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 [graphic] National Register Bulletin How to Complete the National Register Registration Form

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

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The SHPO, FPO, and others may use the National Register Registration Form, with certain additional information, to recommend properties for designation as National Historic Landmarks (NHLs).

This chapter supplements Chapter III and explains how persons preparing National Register forms can document national significance. Those who believe a property has national significance and qualifies for NHL designation should first review the NHL criteria for national significance in Appendix V.


NHLs are districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects found to possess national significance in illustrating or representing the prehistory and history of the United States.

NHLs are designated by the Secretary of the Interior. Other than inclusion in the National Park System, Landmark designation is the Federal government's only official designation of the national significance of a historic property. NHLs number less than four percent of the properties listed in the National Register.


While the NHL criteria are similar, they are not identical to those of the National Register, and set a very stringent test for national significance, including high historic integrity. If, after reviewing the criteria, applicants are satisfied that the property is a reasonable candidate for NHL designation, they should then contact the SHPO and the National Historic Landmarks Survey staff in the History Division of the National Park Service (see Appendix IX). If the property is an archeological site or district, they should also consult the archeological assistance staff in the National Park Service regional office. SHPO and NPS staff will help the applicant determine whether NHL designation should be pursued and what information is needed to make the case for national significance.


NHLs are designated by the Secretary of the Interior after the National Park System Advisory Board reviews National Register forms explaining the national significance of the properties. The National Historic Landmarks Survey staff prepares, reviews, or revises these forms before they are considered by the Board. The Landmarks Survey staff is eager to work directly with interested individuals, organizations, and SHPO and Federal agency staff who wish to document properties for NHL designation.

NHL designation requires different and more comprehensive documentation than National Register listing and a substantial amount of time, at least 18 months in most cases. Through the National Register nomination process, a property documented as having national importance can be listed for its State and local importance. After the property has been listed, the National Register staff may recommend it to the Landmarks staff for consideration as a NHL.


NHLs are most often identified through theme studies by the Landmarks Survey staff. Theme studies consist of a context or theme statement and a series of National Register forms relating to a particular topic in U.S. history or archeology, such as westward expansion, architecture, science, or education. There are 34 themes, divided into subthemes and facets. These are listed in History and Prehistory in the National Park System and National Historic Landmarks Program (1987), which is available from NPS's History Division. Theme studies will consider properties already listed in the National Register, but may include others not yet listed. If a property has not been listed, designation as a NHL confers listing in the National Register.

It is easier to make the case for national significance if a theme study provides the context to judge relative significance. If no theme study of comparable properties exists, or if it is incomplete, the applicant will need to document the context on the form. This can be done, for example, by citing judgements of national significance from professional literature.


Applicants are encouraged to provide information in the National Register form that makes the case for NHL designation. This information is entered on continuation sheets and supplements the documentation for National Register listing (i.e., State or local significance). The continuation sheets should:

  • Cite the qualifying NHL criteria;

  • State the related NHL theme and explain the property's relationship to it; and

  • Explain how the property has significance at the national level.

If a property is already listed in the National Register, the documentation may be amendedfrom State or local significance to national significance (particularly if new information is available). Applicants can do this by revising the entire form or by submitting additional documentation on continuation sheets (see Chapter VI on amending forms).

All continuation sheets documenting national significance will become part of the official file if the property is designated as a NHL.

When documenting a property believed to be of national significance, follow the instructions for completing the registration form in Chapter III and the special instructions given below.


Select the historic name reflecting the highest level at which the property is important.

Bethune, Mary McLeod, Home

Princeton Battlefield

Fort Sheridan Historic District


If the property having national significance is different than the property having State and local importance, provide two sets of information for location. Enter the information for the locally or State significant property on the form, and that for the nationally significant portion on a continuation sheet.



The certifying official marks "x" in all the boxes that apply. "National" is interpreted as a recommendation only until NHL designation is approved.


