2023 marks an important anniversary for the Keystone Historic Preservation Grant Program. In honor of the 30th anniversary of this important program that provides public grants to our partners to support preservation to Pennsylvania’s history.

About the Keystone Fund

The Pennsylvania General Assembly established the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund in 1993 as a dedicated funding source for conservation, recreation and historic preservation projects throughout the commonwealth.

The Keystone Fund utilizes 15% of the state’s realty transfer tax as a permanent revenue stream for local community efforts to develop and care for parks, trails, open space, libraries, education and preservation projects.


The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission receives 13% of the annual allocation to support not only capital needs at the historic sites under its stewardship but also to provide public grants to support a variety of projects from our county, municipal and non-profit partners.

On this the 30th anniversary of the grant program, I took the opportunity to review the grant program’s community impact.  With the announcement of the state fiscal year’s 2022-2023 awards this past June, PHMC supported 950 projects totaling over $47 million public investment during these past 30 years.

The Past: Keystone over the decades

As part of my informal analysis, I looked back to the first year of the Keystone Historic Preservation Grant Program.  Thirty-two projects were funded that inaugural year with available grant funding of $1.4 million. I was not on staff with the PHMC in 1994 but I recognize many of these projects as ones that received later Keystone grants for either additional phases or for other buildings under their stewardship.

I am grateful to know that PHMC could assist places like Cliveden, Fallingwater, the Mercer Museum & Fonthill Castle and Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens with their ongoing capital needs that very first year.

I was surprised that the National Register-listed Hanover Junction Rail Station (1982RE00421) along the York County Heritage Rail Trail in North Codorus Township, York County also received funding that first year.

Large 3-story red building with white trim between rail tracks and a train and surrounded by grass.

Hanover Junction Railroad Station in 2013.

It brought back a lot of fine memories of my family riding bikes along the trail.  It is exciting to know that these organizations are still operating, sharing these historic places with visitors today.

I joined the staff of the PHMC in 2008 as manager of the Keystone Grant Program.  This position has afforded me a wonderful opportunity to experience Pennsylvania’s diverse history firsthand.  The most rewarding part of my position is speaking with museum professionals, caretakers, architects and passionate volunteers about how they share that history with their visitors.

I do believe that is the most important aspect of the grant program, the ability to preserve these important historic places so the public can experience that history as well.

Man standing in room in front of fireplace and surrounded by furniture and artwork.

Interior of Thunderbird Lodge (1983RE01392) in Rose Valley Borough, Delaware County.

I’ve shared a number of these past grant projects through our blog over the years.  I don’t necessarily have a favorite project over any of the others; however, I can honestly say that I learned something from every project and its team. I’ve been so fortunate to visit many of these projects: churches and synagogues, historic house museums, former industrial sites, theaters, county courthouses, and train stations.

Often, I saw firsthand the tremendous transformation of abandoned sites to community centers that are treasured.

Group of people standing on a sidewalk and on steps in front of a large church building.

Union Project’s Open House in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County in 2022.

The Present: Considering an Application to the Grant Program?

PHMC will again offer the Keystone Historic Preservation Grants in state fiscal year 2023-2024 to continue this monumental preservation grant program throughout the Commonwealth.

The application opened on December 1st in advance of March 1, 2024 deadline. Learn more about the eligibility information and guidelines here on the PHMC website. The grant program is open to nonprofit organizations and municipal governmental entities who own and operate historic sites that are eligible for listing in or listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Large white and blue sign in a grassy area in front of a one-story brick building where people are standing on ladders.

Mooncrest Elementary School (2022RE00407) in Moon Township, Allegheny County.

Tune in to our live webinar series for prospective applicants.

Construction grants: Those interested in capital (construction) projects should attend on Thursday, January 18, 2024 at 3:00 PM. Register here!

Planning grants: Those interested in the planning category grants should opt for the Friday, January 19, 2024 program, also at 3:00 PM. Register here!

The Future: Want to Help Direct the Grant Program in the Future?

The Keystone Historic Preservation Grant Program fulfills the goals and objectives of Pennsylvania’s Statewide Historic Preservation plan.  You may recall from this blog post that we launched the process for the commonwealth’s next statewide plan this fall.

We need your help! logo

We’re in Step 1 of the planning process and now soliciting input about the state of preservation in Pennsylvania to inform this next statewide preservation plan.  This is a great opportunity to share your thoughts on the direction of the Keystone grant program and inform this next plan.

The survey should only take 10 minutes, and your opinions are so important to the next 30 years of the grant program.  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PAPreservationPlan2024.

Here’s to 30 more years of Keystone Grants

Congratulations to all our past award recipients! I’m so honored to be a small part of the program and wish all our past, present and future grantees heartfelt thanks for their hard work in preserving and sharing Pennsylvania’s historic places.

I’ll leave you with a recent photograph that I took at a site visit at Andalusia (1966RE00039) Bensalem Township, Bucks County, earlier this year and was so pleased to find a similar photograph from a few years ago on an earlier visit.

Woman's face in frame with large building in the background.

Karen Arnold, Keystone Grants manager, at Andalusia in 2015.


Woman's face in frame with large building in the background.

Karen Arnold, Keystone Grants manager, at Andalusia in 2023.