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 [graphic] National Register Bulletin Guidelines for Evaluating and Registering Cemeteries and Burial Places

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

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It is not essential that those evaluating cemeteries for potential National Register eligibility hold credentials in scholarly disciplines, but it is important that they be able to place the resource type in as broad a context as possible and to describe and analyze its components. Those not trained in the disciplines discussed below are encouraged to refer to the recommended sources listed at the end of the guidance, and to consult their local historical commission and State historic preservation office. They may wish to consult professionals who have had training or experience in archeology, anthropology, art history, architectural history, history of landscape architecture, horticulture, history American studies, cultural geography, or historic preservation. Within a number of these disciplines, the study of funerary art and custom is a specialized area. Appropriate expertise may extend to the fields of iconology, ethnology and folklore. Familiar with the terminology used to describe characteristic elements of prehistoric and historic burial sites, cemetery landscapes, buildings, and monuments, individuals in these fields may more easily be able to identify those elements in historic photographs, in plans, and upon inspection of a site.

Archeologists and anthropologists are qualified to evaluate the potential of burials to yield significant information about the past, and often are able to do so without disturbing the remains. Anthropologists and cultural geographers glean information from gravemarkers, inscriptions, and epitaphs, which reveal changing attitudes about death and afterlife, about demographics (the migration patterns of population groups), and about the prevalence of disease. The folklorist and anthropologist perceive meaning in the commonplace, traditional ways of treating graves that are untouched by the currents of high style monumentation.

Art and architectural historians are prepared to assess the visual qualities of the resource, the elements of artistic and architectural style embodied in sculptural monument, gatehouse, and mausoleum. Landscape architectural historians can evaluate and document elements of historic landscape design. Those who specialize in the study of material culture are knowledgeable about the evolving techniques of manufacture and the icons (forms and symbols holding special meaning) used by monument makers in various historic periods. Historians are qualified to relate cemetery development to changing attitudes about death and burial, trends in community planning, aesthetic taste and choices, and historic events such as episodes of settlement and military actions.

Applying the National Register Criteria for Evaluation

To be eligible for the National Register, a cemetery or burial place must be shown to be significant under one or more of the four basic Criteria for Evaluation. Criteria A, B, C, and D indicate the several ways in which a property may be significant in American history, architecture (including the disciplines of landscape architecture and planning), archeology, engineering, and culture. Decisions about the relative significance of cemeteries and burial places can be made only with knowledge of the events, trends, and technologies that influenced practices of caring for and commemorating the dead, and with some concept of the quality and quantity of similar resources in the community, region, State, or nation. Such background provides the context for evaluating significance.

The term "context," as applied to the process of evaluation, may be described simply as the relevant social, political, economic, and environmental circumstances of the historic period in which a property was developed. By studying a burial place in its broadest possible context, and by applying the basic criteria, the researcher is able to recognize those resources which are significant in representing a given period and historic theme.

Within the broad patterns of American history, the National Register defines a number of "areas of significance." Areas of significance are equivalent to the historical or cultural themes that the property best represents. Some of the areas of significance relevant to burial places are art and architecture, landscape architecture, community planning and development, archeology, ethnic heritage, exploration and settlement, health/medicine, military history, religion, and social history. It is important when applying National Register criteria to keep in mind that, except for archeological sites and cemeteries nominated under Criterion D, burial places also must meet the special requirements of Criteria Considerations C or D, which refer to graves and cemeteries, and possibly to A (religious properties) or other Criteria Considerations.

Criterion A: Properties can be eligible for the National Register if they are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history.

Under Criterion A, the events or trends with which the burial place is associated must be clearly important, and the connection between the burial place and its associated context must be unmistakable. There are many ways in which a cemetery might represent an important aspect of a community's or a culture's history through association with a specific event or by representing broader patterns of attitudes or behavior. For example, our legacy of community cemeteries began in Colonial times. In Boston, when "Brother Johnson" died in 1630, his burial was soon followed by others close by. This property then became the first burial ground for the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and was the only Colonial burial ground in Boston for 30 years. Ultimately, it assumed the name of a later church constructed there, becoming King's Chapel Burying Ground (Suffolk County). Depending on the history of an area, the age required of a cemetery to represent early exploration, settlement, and development will vary. In Colorado, the Doyle Settlement (Pueblo County), established by early pioneer Joseph Doyle in 1859, was one of the earliest non-mining communities in the State. Once a self-contained unit consisting of residences, dining facility, store, flour mill, blacksmith shop, school, and granaries, its importance in the early development of southern Colorado is now represented by only the school, the cemetery, and building foundations.

A cemetery may represent a variety of important aspects of an area's early settlement and evolving sense of community. Union Cemetery, in Redwood City (San Mateo County), California, was the subject of the State's first cemetery legislation in 1859. Early in its history, it became the focal point for an annual Memorial Day celebration, which grew over the years into one of the town's most important communal traditions. In addition, a study of the birthplaces of those buried there found at least 17 foreign countries and 26 States, demonstrating the ethnic and cultural diversity characteristic of early northern California communities.

