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 [graphic] National Register Bulletin: Historic Residential Suburbs Guidelines for Evaluation and Documentation for the National Register of Historic Places

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


Platted in six sections over a seven-year period beginning in 1920, the F. Q. Story Neighborhood Historic District provides an index of southwestern small house design spanning three decades and vernacular landscape conventions such as the use of paired palms. (Photo by Don W. Ryden, courtesy Arizona Office of Historic Preservation)

The evaluation process entails three major activities: defining significance, assessing historic integrity, and selecting boundaries. Information gathered during the intensive survey about the history and condition of a neighborhood is related to the historic patterns of suburbanization that shaped the locality or metropolitan area where it is located. Ultimately the evaluation process verifies whether or not a property meets the National Register criteria for evaluation and is eligible for National Register listing.

The written statement of historic context containing information about the local or metropolitan patterns of transportation, subdivision design, and housing-makes it possible to determine the extent to which a neighborhood represents local or regional patterns and is associated with important events, activities, or persons that contributed in important ways to the growth and development of the community. The reconnaissance survey, furthermore, provides comparative information about the condition of historic neighborhoods and subdivisions, enabling researchers to eliminate from further consideration those that have lost their historic integrity.

Decisions about significance, integrity, and boundaries depend on the historical record as well as the presence of physical features of subdivision design and housing. Aspects of design such as spatial organization present in the general plan of development, the layout of streets and pedestrian paths, and the arrangement of house lots, may be important as indicators of historic patterns of development as the styles or design of housing.

Historic period, relationship to transportation corridors, cohesive planning principles, socioeconomic conditions, real estate trends, and architectural character usually impart distinctive characteristics that distinguish the historic neighborhood from the development that surrounds it. Recognition of these factors early in the process makes it possible to place a particular suburb in the national context for suburbanization as well as local or metropolitan contexts. Knowledge of these factors can be used in making comparisons among neighborhoods of similar age, understanding local patterns of history and development, and in defining historic districts that meet the National Register criteria.

Early identification of the type of residential suburb (e.g. railroad suburb, streetcar suburb) will help the researcher identify areas of significance as well as characteristic features that may be present. Knowledge of the dates when a neighborhood was subdivided and its dwellings constructed will provide a foundation for understanding its physical layout, the design of its housing, its relationship to important stages of local history and development, and its association with important local events.

Although the residential subdivision is a logical unit for study, historic neighborhoods are not necessarily defined by lines drawn on a historic subdivision plat. Historic districts meeting the definition of a historic residential suburb may consist of one or a group of subdivisions, or they may occupy a small portion of a large subdivision. Decisions about significance, integrity, and boundaries, therefore, should take into consideration factors concerning social history and community development of large areas of residential development that broadly meet the definition of "historic residential suburb," as well as the architecture and site planning of individual subdivisions.


Figure 8. How Residential Suburbs Meet the National Register Criteria for Evaluation
Criterion A

•Neighborhood reflects an important historic trend in the development and growth of a locality or metropolitan area.
• Suburb represents an important event or association, such as the expansion of housing associated with wartime industries during World War II, or the racial integration of suburban neighborhoods in the 1950s.
• Suburb introduced conventions of community planning important in the history of suburbanization, such as zoning, deed restrictions, or subdivision regulations.
• Neighborhood is associated with the heritage of social, economic, racial, or ethnic groups important in the history of a locality or metropolitan area.
• Suburb is associated with a group of individuals, including merchants, industrialists, educators, and community leaders, important in the history and development of a locality or metropolitan area.
Criterion B
• Neighborhood is directly associated with the life and career of an individual who made important contributions to the history of a locality or metropolitan area.
Criterion C
• Collection of residential architecture is an important example of distinctive period of construction, method of construction, or the work of one or more notable architects.
• Suburb reflects principles of design important in the history of community planning and landscape architecture, or is the work of a master landscape architect, site planner, or design firm.
• Subdivision embodies high artistic values through its overall plan or the design of entrance ways, streets, homes, and community spaces.
Criterion D
• Neighborhoods likely to yield important information about vernacular house types, yard design, gardening practices, and patterns of domestic life.
In certain cases, a single home or small group of houses in a residential subdivision may be eligible for National Register listing because of outstanding design characteristics (Criterion C) or association with a highly important individual or event (Criterion A or B).


