The U.S. Constitution
Pittsylvania County Courthouse, Chatham, Virginia
(Photo by Marvin B. Scruggs, Chatham, VA)
On March 13, 1984, Chief Justice Warren Burger, Mr. Howard Westwood,
senior partner of the law firm of Covington and Burling, and Edwin C.
Bearss, Chief Historian of the National Park Service, met in Washington,
DC, to discuss a proposed National Historic Landmark Theme Study of the
Constitution of the United States as part of the commemoration of the
Bicentennial of the Constitution to be celebrated in 1987. At this
meeting the participants agreed that the purpose of the study was to
identify sites associated with the Supreme Court's landmark decisions
that have resulted in the growth of the Constitution and have had such a
tremendous effect on our Nation, particularly in defining the powers of
the branches of the federal government and the rights and
responsibilities of the states and the people. The study was also to
identify and recognize sites associated with the giants of the court.
At the suggestion of Chief Justice Burger, an additional meeting was
held with Dr. Mark W. Cannon, Administrative Assistant to the Chief
Justice, Dr. David O'Brien, Visiting Scholar at the court and Professor
at the University of Virginia, Dr. Maeva Marcus, editor of the
multi-volume documentary series on the early court, Mr. Jim
Charleton, National Park Service Historian, and Mr. Bearss, on March 30,
1984, to examine the proposed Constitution Theme Study in greater
At this meeting the participants recognized a number of potential
problems that confronted the study. These problems included:
(1) A wide diversity of opinion concerning what were the most
(2) The National Historic Landmark practice of excluding from
consideration events that have occurred within the past 50 years which
would rule out a number of significant cases.
(3) The fact that many sites potentially associated with significant
cases such as Ernesto Miranda's house in Phoenix, Arizona, Miranda v.
Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), have only marginal value as evidence
of significant aspects of those cases.
In order to begin the study and to resolve the issue of the selection
of the appropriate cases, Mr. William H. Allen of Covington and
Burling, and one time law clerk to Chief Justice Earl Warren, was asked
to prepare a list of cases for consideration in the theme study.
In his memorandum dated January 9, 1985, "Cases Construing the
Constitution," Mr. Allen recognized the following points:
(1) No selection of cases can possibly encompass the entire
(2) The selection of cases should not be dependent on the previous
identification of a site associated with the case or the survival of a
site known to be associated with a case.
(3) Cases such as Dred Scott v. Sandford, 19 Howard 393
(1857), while not significant to a lawyer, even as a step in the
historical development of doctrine, may be highly significant to an
(4) There should be no arbitrary temporal standards, but cases
decided within the last 10 to 30 years have to be considered with
special care before they are selected to be sure that the conclusions
drawn from these cases are not dated by changing case law and
perspective within the next few years.
In his memorandum Mr. Allen selected 123 cases that reflect a wide
body of opinion regarding what is significant. His criteria for
selection included the following:
(1) Cases that would be on everyone's list.
(2) Cases for which there is a large if not complete consensus in the
(3) Cases that illustrate a particular constitutional point.
(4) Cases that best represent a line of constitutional doctrine.
(5) Cases that are historically significant.
(6) Cases whose doctrinal future may be in doubt but which ruled for
a period of time.
(7) Cases that were significant but were subsequently overruled.
All of the cases suggested by Mr. Allen were examined as part of the
theme study and are addressed in the section of this report titled: SELECTED CONSTITUTIONAL DECISIONS AND OTHER
Pittsylvania County Courthouse, Chatham, Virginia
(Photo by Marvin B. Scruggs, Chatham, VA)
ADDITIONAL CASES AND SITES
In August 1985 I was assigned the Constitution Theme Study for
completion. After my review of Mr. Allen's list I decided to add a
number of cases that were of historical significance, although not
necessarily significant in terms of current case law. Some examples of
these cases are given below:
(1) Worcester v. Georgia, 6 Peters 515 (1832)
Marshall held that the Cherokee nation was a distinct political
community within which "the laws of Georgia can have no
(2) United States v. Gettysburg Electric Railway Company, 160
U.S. 668 (1896) Supreme Court affirmed the
constitutionality of acquiring private property for Gettysburg National
Park and established the principle that the preservation of nationally
important historic sites and buildings is a legitimate purpose of the
Government of the United States.