Doyle Settlement
One of the few reminders of the vanished Doyle Settlement near Pueblo, Colorado, this cemetery also includes one of the state's best collections of carved Spanish headstones and represents the dual cultural influences on the community. (James Munch, 1979)

Cemeteries may be significant for associations with specific events as well as long-term trends. The Kuamo'o Burials, Hawaii County, Hawaii, is the burial ground for warriors killed in a major battle in Hawaiian history. The Hawaiian ruling class traditionally had exercised power through a system of sacred rules, or kapu. After the death of Kamehameha I in 1819, authority was divided so that Kamehameha I's son Liholiho (Kamehameha II) controlled the secular government, and his nephew Kekuaokalani maintained the kapu system. When the new king acted to abolish the kapu, Kekuaokalani led an army in rebellion to protect the sacred traditions. Liholiho's forces prevailed, and the abolition of the kapu system, occurring the same year as the arrival of Christian missionaries, accelerated the assimilation of western culture. In contrast, Magnolia Cemetery, East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, already was a cemetery when the Battle of Baton Rouge took place there in 1862. Although the Confederates failed to expel the Union forces occupying the city, the ferocity of their attack helped persuade Federal leaders to evacuate. As a result, the Confederates were able to secure a stronghold for transporting supplies on the Mississippi River. Much of the rest of the battlefield has succumbed to urban development, but the cemetery retains its integrity from the Civil War period.

Battles are a common, but not the only type of, event associated with cemeteries and other burial places. The Mass Grave of the Mexican Miners, within Mount Calvary Cemetery, McAlester (Pittsburg County), Oklahoma, is the only site representing a major 1929 mining disaster. Mexicans played a major role in the area's mining industry and made up almost half of the casualties from the 1929 explosion. The creation of a mass grave for 24 of the Mexican victims, dug by State prisoners and initially marked with only a single wooden cross (ten stone family markers were added later), also is evocative of a time in mining history when terms of employment did not include survivors benefits.

The evolution of burial customs and memorializations also can be an important context for understanding our history. In the 19th century, romantic appreciation of nature and changing attitudes about death and memorialization led to gradual abandonment of overcrowded urban graveyards and church cemeteries in favor of spacious, landscaped burial grounds on the city outskirts. The great "rural" cemeteries outlying major cities in the eastern United States and the Midwest were founded by voluntary associations in the 1830s and 1840s. Their popularity inspired a benevolent movement, led to the development of urban parks, and was the foundation of an entire industry. Although most of the Register-listed community cemeteries across the country that were established in their image before 1900 are documented under Criterion C only for landscape architecture, and sometimes art or architecture many also may meet National Register Criterion A in the areas of social history or community planning.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, American mortuary practices were greatly influenced by the cremation movement spurred by advocates in the medical and scientific community and a general awareness of the world's mounting population. The first national convention leading to formation of the Cremation Association of America was held at Detroit in 1913. In areas of the world where it was not in conflict with religious doctrine, the movement was well developed by the 1920s and 1930s. Public health laws were revised to allow hygienic disposal of the dead by incineration, and cremation societies were organized to promote and maintain private facilities. Some crematories were municipally owned. Typically, crematory design incorporated, in addition to the retort, a chapel and mausoleum, or columbarium. Frequently, the combination facility was sited in a conventional cemetery or memorial park. The spread of the movement related, in part, to the ideals of economy and efficiency that marked the early 20th century. The nation's early crematories and those representing later benchmarks in the broad reform movement would be eligible, in all likelihood, under Criterion A.

Criterion B: Properties may be eligible for the National Register if they are associated with the lives of persons significant in our past.
Lincoln Tomb
The Lincoln Tomb, Springfield, Illinois, is the final resting place for Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary Todd Lincoln, and three of his sons. Built between 1869 and 1874, it was the culmination of a broad-based community effort to memorialize the slain president. (Stephen Lissandrello, 1975)

Under Criterion B, the person or group of persons with which the burial place is associated must be of outstanding importance to the community, State, or nation, as required by Criteria Consideration C (see page 16). As an example, Abraham Lincoln's tomb in Springfield (Sangamon County), Illinois is significant as the final resting place of the martyred figure who, as the nation's 16th president, successfully defended the Union of States in the Civil War and drafted the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862-1863. While not all other properties directly associated with President Lincoln's productive life are lost, the tomb also is important, in part, under Criterion A as the focal point of a broad-based commemorative effort begun shortly after he was slain in 1865.

Graves of persons significant to a particular State , region of the country, or cultural group also may qualify for listing. The Free Frank McWorter Grave Site, also in Illinois (Pike County), is listed in the National Register for its significance in representing the accomplishments of a former slave. Free Frank McWorter purchased his own freedom and that of his wife with the profits of his business before moving to Illinois in 1830. In Illinois, he established a farm, engaged in land speculation, founded a prosperous frontier community, and secured the freedom of 13 additional family members. The gravesite is the only property that survives to represent his achievements and his impact on this area of the State. In Utah, the Martin Harris Gravesite (Cache County) is listed as the State's only property associated with Martin Harris, one of three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, who also served as the first scribe to Mormon prophet Joseph Smith.

