U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service
VI. HOW TO IDENTIFY THE TYPE OF SIGNIFICANCE OF A PROPERTY
When evaluated within its historic context, a property must be shown to be significant for one or more of the four Criteria for Evaluation - A, B, C, or D (listed earlier in Part II). The Criteria describe how properties are significant for their association with important events or persons, for their importance in design or construction, or for their information potential.
The basis for judging a property's significance and, ultimately, its eligibility under the Criteria is historic context. The use of historic context allows a property to be properly evaluated in a nearly infinite number of capacities. For instance, Criterion C: Design/Construction can accommodate properties representing construction types that are unusual or widely practiced, that are innovative or traditional, that are "high style" or vernacular, that are the work of a famous architect or an unknown master craftsman. The key to determining whether the characteristics or associations of a particular property are significant is to consider the property within its historic context.
After identifying the relevant historic context(s) with which the property is associated, the four Criteria are applied to the property. Within the scope of the historic context, the National Register Criteria define the kind of significance that the properties represent.
For example, within the context of "19th Century Gunpowder Production in the Brandywine Valley," Criterion A would apply to those properties associated with important events in the founding and development of the industry. Criterion B would apply to those properties associated with persons who are significant in the founding of the industry or associated with important inventions related to gunpowder manufacturing. Criterion C would apply to those buildings, structures, or objects whose architectural form or style reflect important design qualities integral to the industry. And Criterion D would apply to properties that can convey information important in our understanding of this industrial process. If a property qualifies under more than one of the Criteria, its significance under each should be considered, if possible, in order to identify all aspects of its historical value.
National Register Criteria for Evaluation**
**For a complete listing of the Criteria for Evaluation, refer to Part II of this bulletin
The National Register Criteria recognize different types of values embodied in districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects. These values fall into the following categories:
Properties can be eligible for the National Register if they are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history.
Understanding Criterion A: Event
To be considered for listing under Criterion A, a property must be associated with one or more events important in the defined historic context. Criterion A recognizes properties associated with single events, such as the founding of a town, or with a pattern of events, repeated activities, or historic trends, such as the gradual rise of a port city's prominence in trade and commerce. The event or trends, however, must clearly be important within the associated context: settlement, in the case of the town, or development of a maritime economy, in the case of the port city. Moreover, the property must have an important association with the event or historic trends, and it must retain historic integrity. (See Part V: How to Evaluate a Property Within its Historic Context.)
Several steps are involved in determining whether a property is significant for its associative values:
Applying Criterion A: Event
Types of Events
A property can be associated with either (or both) of two types of events:
EXAMPLES OF PROPERTIES ASSOCIATED WITH EVENTS
Properties associated with specific events:
Properties associated with a pattern of events:
Association of the Property with the Events
The property you are evaluating must be documented, through accepted means of historical or archeological research (including oral history), to have existed at the time of the event or pattern of events and to have been associated with those events. A property is not eligible if its associations are speculative. For archeological sites, well reasoned inferences drawn from data recovered at the site can be used to establish the association between the site and the events.
Significance of the Association
Mere association with historic events or trends is not enough, in and of itself, to qualify under Criterion A: the property's specific association must be considered important as well. For example, a building historically in commercial use must be shown to have been significant in commercial history.
Traditional Cultural Values
Traditional cultural significance is derived from the role a property plays in a community's historically rooted beliefs, customs, and practices. Properties may have significance under Criterion A if they are associated with events, or series of events, significant to the cultural traditions of a community. (For more information, refer to National Register Bulletin: Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Traditional Cultural Properties.)
Properties may be eligible for the National Register if they
are associated with the lives of persons significant in our past.
Understanding Criterion B: Person
Criterion B applies to properties associated with individuals whose specific contributions to history can be identified and documented. Persons "significant in our past" refers to individuals whose activities are demonstrably important within a local, State, or national historic context. The criterion is generally restricted to those properties that illustrate (rather than commemorate) a person's important achievements. (The policy regarding commemorative properties, birthplaces, and graves is explained further in Part VII: How to Apply the Criteria Considerations.)