(3) Delima v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 1 (1901); Downes v.
Bidwell, 184 U.S. 244 (1901) Supreme Court held that
the Constitution protected the inhabitants of colonial territories in
their basic civil rights, but did not confer citizen ship on them.
(4) Northern Securities Company et al. v. United States 193
U.S 197 (1904) First action under the Sherman
Anti-Trust Act upheld by the Court. Created a moral climate that
permitted government to control the actions of business.
(5) Lane v. Wilson, 307 U.S. 268 (1939)
Oklahoma's law perpetually disenfranchising black voters who failed to
register between April 30, 1916, and May 11, 1916, is ruled
In addition to examining cases, I investigated sites associated with
the signers of the Constitution not already designated as National
Historic Landmarks, justices of the Supreme Court and other courts,
famous lawyers and scholars of the Constitution, and sites associated
with significant events in the history of the Constitution. A list of
these additional sites is contained in the section titled: SELECTED CONSTITUTIONAL DECISIONS AND OTHER
As a result of this effort I determined that 165 existing National
Historic Landmarks and units of the National Park System (NPSy) already
illustrate the history of the Constitution. These sites are described in
the section of this report titled: EXISTING
NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARKS AND UNITS OF THE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM (NPSy)
THAT REFLECT ONE OR MORE AREAS OF CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY.
For the 155 new cases and sites examined I discovered the
Many famous cases are represented today by no surviving property.
Examples of this class include:
Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge, 11 Peters 420
(1837) Court ruled that grants by state legislatures may
not be construed as exclusive unless they specifically state so. (Both
of these bridges are no longer extant.)
In some cases the primary property associated with the facts of the
case was no longer extant but an existing National Historic Landmark
could represent the case.
McCullough v. Maryland, 4 Wheaton 316 (1819) Congress
has the power, as necessary and proper to carry out its express powers,
to incorporate the Bank of the United States.
(a) The Baltimore Branch of the Second Bank of the United States
occupied the second floor of a two-story building in the historic
financial and business center of Baltimore. Its precise address is
unknown. Since this area was leveled by a fire in 1904 it is unlikely
that the building survives. A search of the records of the Maryland
Historical Trust and the Baltimore Commission for Historical and
Architectural Preservation failed to yield any information about this
(b) Andalusia (Nicholas Biddle Estate), 1.4 miles north of
Philadelphia on State Road, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, 1794; 1834
Thomas U. Walter Residence of Nicholas Biddle, head of
the Second Bank of the United States, famous as President Jackson's
opponent in the struggle to recharter the Bank. To the original house,
whose north front is an outstanding example of the Regency style in the
U.S., he added a wing modeled on Greek temples. (National Historic
Many cases have surviving property associated with the facts of the
case but the property no longer possesses sufficient integrity to
Crandall v. Nevada, 6 Wallace 35 (1867)
Capitation tax on interstate passengers is ruled unconstitutional.
St. Charles HotelMuller's Hotel (Pony Express Hotel), South
Carson Street, Carson City, Nevada (National Register Property).
The St. Charles Hotel housed the Pioneer Stage Coach Company. Mr.
Crandall worked for the Pioneer Stage Coach Company and had his office
in the building. The property has been severely mutilated over the years
and lacks integrity. Alterations include but are not limited to the
following: removal of the one-story porch, alteration of the sills of
the second floor windows, application of stucco in 1930 and removal of
stucco by sandblasting resulting in damage to softer brick exterior,
removal of cornices, placement of a two-story, brick, shed-roofed
addition to the rear, placement of a one-story concrete addition to
two-story addition, and the alteration of the interior spaces of the
lobby. (No integrity.)
