Happy New Year!  As much as I would like to count 2021 as a fresh start and forget all about 2020, I first must share how impressed I am with the resilience of our museum and preservation community and its innovation to engage with the public at large. 

I appreciated the distraction from the 24-hour news cycles that our partners provided in their feed.  I loved the virtual content about historic sites and their collections that I might never have found on my own. 

Thank you for all your hard work and stewardship of our heritage during a difficult time! 

Starting the New Year

So as the calendar flips forward, so too should the planning for capital projects at your treasured historic site. 

If your staff and volunteers have new year resolutions, the Keystone program can tick those items right off the list.  Is the bridge superstructure racking and need the attention of an architect to evaluate the cause?  Does your community want to inventory its historic buildings and sites or prepare design guidelines to support its local historic district? 

Wooden covered bridge surrounded by lawn and trees.
South Perkasie Covered Bridge, Lake Lenape Park, Bucks County, Photo by Perkasie Borough.

It is a new year – a perfect time to plan those tasks. To ensure your resolution gets off on the right foot, I’ve compiled a list of resources and helpful hints for this new application round. 


Your first stop should be the introductory video that discusses the basic eligibility requirements of the program.  It is the best place to start to see if your organization or entity meets the eligibility requirements. 

Contact PA SHPO staff to discuss your project

PA SHPO staff is always happy to discuss your project. 

Both Grant Staff and the Community Preservation Coordinators are able to discuss the program guidelines and requirements of the Keystone Program.  The staff can discuss the funding priorities of the Commission and how your project may be able to enhance initiatives outlined in the current statewide Preservation Plan.  Read the plan here on our website.

Also, all Keystone grant projects must enhance a property that is eligible for or listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  Please don’t assume that because the property is a locally recognized historic site that it has been documented for the purpose of the National Register Program.

Our National Register Coordinators can confirm the status of the resource and provide the property’s unique six-digit key number, needed for the application.  If the National Register status isn’t known, there is plenty of time to prepare the documentation and request a determination of eligibility. 

Remember, it is PA SHPO policy to re-evaluate properties if a determination was made more than 5 years ago.  Staff may request current photographs to confirm that the condition has not changed since its last evaluation; however, sometimes a more thorough context or history must be developed if documentation does not meet current standards.

Discuss your project with a preservation professional

Your historic building is the most important part of your collection and as such, it deserves to be evaluated and carefully studied.

Many selected projects already completed the crucial preservation planning long before applying for a Keystone grant.  A thorough assessment of the site will frame not only the project’s scope but also long-term preservation goals for the property or community.

Group of people standing and listening to man pointing at stone building.
Rose Valley Centennial Foundation’s Project Team discussing masonry issues at Thunderbird Lodge, Rose Valley, Delaware County. Photo by Cory Kegerise, PHMC staff visit on 31 July 2019.

Projects that are well planned and include realistic budget numbers are generally better received by the grant review panel than those applications that are not fully formed. Applicants are welcome to attach estimates to demonstrate that they have fully planned their project.

Make sure your contractor is aware that Keystone program is state funding and construction projects require consideration under the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act. 

Secure your Matching Funds!

Both Keystone Historic Preservation Planning and Construction grants require a 50/50 CASH match.

Although applicants do not need to have their match secured at the application phase, the grant review panel does factor cash in hand or the fundraising plan in their recommendations for funding.


Photographs are the best way to describe the condition of the property. Please include an overall view of main elevation and setting, but don’t forget detailed views that really substantiate your case.

Wood church building
Old Lutheran Church, City of Franklin, Venango County. Photo by Historic Franklin Preservation Association.
Detail of wood siding.
Detail, Old Lutheran Church, City of Franklin, Venango County. Photo by Historic Franklin Preservation Association.
Letters of Support

PHMC’s Grant Review panel reviews support letters to gauge the community impact of the organization or resource. Start thinking now of who can best articulate that.

PHMC encourages you to reach out to your elected officials so they know the good work that happens in their district. Their letters of support are important but local letters demonstrate broad community interest in your resource and programming. Look for impartial members of the community who do not receive a direct personal benefit to lend their support to your project. 

PA SHPO also provides extra consideration for projects supported by Pennsylvania’s Certified Local Governments that further their preservation goals. 

If you are located within the boundaries of one of the 45 communities participating in the program, reach out to the municipal contact to get their support.

What’s Next

PASHPO will host separate webinars on the two categories of the grant program in early January.  You can register for either webinar at the links below.

Construction Category

January 12 at 10 AM https://keystone_construction_grant_webinar_2021.eventbrite.com

Planning Category

January 13 at 10 AM https://keystone_planning_grant_webinar_2021.eventbrite.com

Application Deadline

The deadline for applications for fiscal year 2020-2021 is Monday, March 1, 2021.  Guidelines and application process can be found on the grants and funding pages of PHMC website.

Good luck on your New Resolutions and I wish you a heartfelt Happy New Year.