Defining historic significance requires a close analysis of information about the development and design of a particular historic neighborhood and an understanding of local, metropolitan, and national trends of suburbanization. The property is viewed in relationship to the broad patterns of suburbanization that shaped a community, State or the Nation, and to determine whether the area under study meets one or more of the National Register Criteria for Evaluation.

Applying the National Register Criteria and Criteria Considerations:

To be eligible for National Register listing, a residential suburb must possess significance in at least one of the four aspects of cultural heritage specified by the National Register Criteria for Evaluation. In addition, neighborhoods less than 50 years of age must meet Criteria Consideration G by possessing exceptional importance and figure 8 outlines some of the ways neighborhoods typically meet the National Register criteria.

Association with Important Events and Persons

Historic residential suburbs typically reflect the outward spread of metropolitan areas and the growth and development of communities. For this reason, residential districts are commonly evaluated under Criterion A for their association with important events or patterns in community history or with groups of residents (not specific individuals) who collectively made important contributions to the area's prosperity or identity as a place of industry, government, education, or social reform.

Criterion B applies to neighborhoods directly associated with one or more individuals who made important contributions to history. Such individuals must have exerted important influence on the neighborhood's sense of community or historic identity and they must have gained considerable recognition beyond the neighborhood. This includes prominent residents, such as a leading political figure or social reformer. Criterion B also applies to neighborhoods that are associated with important developers and best represent their contributions to significant local or metropolitan patterns of suburbanization. Subdivisions representing the work of prominent site planners, architects, or landscape architects should be evaluated under Criterion C, unless they also served as their residence during an important period of their career. For more information about applying Criterion B, refer to the National Register bulletin, Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Properties Associated with Significant Persons.


Criterion B can apply to neighborhoods that are associated with important developers and best represent their contributions to significant local or metropolitan patterns of suburbanization. The Park Hill Historic District (1921-1950), North Little Rock, Arkansas, is associated with local developer Justin Matthews of the Park Hill Land Company, whose successful entrepreneurial efforts over many years shaped the historic identity of North Little Rock as a suburban community. (Photo by Sandra Taylor Smith, courtesy Arkansas Historic Preservation Program)

A case for exceptional significance under Criterion Consideration G must be made when documenting neighborhoods importantly associated with events that occurred within the past 50 years, even when the homes date to an earlier period. The Glenview Historic District (1920s-1965) in Memphis possesses exceptional importance as the center of local controversy as African American families exercised their right to purchase homes in existing middle-class neighborhoods during the Civil Rights movement. (Photo by Carroll Van West, courtesy Tennessee Historical Commission)

Distinctive Characteristics of Design

Historic residential suburbs often reflect popular national trends in subdivision design, such as the Picturesque style of the nineteenth century or FHA-recommended curvilinear plans. They may also reflect popular architectural styles, housing types, and principles of landscape architecture. Such districts are evaluated under Criterion C to determine if they embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, style, or method of construction; or represent the work of a master architect, landscape architect, or community planner. Historic neighborhoods that form "a significant and distinguishable entity whose components," including streets and homes, "lack individual distinction" are also evaluated under Criterion C.

Qualifying physical characteristics, under Criterion C, may be present in the overall plan, the architectural design of dwellings and other buildings, and the landscape design of the overall subdivision or of individual homes, parks, or parkways. Significance under Criterion C requires that the features that mark distinction in planning, architecture, and landscape design remain intact and recognizable.

Organization of space is a key factor in ascribing significance in community planning and landscape architecture. Visible in the general or master plan and aerial photographs, spatial organization is defined by the relationship between design and natural topography, the arrangement of streets and house lots, the arrangement of buildings and landscape features on each lot, and the provision of common spaces, such as walkways, playgrounds, and parks. The recognition of important local patterns may require examining records held by the local planning or zoning office, the development company, or architectural firms involved with construction, as well as making comparisons with other suburbs in the local area from the same period of time. Significance in landscape architecture may also derive from special features such as a unified program of street lighting or tree plantings; the landscape design of yards, entrance ways, or roadways; the presence of scenic vistas; or conservation of natural features.


