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 [graphic] National Register Bulletin Guidelines for Evaluating and Nominating Properties that Have Achieved Significance Within the Past Fifty Years

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


Nuclear Energy sculpture Nuclear Energy, sculpture by Henry Moore commemorates the first controlled nuclear chain reaction. The site, on the campus of the University of Chicago, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1983. Chicago, Cook County, Illinois (Blanche H. Schroer, National Park Service, May 1975)
There are several specific issues relating to time that should be addressed in evaluating a less than 50-year-old property. The 50 year period is an arbitrary span of time, designed as a filter to ensure that enough time has passed to evaluate the property in a historic context. However, it was not designed to be mechanically applied on a year by year basis. Generally, our understanding of history does not advance a year at a time, but rather in periods of time which can logically be examined together. For example, events that relate to the Cold War can best be evaluated in relation to other events or properties from the same period. This means that our ability to evaluate properties moves forward in uneven leaps of years.

It should be determined whether the period under consideration calls for a routine historical evaluation or whether the period needs to be viewed in the context of exceptional importance. Without such a determination, certain properties which have just passed the 50-year point might be given greater value, and those just less than 50 years old might be inappropriately ascribed less importance, when the resources should have been evaluated together to determine their relative significance. Several such periods have been examined since the National Historic Preservation Act was passed in 1966. The 50-year period at that time did not yet include World War I. Soon after the law was passed properties related to the First World War were evaluated—but that evaluation only made sense when examined for the entire war, not on a yearly basis. Similar leaps have been involved with the "Roaring Twenties" and the Depression and the Federal government's response to it. During the past 20 years we have been able to evaluate and list properties, in many categories, constructed or achieving significance during those years, including: Federal projects during the Depression and World War II, the development of air transportation, Art Deco and the International styles of architecture, scientific advances, and sites related to numerous political and social events and individuals. There is now sufficient perspective to enable an evaluation of a number of properties related to the post-World War II era. Some topics for evaluation under Criteria Consideration G include post-World War II development projects; the growth of suburban subdivisions, shopping malls and commercial strip development; the expansion of educational, recreational, and transportation facilities; the Civil Rights movement; the advent of the United States space program; the Vietnam War; and the impact of historic preservation on American cities, towns, and rural areas. An evaluation of some of these categories of resources before others might be possible, either because specific scholarly studies are available, or there exists general historical knowledge about the period or the significance of the resource. A second consideration regarding time is that the appropriate date from which to evaluate a property for exceptional significance is not always the date of construction, but rather, the point at which the property achieved significance. The significance of an architecturally important property can be charted from the time of its construction. But the significance of properties important for historical associations with important events or persons should be dated from the time of the event or the period of association with a historically important individual. For example, Flannery O'Connor's home, Anadalusia, in Milledgeville, Georgia, is significant for its association with O'Connor. She was renowned as a short-story writer of the post-World War II generation, who used the Southern landscape as a major force in shaping her fiction. The period of significance clearly begins in 1951 when she moved there, rather than the early 20th century when the complex of buildings was constructed. Thus, although a property may be more than 50 years of age, if it is significant solely for a reason that dates from within the past 50 years, it must be exceptionally important to be listed in the National Register.

Andalusia Associated with author Flannery O'Connor's productive career, 1951- 1964, Andalusia, Milledgeville, Baldwin County, Georgia, is where O'Connor lived and did most of her writing. (James R. Lockhart, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, June, 1979)
Third, the more recently a property has achieved significance, generally, the more difficult it is to demonstrate exceptional importance. The case for exceptional importance is bolstered when there is a substantial amount of professional, documented materials on the resource and the resource type. A property listed in the National Register 10 or 15 years after it has achieved significance requires clear, widespread recognition of its value to demonstrate exceptional importance. For example, Dulles International Airport Terminal, Loudoun County, Virginia, built in 1962, was determined eligible for the National Register in 1978. That action was based on the ability to evaluate the building compared with other modern buildings and recent airports. Dulles Airport was immediately recognized as one of the most important post-World War II American architectural masterpieces and one of the most innovative airport designs. A 1976 American Institute of Architects' poll selected the building as the third most significant building in the Nation's first 200 years. The building has been widely recognized in professional publications as exceptionally important in the history of American architecture.


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