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 National Register Bulletin How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation

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U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service

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IX. SUMMARY OF THE NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARKS CRITERIA FOR EVALUATION

A property being nominated to the National Register may also merit consideration for potential designation as a National Historic Landmark. Such consideration is dependent upon the stringent application of the following distinct set of criteria (found in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 36, Part 65).

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, and:

  1. 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

  2. That are associated importantly with the lives of persons nationally significant in the history of the United States; or

  3. That represent some great idea or ideal of the American people; or

  4. That embody the distinguishing characteristics of an architectural type specimen exceptionally valuable for a 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

  5. 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 of exceptional historical or artistic significance, or outstandingly commemorate or illustrate a way of life or culture; or

  6. 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 over 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.

National Historic Landmark Exclusions

Ordinarily, cemeteries, birthplaces, graves of historical figures, properties owned by religious institutions or used for religious purposes, structures that 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:

  1. A religious property deriving its primary national significance from architectural or artistic distinction or historical importance; or

  2. A building or structure 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

  3. A site of a building or structure no longer standing but the person or event associated with it is of transcendent importance in the nations's history and the association consequential; or

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. A property primarily commemorative in intent if design, age, tradition, or symbolic value has invested it with its own national historical significance; or

  8. A property achieving national significance within the past 50 years if it is of extraordinary national importance.

Comparing the National Historic Landmarks Criteria and the National Register Criteria

In general, the instructions for preparing a National Register nomination and the guidelines stated in this bulletin for applying the National Register Criteria also apply to Landmark nominations and the use of the Landmark criteria. While there are specific distinctions discussed below, Parts IV and V of this bulletin apply equally to National Register listings and Landmark nominations. That is, the categories of historic properties are defined the same way; historic contexts are identified similarly; and comparative evaluation is carried out on the same principles enumerated in Part V.

There are some differences between National Register and National Historic Landmarks Criteria. The following is an explanation of how each Landmark Criterion compares with its National Register Criteria counterpart:

Criterion l

This Criterion relates to National Register Criterion A. Both cover properties associated with events. The Landmark Criterion, however, requires that the events associated with the property be outstandingly represented by that property and that the property be related to the broad national patterns of U.S. history. Thus, the quality of the property to convey and interpret its meaning must be of a higher order and must relate to national themes rather than the narrower context of State or local themes.

Criterion 2

This Criterion relates to National Register Criterion B. Both cover properties associated with significant people. The Landmark Criterion differs in that it specifies that the association of a person to the property in question be an important one and that the person associated with the property be of national significance.

Criterion 3

This Criterion has no counterpart among the National Register Criteria. It is rarely, if ever, used alone. While not a landmark at present, the Liberty Bell is an object that might be considered under this Criterion. The application of this Criterion obviously requires the most careful scrutiny and would apply only in rare instances involving ideas and ideals of the highest order.

Criterion 4

This Criterion relates to National Register Criterion C. Its intent is to qualify exceptionally important works of architecture or collective elements of architecture extraordinarily significant as an ensemble, such as a historic district. Note that the language is more restrictive than that of the National Register Criterion in requiring that a candidate in architecture be "a specimen exceptionally valuable for the study of a period, style, or method of construction" rather than simply embodying distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction. With regard to historic districts, the Landmarks Criterion requires an entity that is distinctive and exceptional. Unlike National Register Criterion C, this Criterion will not qualify the works of a master, per se, but only such works which are exceptional or extraordinary. Artistic value is considered only in the context of history's judgement in order to avoid current conflicts of taste.

Criterion 5

This Criterion does not have a strict counterpart among the National Register Criteria. It may seem redundant of the latter part of Landmark Criterion 4. It is meant to cover collective entities such as Greenfield Village and historic districts like New Bedford, Massachusetts, which qualify for their collective association with a nationally significant event, movement, or broad pattern of national development.

Criterion 6

The National Register counterpart of this is Criterion D. Criterion 6 was developed specifically to recognize archeological sites. All such sites must address this Criterion. The following are the qualifications that distinguish this Criterion from its National Register counterpart: the information yielded or likely to be yielded must be of major scientific importance by revealing new cultures, or by shedding light upon periods of occupation over large areas of the United States. Such sites should be expected to yield data affecting theories, concepts, and ideas to a major degree.

The data recovered or expected to be recovered must make a major contribution to the existing corpus of information. Potentially recoverable data must be likely to revolutionize or substantially modify a major theme in history or prehistory, resolve a substantial historical or anthropological debate, or close a serious gap in a major theme of U. S. history or prehistory.

Exclusions and Exceptions to the Exclusions

This section of the National Historic Landmarks Criteria has its counterpart in the National Register's "Criteria Considerations." The most abundant difference between them is the addition of the qualifiers "national," "exceptional," or "extraordinary" before the word significance. Other than this, the following are the most notable distinctions:

Exclusion 2

Buildings moved from their original location, qualify only if one of two conditions are met: 1) the building is nationally significant for architecture, or 2) the persons or events with which they are associated are of transcendent national significance and the association is consequential.

Transcendent significance means an order of importance higher than that which would ordinarily qualify a person or event to be nationally significant. A consequential association is a relationship to a building that had an evident impact on events, rather than a connection that was incidental and passing.

Exclusion 3

This pertains to the site of a structure no longer standing. There is no counterpart to this exclusion in the National Register Criteria. In order for such a property to qualify for Landmark designation it must meet the second condition cited for Exclusion 2.

Exclusion 4

This exclusion relates to Criteria Consideration C of the National Register Criteria. The only difference is that a burial place qualifies for Landmark designation only if, in addition to other factors, the person buried is of transcendent national importance.


When evaluating properties at the national level for designation as a National Historic Landmark, please refer to the National Historic Landmarks outline, History and Prehistory in the National Park System and the National Historic Landmarks Program, 1987. For more information about the National Historic Landmarks program, please write to Department of the Interior, National Park Service, History Division, 1849 C St. NW, #2280, Washington, DC 20240.

 

 

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