The State Historical Resources Commission had its origin in the efforts of private groups and individuals to identify and preserve the physical reminders of California's past.

1850  The Society of California Pioneers was founded to preserve records of early California.

1871 The California Historical Society was first established.

1875  The Society of the Native Sons of the Golden West was organized "to perpetuate memories of the Days of ’49." Native Sons sponsor local history programs and research, purchase and maintain historic buildings and sites, and have been responsible for the placement of more than 500 historical markers and monuments around the state. Native Daughters of the Golden West was founded in 1886.

1889  The Association for Preservation of Missions was founded in Los Angeles. Its demise was followed by the founding in 1895 of the Landmarks Club of Southern California, under the leadership of Charles F. Lummis.

1902  Native Sons established a Historic Landmarks Committee to survey state buildings and develop restoration and preservation plans and priorities. That same year, a coalition of members of various preservation-minded groups form the California Historic Landmarks League. The League’s goals included the preservation and maintenance of structures, monuments and sites of "historic interest for their association with the early Spanish settlers, the American occupation, or the California pioneers, and the placement of monuments and plaques to commemorate historical places and events."

1915  The State Legislature established the Historical Survey Commission at the University of California in Berkeley for the purposes of evaluating preservation proposals and producing monographs on historic sites.

1923  The Historical Survey Commission was replaced by the California State Historical Association, a coalition of historical societies from around the state.

1927 The State Legislature established a State Parks Commission and contracted with Frederick Law Olmstead to survey the state’s scenic and recreational sources and make recommendations for new park acquisitions. By 1937, there were 14 historic parks units.

1931 The passage of Assembly Bill 171 authorized the Department of Natural Resources to establish a California Historical Landmark Registration Program providing for the designation of privately and publicly-owned properties. The State Chamber of Commerce was delegated the responsibility of establishing a committee of historians to review landmark applications and make designation recommendations to the State Park Commission. From 1931 to 1949, the State Highway Commission was responsible for erecting highway signs and bronze historical markers; the signs were furnished by the California State Automobile Association and the Automobile Club of Southern California.

1949 The State Legislature established the Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee, comprised of seven members appointed by the Governor, to evaluate and designate historic buildings, structure, and sites. The first meeting was held March 14, 1952.

1965 The State Legislature gave the Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee responsibility for evaluating applications for California Points of Historical Interest, a new program.

1966  The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) created the National Historic Preservation Program, requiring each state to establish a State Historic Commission and a State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) in order to receive funding under the act.

1969  The State Legislature amended previous legislation to bring the Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee into conformance with federal standards. The Committee became responsible for recommending nominations to the National Register of Historic Places.

1972   As a result of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the California History Preservation Section was established in the Department of Parks and Recreation to administer the federal historic preservation program.

1974  The State Legislature changed the name of the Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to the State Historical Resources Commission.

1975  The Office of Historic Preservation was established by the Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

1984  State law passed which required that the Commission consist of nine members who are recognized professionals in the disciplines of history, pre-historic archeology, historic archaeology, architectural history, architecture, and ethnic history; one member to be knowledgeable in folklife, and two members to represent the general public.

1992  The California Register of Historical Resources was created by the State Legislature as an "authoritative guide" to be used "to identify the state’s historical resources and to indicate what properties are to be protected, to the extent prudent and feasible, from substantial adverse change." The State Historical Resources Commission was tasked with administrative oversight of the California Register.