Skip to main content

Flood Risk and Historic Buildings

The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO or division for Historic Preservation) is committed to assisting with preparation and recovery from flooding involving historic buildings and sites. In recent years tropical storms, flooding, landslides, and other natural disasters have inflicted enormous suffering and property damage across Vermont. The Vermont SHPO offers the following information sheets to assist property owners of older and historic properties in preparing and recovering from a natural disaster.

Is My Property Historic?

Use this form to request verification of your property's historic status.

Guidance for Preparedness and Response

The National Park Service has compiled Guidelines on Flood Adaptation for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings, information guidance about how to prepare historic buildings to be more resilient to flooding risk in a manner that will preserve their historic character. The guidelines should be used in conjunction with the Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings, ensuring projects meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. The treatments range from minimal effects on the historic character of a property to more challenging changes than would normally be acceptable in other contexts. Consequently, such treatments would not generally be appropriate to use in the majority of rehabilitation projects when flooding is not a risk. For more information please visit the Technical Preservation Services of the National Park Service.

FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program

Some communities throughout the state include historic districts and buildings. For these historic assets it is particularly important that their risk is not increased by any further loss of existing natural flood protection in the watershed.

The National Flood Insurance Program gives special consideration to historic properties:

  1. A designated historic structure does not have to meet the floodplain management requirements of the program as long as it maintains its historic structure designation; and
  2. A designated historic structure can obtain the benefit of subsidized flood insurance through the NFIP even if it has been substantially improved or substantially damaged so long as the building maintains its historic designation.

Many older and historic buildings have a basement of some type. Basements add a great deal to the cost of flood insurance because they can collect flood water and because the basement floor counts as the bottom floor for insurance rating. In some buildings it may be possible to fill in the basement and make it into a flood-compliant crawlspace without violating the historic qualities of the structure or the district. It may even be possible to elevate the walk-in level without losing the historic significance of the structure or degrading its contribution to the district.

If your vulnerable settlement includes historic buildings, it would be best to talk this through as a community before a crisis. Become familiar with methods to reduce flood damage in ways that are most compatible with preserving your historic resources. In some places it may help to have a qualified historic preservationist examine the structure to provide guidance on compatible options. This learning process can inform your community plans, regulatory process and help the owners of buildings act in a timely way. For more information, please send an email to

Guidance and Flood Disaster Procedures from other State Agencies and Partners