Obtaining A State Historical Marker

Unlike many other states, New York State does not currently manage a historical marker program. Instead, local authorities are responsible for the approval, installation, and maintenance of historical markers. Anyone interested in placing or repairing a marker should thus check with appropriate county, city, town, or village historians or officials.

Local historians and others often work with the private William G. Pomeroy Foundation (http://www.wgpfoundation.org/(link is external)) to secure funding support for markers.

Marker Listings 

The Association of Public Historians of New York State (APHNYS) is currently working on creating a comprehensive list of historical markers across New York State.  Information on their project and a working list of markers that they have can be found at http://www.aphnys.org/historical-markers-resources/(link is external)


Original paper files documenting the State Education Department's management of the 1926-39 marker program contain original applications, maintenance records, and correspondence. Researchers seeking access to these files should contact the New York State Archives, Cultural Education Center, Room 11A42, Albany, NY 12230; e-mail archref@nysed.gov(link sends e-mail); phone (518) 474 8955; website http://www.archives.nysed.gov.

Maintenance and Replacement

Local authorities maintain, repair, and replace historical markers often in cooperation with local historical groups and volunteers. Anyone interested in assisting with the repainting, repair, or replacement of a marker should contact the appropriate county, city, town, or village historian (see http://www.aphnys.org/find-an-histrorian(link is external)). Likewise, anyone wishing to report a missing or damaged historical marker should contact the appropriate local historian.

Guidelines for Maintenance:

The original State historic signs were made of cast iron and if not regularly repainted begin to deteriorate. Many need only a fresh coat of paint to be restored to their original condition. Others may be so rusted or damaged as to require substantial restoration and repair.

Funding for maintenance of State Historic Markers was not provided in the original legislation, which expired decades ago. Traditionally landowners on whose property markers stand have maintained them. Sometimes local civic or historic organizations have taken this on as a public service project. But increasingly there is interest in restoring individual markers that have not been included in these projects in the past.

If you are interested in undertaking such a project, you should first confirm that the marker is one under our jurisdiction. State funded historic site markers will always have a state agency identification line at the bottom, usually "State Education Department." If the marker does not carry a state agency identification, it may have been erected with private funds and therefore does not come under state jurisdiction. You need the permission of the funding organization to undertake restoration on such privately funded markers.

If it is determined that the marker you wish to restore is state property, you should first check with the landowner to obtain permission to restore the marker. Even though the marker itself is state property, the landowner has rights to be respected in terms of access to the marker and work undertaken on it if it stands on private property. It may not be clear on whose property the marker stands and you may need to check property maps or consult your local government records to confirm ownership. Many markers that appear to be on private roadside land are actually on state highway rights of way, while some that appear to be on state highway lands may actually stand on private or municipal property adjacent to the road.

Repainting is usually all that is required for restoration purposes. When restoring the blue and gold state colors, you may use standard Rustoleum® colors for gloss finishes on exterior metals as follows: "#7727 Royal Blue" and "#7747 Sunburst Yellow". You may also use other commercial rustproofing paints in colors that match or approximate the original state colors on the sign.

If there is very little rust on the marker, just wire brush the surface lightly to remove dirt and rust flakes, then paint the background blue color over the entire marker and let dry. Using a small brush or foam pad, paint on the yellow lettering. It works best to paint gently across the individual raised letters from one side and then the other without touching the background directly. Sometimes a small roller can accomplish this if it is not too soft and thick.

If the marker is more severely rusted, use a wire brush or brush attachment for an electric drill to thoroughly clean off all loose particles. Wear safety glasses for all this work. Then prime the entire sign with rustproofing primer, over which the final coats can be applied as above.

We do not recommend removing the marker from its post for restoration as they are extremely heavy and there is a risk of personal injury or damage to the sign. You may approach your local highway department to undertake this work as a community service, and they may opt to remove the sign for restoration in their shops.

If a marker is broken or otherwise damaged, a skilled welder may be able to repair the breaks or craft braces to hold the pieces together.

In some cases it may be impossible to repair the damage. If so, replacements can be cast by the same foundry that made the original. However, markers are now cast in aluminum and cost over $500 each.