National Historic Landmarks
While there are many historic sites across the nation, only a small number have significance for all Americans for their outstanding ability to tell the stories of our nation’s history and development. There are fewer than 2,500 National Historic Landmarks (NHL) located throughout the 50 United States and her territories. Of these, almost half are located in the Northeast Region, from Maine to Virginia.
NHLs range from buildings to battleships to burial mounds. These rare and wonderful treasures have been recognized by the federal government for their “exceptional value or quality in illustrating and interpreting the heritage of the United States.” Designation by the Secretary of the Interior and national recognition encourages owners to protect and preserve their properties, which serve as an irreplaceable legacy for us and future generations.
The National Historic Landmarks Program draws upon the expertise of National Park Service staff who work with organizations, private citizens and owners to nominate new landmarks and provide assistance to preserve existing landmarks.
National Historic Landmarks highlight the diversity of our region
The more than 1,100 National Historic Landmarks in the Northeast Region represent a broad cross-section of our national heritage. They include archaeological sites that pre-date European settlement and sites related to U.S. presidents, such as Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home in Virginia. NHLs also include historic vessels such as the U.S.S. Constitution or “Old Ironsides,” undefeated in combat and the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat. There are NHLs related to abolition (such as the African Meeting House in Boston), women’s rights (Susan B. Anthony’s home in New York), school desegregation (Moton High School in Virginia), and gay and lesbian civil rights (Stonewall in New York). Modernist masterpieces recently designated as NHLs include Frank Lloyd Wright’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright became a National Historic Landmark in 2008, recognized as an icon of mid-20th century modern architecture and the pinnacle of Wright’s long and influential career.
The National Historic Landmark Process
National Historic Landmark nominations are researched and prepared by federal agencies, State Historic Preservation Officers, organizations, and by private individuals. After making an initial inquiry to the National Park Service to discuss the site’s potential for national designation, a nomination form is carefully researched and submitted. The historic importance of these potential Landmarks is evaluated by the National Park Service and the National Park Service Advisory Board twice yearly at public meetings. The Advisory Board sends its recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior, who makes the final decisions. The entire process may take up to three years.
Want more information? Below are frequently asked questions with links to additional resources.
What’s the difference between being on the National Register of Historic Places and being a National Historic Landmark?
There are more than 85,000 listings on the National Register of Historic Places that give special recognition to historic buildings, structures, sites, objects, and districts with significance at the local or state level. There are fewer than 2,500 National Historic Landmarks. Designation as an NHL conveys “exceptional value or quality in illustrating and interpreting the heritage of the United States.”
Does National Historic Landmark status mean a building can’t be demolished?
A private property listed as a National Historic Landmark or on the National Register does not prohibit under federal law or regulations any actions which may otherwise be taken by the property owner with respect to the property – including demolition. The National Park Service may recommend to owners various preservation actions, but owners are not obligated to carry out these recommendations. They are free to make whatever changes they wish if federal funding, licensing or permits are not involved. (For more information about Section 106 Review related to projects using federal funds, click here.) Owners should keep in mind that state laws or local ordinances may affect NHLs if these legal mechanisms recognize and protect Landmarks, independent of federal law.
Where can I find more information about nominating a property as a National Historic Landmark?
In the past, professionals were often hired to prepare nominations, but they are increasingly submitted by private individuals who are passionate about a significant landmark in their community. For anyone needing assistance in understanding the process, guidelines and instructions for preparing a NHL nomination are available here.
Coming soon: A helpful webinar will walk you through the entire process. Check back in Winter 2011
Also of use:
Overview of the National Historic Landmark Program
Database of National Historic Landmarks nationwide
Database of completed/approved National Register and National Historic Landmark nominations
If you still have questions, you can contact your State Historic Preservation Office or contact the Northeast Region’s NHL staff via the NHL Teleline at 215/597-1578 or email NER_NHL@nps.gov
What assistance is available?
Assistance to National Historic Landmarks includes forums for communication with NHL owners, managers and friends, technical publications and information about federal assistance for which NHLs may qualify. Recognition as an NHL signifies the historic importance of the property when applying for grant funding.
NHLs qualify for Save America’s Treasures grants and the federal tax credit program.
National Historic Landmarks Program - national web site
- There are fewer than 2,500 NHLs Nationwide
- Over 1,100 are in the Northeast
What is an NHL?
National Historic Landmarks Program/National overview
Find an NHL/NHL Database
Find an NHL nomination
Find your State Historic Preservation Office
Enter or view winning images from the annual NHL photo contest
For more information contact:
Northeast Region National Historic Landmark Program
Landmark Stewards Newsletter Archive