Several steps are involved in determining whether a property is significant for its associative values under Criterion B. First, determine the importance of the individual. Second, ascertain the length and nature of his/her association with the property under study and identify the other properties associated with the individual. Third, consider the property under Criterion B, as outlined below.
EXAMPLES OF PROPERTIES ASSOCIATED WITH PERSONS
Properties associated with a Significant Person:
Significance of the Individual
The persons associated with the property must be individually significant within a historic context. A property is not eligible if its only justification for significance is that it was owned or used by a person who is a member of an identifiable profession, class, or social or ethnic group. It must be shown that the person gained importance within his or her profession or group.
Association with the Property
Properties eligible under Criterion B are usually those associated with a person's productive life, reflecting the time period when he or she achieved significance. In some instances this may be the person's home; in other cases, a person's business, office, laboratory, or studio may best represent his or her contribution. Properties that pre- or post-date an individual's significant accomplishments are usually not eligible.
The individual's association with the property must be documented by accepted methods of historical or archeological research, including written or oral history. Speculative associations are not acceptable. For archeological sites, well reasoned inferences drawn from data recovered at the site are acceptable.
Comparison to Related Properties
Each property associated with an important individual should be compared to other associated properties to identify those that best represent the person's historic contributions. The best representatives usually are properties associated with the person's adult or productive life. Properties associated with an individual's formative or later years may also qualify if it can be demonstrated that the person's activities during this period were historically significant or if no properties from the person's productive years survives. Length of association is an important factor when assessing several properties with similar associations.
A community or State may contain several properties eligible for associations with the same important person, if each represents a different aspect of the person's productive life. A property can also be eligible if it has brief but consequential associations with an important individual. (Such associations are often related to specific events that occurred at the property and, therefore, it may also be eligible under Criterion A.)
Association with Groups
For properties associated with several community leaders or with a prominent family, it is necessary to identify specific individuals and to explain their significant accomplishments.
Association with Living Persons
Properties associated with living persons are usually not eligible for inclusion in the National Register. Sufficient time must have elapsed to assess both the person's field of endeavor and his/her contribution to that field. Generally, the person's active participation in the endeavor must be finished for this historic perspective to emerge. (See Criteria Considerations C and G in Part VII: How to Apply the Criteria Considerations.)
Association with Architects/Artisans
Architects, artisans, artists, and engineers are often represented by their works, which are eligible under Criterion C. Their homes and studios, however, can be eligible for consideration under Criterion B, because these usually are the properties with which they are most personally associated.
Native American Sites
The known major villages of individual Native Americans who were
important during the contact period or later can qualify under Criterion
B. As with all Criterion B properties, the individual associated with
the property must have made some specific important contribution to
history. Examples include sites significantly associated with Chief
Joseph and Geronimo. (For more information, refer to National
Register Bulletin: Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Traditional
Properties may be eligible for the National Register if they embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction.
Understanding Criterion C: Design/Construction
This criterion applies to properties significant for their physical design or construction, including such elements as architecture, landscape architecture, engineering, and artwork. To be eligible under Criterion C, a property must meet at least one of the following requirements:
The first requirement, that properties "embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction," refers to the way in which a property was conceived, designed, or fabricated by a people or culture in past periods of history. "The work of a master" refers to the technical or aesthetic achievements of an architect or craftsman. "High artistic values" concerns the expression of aesthetic ideals or preferences and applies to aesthetic achievement.
EXAMPLES OF PROPERTIES ASSOCIATED WITH DESIGN/CONSTRUCTION
Properties associated with design and construction:
Resources "that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction" are called "districts." In the Criteria for Evaluation (as published in the Code of Federal Regulations and reprinted in Part II), districts are defined within the context of Criterion C. Districts, however, can be considered for eligibility under all the Criteria, individually or in any combination, as is appropriate. For this reason, the full discussion of districts is contained in Part IV: How to Define Categories of Historic Properties. Throughout the bulletin, however, districts are mentioned within the context of a specific subject, such as an individual Criterion.
