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 [graphic] National Register Bulletin Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Historic Aids to Navigation to the National Register of Historic Places

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


To be eligible for the National Register, an aid to navigation must be significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, or culture, and possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. The aid to navigation must meet one or more of the four National Register criteria. It must:

A. be associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or

B. be associated with the lives of persons significant in our past; or

C. embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or represent the work of a master, or possess high artistic values, or represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or

D. have yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.

For specific applications of the criteria, refer to National Register Bulletin: Guidelines for Applying the National Register Criteria.

Criterion A

Under Criterion A, association with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of history, an aid to navigation may qualify for listing in the National Register through its association with historic themes. Applicable areas of significance (as listed in Bulletin 16) would include the obvious maritime history theme as well as several other categories. Therefore, historical background information must be provided to explain the significance of the aid. Areas of significance to consider are:

Art : Lighthouses or stations that influenced famous American seashore or maritime paintings such as those of Winslow Homer.

Commerce: Aids to navigation constructed to expand commerce and trade.

Communication: Aids to navigation employed in semaphore telegraph systems and in pioneer ship-to-shore wireless transmissions.

Engineering: Lighthouses important for technological developments of structural types (such as screw pile or caisson lights) or lenses (optics) or light sources (illuminates).

Entertainment/Recreation: Lighthouses, particularly those in the inland States were often tourist destinations and played an important role in the development of recreation and tourism industries.

Government: Aids to navigation that represented growing State and Federal government involvement and responsibility for safe navigation; aids whose establishment represented the primary Federal incursion into responsibility for aids to navigation in a given State or region.

Invention: Aids to navigation where experimentation resulted in new developments in optics, lighting devices, sound signals, communications, and other technologies.

Literature: Lighthouses associated with noted authors or poets or that influenced famous literature.

Military: Aids to navigation modified for military use--some coastal lights served as harbor defense range stations and searchlight installations during the Second World War; lights established in military installations and harbors; lights that were damaged or partially destroyed for military reasons during wars.

Social/Humanitarian: Light stations whose personnel figured in notable rescues of shipwreck victims.

Transportation: Aids to navigation used to guide vessels transporting freight and passengers.

Criterion B

Under Criterion B, association with persons significant in our past, an aid to navigation will possess significance if a person's historical prominence is tied directly to the aid. These persons should have a strong tie to the property, such as keepers or politicians who fought for the establishment of the aid. This significance would not, for example, relate to visits to the aid by important people. National Register Bulletin 32, Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Properties Associated with Significant Persons, provides further guidance on Criterion B and its applications.

Criterion C

Under Criterion C, an aid to navigation possesses significance if it embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or represents the work of a master, possesses high artistic values, or represents a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction. An aid to navigation must possess certain features to be a good representative of its type, period, or method of construction. These features vary. For example, in analyzing an early 20th century caisson lighthouse, a researcher would look for the characteristic sparkplug shape with a circular steel platform rising up from a submerged foundation, with a steel light tower, keeper's quarters, and boat falls mounted atop. A caisson light rebuilt when automated, with the top stories replaced by a small modern beacon, might still be identifiable as a caisson lighthouse because the caisson itself remains, but it is no longer a good representative of the type.

Aids to navigation are usually found to be eligible for National Register listing under Criterion C within the following categories:

Architecture: An aid to navigation may be significant if it is: 1) a good representative of a specific style of architecture, such as a Cape Cod style light; 2) a good representative of a specific type, such as a screw pile, caisson, or octagonal stone tower; or 3) a good example of the work of a master.

Art: An aid to navigation may be significant for artistic works incorporated into the structure, such as stations with decorative sculpture reliefs or murals.

Engineering: An aid to navigation may be significant because of the engineering required for its construction, such as Minot's Ledge light or the screw pile lights in the Florida Keys. Some aids may be significant for their optics and sound signals, such as stations which retain their clockwork mechanisms for revolving lenses or bell-strikers. Engineering achievements that are no longer extant do not impart significance in this area.

Criterion D

Under Criterion D, an aid to navigation is significant if archeological research at the site has yielded or is likely to yield information important to history. These data might include: design information, methods of construction, operation, and life at no longer extant lights and other aids to navigation. Examples of sites that might possess significance under Criterion D include archeological remains of earlier stations on the site or missing components of an extant aid. For example, if only the tower of a light station survives, archeological study of the remains of the outbuildings, quarters, trash pits, and structures may provide a detailed picture of the station and life there and enhance a sketchy or largely undocumented historic record.

Archeological Documentation

Archeological significance is determined by the assessment that the archeological resource, and the scientific analysis of it, will add to or revise the understanding of history. This is done by documenting the poorly recorded or undocumented aspects of an aid to navigation, such as the layout and construction of the earliest Colonial lights. The nomination should clearly demonstrate that the archeological information obtained from the site will significantly supplement or revise current historical or archeological knowledge or understanding.

When documenting the archeological features of an aid to navigation, the nomination should stress how the site is known to possess archeological remains, such as through remote sensing or archeological test excavation. The documentation of no longer extant aids to navigation, including missing or earlier buildings and structures at existing aids, should include descriptions and characteristics determined through archival research that are then assessed, verified, or contrasted with the actual physical, archeological record. Archeological documentation should include a site plan showing where excavation units were placed, recording drawings of exposed features (such as a lighthouse foundation or a deposit of material culture in a trash pit). Include photographs of archeological features or significant artifacts.

Maritime Archeology

Aids to navigation, like ships, often housed isolated, self-sufficient societies. When assessing the archeological nature of an aid to navigation site, the nomination should include research questions answered through remains at the site. Anthropological concerns include the lifeways of isolated communities; the characteristics of a society under stress (because of isolation, serious responsibility, adverse environmental conditions, and hazardous duty); the specific nature self-sufficiency, particularly of small island stations; and social stratification among keepers, assistant keepers, and their families. If the archeological excavation of the site of a light station or other aid provides insight into concerns such as those stated above, the specific archeological evidence conveying significance should be described and documented in the nomination.

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