In some cases I was able to determine the appropriate site associated
with the facts of the case but was not able to determine the location or
survival of the structure.
Pollock v. Farmer's Loan & Trust Co., 157 U.S. 429, 158
U.S. 601 (1895) Income tax is ruled unconstitutional as a
direct tax, not apportioned among the states by population, insofar as
it reaches income from real or personal property.
(a) Charles Pollock 's Home, Boston, Massachusetts. (Unable to
(b) Farmers Loan and Trust Company, New York City. (Unable to
Some cases have surviving property but it was not practical to
nominate this property for designation as a National Historic
Fletcher v. Peck, 6 Cranch 87 (1810) The courts,
and particularly the United States Supreme Court, in the exercise of
their power and duty to apply the governing law, may declare state
This case involved the disputed sale of 15,000 acres of land within
a larger 500,000-acre tract. The location of this land is as follows:
Mississippi River, where latitude 32 degrees 40 minutes north of the
equator intersects same, running thence along the same parallel of
latitude a due east course to the Tombigbee River, thence up the said
Tombigbee to where the latitude of 32 degrees 43 minutes 52 seconds
intersects the same, thence along the same parallel of latitude a due
west course to the Mississippi; thence down the said river, to the place
of beginning. (Site not appropriate for designation.)
Some cases had surviving property but this property was not
sufficiently associated with the facts of the case to warrant
Home Bldg. & Loan Ass'n v. Blaisdell, 290 U.S. 398
(1934) The contract clause does not invalidate a state
mortgage moratorium law relieving homeowners of the threat of
Vacant lot in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Lot Eight (8), Block Twenty
(20), Wilson, Bill & Wagners addition to Minneapolis. (Property is
not meaningful to the facts of the case.)
Some cases were already represented by existing National Historic
Ex parte Milligan, Wallace 2 (1866) Martial law
may not be constitutionally imposed where civil courts are open.
(1) Davis (David) House, 1000 E. Monroe Street, Bloomington,
Illinois2-story Italian Villa-style brick
mansion built for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court David Davis. He
wrote the majority opinion in Ex parte Milligan (1866),
restricting the right of military courts to try civilians. (National
(2) Garfield (James A.) Home (Lawnfield), 1059 Mentor Avenue, Mentor,
Ohio Garfield represented Milligan in his defense before
the Supreme Court in 1866. (National Historic Landmark and National
There were some cases that exhibited a combination of some or all of
the above situations.
Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 4 Wheaton 518
(1819) The contract clause bars legislative impairment of
(1) WoodwardLord House, 16 North Park Street, Hanover, New
Hampshire The Woodward-Lord House was built in 1802
by William H. Woodward, a lawyer and grandson of Eleazar Wheelock (the
first President of Dartmouth College), in anticipation of his marriage.
Woodward was both the secretary and treasurer of Dartmouth College and
a participant in the Dartmouth College Case. Woodward died in 1818,
before the resolution of the case. According to tradition the house was
the meeting place on at least one occasion of the Board of Trustees of
Dartmouth University. A search of records at Dartmouth College failed to
yield any documentation to support this claim.
After the death of William Woodward his widow sold the house (1830)
to Nathan Lord, President of Dartmouth College. In 1894 the house was
sold to Dartmouth College for use as college administrative offices.
Between 1911 and 1920 the house was empty. In 1920 the
Woodward-Lord House was moved from its original location on the
Dartmouth Mall to 41 College Street in Hanover. In 1927 the house was
sold to Professor Arthur Fairbanks whose wife was the granddaughter of
President Lord. In 1944 Mary Fairbanks (daughter of Arthur Fairbanks)
gave the house to the college. In the 1960s the house was moved to its
present location at 16 North Park Street. Over the years the Woodward
Lord House has been completely remodeled and changed to meet the needs
of its various owners. These changes include the enlargement of the
entranceway into the living room, the attachment of an ell at the rear
of the house for use as a kitchen, the cutting of a door in the back
wall to service the ell, addition of other doors and windows on the
first floor not original to the house, subdivision of the second floor
bedrooms with the addition of additional bedrooms, closets and
bathrooms, addition of a classic style front porch, and the removal of
original closets on both the first and second floors. The house is
currently used for foreign student housing. (Moved; no integrity.)