Rows of willow oaks frame Georgian Revival residences along Queens Road West in Myers Park, Charlotte, North Carolina. Developed between 1911 and 1943 according to a succession of plans by John Nolen, Earle Sumner Draper, and Ezra Clarke Stiles, Myers Park received considerable recognition for its outstanding qualities of landscape design and became an important regional prototype for exclusive planned subdivisions in the Southeast. (Photo by Thomas W. Hanchett, courtesy North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources)

Distinctive architectural design may be present in a variety of building types-dwellings, garages, carriage houses, community buildings, gate houses, and sheds. Buildings may reflect a cohesive architectural type and style with some variation (e.g. Cape Cod or Ranch) or they may reflect a variety of period or regional styles such as Tudor Revival, Colonial Revival, or Mediterranean. Homogeneity or diversity of housing types and style may be an important architectural characteristic and be an important indicator of the overall design intent of the suburb as well as its period of development. Information about the developer and the various architects and landscape architects involved in the design of a subdivision is important to understanding the character of a residential subdivision, ascribing design significance, and placing a suburb in a local, metropolitan, State, or national context.

Ability to Yield Important Information

Criterion D is applied to the evaluation of pre- or post-contact sites, such as remnant mills and farmsteads that predate land subdivision and remain intact in parks, stream valleys, flood-plain, or steep hillsides. Such sites may provide information important to historic contexts other than suburbanization. In addition, historical archeology of home grounds may provide important information about the organization of domestic grounds, vernacular house types, gardening practices, or patterns of domestic life. When used in tandem with documentary sources, historical archeology helps define data sets and research questions important in understanding patterns of suburbanization and domestic life. For additional guidance, consult the National Register bulletin, Guidelines for Evaluating and Registering Archeological Sites and Districts.


This 1957 contemporary house represents the final phase of home-building in the Monte Vista and College View Historic District, which is listed under the Twentieth Century Suburban Growth in Albuquerque MPS. The district's period of significance was extended to the late 1950s (six years beyond the 50-year cutoff date at the time of listing) to recognize the contribution of houses whose style, type, and quality of construction was consistent with the suburb's design and historic evolution. In such cases a justification of exceptional significance under Criteria consideration G is not necessary. (Photo by David Kammer, courtesy New Mexico Office of Cultural Affairs)

Evaluation under Criterion Consideration G

Criterion Consideration G states that properties that have achieved significance within the past 50 years may qualify for National Register listing if they are an integral part of a historic district that meets the criteria or if they have exceptional importance.

The post-World War II building boom, spurred by the availability of low-cost, long-term mortgages for home owners and financial credits for builders, resulted in the widespread development of suburban subdivisions that were not only large in size but vast in number. In coming years as many of these approach 50 years of age, there will be increasing pressure to evaluate their eligibility for listing in the National Register. Their evaluation raises several questions concerning Criterion Consideration G and the National Register's 50-year guideline.

When must a historic subdivision or neighborhood possess "exceptional importance" as a requirement for National Register listing? Specific dates for the overall site design and the construction of component resources are needed to determine when a case for exceptional importance is necessary to support eligibility or listing. Such a case must be made for subdivisions which were platted and laid out and where the majority of homes were constructed within the last 50 years. It is also required for neighborhoods importantly associated with events that occurred within the past 50 years even though the homes were built during an earlier period, for example an older neighborhood importantly associated with the Civil Rights movement.

Is "exceptional importance" a requirement for a neighborhood whose construction began more than 50 years ago but was completed within the past 50 years? Because subdivisions were typically constructed over a period of many years, it is not uncommon to encounter a subdivision where streets and utilities were laid out and home construction begun more than 50 years ago, but where construction continued into the recent past. As a general rule, when a neighborhood as a whole was laid out more than 50 years ago and the majority of homes and other resources are greater than 50 years of age, a case for exceptional importance is not needed. In such cases, the period of significance may be extended a reasonable length of time (e.g., five or six years) within the less-than-50-year period to recognize the contribution of resources that, although less-than-50-years of age, are consistent with the neighborhood's historic plan and character.