Identify the resources contributing to national significance. Do this in one of the following ways:

  • List on a separate continuation sheet the names of the resources contributing to the national significance of the property.

  • Identify, on a separate sketch map, the resources contributing to national significance.

If only a portion of a National Register property has national significance and is being recommended for NHL designation, explain the differences between the two sets of boundaries. The description should clearly describe what is within the nationally significant portion of the property and what is not.

Differences in boundaries may result from:

  • An individual property of national significance being within a National Register district.

  • A smaller NHL district lying within a district of State and local significance.

  • A property of local or State importance being within a NHL district.

(In some cases, it may be advisable to prepare separate forms and reference them within the larger district nomination.)



When filling in the blanks on the form, enter only the information applying to the National Register significance of the property.

List on a continuation sheet entitled, "National Significance":

1. Applicable NHL criteria.

2. Any exceptions to the NHL criteria.

3. NHL theme(s), subthemes, and facets to which the property relates (refer to History and Prehistory in the National Park System and the National Historic Landmarks Program 1987).

4. Periods and dates of national significance.

Emerald Mound
Adams County, Mississippi

National Significance

Criterion: 6

Theme: The Original Inhabitants

Subthemes: Native Village and Communities; Indian Meets European

Period of National Significance: AD 1200-1730

Johnson's Island Civil War Prison
Ottawa County, Ohio

National Significance

Criteria: 1 and 6

Theme: Civil War

Subthemes: War in the East; War in the West

Period of National Significance: 1861-1865

On continuation sheets, summarize the case for national significance, developing the statement at the national level, and relating it to the NHL criteria and themes as well as the National Register (State and local) significance. Although the statement is a recommendation only until designation occurs, state it affirmatively and support it by a discussion of the proposed historic theme and facts about the property. Quotations from nationally known sources with careful citations may be a strong testimony for national significance.


If a different set of boundaries is proposed for the nationally significant property and separate forms will not be prepared, define two sets of boundaries and provide separate geographical data for each. Enter the set based on the property having National Register significance (State and local) on the form; enter the set defining the property of national importance on a continuation sheet.



If different boundaries are being proposed for the nationally significant property, indicate the location, boundaries, and other information for both sets on separate sketch and USGS maps. On the map for the nationally significant property, identify the following information by coding or graphics (do not use color):

  • Boundaries of the nationally significant property.

  • Resources contributing to the national significance of the property.


Include representative views of the resources that contribute to national significance.


  • Support claims for national significance by historical facts and comparisons of the property to themes of national importance and to similar properties nationwide. Often the easiest way to do this is to compare the property to existing NHLs and units of the National Park System.

  • NHL themes are not necessarily represented uniformly nationwide. Regional patterns and property types found only in one part of the country may be significant nationally if the pattern they represent reflects an important trend in the history of the United States.

  • Areas of national significance may differ from those of local and State significance. For example, a hospital may be important for its architectural design nationally, statewide, and locally, but have importance in medicine only statewide.

  • National significance requires that a property be exceptionally important compared to similar properties. For example, only the finest or the most influential works by a master American architect are likely to be designated NHLs. Also, not all residences of nationally prominent persons are strong candidates; only those with the strongest and longest associations are likely to be designated.

  • Establishing national significance requires the examination of the theme in which the property is significant to the extent necessary to ascertain that the property represents an important aspect of the theme on a national scale and is outstanding in its representation.

  • NHL nominations of archeological sites are encouraged but require careful documentation. Anyone who wishes to document one for national significance should contact the archeological assistance representative in the appropriate regional office, as well as the SHPO, for guidance.

  • An altered or seriously deteriorated property will not be a strong candidate for NHL designation as long as other properties with similar importance and a higher historic integrity exist.

  • Landmark nominations require advance planning. It takes at least 18 months for review and designation once the documentation is received by the National Park Service. This is in part because there are only two opportunities each year to present studies to the National Park Service Advisory Board. Do not assume the documentation will be presented at the next board meeting; if an urgent situation arises, contact the Landmarks program staff at once.


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