The National Historic Landmark Condition Report: Why All the Inquiries?

Preservation. Restoration. Maintenance. These three words are very familiar to most, if not all, of us. Like you, the National Park Service (NPS) values these words and many others that encompass the care of our nation’s treasured National Historic Landmarks (NHLs). As Stewards of these historically significant sites, buildings, and structures, you provide the critical care necessary to preserve your NHL long into the future. It is such care, and other challenges or successes related to the protection of your NHL, that is important to the NPS.

Every even-numbered year the NPS Midwest Regional Office in Omaha, Nebraska, sends out a call for information regarding your NHL. As we cannot visit every NHL in our region each year, we depend upon you to provide us with the most accurate, up-to-date information possible. In the past, this call has been sent out in paper form under a variety of names. The form is now known as the National Historic Landmark Condition Report.
People sitting in chairs and a man presenting.
NHL Stewards Conference at the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

National Park Service

In June 2008, we offered the option to use an electronic survey database located on the World Wide Web, which reduced paper and mailing costs, thus protecting the environment. An updated condition report of each NHL in our region enables our office of historic preservation professionals to provide technical assistance and guidance for preservation of your NHL. For some properties, the reports often lead to site visits which can be beneficial to both NPS staff and NHL stewards. In other instances, we notice a specific preservation need that can be addressed more completely by production of an architectural or engineering technical report, preservation plan, or as the topic of a conference or workshop focused on that particular issue. For example, possible future workshops sponsored by our office might focus on stone conservation, window repair, landscape preservation, or even monument restoration.

Once our office reviews the status of each NHL, a document is prepared for the NHL Program office in Washington, D.C., reflecting the condition of each individual property. The Washington office posts the update of each NHL and its current condition on our website dedicated to NHLs across the nation. The website provides valuable information on the nation’s NHLs and includes documentation guidance, searchable resources, common questions and answers, and electronic copies of completed NHL nominations, along with instructions for submitting an NHL nomination.

What does all this mean to you as a steward of a National Historic Landmark? Assurance that the NPS is here to help by providing guidance, support, and on some occasions, funding; but this can only be based on information you submit during our call for the biennial NHL Condition Reports. With your help we can assure the preservation, restoration, and maintenance of our nation’s exceptional places.
Originally published in "Exceptional Places" Vol. 3, 2008, a newsletter of the Division of Cultural Resources, Midwest Region. Written by Rebecca Kumar.