Cemeteries, as well as graves, may be eligible under Criterion B. Forestvale Cemetery, on the outskirts of Helena (Lewis and Clark County), Montana, is one of many National Register cemeteries that contain the graves of numerous persons who made outstanding contributions to the history of the State or area in which their graves are located. Among those buried in Forestvale are James Fergus, first commissioner of the territory, also credited with spearheading the formation of Fergus County; Cornelius Hedges, who played a prominent role in the development of the State's public education system and in the formation of Yellowstone National Park; J. Scott Harrison, the chief geological engineer who mapped all of Montana, including boundaries, mountains, principal rivers and streams, and some county borders; Albert Kleinschmidt, credited with the construction of the three largest irrigation canals in the State; and W. A. Chessman, who constructed the Chessman Reservoir, ensuring a stable water supply for the city of Helena.

Criterion C: Properties may be eligible for the National Register if they embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction.

Under Criterion C, funerary monuments and their associated art works, buildings, and landscapes associated with burial places must be good representatives of their stylistic type or period and methods of construction or fabrication. Alternatively, such property types may represent the work of master artists, designers and craftsmen, or the highest artistic values of the period. Appropriate areas of significance would be architecture, art, or landscape architecture.

In the Colonial period, tablet-style gravemarkers typically were inscribed and embellished in low relief with the imagery first of death, and later also of resurrection, with various decorative symbols. Much of the work was done by stone carvers whose craftsmanship was of outstanding quality, recognizable in one burial ground after another by distinguishing motifs, craft techniques, or other signature marks. A 17th or 18th century graveyard containing a good representation of gravemarkers of the period and region would be eligible under Criterion C if the body of work is documented sufficiently to provide a basis for comparison. Attribution of particular works to a specific master carver, family, or group of artisans would be helpful, but is not essential to the documentation. Quality craftsmanship or distinctive folk art may be eligible even if the identity of the artisan is unknown. For example, the Hebron Church, Cemetery, and Academy, Banks County, Georgia, is eligible, in part, because of an unusual form of folk art found in northern Georgia. Early 19th century discoid markers there are believed to be made of hand-carved rock from a nearby outcropping by an early settler who learned the craft from ancestors in the British Isles.

In the closing years of the 19th century, the arts in America achieved a high point of integration based on the ideals of Renaissance classicism. The nation's leading architects and sculptors, most notably Richard Morris Hunt, Stanford White, Daniel Chester French, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens, collaborated in the design of important civic and cemetery monuments. There are many examples of high artistic achievement in funerary monumentation of the period eligible under Criterion C in urban centers. Among the best-known of these is the Adams Memorial in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C., where Stanford White provided an architectural setting for the sublime bronze figure of transcendent peace completed by Saint-Gaudens in 1891. Historian-writer Henry Brooks Adams commissioned the monument in memory of his wife, the former Marian Hooper.

Mount Pleasant Cemetery
The Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Newark, Essex County, New Jersey, illustrates characteristic features and attitudes towards death in the Victorian period in the profusion of attenuated, vertical forms, such as columns and obelisks, imagery expressing confidence in spiritual after-life. (Anna Sanchez, 1985)

A cemetery that does not contain "high style" master works of funerary art nonetheless may be eligible under Criterion C as a distinguishable entity made up of a significant array of gravemarkers and monuments representing the common artistic values of a historic period. For example, the elaborate monumentation characteristic of cemeteries of the Victorian era was derived from the influence of the romantic movement in literature and art, which revered nature and sentiment. Grief and devotion could be expressed nobly in artistic terms by means of code-like imagery. Pyramid-capped mausoleums and tapering shafts on pedestals were among the popular monument forms drawn from the ancient world. Because of their association with Egyptian sepulchral monuments signifying eternal life beyond the earthly realm, the pyramid and obelisk became symbols for Christian belief in the eternity of the spirit. Indeed, obelisks were so widely used as gravemarkers that they, along with classical columns, account for much of the bristling quality of cemetery landscapes of the period. Some of the imagery was figural, encompassing effigies and idealized figures as well as lambs, cherubs, and other orders of angels. Among the many cemeteries listed for their notable collection of Victorian funerary art are Oakwood Cemetery, Onondaga County, New York; Oakland Cemetery, Fulton County, Georgia; Elmwood Cemetery, Jackson County, Missouri; and Cave Hill Cemetery, Jefferson County, Kentucky. Not surprisingly, all are significant in the area of landscape architecture as well.

Mt. Carmel Settlement
The rural setting and these six crosses, the only objects remaining from the old Mt. Carmel settlement in Pierce County, North Dakota, are evocative of the State's early period of German-Russian immigration. (Timothy J. Kloberandz, 1988)

In part, the richness and variety of monuments in Victorian cemeteries was derived from the introduction of mechanized manufacturing processes. A broad range of patterns was available to monument makers in printed handbooks, a notable example of which was Palliser's Memorials and Headstones, published in 1851 by Palliser, Palliser, and Company, New York architects and designers. A great many markers were mass marketed through marble works and manufacturers' catalogs. Monuments of cast zinc marketed as "white bronze" were popular throughout the country after a fabrication process was developed in the 1870s. Metal gravemarkers generally were cheaper than marble and granite markers and, depending on the number and variety of casting molds used, could surpass in elaboration the carved stone monuments they emulated. City Cemetery, Washington County, Georgia, contains a significant collection of mass-produced designs. Cast iron fences, also readily available at this time, became extremely popular for fencing of both individual plots and entire cemeteries. The cast iron fences in Rapides Cemetery, Rapides Parish, Louisiana, are among the most important examples of Victorian ornamental cast iron in the State outside of New Orleans.

