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 [graphic] National Register Bulletin Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Rural Historic Landscapes

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

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The Carol Parins Farmstead (no. 25 below) represents the traditional Belgian-American farm in the U-shaped configuration of teh barnyard, numerous log outbuildings, and outlying fields. (Bill Tishlir)


Nominations are made on the National Register Registration Form (NPS 10-900) and processed according to the regulations set forth in 36 CFR Part 60. Where the study of rural area identifies several properties eligible for listing and related by common historic contexts, the National Register Multiple Property Documentation Form (NPS 10-900-b) is used to document the contexts, property types, and methodology; separate registration forms then document each eligible property.

The following guidance supplements National Register Bulletin: How to Complete the National Register Registration Form and is organized according to the section names on the registration form. The form is intended as a summary of the information gathered during identification and a synthesis of findings concerning significance, integrity, and boundaries.


Sketch maps of two scales were used to record the Namur Belgian-American District in Door County, Wisconsin. A large map drawn to a small scale covers the entire district and locates district boundaries, roads and farm clusters. Small maps drawn to a larger scale and keyed by number to the district map then identify the contributing and noncontributing buildings and structures in each farm cluster.

A rural property containing a collection of sites, structures, buildings, or objects is classified as a district. A rural property containing land with no buildings, objects, or structures--such as a wildlife preserve or a camp meeting ground--is classified as a site. Contributing and noncontributing resources are counted according to the guidelines in Bulletin 16A. Acreage with component land areas, such as forests, orchards, fields, or pasture, counts as a single continuous site. Buildings, structures, objects, and sites within the landscape that are substantial in size and scale or are specifically discussed as significant are counted separately.

Other landscape characteristics, including areas of natural vegetation, fences, walls, plantings, ponds, and drainage ditches, are considered integral parts of the overall site. It is appropriate to count them separately if they form a structure or site that is substantial in size, scale, or importance--such as a network of historic roads, an irrigation system, a designed park, or a significant orchard.


Data categories for agriculture, landscape, transportation, industry, and recreation and culture, include a number of subcategories that apply to land uses and activities. These should be listed along with those relating to buildings and structures.


The description defines the historic property being registered and describes the evolution and current condition of its landscape characteristics. The processes that have shaped the landscape are discussed and related to specific features within the property. Changes that have occurred in the use and character of the land should be dated as accurately as possible. Threats to integrity should be described and their impact on the historic character of the landscape discussed. The section Documentation of Landscape Characteristics lists the information to be included for each characteristic.

Information about historic landscape characteristics should be organized to best portray the character of the property. For a large district, it may be logical to discuss the general character of the district, and then separately treat the circulation networks, large-scale irrigation systems, village clusters, and smaller properties contained within it. For other properties, it may make most sense to describe the landscape characteristics by type, and to discuss land use areas, structures, and buildings individually rather than as parts of clusters or small units of property.

Specialized terminology may be necessary. Botanical or geological terms not commonly understood should be explained. Common names, such as Corvallis cherry or Longhorn cattle, are sufficient to identify vegetation and livestock. Scientific names should however, be used when common botanical names are inadequate to describe plant diversity or significant cultivars. Commonly understood terms should be used to describe vernacular patterns of construction, land use, or land division. When terms that are regional or ethnic in derivation are used to describe land use practices, construction methods, or cultural customs, they should be explained.


The statement of significance explains the ways in which the property, through its land uses and characteristics, directly relates to specific historic contexts, National Register criteria, areas and periods of significance, and, if applicable, criteria considerations. Important activities, events, persons, or physical qualities are discussed in relationship to specific features identified by the landscape characteristics. The statement of historic contexts, revised, as appropriate, based on the findings of survey, research, and evaluation, is included.

The greater the importance of certain landscape characteristics, the more factual and detailed the discussion of their role and evolution should be. For example, if transportation is an area of significance, the circulation networks will require greater explanation; if community development and planning is an area of significance, patterns of land division and use should be discussed.

Major Bibliographical References

A standard bibliographical style is used to cite sources including books, magazine articles, maps, atlases, historic photographs, local histories, studies on soils and vegetation, archeological reports, and geological studies. References to oral histories should give the date of the interview and the name and affiliation of both the person being interviewed and the interviewer. Collections of photographs, oral history tapes or transcripts, personal records, and maps that are not available in published sources should be cited by name and location.


Boundaries are described as accurately as possible using metes and bounds, legal descriptions, tax parcel numbers, lines and sections on USGS maps, or lines on a map drawn to a scale no smaller than 1 inch = 200 feet. See Defining the Edges of a Rural Landscape.


A detailed sketch map is required for all properties meeting the definition of historic district. The map indicates the boundaries of the property and locates the principal landscape characteristics. Buildings and structures, circulation networks, major land uses, archeological sites, prominent natural features, and large areas of vegetation should be marked on the map. Each building, structure, object, and site that is substantial in size, scale, or importance should be labeled by name, number, or other symbol, and marked as contributing or noncontributing. Refer to the section Documentation of Landscape Characteristics for additional guidance.

For properties with large acreage, several maps drawn to different scales may be used in place of one overall sketch map. A small-scale map, such as a USGS topographic map in the 1:24,000 series, could cover the overall property and indicate boundaries and principal areas of land use, natural features, circulation networks, isolated buildings and structures, and clusters. Maps drawn to a larger scale, for example, 1 inch = 200 feet, could then show the location of buildings, structures, and other features within each cluster. Large-scale maps should be cross- referenced as inserts to the area map.

Separate maps may also be used to locate archeological sites, land use areas, road systems or other transportation systems, and buildings and structures. A series of maps may show the evolution of the property at various periods of time.


Representative views of historic and nonhistoric land areas and landscape characteristics, as well as buildings, structures, and clusters, must be submitted with the registration form. Copies of historical photographs, engravings, and illustrations may also be included. Contemporary photographs taken from the vantage point of historical photographs may supplement the written description of land changes.


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