Applying Criterion C: Design/Construction
Distinctive Characteristics of Type, Period, and Method of Construction
This is the portion of Criterion C under which most properties are eligible, for it encompasses all architectural styles and construction practices. To be eligible under this portion of the Criterion, a property must clearly illustrate, through "distinctive characteristics," the following:
Distinctive Characteristics: "Distinctive characteristics" are the physical features or traits that commonly recur in individual types, periods, or methods of construction. To be eligible, a property must clearly contain enough of those characteristics to be considered a true representative of a particular type, period, or method of construction.
Characteristics can be expressed in terms such as form, proportion, structure, plan, style, or materials. They can be general, referring to ideas of design and construction such as basic plan or form, or they can be specific, referring to precise ways of combining particular kinds of materials.
Type, Period, and Method of Construction:
A structure is eligible as a specimen of its type or period of construction if it is an important example (within its context) of building practices of a particular time in history. For properties that represent the variation, evolution, or transition of construction types, it must be demonstrated that the variation, etc., was an important phase of the architectural development of the area or community in that it had an impact as evidenced by later buildings. A property is not eligible, however, simply because it has been identified as the only such property ever fabricated; it must be demonstrated to be significant as well.
Historic Adaptation of the Original Property
A property can be significant not only for the way it was originally constructed or crafted, but also for the way it was adapted at a later period, or for the way it illustrates changing tastes, attitudes, and uses over a period of time.
A district is eligible under this guideline if it illustrates the evolution of historic character of a place over a particular span of time.
Works of a Master
A master is a figure of generally recognized greatness in a field, a known craftsman of consummate skill, or an anonymous craftsman whose work is distinguishable from others by its characteristic style and quality. The property must express a particular phase in the development of the master's career, an aspect of his or her work, or a particular idea or theme in his or her craft.
A property is not eligible as the work of a master, however, simply because it was designed by a prominent architect. For example, not every building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is eligible under this portion of Criterion C, although it might meet other portions of the Criterion, for instance as a representative of the Prairie style.
The work of an unidentified craftsman is eligible if it rises above the level of workmanship of the other properties encompassed by the historic context.
Properties Possessing High Artistic Values
High artistic values may be expressed in many ways, including areas as diverse as community design or planning, engineering, and sculpture. A property is eligible for its high artistic values if it so fully articulates a particular concept of design that it expresses an aesthetic ideal. A property is not eligible, however, if it does not express aesthetic ideals or design concepts more fully than other properties of its type.
A Significant and Distinguishable Entity Whose Components May
Lack Individual Distinction: This portion of Criterion
C refers to districts. For detailed information on districts, refer
to Part IV of this bulletin.
Properties may be eligible for the National Register if they have yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.
Understanding Criterion D: Information Potential
Certain important research questions about human history can only be answered by the actual physical material of cultural resources. Criterion D encompasses the properties that have the potential to answer, in whole or in part, those types of research questions. The most common type of property nominated under this Criterion is the archeological site (or a district comprised of archeological sites). Buildings, objects, and structures (or districts comprised of these property types), however, can also be eligible for their information potential.
Criterion D has two requirements, which must both be met for a property to qualify:
Under the first of these requirements, a property is eligible if it has been used as a source of data and contains more, as yet unretrieved data. A property is also eligible if it has not yet yielded information but, through testing or research, is determined a likely source of data.
Under the second requirement, the information must be carefully evaluated within an appropriate context to determine its importance. Information is considered "important" when it is shown to have a significant bearing on a research design that addresses such areas as: 1) current data gaps or alternative theories that challenge existing ones or 2) priority areas identified under a State or Federal agency management plan.