Memorial Park Cemetery
The Sculptures of Dionicio Rodriguez at Memorial Park Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee, illustrate the work of a master artist. (Tennessee Historical Commission, 1990)
German-Russian Wrought Iron Cross Sites
Four of the dozens of individually designed styles found in the German-Russian Wrought Iron Sites in Central North Dakota represent an Old World folk tradition, which enjoyed its greatest period of popularity in this region from the 1880s until about 1925. (Timothy J. Kloberandz, 1988)

Less commonplace, but highly distinctive, examples of funerary art or craftsmanship also may qualify for National Register listing. The Sculptures of Dionicio Rodriguez at Memorial Park Cemetery, Shelby County, Tennessee, constitute one of the finest collections of sculptures executed by this Mexican artist. His rustic works in tinted reinforced concrete imitate natural forms such as trees and stone masses. Mountain View Cemetery, Stillwater County, Montana, is known for its concentration of hand-carved sandstone tree stump and log tombstones, most believed to be the work of two local Italian carvers. In central North Dakota, German-Russian Wrought Iron Cross Sites contain a dazzling array of intricately embellished hand-crafted iron grave crosses, a long-established Old World folk tradition brought to the United States by German-Russian immigrants. The crosses, some by highly-skilled blacksmiths whose names are known, and others by unknown artisans, display a balance of cultural tradition and individual creativity.

Criterion D: Properties may be eligible for the National Register if they have yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.

Burial places may be eligible for their potential to yield information about cultural and ethnic groups. Under Criterion D, the common requirements are that the property have information to contribute and the information is considered important. The importance of the information to be yielded usually is determined by considering a research design or a set of questions that could be resolved by controlled investigation of the site. While commonly understood to apply to archeological research, Criterion D also encompasses information important in the study of material culture and social history. Except for the graves of significant historic individuals, burial places nominated under Criterion D need not meet the special requirements of the Criteria Considerations.

Information collected on Native Americans in all parts of the country reveals a great range and variation of burial ritual. The placement and orientation of burial remains and the objects associated with burials, such as implements, vessels for food offerings and personal adornment, reveal a people's spiritual beliefs, their view of afterlife, and distinctions in social, economic, and political status. Some aspects of burials, such as the lining or closing of graves with stones and the plugging of burial chambers with debris, indicate methods of protecting the remains. The similarity of burial practices in different regions could indicate links through trade and migration.

Present Federal, State, and local laws protecting Native American burial remains, burial goods, and sacred objects may constrain physical anthropological studies. However, where disturbance of burials is accidental or unavoidable, legally authorized scientific analysis of skeletal remains can disclose important information about environmental conditions of prehistoric times, including the prevalence of disease and trauma inflicted in combat. Sometimes these properties may be eligible without having been excavated; Hodgen's Cemetery Mound in Ohio, revealed as a burial mound by erosion, has never been excavated and was seeded to prevent further erosion; its significance is enhanced by its relatively undisturbed integrity. Also, it is not uncommon to find burying places associated with other archeological features, and such burial places may be eligible for National Register listing as part of a larger area of occupation for which testing or partial excavation has been carried out. Whether burial places are identified individually, or as part of a larger site, one should always consult representatives of any group for whom the burials or site have historic or cultural meaning, and also the State historic preservation office.

Anthropologists and historical archeologists can gain information significant in American culture from burial places. For example, West Africans carried in the slave trade to the east coast of America, and their descendants, adapted traditional burial rites to plantation and community life. Studies of African American cemeteries in the South reveal a variety of gravesite treatments based on a view of the spirit world that can be traced to the Bakongo culture of West Africa. Light-reflecting objects and personal possessions used to define and decorate graves are intended to attract and contain the spirit. The spiraled conch shell seen on graves in the coastal areas is an emblem of the eternal cycle of life and death, and inverted objects are oriented to the spirit world, which in traditional culture is a shimmering mirror of the living world beneath the earthly plane. Cemeteries having the potential to illustrate the practice of such beliefs may be eligible under Criterion D.

In cases where written documentation is not available, studies of a cemetery may reveal important information about an area. The site of Old Greenville is the location of a frontier town and county seat important in the early settlement of the Missouri Ozarks. Because a series of courthouse fires destroyed early records, information that can be obtained from cemetery features can enlighten various aspects of the area's past. Features documented as having information potential include location and grouping of graves; use and quantity of commercial markers, fieldstone, impermanent markers, or no markers; funerary art; and inscriptions indicating identity, cultural affiliation, birth and death dates, and cause of death.

