I. INTRODUCTION TO NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARKS
WHAT ARE NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARKS?
National Historic Landmarks (NHLs) are cultural properties designated
by the Secretary of the Interior as being nationally significant. Acknowledged
as among the nation's most significant historic places, these buildings,
sites, districts, structures, and objects possess exceptional value
or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United
States in history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture.
NHL designation is an official recognition by the federal government
of the national significance of historic properties. By 1999, almost
2300 properties had been designated as National Historic Landmarks.
Authorized by the Historic Sites Act of 1935 (Public Law 74-292) and
administered by the National Park Service, the NHL program focuses attention
on places of exceptional value to the nation as a whole, by recognizing
and promoting the preservation efforts of private organizations, individuals,
and government agencies. While some NHLs are units, or are included
within units of the National Park System, the NHL program is important
to the preservation of many outstanding historic places that are not
included in the National Park System. Designation of NHLs also furthers
the educational objective of the Historic Sites Act, because it leads
to increased public attention to and interest in a property. The program
also serves as one of the tools used to screen proposed additions to
the National Park System and to select properties for nomination to
the World Heritage List. Regulations for the program are contained in
36 CFR Part 65.
WHAT IS THE NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES?
designed this fifteen-story structure with its clearly defined base,
shaft and attic story. Completed in 1923, the tripartite vertical
arrangement was typical of tall building design at that time.
In addition to administering the National Historic Landmarks Program,
the National Park Service also administers the National Register of
Historic Places. The National Register is the official federal list
of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects significant
in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture.
National Register properties have significance to the history of their
community state, or the nation. Nominations for listing historic properties
come from State Historic Preservation Officers, from Federal Preservation
Officers for properties owned or controlled by the United States Government,
and from Tribal Historic Preservation Officers for properties on tribal
lands. Private individuals and organizations, local governments, and
American Indian tribes often
initiate this process and prepare the necessary documentation. A professional
review board in each state considers each property proposed for listing
and makes a recommendation on its eligibility. Upon designation, National
Historic Landmarks are listed in the National Register of Historic Places
if not already listed.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THIS BULLETIN?
This bulletin has been prepared in response to the growing interest
and appreciation of National Historic Landmarks. It contains instructions
for completing the National Historic Landmarks nomination form. This
form is used to document historic properties for potential designation
as National Historic Landmarks.
One nomination form is completed for each property nominated for designation.
This property may be a single resource, such as a historic house or
bridge, or it may be a historic district containing multiple buildings,
structures, sites, and objects. Information on the nomination form identifies,
locates, and describes the historic property in order to determine its
integrity; explains how the property meets one or more of the NHL criteria;
and makes the case for the national significance of the property.
A brief history of the NHL program; NHL theme studies and their use;
NHL designation procedures; preparing NHL boundary studies' NHL documentation
improvement studies, and studies to withdraw NHL designation; and using
NHL documentation are also discussed in this document.
HOW ARE POTENTIAL NHLs IDENTIFIED?
The NHL Survey requires a comparative framework for the determination
of national significance. National Historic Landmarks are most often
identified through "theme studies" which consider related properties
within a specific historic context. However, National Historic Landmarks
may also be identified through special studies of individual properties
which may be initiated by either the National Park Service or outside
parties. Nominations outside the context of theme studies need to establish
the properties' integrity and strength of historical associations in
relation to comparable properties within the content of the nomination.
The aspects of a NHL nomination that differ from a National Register
* National significance
* National context
* High level of integrity
* Different criteria
WHO PREPARES NHL NOMINATIONS?
NHL nominations are prepared by interested individuals, organizations,
contractors, State Historic Preservation Officers, Federal Preservation
Officers, and NPS staff, with the participation and assistance of the
owner(s) of the property. The NPS staff can provide information about
theme studies and other comparable properties that may be relevant in
the evaluation of particular properties and provide preliminary advice
on whether a property appears likely to meet NHL criteria. The NPS recommends
that those wishing to prepare a NHL nomination consult with the NHL
Survey to discuss the property before preparing, the nomination.
