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 [graphic] National Register Bulletin: How to Prepare National Historic Landmark Nominations

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



National Historic Landmarks (NHLs) are cultural properties designated by the Secretary of the Interior as being nationally significant. Acknowledged as among the nation's most significant historic places, these buildings, sites, districts, structures, and objects possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States in history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. NHL designation is an official recognition by the federal government of the national significance of historic properties. By 1999, almost 2300 properties had been designated as National Historic Landmarks.

Authorized by the Historic Sites Act of 1935 (Public Law 74-292) and administered by the National Park Service, the NHL program focuses attention on places of exceptional value to the nation as a whole, by recognizing and promoting the preservation efforts of private organizations, individuals, and government agencies. While some NHLs are units, or are included within units of the National Park System, the NHL program is important to the preservation of many outstanding historic places that are not included in the National Park System. Designation of NHLs also furthers the educational objective of the Historic Sites Act, because it leads to increased public attention to and interest in a property. The program also serves as one of the tools used to screen proposed additions to the National Park System and to select properties for nomination to the World Heritage List. Regulations for the program are contained in 36 CFR Part 65.



Albert Kahn designed this fifteen-story structure with its clearly defined base, shaft and attic story. Completed in 1923, the tripartite vertical arrangement was typical of tall building design at that time.

In addition to administering the National Historic Landmarks Program, the National Park Service also administers the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register is the official federal list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. National Register properties have significance to the history of their community state, or the nation. Nominations for listing historic properties come from State Historic Preservation Officers, from Federal Preservation Officers for properties owned or controlled by the United States Government, and from Tribal Historic Preservation Officers for properties on tribal lands. Private individuals and organizations, local governments, and American Indian tribes often
initiate this process and prepare the necessary documentation. A professional review board in each state considers each property proposed for listing and makes a recommendation on its eligibility. Upon designation, National Historic Landmarks are listed in the National Register of Historic Places if not already listed.

This bulletin has been prepared in response to the growing interest and appreciation of National Historic Landmarks. It contains instructions for completing the National Historic Landmarks nomination form. This form is used to document historic properties for potential designation as National Historic Landmarks.

One nomination form is completed for each property nominated for designation. This property may be a single resource, such as a historic house or bridge, or it may be a historic district containing multiple buildings, structures, sites, and objects. Information on the nomination form identifies, locates, and describes the historic property in order to determine its integrity; explains how the property meets one or more of the NHL criteria; and makes the case for the national significance of the property.

A brief history of the NHL program; NHL theme studies and their use; NHL designation procedures; preparing NHL boundary studies' NHL documentation improvement studies, and studies to withdraw NHL designation; and using NHL documentation are also discussed in this document.

The NHL Survey requires a comparative framework for the determination of national significance. National Historic Landmarks are most often identified through "theme studies" which consider related properties within a specific historic context. However, National Historic Landmarks may also be identified through special studies of individual properties which may be initiated by either the National Park Service or outside parties. Nominations outside the context of theme studies need to establish the properties' integrity and strength of historical associations in relation to comparable properties within the content of the nomination.
The aspects of a NHL nomination that differ from a National Register nomination are:
* National significance
* National context
* High level of integrity
* Different criteria

NHL nominations are prepared by interested individuals, organizations, contractors, State Historic Preservation Officers, Federal Preservation Officers, and NPS staff, with the participation and assistance of the owner(s) of the property. The NPS staff can provide information about theme studies and other comparable properties that may be relevant in the evaluation of particular properties and provide preliminary advice on whether a property appears likely to meet NHL criteria. The NPS recommends that those wishing to prepare a NHL nomination consult with the NHL Survey to discuss the property before preparing, the nomination. National Park Service regional and support office staff who administer the NHL program in their areas may also provide preliminary evaluations and assistance in preparing NHL nominations. Preparers of nominations should also work with property owners, the State Historic Preservation Officers, and other interested parties to apprise them of the intended nomination and to receive their input and assistance.

Once a draft nomination is prepared, it may be reviewed by the NHL staff of the NPS regional and support offices, as well as the NHL Survey in Washington. Following these reviews and any appropriate revisions, owners and elected officials are officially and formally notified and given an opportunity to comment on those nominations that are likely candidates for NHL designation. (Owners of private property are given an opportunity to concur in, or object to, designation. In the case of more than one owner, if a majority of private property owners object, the Secretary of the Interior cannot designate the property but can determine whether it is eligible for designation.) The nominations are then forwarded to the National Park System Advisory Board for review and recommendation to the Secretary of the Interior. After considering the Board's recommendations, the Secretary designates NHLs.

The National Historic Landmarks criteria (Code of Federal Regulations, Title 36, Part 65.4[a and b]) set a stringent test for national significance, including high historical integrity. Potential NHLs are evaluated against the National Historic Landmarks criteria and their justification for NHL designation must be documented in narrative form.

See Figure 1 for a complete listing of National Historic Landmarks Criteria.


Figure 1.

National Historic Landmarks Criteria


The quality of national significance is ascribed to districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States in history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture and that possess a high degree of integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association, and:

Criterion 1

That are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to, and are identified with, or that outstandingly represent, the broad national patterns of United States history and from which an understanding and appreciation of those patterns may be gained; or

Criterion 2

That are associated importantly with the lives of persons nationally significant in the history of the United States; or

Criterion 3

That represent some great idea or ideal of the American people; or

Criterion 4

That embody the distinguishing characteristics or an architectural type specimen exceptionally valuable for the study of a period, style, or method of construction, or that represent a significant, distinctive, and exceptional entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or

Criterion 5

That are composed of integral parts of the environment not sufficiently significant by reason of historical association or artistic merit to warrant individual recognition but collectively compose an entity or exceptional historical or artistic significance, or outstandingly commemorate or illustrate a way of life or culture; or

Criterion 6

That have yielded or may be likely to yield information of major scientific importance by revealing new cultures, or by shedding light upon periods of occupation of large areas of the United States. Such sites are those which have yielded, or which may reasonably be expected to yield, data affecting theories, concepts, and ideas to a major degree.



Ordinarily, cemeteries, birthplaces, graves of historical figures, properties owned by religious institutions or used for religious purposes, structures have been moved from their original locations, reconstructed historic buildings and properties that have achieved significance within the past fifty years are not eligible for designation. If such properties fall within the following categories they may, nevertheless, be found to qualify:

Exception 1

A religious property deriving its primary national significance from architectural or artistic distinction or historical importance; or

Exception 2

a building removed from its original location but which is nationally significant primarily for its architectural merit, or for association with persons or events of transcendent importance in the nation's history and the association consequential; or

Exception 3

A site of a building or structure no longer standing but the person or event associated with it is of transcendent importance in the nation's history and the association consequential; or

Exception 4

A birthplace, grave or burial if it is of a historical figure of transcendent national significance and no other appropriate site, building, or structure directly associated with the productive life of that person exists; or

Exception 5

A cemetery that derives its primary national significance from graves of persons of transcendent importance, or from an exceptionally distinctive design or an exceptionally significant event; or

Exception 6

A reconstructed building or ensemble of buildings of extraordinary national significance when accurately executed in a suitable environment and presented in a dignified manner as part of a restoration master plan, and when no other buildings or structures with the same association have survived; or

Exception 7

A property primarily commemorative in intent if design, age, tradition, or symbolic value has invested it with its own national historical significance; or

Exception 8

A property achieving national significance within the past 50 years if it is of extraordinary national importance.


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