The Long Arduous Path to Becoming a National Historic Landmark

In the past two years, 12 properties in the 13-state Midwest Region have been honored with designation as National Historic Landmarks (NHLs), bringing the region’s total number to 420 in 2006. These recent additions represent a sample of the variety of property types that together help tell the complex story of our country’s history.

The path to NHL designation is long and rigorous. The first step is a multi-year process of research and investigation by subject matter experts who then prepare a NHL nomination. The nomination identifies the property’s exceptional values and qualities that illustrate and interpret American history, architecture, archeology, technology or culture.

Owners, highest local elected officials, State Historic Preservation Officers, and members of Congress are able to comment on the completed nomination. After a 60-day comment period, the nomination is reviewed by a subcommittee of the National Park System Advisory Board, called the National Landmarks Committee. The Board is comprised of citizens who are national and community leaders in the conservation of natural, historic and cultural areas.

Both Board and Committee meet twice yearly, once in the spring and once in the fall. Interested parties may attend these meetings and are given an opportunity to speak. The Committee meets prior to the Board meeting in order to review the nominations in detail and provide a report to the Board on those properties that meet NHL criteria.

Recommendations by the Board are then made to the Secretary of the Interior, with final decision on NHL designation made by the Secretary. Designation by the Secretary typically occurs about six to eight weeks following the Board's recommendation.

The National Park Service (NPS) has or will soon provide all of the newly-designated NHLs with bronze plaques. The NPS is also available to provide technical preservation assistance and advice to the new NHL owners, as well as to all other NHLs in the region. Also available to all NHLs is grant information compiled by the Midwest Regional Office’s National Register Program staff, and the ability to apply for Save America’s Treasures Grants. As funding allows, smaller grants may be available from the Midwest Region.
Originally published in "Exceptional Places" Vol. 1, 2006, a newsletter of the Division of Cultural Resources, Midwest Region. Written by Dena Sanford.

Last updated: July 5, 2018