Special Requirements: Criteria Considerations

Certain types of properties, including cemeteries and graves, do not qualify for the National Register unless they meet certain special conditions. This category also includes birthplaces of historical figures, properties owned by religious institutions or used for religious purposes, structures that have been moved from their original locations, reconstructed historic buildings, properties primarily commemorative in nature, and properties that have achieved significance within the past 50 years. However, cemeteries and graves may qualify under Criteria A, B, or C if they are integral parts of larger properties that do meet the criteria, or if they meet the conditions known as Criteria Considerations. In some instances, a burial place nomination will need to be justified under more than one of the special conditions in addition to the basic criteria. Except for the graves of historical figures, burial places nominated under Criterion D are exempt from the Criteria Consideration requirements.

In the discussion below, examples that must be justified under the Criteria Considerations are those for which an explicit justification must be included in the nomination documentation. Following these are examples of properties likely to be accepted for National Register listing if the nomination documentation included an adequate explanation. Each discussion also includes at least one example of a type of cemetery or burial place that may be nominated, or included in a larger nominated property, without the necessity of checking a Criteria Consideration blank on the form or providing a special justification in the nomination.

Criteria Consideration A: A religious property is eligible if it derives its primary significance from architectural or artistic distinction or historical importance.

Examples of religious burial places that must be justified under Criteria Consideration A requirements:

  • A graveyard maintained as property of a church or synagogue.
  • A crypt or crypts of a historic church or synagogue.
  • A cemetery containing burials of members of a religious order or group, if the religious affiliation is a major part of the cemetery's significance.

Examples of religious burial grounds that likely would meet Criteria Consideration A requirements with adequate documentation:

  • A graveyard of a church or synagogue distinguished by the artistic quality of its gravemarkers or by relatively early historical associations.
  • A crypt significant for its artistic embellishment or associations with a person of outstanding importance.

Our Lady of Perceptual Help Catholic Church
As part of a church nomination, the cemetery next to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Colfax County, Nebraska, need not meet the requirements of Criteria Considerations A or D. (D. Murphy, 1980)

Example of religious burial places that do not need to be justified under Criteria Consideration A:

  • A graveyard or cemetery that is nominated along with the church or synagogue with which it is associated when the church or synagogue is the main resource nominated.

Criteria Consideration B: A property removed from its original or historically significant location can be eligible if it is significant primarily for architectural value or if it is the surviving structure most importantly associated with a historic person or event.

Examples of relocated burial places that must be justified under Criteria Consideration B requirements:

  • A grave of a historic figure that has been moved from its original or earlier historic location to a place that became the focus of commemorative monumentation.
  • A mausoleum, columbarium, or other building that has been relocated.
  • A cemetery or section of a cemetery that became the location of reinterments of a group of historic figures.
  • A graveyard or cemetery relocated in its entirety.

Examples of relocated burial places that likely would meet Criteria Consideration B requirements with adequate documentation:

  • A mausoleum or other building relocated within the bounds of its historic setting without loss to its significant architectural character and without destroying the character of a historic district.
  • A cemetery or section of a cemetery where a group of historic persons of outstanding importance were reinterred fifty or more years ago.
  • A graveyard moved in its entirety if it represents a historic relocation and the artistic qualities and social significance of its historic gravemarkers are preserved.
  • An ossuary or other burial place that represents reinterment as a traditional cultural practice.

    Example of relocated burial places that do not need to be justified under Criteria Consideration B:

  • A graveyard or cemetery in which a few reinterments have taken place; in which a small number of gravemarkers original to the grounds are missing or separated from their historic positions; or for which the age or historical associations are of overriding rarity and significance.

Criteria Consideration C: A birthplace or grave of a historical figure is eligible if the person is of outstanding importance and if there is no other appropriate site or building directly associated with his or her productive life.

Historical figures of outstanding importance in local, State or national history usually are more vividly associated with the places relating to their productive lives than with their graves. Gravesites may be far removed, geographically, from the setting of the individual's momentous activities. But if residences and business or professional headquarters are not preserved, the final resting place sometimes may be significant as the most substantial link to that person. A historical figure of outstanding importance is one whose contributions to local, State or national history were truly extraordinary. The accomplishments of such a person must stand out in kind and degree from those of others active at a comparable level in the same field and during the same period of time.

Prehistoric graves do not fall under this Criteria Consideration.

Examples of graves that must be justified under Criteria Consideration C requirements:

  • A grave nominated for its associations with the person buried there.
  • The grave of a historical figure that is nominated for its potential to yield information significant in local, State or national history.

Examples of graves that likely would meet Criteria Consideration C requirements if adequately documented:

  • A grave that is the only substantial intact link to a historical figure of outstanding importance.
  • The grave of a historical figure nominated under Criterion D for significant information about the past that is not available from other sources.

    Example of graves that do not need to be justified under Criteria Consideration C:

    • A grave located on the grounds of the house, farm, ranch, or plantation where the outstanding historical figure spent his or her productive years, and the property is being nominated as a whole.

    Criteria Consideration D: A cemetery is eligible if it derives its primary significance from graves of persons of transcendent importance, from age, from distinctive design features, or from association with historic events.

