U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service
V. DOCUMENTING NATIONALLY SIGNIFICANT PROPERTIES
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.
WHAT ARE NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARKS (NHLS)?
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.
NHL THEME STUDIES
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.
DOCUMENTING NATIONAL SIGNIFICANCE
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:
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.
1. NAME OF PROPERTY
Select the historic name reflecting the highest level at which the property is important.
Bethune, Mary McLeod, Home
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.
3. STATE/FEDERAL AGENCY CERTIFICATION
LEVEL OF SIGNIFICANCE
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:
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:
(In some cases, it may be advisable to prepare separate forms and reference them within the larger district nomination.)
STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE
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.
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
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.
10. GEOGRAPHICAL DATA
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):
Include representative views of the resources that contribute to national significance.
GUIDELINES FOR DOCUMENTING NATIONAL SIGNIFICANCE
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