National Park Service
regional and support office staff who administer the NHL program
in their areas may also provide preliminary evaluations and assistance
in preparing NHL nominations. Preparers of nominations should also work
with property owners, the State Historic Preservation Officers, and
other interested parties to apprise them of the intended nomination
and to receive their input and assistance.
HOW ARE NHLs DESIGNATED?
Once a draft nomination is prepared, it may be reviewed by the NHL staff
of the NPS regional
and support offices, as well as the NHL Survey in Washington. Following
these reviews and any appropriate revisions, owners and elected officials
are officially and formally notified and given an opportunity to comment
on those nominations that are likely candidates for NHL designation.
(Owners of private property are given an opportunity to concur in, or
object to, designation. In the case of more than one owner, if a majority
of private property owners object, the Secretary of the Interior cannot
designate the property but can determine whether it is eligible for
designation.) The nominations are then forwarded to the National Park
System Advisory Board for review and recommendation to the Secretary
of the Interior. After considering the Board's recommendations, the
Secretary designates NHLs.
WHAT ARE THE NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARKS CRITERIA?
The National Historic Landmarks criteria (Code of Federal Regulations,
Title 36, Part 65.4[a and b]) set a stringent test for national significance,
including high historical integrity. Potential NHLs are evaluated against
the National Historic Landmarks criteria and their justification for
NHL designation must be documented in narrative form.
See Figure 1 for a complete listing of National Historic Landmarks
National Historic Landmarks Criteria
The quality of national significance is ascribed to districts,
sites, buildings, structures, and objects that possess exceptional
value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage
of the United States in history, architecture, archeology, engineering,
and culture and that possess a high degree of integrity of location,
design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association,
That are associated with events that have made a significant
contribution to, and are identified with, or that outstandingly
represent, the broad national patterns of United States history
and from which an understanding and appreciation of those patterns
may be gained; or
That are associated importantly with the lives of persons nationally
significant in the history of the United States; or
That represent some great idea or ideal of the American people;
That embody the distinguishing characteristics or an architectural
type specimen exceptionally valuable for the study of a period,
style, or method of construction, or that represent a significant,
distinctive, and exceptional entity whose components may lack
individual distinction; or
That are composed of integral parts of the environment not
sufficiently significant by reason of historical association
or artistic merit to warrant individual recognition but collectively
compose an entity or exceptional historical or artistic significance,
or outstandingly commemorate or illustrate a way of life or
That have yielded or may be likely to yield information of
major scientific importance by revealing new cultures, or by
shedding light upon periods of occupation of large areas of
the United States. Such sites are those which have yielded,
or which may reasonably be expected to yield, data affecting
theories, concepts, and ideas to a major degree.
Ordinarily, cemeteries, birthplaces, graves of historical figures,
properties owned by religious institutions or used for religious
purposes, structures have been moved from their original locations,
reconstructed historic buildings and properties that have achieved
significance within the past fifty years are not eligible for
designation. If such properties fall within the following categories
they may, nevertheless, be found to qualify:
A religious property deriving its primary national significance
from architectural or artistic distinction or historical importance;
a building removed from its original location but which is
nationally significant primarily for its architectural merit,
or for association with persons or events of transcendent importance
in the nation's history and the association consequential; or
A site of a building or structure no longer standing but the
person or event associated with it is of transcendent importance
in the nation's history and the association consequential; or
A birthplace, grave or burial if it is of a historical figure
of transcendent national significance and no other appropriate
site, building, or structure directly associated with the productive
life of that person exists; or
A cemetery that derives its primary national significance from
graves of persons of transcendent importance, or from an exceptionally
distinctive design or an exceptionally significant event; or
A reconstructed building or ensemble of buildings of extraordinary
national significance when accurately executed in a suitable
environment and presented in a dignified manner as part of a
restoration master plan, and when no other buildings or structures
with the same association have survived; or
A property primarily commemorative in intent if design, age,
tradition, or symbolic value has invested it with its own national
historical significance; or
A property achieving national significance within the past
50 years if it is of extraordinary national importance.