    As collective burial places, cemeteries are the focus of many individual expressions commemorating family members and spiritual beliefs. In and of itself, this characteristic does not qualify a burial place for listing in the National Register. However, when a burying ground is of sufficient age and scope to represent more, such as patterns of early settlement or the values of a society generally, National Register Criteria Consideration D provides for its eligibility. Cemeteries nominated for the importance of the information they may impart may be eligible for listing without application of Criteria Consideration D.

    To be considered a person of transcendent importance, an individual would have to meet the same test as that for a grave. To qualify for its age, a cemetery must date from an early period within its geographic and cultural context. The age of a burial place might be considered early relative to the period for which we have information about human activity, or relative to the exploration, settlement, and development of an area by a particular group. As with any other type of property, a cemetery may be eligible for the quality of design represented in its funerary art, construction or engineering techniques, landscape architecture, or other values recognized under National Register Criterion C. Likewise, under Criterion A, a cemetery may possess significant associations with historic events, including general events that reflect important broad patterns in our history.

    St. Matthew's Church Cemetery
    The St. Matthew's Church cemetery contributes to the significance of East Plymouth Historic District in Plymouth, Litchfield County, Connecticut, a community that was settled by a historically significant religious minority, and which developed as a center for surrounding farm families. (Connecticut Historical Commission, 1984)

    Examples of cemeteries that must be justified under Criteria Consideration D requirements:

    • Any cemetery nominated individually under National Register Criteria A, B, or C.
    • A cemetery that constitutes a substantial or pivotal portion of a historic district nominated under Criteria A, B, or C.

    Examples of cemeteries that likely would meet Criteria Consideration D requirements if adequately documented:

    • A historic cemetery containing the graves of a number of persons of outstanding importance those whose activities determined the course of events in local, State, or national history; or those whose activities were especially important in reflecting significant cultural currents of the time.
    • A cemetery possessing important historic associations from a community's early period of settlement, or which reflects important aspects of community history.
    • A cemetery that embodies the principles of an aesthetic movement or tradition of design and monumentation through its overall plan and landscaping, its gravemarkers and funerary sculpture, or its buildings and structures.
    • A cemetery that is associated through its burials with a single important historical event such as a pivotal military battle.
    • A cemetery that embodies the folkways, burial customs, or artistic traditions of an ethnic or cultural group whose impact on the community or region was significant but is not well documented in other resources.

    Examples of cemeteries that do not need to be justified under Criteria Consideration D:

    • A cemetery associated with a distinguishable cultural group that has the potential to yield important information such as migration patterns, subsistence levels, and prevalence of disease in historic or prehistoric times.
    • A cemetery that is nominated along with the church or synagogue with which it is associated when the church or synagogue is the main resource nominated.
    • A cemetery that is nominated as part of a historic district but is not the focal point of the district.

    Criteria Consideration E: A reconstructed property is eligible when it is accurately executed in a suitable environment and presented in a dignified manner as part of a restoration master plan, and when no other building or structure with the same association has survived.

    Examples of reconstructed burial places that must be justified under Criteria Consideration E requirements:

    • A burial mound or other surface burial place reconstructed largely of fabric that is not original.
    • A cemetery in which a significant number of character-defining features, such as mausoleums and gravemarkers, are reconstructed of fabric that is not original.

    Example of reconstructed burial places that likely would meet Criteria Consideration E requirements if adequately documented:

    • A cemetery in which landscape plantings, road systems, mausoleums, and/or gravemarkers have been repaired and restored largely with original fabric in accordance with a well documented preservation plan.

    Criteria Consideration F: A property primarily commemorative in intent can be eligible if design, age, tradition, or symbolic value has invested it with its own historical significance.

    Most burial places, ranging from gravemarkers and grave shelters to substantial mausoleums and cemeteries as a whole, are commemorative in intent. Unlike many commemorative properties, however, the significance of a burial place often includes direct association with events that occurred on or near the site, or with the person or persons buried there. Other burial places may be significant for their artistic quality or their capacity to evoke widely-shared emotions.

    Gettysburg National Cemetery, which now contains approximately 6,000 burials from the Civil War through the Viet Nam conflict, was established as a cemetery for the Union casualties from one of the decisive battles of the Civil War. The number of killed, wounded, and captured in the fighting of July 1-3, 1863, reached 51,000 and was unsurpassed in any other engagement of the Civil War. In addition to its direct association with the battlefield, the cemetery shares significance with the adjacent battlefield because of their long history as a place where the pathos of a nation was expressed, beginning with President Abraham Lincoln's immortal address at the cemetery's dedication little more than four and half months after the battle ended.

    In general, national cemeteries meet Criteria Consideration F because they have been designated by Congress as primary memorials to the country's military history. Many of these also are directly associated with the battles in which the interred lost their lives.

    Examples of commemorative burial places that must be justified under Criteria Consideration F requirements:

    • A funerary monument of a heroic or martyred figure, or a tribal or national leader, if it is the commemorative function that is of primary significance.

    Example of commemorative burial places that likely would meet Criteria Consideration F requirements if adequately justified:

    • A national cemetery.