Applying Criterion D: Information Potential
Criterion D most commonly applies to properties that contain or are likely to contain information bearing on an important archeological research question. The property must have characteristics suggesting the likelihood that it possesses configurations of artifacts, soil strata, structural remains, or other natural or cultural features that make it possible to do the following:
Buildings, Structures, and Objects
While most often applied to archeological districts and sites, Criterion D can also apply to buildings, structures, and objects that contain important information. In order for these types of properties to be eligible under Criterion D, they themselves must be, or must have been, the principal source of the important information.
Association with Human Activity
A property must be associated with human activity and be critical for understanding a site's historic environment in order to be eligible under Criterion D. A property can be linked to human activity through events, processes, institutions, design, construction, settlement, migration, ideals, beliefs, lifeways, and other facets of the development or maintenance of cultural systems.
The natural environment associated with the properties was often very different from that of the present and strongly influenced cultural development. Aspects of the environment that are pertinent to human activities should be considered when evaluating properties under Criterion D.
Natural features and paleontological (floral and faunal) sites are not usually eligible under Criterion D in and of themselves. They can be eligible, however, if they are either directly related to human activity or critical to understanding a site's historic environment. In a few cases, a natural feature or site unmarked by cultural materials, that is primarily eligible under Criterion A, may also be eligible under Criterion D, if study of the feature, or its location, setting, etc. (usually in the context of data gained from other sources), will yield important information about the event or period with which it is associated.
Establishing a Historic Context
The information that a property yields, or will yield, must be evaluated within an appropriate historic context. This will entail consulting the body of information already collected from similar properties or other pertinent sources, including modern and historic written records. The researcher must be able to anticipate if and how the potential information will affect the definition of the context. The information likely to be obtained from a particular property must confirm, refute, or supplement in an important way existing information.
A property is not eligible if it cannot be related to a particular time period or cultural group and, as a result, lacks any historic context within which to evaluate the importance of the information to be gained.
Developing Research Questions
Having established the importance of the information that may be recovered, it is necessary to be explicit in demonstrating the connection between the important information and a specific property. One approach is to determine if specific important research questions can be answered by the data contained in the property. Research questions can be related to property-specific issues, to broader questions about a large geographic area, or to theoretical issues independent of any particular geographic location. These questions may be derived from the academic community or from preservation programs at the local, regional, State, or national level. Research questions are usually developed as part of a "research design," which specifies not only the questions to be asked, but also the types of data needed to supply the answers, and often the techniques needed to recover the data.
Establishing the Presence of Adequate Data
To support the assertion that a property has the data necessary to provide the important information, the property should be investigated with techniques sufficient to establish the presence of relevant data categories. What constitutes appropriate investigation techniques would depend upon specific circumstances including the property's location, condition, and the research questions being addressed, and could range from surface survey (or photographic survey for buildings), to the application of remote sensing techniques or intensive subsurface testing. Justification of the research potential of a property may be based on analogy to another better known property if sufficient similarities exist to establish the appropriateness of the analogy.
The assessment of integrity for properties considered for information potential depends on the data requirements of the applicable research design. A property possessing information potential does not need to recall visually an event, person, process, or construction technique. It is important that the significant data contained in the property remain sufficiently intact to yield the expected important information, if the appropriate study techniques are employed.
Partly Excavated or Disturbed Properties
The current existence of appropriate physical remains must be ascertained in considering a property's ability to yield important information. Properties that have been partly excavated or otherwise disturbed and that are being considered for their potential to yield additional important information must be shown to retain that potential in their remaining portions.
Completely Excavated Sites
Properties that have yielded important information in the past and that no longer retain additional research potential (such as completely excavated archeological sites) must be assessed essentially as historic sites under Criterion A. Such sites must be significant for associative values related to: 1) the importance of the data gained or 2) the impact of the property's role in the history of the development of anthropology/archeology or other relevant disciplines. Like other historic properties, the site must retain the ability to convey its association as the former repository of important information, the location of historic events, or the representative of important trends.
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