When the majority of homes and other resources, however, are less than 50 years of age, a case for exceptional importance is required. Subdivisions of this type found not to possess exceptional importance should be reevaluated when the majority of resources achieve 50 years of age.

Regional contexts should be developed in areas where suburbanization was widespread and numerous planned subdivisions took form during the postwar era. Such a context can help 1) establish a chronology of the region's suburban development, 2) target neighborhoods to be surveyed, and 3) identify exceptional examples that may be nominated before the majority of dwellings reach 50 years of age. To determine exceptional importance within a local, metropolitan, or regional context, it is necessary to consider a neighborhood's history in relationship to the overall local trends of post-World War II suburbanization as well as national patterns. Comparisons with other neighborhoods of the same period make it possible to identify distinctive or representative examples and to determine the extent to which they possess historic integrity.

For further guidance, you may wish to refer to the National Register bulletin, Guidelines for Evaluating and Nominating Properties That Have Achieved Significance Within the Last Fifty Years.

Selecting Areas of Significance:

Area of significance is that aspect of history in which a historic property through design, use, physical characteristics, or association influenced the history and identity of a local area, region, State, or the Nation. The following areas of significance are commonly applied to historic neighborhoods important under Criterion A or B for their association with important events and persons.

Government applies to those that reflect early or particularly important responses to government financing, adherence to government standards, or the institution of zoning by local governments.
Education, medicine, or government may be areas of significance when a significant concentration of residents was associated with a locally important center of government, hospital, or university.
Industry applies when a suburb, by design or circumstance, served the need for housing for workers in a particular industrial activity, such as defense production during World War II.
Transportation recognizes the direct association of a neighborhood or community with important advances in transportation and incorporation of innovative transportation facilities, such as a railroad station or circulation system that separates pedestrian and motor traffic.
Social history recognizes the contributions of a historic neighborhood to the improvement of living conditions through the introduction of an innovative type of housing or neighborhood planning principles, or the extension of the American dream of suburban life or home ownership to an increasing broad spectrum of Americans.
Ethnic Heritage recognizes the significant association of a historic neighborhood with a particular ethnic or racial group.

The following areas are commonly applied to historic suburbs important for their design under Criterion C:

Community planning and development applies to areas reflecting important patterns of physical development, land division, or land use.
Landscape architecture applies when significant qualities are embodied in the overall design or plan of the suburb and the artistic design of landscape features such as paths, roadways, parks, and vegetation.
Architecture is used when significant qualities are embodied in the design, style, or method of construction of buildings and structures, such as houses, garages, carriage houses, sheds, bridges, gate houses, and community facilities.

Where subdivision design resulted from the collaboration of real estate developers, architects, and landscape architects, significance in all three areas-community planning and development, architecture, and landscape architecture-should be recognized and the contributions of designers representing each profession documented. Historic suburbs may be eligible under Criterion C for their reflection of important design characteristics or as the work of a master; those that made important contributions to the theory of landscape design or community planning may also be significant under Criterion A.

Defining Period of Significance:

Period of significance is the span of time when a historic property was associated with important events, activities, persons, cultural groups, and land uses, or attained important physical qualities or characteristics. The period of significance defined for a historic district is used to classify contributing and noncontributing resources.

Neighborhoods significant under Criterion A often have historic periods spanning many years to correspond with important historic associations and events in community life. The historic period for neighborhoods associated with an important person under Criterion B should be based on the years when the person resided in the community or was actively involved in community affairs. The period of significance for neighborhoods qualifying under Criterion C generally corresponds to the actual years when the design was executed and construction took place; this will vary depending on the type of suburb and the circumstances under which it took form. For example, suburbs built by merchant builders after World War II are likely to have shorter periods of significance than those laid out earlier in the century by subdividers who were in the business of selling empty lots in improved subdivisions.