    Examples of commemorative burial places that do not need to be justified under Criteria Consideration F:

    • A gravemarker or monument significant primarily for its age or its distinction as an example of craftsmanship or architecture of a historic period or school.
    • A gravemarker significant primarily as a document of the traditions of an ethnic or cultural group.
    • A cemetery significant chiefly because it embodies the distinctive characteristics of a historic period or school of landscape design or of an important tradition of vernacular or folk design.

    Criteria Consideration G: A property achieving significance within the last fifty years is eligible if it is of exceptional importance.

    National cemeteries, collectively, possess inherent exceptional significance from associations with important events in our history. Because the cemeteries include the graves of military personnel associated with every war and branch of service, and draw their essential significance from the presence of the remains of those who have served their country throughout its history, the age of each cemetery is not necessarily the determining factor. To qualify, however, each cemetery must be used or prepared for the burials of veterans and their dependents, and must possess historic integrity.

    Examples of burial places less than fifty years old that must be justified under Criteria Consideration G requirements:

    • A grave that is less than fifty years old.
    • A cemetery established less than fifty years ago.
    • A new national cemetery or tracts of recently acquired land not yet developed for cemetery purposes, even if added to existing cemeteries.
    • A mausoleum, mortuary, or crematorium that is less than fifty years old.

    Examples of burial places less that fifty years old that likely would meet Criteria Consideration G requirements if adequately documented:

    • A grave of a national or tribal leader that is exceptionally important because the leader's death had a galvanic effect on broad social movements and the gravesite is the focal point of reverence for the leader's achievements.
    • A mausoleum, mortuary, or crematorium that is exceptionally significant as a pivotal design in the development of new technologies for care of the dead.
    • A developed national cemetery that contains interments of veterans and their dependents, or one that has been clearly prepared for that purpose.

    Examples of burial places less than fifty years old that do not need to be justified under Criteria Consideration G:

    • A historic cemetery established more than fifty years ago, where the vast majority of burials, markers, and monuments are over fifty years old, but which is still active, and in which a number of burials occurred less than fifty years ago. (The period of significance in such a case would end either at the end of the cemetery's period of historical importance, or fifty years prior to the evaluation and documentation if the continuing use is perceived as significant but not exceptionally significant.)
    • A cemetery significant for its plan or design which, although commenced over fifty years ago, was fully executed at a date that overlaps the most recent fifty year period by a few years.


    Common Burying Ground & Island Cemetery
    The Common Burying Ground & Island Cemetery in Newport County, Rhode Island, retains historic integrity (Edwin W. Connelly, 1974)

    To qualify for National Register listing, properties must retain historic integrity. The Criteria for Evaluation recognize seven factors which define historic integrity: location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. All must be considered in determining whether a burial place retains enough of its characteristic features to represent the associations, function, and appearance it had during its period of significance. The natural and developed landscape features that are associated with complex burial places such as cemeteries must be considered as part of the evaluation of integrity.

    In essence, the researcher should ask the following questions in evaluating integrity: 1) To what degree does the burial place and its overall setting convey the most important period(s) of use? 2) To what degree have the original design and materials of construction, decoration, and landscaping been retained? 3) Has the property's potential to yield significant information in American culture been compromised by ground-disturbance or previous investigation?

    To assess the completeness and condition of a burial place, it is helpful to begin by identifying the characteristic features of the type of property under study, especially those that give the property significance. For a cemetery, such features would include gravesites, gravemarkers, boundary enclosures, walkways, gateways, road systems, natural and planted vegetation, buildings, structures, and the spatial relationship among all of these. By their constant exposure, certain gravemarker materials, such as wood and marble, are especially vulnerable to natural cycles of weathering and deterioration, just as vegetation is subject to growth and decay. Damage to, or modification and loss of, characteristic features do not necessarily render a burial place ineligible. It is a question of degree. A burial place which meets National Register standards for integrity should retain enough of its significant features from its period of significance to make clear its distinction as an important representative of its physical type, or of its historic associations.

    Since the 19th century, American cemeteries commonly have been planned as "eternal" resting places of the dead. Even so, occasionally they are moved, obliterated, or adapted for new uses. Frequently, they are enlarged and their landscape altered or "improved" in keeping with changing tastes. It is important, therefore, both to distinguish nonhistoric development from that which reflects the historic period(s) of significance, and also to discern which changes occurred historically and may have acquired significance, and which help maintain the significant historic appearance landscape restoration, for example. Nevertheless, to meet National Register standards for integrity, development of the historic period should predominate. The National Register defines as "historic" those elements, qualities, and associations that are at least fifty years old.

    The amount, distribution, and kind of nonhistoric features should all be considered in evaluating integrity. In some cases, an entire cemetery may not qualify for the National Register. If the original area has remained essentially intact while modern expansion occurred beyond or around it, then the historic portion likely will qualify because it is easy to draw boundaries that exclude the nonhistoric areas. For example, Providence Cemetery is a two-acre rural cemetery located about 11 miles from the county seat, and has been used for burials from the 1840s until the present. The northeast 3/4-acre, which contains inscribed tombstones from 1840 to 1870, was nominated and listed in the National Register for its associations with the earliest period of white settlement (1830s-1870) in what is now Grenada County, Mississippi. This portion of Providence Cemetery is one of the few identifiable properties to survive from that period.

