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 [graphic] National Register Bulletin: Defining Boundaries for National Register Properties

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




Section 10 of the National Register Registration Form is the portion of the form where boundaries of the nominated property are documented. The documentation requirements are discussed in National Register Bulletin: How to Complete the National Register Registration Form; the information presented here is consistent with that discussion. The information requirement in Section 10 of the registration form includes acreage of the property, Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) references, a verbal boundary description, and a boundary justification. In addition, nomination preparers should submit a USGS map that shows the location of the property and plotted UTM coordinates and at least one detailed map or sketch map for districts and for properties containing a substantial number of sites, structures, or buildings.


(summarized from How to Complete the National Register Registration Form, pp. 54-55)

Acreage: Calculate the acreage of the property to the nearest whole acre; calculate fractions of acres to the nearest one-tenth acre. For small properties, record "less than one acre." For large properties (over 100 acres), use a United States Geological Survey (USGS) acreage estimator or digitizer to calculate acreage.

UTM Reference: Use Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) grid references to identify the exact location of the property. For a small property, use a single UTM reference; for larger properties, use a series of UTM references (up to 26) to identify the boundaries. Even when natural or cultural features are used to define the boundaries, use UTM grid references to define a polygon which encloses the boundaries of the property and identifies the vicinity of the property. Determine UTM references by using a UTM template and USGS quadrangle maps (see Appendix VIII in How to Complete the National Register Registration Form and Using the UTM Grid System to Record Historic Sites for assistance in determining UTM references).

Verbal Boundary Description: Describe the boundaries verbally, using one of the following:

  • a map may be substituted for a narritive verbal boundary description
  • legal parcel number
  • block and lot number
  • metes and bounds
  • dimensions of a parcel of land, reckoning from a landmark, such as a natural or cultural feature

Boundary Justification: Provide a concise explanation of the reasons for selecting the boundaries, based on the property's historic significance and integrity. Discuss the methods used to determine the boundaries. Account for irregular boundaries and areas excluded because of loss of integrity. For archeological properties, discuss the techniques used to identify the limits of the eligible resource, including survey procedures and the extent and distribution of known sites.


The verbal boundary description describes the physical extent of the nominated property. A verbal boundary description or a scale map precisely defining the property boundaries must be given for all properties regardless of their classification category or acreage. The verbal boundary description need not be complicated or long, but it must clearly describe (or show) the limits of the resources to ensure that a Federal agency, State historic preservation office, city planning office, planning agency, or property owner can identify the limits of a National Register property.

A map drawn to a scale of at least 1 inch to 200 feet may be used in place of a verbal description. When using a map in place of a verbal description, note under the verbal boundary description that the boundaries are indicated on the accompanying map. The map must be clear and accurate. Be sure the map clearly indicates the boundaries of the property in relationship to standing structures or buildings, natural features, or cultural features. Include a drawn scale and north arrow on the map.

When the boundary is the same as a legally recorded boundary, refer to that legal description of the property in the verbal boundary description. Citation of the legal description (beyond parcel number or block and lot number) and deed book reference are optional. When natural or cultural features are used in defining boundaries, identify these features (such as street names, property lines, geographical features, or other lines of convenience) to designate the extent of the property. Begin at a fixed reference point and follow the perimeter of the property, including dimensions and directions, in the verbal boundary description.

The verbal boundary description may refer to a large-scale map (such as 1 inch to 200 feet) which shows the property boundaries. Large-scale maps that show streets, rights-of-ways, property lines, and building footprints are often available from the local planning agency or tax assessor's office. For large rural properties, a small-scale topographic map, such as a USGS map, may be used. If such a map is not available, draw a sketch map to scale (preferably 1 inch to 200 feet) and show the location of the resources relative to the boundary and surrounding features. Include a north arrow, drawn scale, and date on the map.

The verbal boundary description is followed by a justification of the selected boundaries. Explain how the boundaries were selected. Clarify any issues that might raise questions, such as excluding portions of the historic property because of lost integrity.


Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) references are required to indicate the location of the property. Generally, the UTM coordinates do not define the property boundaries, but provide precise locational information. Plot a single UTM reference on a 7.5 minute series USGS map for a small property; plot three or more UTM references that define the vertices of a polygon encompassing the area to be registered for properties over 10 acres. UTM references may also be used to define boundaries (for example, large rural properties lacking appropriate cultural or natural features to define boundaries). When UTM references define boundaries, the references must correspond exactly with the property's boundaries. For additional guidance, see National Register Bulletin: How to Complete the National Register Registration Form and National Register Bulletin: Using the UTM Grid System to Record Historic Sites.


The Global Positioning System (GPS) technology now can be used to define boundaries for National Register properties. GPS technology records (digitizes) the location of lines, points, or polygons on the earth's surface using trilateration from satellites orbiting the earth. The locational accuracy of the data varies between 2 and 5 meters (when using differential correction). Thus, districts and archeological sites can be digitized as polygons, and historic trains or roads, as lines. The result is a potential National Register boundary. With GPS, the UTM references are automatically calculated along with any other type of descriptive data, such as condition, materials, intrusions, and integrity. Data from GPS is generally entered into a Geographic Information System (GIS). Using GIS, boundary data can be combined with data on cultural and natural features, such as roads, rivers, and land cover, to yield a composite map suitable for inclusion with the registration form.


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