[photo] Period of Significance for the Heartwell Park Historic District in Hastings, Nebraska, begins in 1886, when the Heartwell Park Addition was platted by developer James B. Heartwell and the park laid out by landscape architect A. N. Carpenter. It extends to 1950 to encompass the final and largest phase of house construction facing the park in the 1940s, when due to local defense industries, the local population increased from 15,145 in 1940 to 20,211 by 1950 and FHA-insured loans provided incentives for home building. Due to the long period of development, the district includes 47 contributing houses in a wide range of styles and a number of landscape features, including the lake and island, curvilinear drives, and several noncontributing bridges. (Photo and map by Mead & Hunt, Inc., courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society)

Period plans and maps are useful for gaining an understanding of how a neighborhood evolved and for determining the corresponding period of significance. Generally the period of significance for a historic suburb important under Criterion C begins with the date when the streets, house lots, and utilities were laid out and extends to the date when the plan was fully realized or the construction of homes substantially completed. The date of the historic plat may be used as the beginning date only when site improvements were begun shortly afterwards.

National trends of suburbanization as well as local economic factors, including the impact of major worldwide events such as the Great Depression and World War II, influenced the length of time in which historic suburbs formed and the extent to which earlier plans were carried out or modified. Such factors should be considered in defining an appropriate period of significance. Where development was interrupted resulting in lengthy periods when no construction occurred (e.g., a decade or more), it may be appropriate to define several periods of significance.

Where construction occurred over the course of many years, the period of significance may be extended to include more recent construction than 50 years provided it is in keeping with the suburb's historic design and evolution and satisfies the National Register's 50-year guideline. To determine an appropriate closing date for the period of significance, several questions should be answered: What factors (e.g. early plat, deed restrictions, availability of financing) defined the neighborhood's social history and physical character during its early development? How long did these factors continue to influence the character or social history of the district? Are the more recently constructed dwellings of the district, by their location, size, scale, and style, consistent with the suburb's overall historic plan and earlier housing? To what extent do the dwellings, by their architectural style or landscape design, contribute to the historic character of the district? To what extent do they reflect later patterns of suburban development or community history and to what extent are these patterns important? If they occurred within the last 50 years, do they reflect trends or events of exceptional importance?

Determining Level of Significance:

Properties related to the same historic context are compared to identify those eligible for listing in the National Register and to determine the level-local, State, or national-at which the property is significant. Many residential districts will be eligible at the local level for their illustration of important aspects of community growth and development and their reflection of the broad trends that shaped suburbanization in the United States.

State level of importance is generally attributed to those that 1) established a precedent or influenced subsequent development within a metropolitan area or larger region within one or several adjoining states; 2) possess outstanding characteristics of community design, landscape architecture, or architecture within the context of design statewide; or 3) represent the work of one or more master planners, landscape architects, or architects, whose work in subdivision design or suburban housing gained professional recognition in that particular State.

National level of importance is attributed to suburbs whose plan, landscape design, or architectural character introduced important innovations that strongly influenced the design of residential suburbs nationwide; it also applies to examples possessing outstanding artistic distinction or representing pivotal examples of the work of master designers who received national or international acclaim for their contributions to the design of residential suburbs.


[photo] Historic (c. 1908) and present day views of the Putnam House in University Heights Subdivision Number One, University City, Missouri. A comparison of the two photographs points out many small-scale alterations to the house and a dramatic change in the home's hillside setting due to the growth of trees and shrubs since construction. Because the cumulative effect of the changes is minor, the Putnam House retains its early twentieth-century origins and overall exhibits a high level of historic integrity. (Historic photo courtesy University City Library Archives; present day photo by Charles Scott Payne, courtesy Missouri Department of Natural Resources).


Assessing historic integrity requires professional judgment about whether a historic subdivision or neighborhood retains the spatial organization, physical components, aspects of design, and historic associations that it acquired during its period of significance. When assessing integrity, consider both the original design laid out in the general plan and the evolution of the plan throughout its history. Keep in mind that changes may have occurred as the plan was implemented and that these changes may also be significant. In instances where the period determined to be "historic" bears little or no relationship to the original design or construction, assessments of historic integrity should be based on 1) a knowledge of changes that occurred during the period of significance, and 2) a comparison of the neighborhood's current condition with its condition at the end of the significant period.