(2) Dartmouth Hall, on the Dartmouth College Green, Hanover, New
Hampshire- Dartmouth Hall is the replacement for the original Dartmouth
Hall that burned in 1904. The original Dartmouth Hall was constructed
from wood and is believed to have been designed by Bezaleel Woodward
with the aid of plans by local carpenters. Dartmouth Hall burned again
in 1935. With the exception of the use of brick rather than wood, and
slightly wider proportions, and window details, the exterior is almost
an exact copy of the original. The floor plan has been radically changed
with a large lecture hall replacing the original two-story chapel.
(3) Webster Cottage, 32 North Main Street, Hanover, New
Hampshire The Webster Cottage was originally situated at
the southeast corner of North Main Street and Webster Avenue. It was
moved to Kiewit Street in 1928 and to its present location on North Main
Street in 1967. Daniel Webster rented a room at the cottage between 1800
and 1801 while an undergraduate at Dartmouth College. A vestibule was
added to the cottage sometime in the nineteenth century. The structure
now serves as a house museum for the Hanover Historical Society.
(Moved; not sufficiently associated with the facts of the case.)
(4) Wheelock House, 4 West Wheelock Street, Hanover, New
Hampshire The Wheelock House was built in 1773 by
President Eleazar Wheelock as his residence. After Eleazar Wheelock's
death in 1779 the house passed to his son John, the new President of
Dartmouth College. John Wheelock lived in the house until his death in
1817. Between 1837 and 1838 the Wheelock House was moved from its
original location on East Wheelock Street to make way for the
construction of Reed Hall. After 1846 the original gambrel roof was
changed to the present steep A-roof, the entry was fancied up, and
a side porch was added. In 1900 the house was extensively remodeled and
used as the town library for Hanover. In 1912 brick library stacks were
added to the rear.
The Wheelock House is now owned by the Institute of Current World
Affairs and the interior spaces have been remodeled for office use.
(Moved; no integrity; not sufficiently associated with the facts of the
(5) Webster (Daniel) Family Home (The Elms), S. Main Street, W.
Franklin, New Hampshire Used by Daniel Webster as a home,
vacation retreat, and experimental farm. Gravesites of his parents and
four brothers and sisters are located here. (National Historic
There were some cases that upon review did not meet the test of
national significance or were too recent to determine national
Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1878)
Federal law making bigamy a crime in the territories may be applied to a
Mormon claiming polygamy is a religious duty. (Not believed to be
Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1 (1964) Art. I,
Sec. 2, required that congressional districts be equal in population.
(Too recent to determine national significance.)
Finally, there were those cases that were found to be too recent to
determine national significance but should be reexamined in the future
when the passage of time will permit a more realistic assessment of
Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961) The exclusionary
rule is applicable to the states.
Dollree Mapp House, 14705 Milverton Road, Cleveland, Ohio
Too recent to determine national significance. Should be reexamined
in the future.
In addition to cases, other classes of sites were examined. Examples
1. Constitutional sites not related to specific cases.
(a) Supreme Court Building, 1 First Street, NW, Washington, DC
(Recommended for designation.)
(b) First Bank of the United States, Third Street, Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania (Recommended for designation.)
(c) Second Bank of the United States, Chestnut Street, Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania (Recommended for designation.)
(d) Blennerhassett Island, in Ohio River between Ohio and West
VirginiaBlennerhassett Island is the site of the Aaron
Burr Conspiracy in 1806. Aaron Burr and Harman Blennerhassett used the
island to stage a private military operation down the Mississippi for
private gain. Burr was charged with treason for his role in this
conspiracy and brought to trial in federal circuit court in Richmond,
Va., where John Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States, presided.
