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Learn How to Nominate a Property for NHL Designation
|Please note: You must contact us before beginning a nomination.
We will not consider the nomination if you do not contact us in advance.
We suggest that you begin by reading our Learn section to get an overview of the program. This page provides a summary of the nomination process. Subsequent sections discuss each phase of the nomination process in detail.
Please click on the questions below to learn more.
What is a National Historic Landmark?
National Historic Landmarks are historic properties that illustrate the heritage of the United States. Today, just over 2,500 historic places bear this national distinction.
- be a location with the strongest association with a turning point or significant event in our nation's history.
- be the best location to tell the story of an individual who played a significant role in the history of our nation.
- be an exceptional representation of a particular building type, a building or engineering method/ technique, or an outstanding work of a nationally significant architect or engineer.
- provide the potential to yield new and innovative information about the past through archeology.
The National Historic Landmarks Program is a Federal designation program.
What is the purpose of NHL designation?
Designation as a National Historic Landmark:
- ensures that stories of nationally significant historic events, places, or persons are recognized and preserved for the benefit of all citizens.
- may provide the property's historic character with a measure of protection against any project initiated by the Federal government.
- may ensure eligibility for grants, tax credits, and other opportunities to maintain a property's historic character.
Who owns NHLs?
National Historic Landmarks are owned by:
- private individuals
- private foundations and non-profits
- tribal nations
- local, state, and the federal government
The NHL Program requires the support of the property owner(s) before a property can be considered for designation as an NHL.
If you do not own the property in question, your first step before beginning a nomination should be obtaining the support of the owner.
How does a property become a National Historic Landmark?
- A State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), a Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO), a Federal Preservation Officer (FPO), a scholar, a private owner, or an interested member of the general public, writes a letter of inquiry to the National Park Service.
- NHL Program staff review the letter to determine if the property appears to meet the criteria to be designated an NHL. If the property has the potential to be considered for designation, the staff provides the preparer with detailed guidance as the nomination is written.
- Working with the preparer, staff from the National Historic Landmarks Program review and edit the nomination.
- Subject matter experts and scholars from across the nation review the nomination. Their suggestions and assessments are incorporated into the nomination.
- The Landmarks Committee reviews the nomination before making a recommendation to the National Park System Advisory Board.
- The National Park System Advisory Board reviews the nomination before making a recommendation to the Secretary of the Interior.
- The nomination is submitted to the Secretary of the Interior.
- The Secretary considers the recommendations and decides whether or not to designate the property as a National Historic Landmark.
How long does it take for a property to become an NHL?
Why does it take so long?
- Nominations are reviewed and edited multiple times by NHL Program staff and experts in the fields of preservation, history, archeology, and architectural history.
- The Landmarks Committee and the National Park System Advisory Board meet only twice a year to review nominations.
- The Landmarks Committee and the National Park System Advisory Board generally review no more than twenty nominations at each meeting. The NHL Program places nominations on the agenda as reviewed and edited draft nominations become ready. Semiannual deadlines for submitted first draft nominations to be considered are: May 1st and December 1st.
- Following the Committee and Board reviews and recommendations, the Secretary of the Interior must officially review all documents related to the property and then determine whether to designate or not designate the property.
Who prepares the National Historic Landmark nomination?
- Interested individuals like you.
- Consultants. Consultants may work for a firm or as individuals. We have a list of consultants who have completed our webinar series. Some State Historic Preservation Offices may have lists of consultants.
- State Historic Preservation Officers, Tribal Preservation Officers, and Federal Preservation Officers.
Remember: Property owners do not have to prepare the nomination but they should support the nomination of the property for designation as a National Historic Landmark.
How do I begin the nomination process?
Are there other programs I should consider if I don’t think my property is eligible for NHL designation?
What is the difference between National Historic Landmarks and properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places?
The National Park Service administers two Federal recognition programs, the National Register of Historic Places and the National Historic Landmarks Program.
Working with State Historic Preservation Offices, Tribal Historic Preservation Offices, and Federal Preservation Offices, the National Park Service maintains the National Register of Historic Places. This is the official list of properties that are deemed worthy of preservation. Properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) tell stories that are important to a local community, the citizens of a specific state, or all Americans. Properties listed in the NRHP may be owned by private individuals, universities, non-profits, governments, and/or corporations.
The National Park Service also administers the National Historic Landmarks (NHL) Program. Properties designated as NHLs tell important stories related to the history of the nation overall. These properties must also possess a high level of historic integrity.
Note: All properties designated NHLs are automatically included in the National Register of Historic Places.
Please consult the National Register of Historic Places' website for information about how to nominate a property for listing in the National Register.
If your property is already listed in the National Register of Historic Places, click here.
What is the relationship of NHLs to the National Park Service?
Designation of a property as a National Historic Landmark does not give ownership of the property to the Federal government in general or the National Park Service in particular. National Historic Landmarks are owned by private individuals; by local and state governments; by tribal entities; by non-profit organizations; and by corporations. The Federal government owns fewer than 400 NHLs (less than 16% of all NHLs). The laws that govern private property rights still apply to designated landmarks.
Upon designation, the National Park Service is tasked with reporting on the condition of the landmark through periodic status updates provided by NHL owners (stewards).
Checklist: Before you go any further
Continue to the next section: eligibility requirements