    When a large historic cemetery with scattered gravesites has had modern infill, the entire cemetery still may be eligible if the proportional number, size, and scale of new features are not so imposing as to overwhelm the overall historic appearance. Once the nonhistoric features begin to dominate, and one's impression is of a modern cemetery with isolated historic burials or clusters of historic gravesites, then the overall historic character of the cemetery has been lost, and it would not meet National Register standards.

    "Improvements" also can affect historic integrity. Replacing a simple post and wire fence with a brick wall, modest slate headstones with elaborate monuments, and natural growth with nursery plantings all reduce integrity, however well-intentioned. Although beautification efforts may make a cemetery more attractive, replacing the original features diminishes the cemetery's authentic historic character. Changes that occurred during the historic period, however, may reflect cultural beliefs and practices and contribute to a cemetery's significance. In order to appropriately evaluate the impact of changes, one must determine not only which features are crucial components of historic character, but also why they are important. For example, is a fence or wall important because it provides a sense of solid enclosure, or because of its materials and design, or both? The answer will help determine the physical attributes a cemetery must retain to possess historic integrity.

    In some cases, age or the rarity of resources representing a person, events, or historic period, may allow a greater tolerance for change, damage, or loss of historic features. The Vermillion Creek Crossing (Pottawatomie County, Kansas) was one of the early major crossings, and a well-known campsite for travelers along the Oregon Trail. Here Louis Vieux, a Pottawatomie chief for whom the town of Louisville is named, built a cabin and operated a toll bridge, blacksmith shop, stable, and general store. In 1849, approximately 50 people died of Asiatic cholera and were buried here. Louis Vieux, who served in many important capacities for his tribe and became quite wealthy, also was buried here in 1872, along with some of his family. The crossing site and the two cemeteries are important as the only remaining signs of this once-busy crossing, and retain integrity despite some vandalism and the loss of most of the stones that once marked each of the graves of the cholera victims. In New England, at least two major campaigns to move headstones within 17th and 18th century burying grounds have resulted in the arrangement of gravemarkers in neat rows, which were not present in the original layouts: one in the mid-1800s related to the Victorian aesthetic and the introduction of the lawnmower, and one during the era of Works Progress Administration projects of the 1930s. Yet, the major legacy of these cemeteries remains, in that the early markers, with their inscriptions and funerary designs, still remain to convey their important age, associations, and information.

    Removal of graves may or may not diminish historic integrity. Many Chinese who were active in the settlement and development of Hawaii and the Mainland in the late 19th century observed Confucian doctrine which called for properly placed graves in their homeland. As the burial remains of these sojourners were returned to China, whole sections of American cemeteries were disinterred. Sometimes the emptied gravesites were reused on a cyclical basis. If evidence of the historic use of a disinterred cemetery subdivision remains in the form of gravemarkers, monuments, or depressions in the ground, the subdivision need not be excluded from the nominated area on the basis of integrity if it is culturally significant. Such areas were not intended to be permanent, and removal of burials is part of the cultural story; if visible traces make it distinguishable, the subdivision's relative position and function in the overall cemetery landscape still can be appreciated. A cemetery that has been substantially disinterred and where removal of graves is not an authentic part of the cemetery's history, however, would not meet the standards of integrity, nor would most disinterred gravesites outside the cemetery setting.

    Vistas external to a cemetery's grounds may have contributed to the feeling of the place in the historic period. If view corridors within the cemetery were purposely developed to incorporate broad vistas, and if the broad vistas have been eliminated or obscured by incompatible development on adjacent property, the cemetery has lost an important aspect of its character. If the grounds have remained intact internally, however, the cemetery would likely meet the essential requirement of integrity.

    Isolated gravesites and small burying grounds occasionally are found in remote locations where they may have been established in the course of overland trail migration or in the aftermath of a massacre or military engagement. While it was not uncommon for survivors to have erected permanent gravemarkers in later years, the initial marking of such graves usually was ephemeral. Over time, the precise locations of many burial places of this kind have been lost. Oral tradition may be all that remains to mark the general vicinity of a gravesite. In assessing sites such as these, the standards of integrity require that the gravesite be verifiable by archeological testing or by visual traces, even if the traces are natural markers, such as a solitary stand of trees preserved in a cultivated field.

    The eligibility of an isolated grave depends upon the grave's unmistakable relationship to the associated context or theme significant in local, State, or national history or culture. Few such graves would be eligible as individual sites, since they must be the only remaining property associated with a person of outstanding importance. More commonly, they would be evaluated as sites contributing to the significance of a historic district encompassing a larger cultural landscape, such as a homestead area or an intact segment of the Oregon Trail. A single gravesite or small group of graves that has been disinterred normally would not meet the standards of integrity. If a historic gravemarker remains at an empty grave, the marker could be evaluated as an object of artistic merit, but the associative significance of the grave is lost.


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