Burr was eventually acquitted for the case against him did not meet the
terms of the Constitution's definition of treason. The island has
shifted in the years since 1806 and has no integrity.
2. First Ratification of the U.S. Constitution
Old State House, Dover, Delaware The Old State House was
constructed from 1787 to 1792 on or near the site of the actual
ratification of the Constitution by the State of Delaware on December 7,
1787. The actual location of the ratification site is uncertain.
(National Register Property.)
3. Ratification of the U.S. Constitution by New Hampshire
(a) North Meeting House, Concord, New Hampshire This was the
site of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution by New Hampshire on
June 18, 1788. The North Meeting House burned in 1870.
3. John Marshall Harlan, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court,
(b) Timothy Walker House and Store, 225 North Main Street, Concord,
New Hampshire A search of the secondary literature has failed to
document any connection between this structure and the ratification of
the U.S. Constitution by New Hampshire. This may be the site of the
first meeting of the state legislature of New Hampshire on March 13,
Another category of sites examined involved individuals who were
either signers of the Constitution or who attended the Constitutional
Convention. All of these sites had previously been considered for
National Historic Landmark designation and had either been rejected or
deferred. No new landmarks are recommended from this list. Some examples
(a) Richard BassettSigner of the Constitution
438 State Street, Dover, Delaware.
(b) John BlairSigner of the Constitution and Associate
Justice of the Supreme Court 1789-96.
John Blair House, Duke of Gloucester Street near Nassau Street,
Finally, sites associated with famous individuals associated with the
Supreme Court or the Constitution were examined. Some examples
1. Morrison R. Waite, Chief Justice of the United States,
(a) 1415 I Street, Washington, DC. (Demolished.)
(b) 27 Lyme Street, Lyme, Connecticut. (Birthplace.)
I was unable to locate any surviving property from Toledo, Ohio,
where Waite practiced law prior to 1874. I was not able to determine how
long Waite lived at 27 Lyme Street. This house is listed on the National
Register of Historic Places as part of the Old Lyme Historic District.
There is no discussion of Waite or his association with the house in the
National Register Form. The Old Lyme Historic District is listed as
significant in the areas of Art and Architecture.
2. Judge Learned Hand, Federal Court of Appeals for the Second
Townhouse, 142 E. 65th Street, New York, New York. (Demolished.)
3. John Marshall Harlan, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court,
(a) Harlan's Station (James Harlan Stone House), Salt River Road, 5
miles west of Danville, Boyle County, Kentucky. (Birthplace ruins.)
(b) John Marshall Harlan House, 14th and Euclid Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC. (Demolished.)
4. Melville W. Fuller, Chief Justice of the United States,
Bacon House, 1801 F Street, Washington, DC. (No integrity.)
5. Roger B. Taney, Chief Justice of the United States,
(a) Taney Place, Calvert County, Maryland The owner of this
property is opposed to National Historic Landmark designation.
(b) 123 South Bentz Street, Frederick, Maryland This property
has no important association with Taney. He never lived here but owned
the house at one time.
The Constitution National Historic Landmark Theme Study is organized
into three sections. The first section contains the introductory essay
and includes the result of the survey of 155 cases/sites studied in this
effort. The second section contains the nominations of the five
properties recommended for designation as a result of this search. These
five properties are: The Supreme Court Building, Washington, DC; The
First Bank of the United States, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; The Second
Bank of the United States, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; The Sumner
Elementary School, Topeka, Kansas; and The Pittsylvania County Court
house, Chatham, Virginia. The third section contains a list of 165
existing National Historic Landmarks and units of the National Park
System (NPSy) that are significant in one or more areas of the history
of the Constitution. As a result of this survey virtually all sites
related to the Constitution have been either identified, nominated, or
excluded for some reason.