri
Panoramic Maps Collection
Plat Books of Missouri
Sanborn Maps for Missouri
Unreal City: Historic St. Louis Maps

Historical background research may be performed during the project-scoping phase in order to better assess the potential for encountering historic resources within the boundaries of a proposed project. This level of research often entails a review of historical literature and archival sources pertaining to the proposed project area. Once the project area has been determined, the historian will often perform more in-depth context-level research in order to facilitate the interpretation of historical archaeological sites, architectural resources, or historic bridges that may be identified within a project’s boundaries. Research at this level will often include an intensive investigation of primary and secondary sources that relate to the broader historical trends and events that occurred within the project area. Finally, the historian often conducts detailed, parcel-level research to identify particular archeological or architectural resources that have been identified within a project’s boundaries. Examples of this type of research often include the review of old plat maps and land survey records, historic fire insurance maps, census data, city directory information and other primary and secondary source materials that could shed light on the history and use of a property. The information that is collected as a result of the historian’s research will be compiled, interpreted and written as an historical narrative that can be included in agency reports, environmental and historic preservation documentation.

Additionally, the historian often aids in archival documentation of historic bridges for MoDOT bridge improvement projects. The research that is conducted for historic bridges may also be used for Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) documentation. Archival documentation for historic bridges often includes research on the historical development of the highway where the bridge is located and how the bridge fits into the history of the surrounding community. Information pertaining to the history of the particular style of bridge and the physical description of the bridge are also included in the bridge documentation.

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Another important component of the historian’s job duties is responding to history-related inquiries from a variety of internal and public sources, including the Community Relations section of MoDOT, MoDOT’s Customer Service hotline and even the Missouri State Legislature. The historian will also contribute short articles or historical summaries on a variety of topics to be included in MoDOT publications, and will conduct interviews for media release as needed. If you have questions relating to Missouri’s highway history or other Missouri transportation-related research topics, you can submit an inquiry through MoDOT’s internet at Ask MoDOT.

Tribal Consultations

Federal regulations require agencies to consult with federally-recognized American Indian Tribes and Nations for certain kinds of projects receiving federal funds or requiring environmental permits. Agency consultation with tribes is intended to facilitate avoiding or minimizing project impacts to cultural resources that a tribe considers of historical or religious significance. The kinds of projects that may require tribal consultation include large corridor environmental studies, projects affecting or located near significant prehistoric archaeological sites, and especially projects that may impact prehistoric human burials or mortuary sites.

Tribal Map
This useful map will aid in identifying in which counties tribes have requested to consult about proposed transportation projects and the age of archaeological remains tribes are concerned about.

FHWA and MoDOT have communicated with a large number of modern Indian Tribes and Nations with historical ties to Missouri to identify areas of tribal interest and concern. To date, 22 federally-recognized Indian Tribes have requested consultation about transportation projects in some portion of Missouri. These 22 groups include: Absentee-Shawnee Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, Caddo Nation of Oklahoma, Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Delaware Nation of Oklahoma, Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma, Kaw Indian Nation of Oklahoma, Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas, Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, Muscogee Creek Nation, Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and Iowa, Osage Nation, Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, Peoria Tribe of Oklahoma, Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, Quapaw Tribe of Indians, Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa, Sac and Fox Tribe of the Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska, Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma, and Wyandotte Nation.

Each tribe has identified specific counties in Missouri and the age of archaeological remains that they wish to consult about. The tribal responses are illustrated in the interactive Missouri county map. Scrolling to a county provides a list of specific tribes that have requested to consult about proposed transportation projects in that county and the age of archaeological remains that tribe is concerned about. Because federally-recognized tribes are legally considered independent and sovereign nations, tribal consultation is initiated by and conducted through the federal agency, which for MoDOT projects is usually the Missouri Division of the Federal Highway Administration. Additional information about tribal consultation can be obtained by contacting the MoDOT Historic Preservation section.