[graphic] National Park Service Arrowhead and link to NPS  [graphic] National Park Service Arrowhead and link to NPS
[graphic] National Park Service Black Bar
[graphic] Link to National Register Publications Home Page
 [graphic] Link to National Register Home Page  [graphic] Link to National Register Research Home Page  [graphic] Link to National Register Travel Home Page  [graphic] Link to National Register Education Home Page  [graphic] National Park Service arrowhead and link to NPS.gov
 National Register Bulletin How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation

[graphic] Link to Next Page [graphic] Link to Table of Contents [graphic] Link to Previous Page

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

[graphic] Link to Next Page [graphic] Link to Table of Contents [graphic] Link to Previous Page


  1. Building

  2. Structure

  3. Object

  4. Site

  5. District

The National Register of Historic Places includes significant properties, classified as buildings, sites, districts, structures, or objects. It is not used to list intangible values, except in so far as they are associated with or reflected by historic properties. The National Register does not list cultural events, or skilled or talented individuals, as is done in some countries. Rather, the National Register is oriented to recognizing physically concrete properties that are relatively fixed in location.

For purposes of National Register nominations, small groups of properties are listed under a single category, using the primary resource. For example, a city hall and fountain would be categorized by the city hall (building), a farmhouse with two outbuildings would be categorized by the farmhouse (building), and a city park with a gazebo would be categorized by the park (site). Properties with large acreage or a number of resources are usually considered districts. Common sense and reason should dictate the selection of categories.


A building, such as a house, barn, church, hotel, or similar construction, is created principally to shelter any form of human activity. "Building" may also be used to refer to a historically and functionally related unit, such as a courthouse and jail or a house and barn.

Buildings eligible for the National Register must include all of their basic structural elements. Parts of buildings, such as interiors, facades, or wings, are not eligible independent of the rest of the existing building. The whole building must be considered, and its significant features must be identified.

If a building has lost any of its basic structural elements, it is usually considered a "ruin" and is categorized as a site.

Examples of buildings include:


administration building
carriage house
city or town hall
detached kitchen, barn, and privy
mill building
office building
post office

social hall
train station


The term "structure" is used to distinguish from buildings those functional constructions made usually for purposes other than creating human shelter.

Structures nominated to the National Register must include all of the extant basic structural elements. Parts of structures can not be considered eligible if the whole structure remains. For example, a truss bridge is composed of the metal or wooden truss, the abutments, and supporting piers, all of which, if extant, must be included when considering the property for eligibility.

If a structure has lost its historic configuration or pattern of organization through deterioration or demolition, it is usually considered a "ruin" and is categorized as a site.

Examples of structures include:

boats and ships bridge
grain elevator

irrigation system
railroad grade
trolly car
tunnel windmill


The term "object" is used to distinguish from buildings and structures those constructions that are primarily artistic in nature or are relatively small in scale and simply constructed. Although it may be, by nature or design, movable, an object is associated with a specific setting or environment.

Small objects not designed for a specific location are normally not eligible. Such works include transportable sculpture, furniture, and other decorative arts that, unlike a fixed outdoor sculpture, do not possess association with a specific place.

Objects should be in a setting appropriate to their significant historic use, roles, or character. Objects relocated to a museum are inappropriate for listing in the National Register.

Examples of objects include:

boundary marker


A site is the location of a significant event, a prehistoric or historic occupation or activity, or a building or structure, whether standing, ruined, or vanished, where the location itself possesses historic, cultural, or archeological value regardless of the value of any existing structure.

A site can possess associative significance or information potential or both, and can be significant under any or all of the four criteria. A site need not be marked by physical remains if it is the location of a prehistoric or historic event or pattern of events and if no buildings, structures, or objects marked it at the time of the events. However, when the location of a prehistoric or historic event cannot be conclusively determined because no other cultural materials were present or survive, documentation must be carefully evaluated to determine whether the traditionally recognized or identified site is accurate.

A site may be a natural landmark strongly associated with significant prehistoric or historic events or patterns of events, if the significance of the natural feature is well documented through scholarly research. Generally, though, the National Register excludes from the definition of "site" natural waterways or bodies of water that served as determinants in the location of communities or were significant in the locality's subsequent economic development. While they may have been "avenues of exploration," the features most appropriate to document this significance are the properties built in association with the waterways.

Examples of sites include:

cemeteries significant for
information potential or
historic association
ceremonial site
designed landscape
habitation site
natural feature (such as a
rock formation) having
cultural significance

rock carving
rock shelter
ruins of a building or structure
village site


A district possesses a significant concentration, linkage, or continuity of sites, buildings, structures, or objects united historically or aesthetically by plan or physical development.

Concentration, Linkage, & Continuity of Features
A district derives its importance from being a unified entity, even though it is often composed of a wide variety of resources. The identity of a district results from the interrelationship of its resources, which can convey a visual sense of the overall historic environment or be an arrangement of historically or functionally related properties. For example, a district can reflect one principal activity, such as a mill or a ranch, or it can encompass several interrelated activities, such as an area that includes industrial, residential, or commercial buildings, sites, structures, or objects. A district can also be a grouping of archeological sites related primarily by their common components; these types of districts often will not visually represent a specific historic environment.

A district must be significant, as well as being an identifiable entity. It must be important for historical, architectural, archeological, engineering, or cultural values. Therefore, districts that are significant will usually meet the last portion of Criterion C plus Criterion A, Criterion B, other portions of Criterion C, or Criterion D.

Types of Features
A district can comprise both features that lack individual distinction and individually distinctive features that serve as focal points. It may even be considered eligible if all of the components lack individual distinction, provided that the grouping achieves significance as a whole within its historic context. In either case, the majority of the components that add to the district's historic character, even if they are individually undistinguished, must possess integrity, as must the district as a whole.

A district can contain buildings, structures, sites, objects, or open spaces that do not contribute to the significance of the district. The number of noncontributing properties a district can contain yet still convey its sense of time and place and historical development depends on how these properties affect the district's integrity. In archeological districts, the primary factor to be considered is the effect of any disturbances on the information potential of the district as a whole.

Geographical Boundaries
A district must be a definable geographic area that can be distinguished from surrounding properties by changes such as density, scale, type, age, style of sites, buildings, structures, and objects, or by documented differences in patterns of historic development or associations. It is seldom defined, however, by the limits of current parcels of ownership, management, or planning boundaries. The boundaries must be based upon a shared relationship among the properties constituting the district.

Discontiguous Districts
A district is usually a single geographic area of contiguous historic properties; however, a district can also be composed of two or more definable significant areas separated by nonsignificant areas. A discontiguous district is most appropriate where:

  • Elements are spatially discrete;
  • Space between the elements is not related to the significance of the district; and
  • Visual continuity is not a factor in the significance.

In addition, a canal can be treated as a discontiguous district when the system consists of man- made sections of canal interspersed with sections of river navigation. For scattered archeological properties, a discontiguous district is appropriate when the deposits are related to each other through cultural affiliation, period of use, or site type.

It is not appropriate to use the discontiguous district format to include an isolated resource or small group of resources which were once connected to the district, but have since been separated either through demolition or new construction. For example, do not use the discontiguous district format to nominate individual buildings of a downtown commerical district that have become isolated through demolition.

Examples of districts include:

business districts
canal systems
groups of habitation sites
college campuses
estates and farms with large
acreage/numerous properties industrial complexes
irrigation systems

residential areas
rural villages
transportation networks
rural historic districts

[graphic] Link to Next Page [graphic] Link to Top of Page [graphic] Link to Previous Page

National Register Home | Publications Home | Previous Page | Next Page
Comments or Questions