The period of significance becomes the benchmark for identifying which resources contribute to significant aspects of the neighborhood's history and determining whether subsequent changes contribute to or detract from its historic integrity. Alterations introduced after the period of significance generally detract from integrity. Their impact on the district's overall integrity, however, depends on their scale, number, and conformity with the historic design.

The final decision about integrity is based on the condition of the overall district and its ability to convey the significance for which it meets the National Register criteria. Weighing overall integrity requires a knowledge of both the physical evolution of the overall district and the condition of its component elements, including the design and materials of houses, the character of streets, and spatial qualities of community parks and facilities. Those making evaluations should take into consideration the extent to which landscape characteristics remain intact or have been altered. They should also be prepared to assess the cumulative effect that multiple changes and alterations may have on a neighborhood's historic integrity.

Applying Qualities of Integrity:

Historic integrity is the composite of seven qualities: location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. Historic integrity requires that the various features that made up the neighborhood in the historic period be present today in the same configuration and similar condition. These qualities are applied to dwellings, as well as roadways, open spaces, garages, and other aspects of the historic design.

Developed by African American developers and philanthropists, Walter and Frances Edwards, and approved for FHA-backed loans, the Edwards Historic District (1937-1946), Oklahoma City, illustrates the use of FHA-recommended house designs to create a unified village setting in a neighborhood of small houses. Today most houses reflect several decades of alterations, the most common being the application of nonhistoric siding. Houses having metal, vinyl, or asbestos siding (right) that mimics the original clapboard siding are considered contributing as long as other alterations are minor and the house's defining historic features are present. Those sheathed with thin brick or sheets of concrete-based "stone" veneer (left), however, are considered noncontributing because they have lost their historic character and substantially detract from the overall character of the neighborhood. (Photo by John R. Calhoun, courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society)
American foursquare homes built in 1910 by a subdivider hoping to stimulate sales on the Woodland Place Plat in Des Moines. When evaluating the extent to which alterations affect the historic integrity of an individual house within a district, it is important to consider the nature of the change, its size and scale, and its impact on the character and continuity of the streetscape of which it is a part. Although the porch on the house at the right has been enclosed, the house retains the distinguishing characteristics of its type, style, and method of construction; its distinctive gables, massing, and upper-story fenestration continue to echo the overall form, materials, and setback of neighboring homes. (Photo by James E. Jacobsen, courtesy State Historical Society of Iowa)

The presence of certain characteristics may be more important than others. Where the general plan of development has importance, integrity should be present in the original boundaries, circulation pattern of streets and walkways, and the division of housing lots. Where architectural design is of greatest significance, integrity will depend heavily on the design, materials, and workmanship of individual houses. Elements such as roadways, the arrangement of house lots, walls, plantings, walkways, park land, ponds, statuary, and fountains may likewise contribute strongly to importance in landscape architecture. Although historic plantings generally enhance historic integrity, it is important to recognize that as trees, shrubs, and other vegetation mature, they may sometimes erase intended vistas.

The amount of infill and other changes that a historic neighborhood can withstand before losing integrity will depend on its size and scale,the presence of significant features, and the suburban context in which it developed. The division of suburban lots beyond that specified in historic plans and deed restrictions threatens a historic neighborhood's integrity of design and should be viewed as a compatible pattern of development only if the subdivision occurred as a result of historically important events during the period of significance.

Seven Qualities of Integrity

The seven qualities of integrity called for in the National Register criteria can be applied to historic neighborhoods in special ways.

Location is the place where significant activities that shaped the neighborhood took place. This quality requires that to a large extent the boundaries that historically defined the suburb remain intact and correspond to those of the historic district being nominated. It also requires that the location of streets and the size and shape of the house lots have remained constant.

The location of historic suburbs was often determined by proximity to transportation corridors (streetcar lines, commuter railroads, parkways, or highways) and accessibility to places of employment. While the presence of historic transportation systems may add to a district's historic significance their loss or relocation does not detract in a major way from the integrity of the district.

Design is the composition of elements comprising the form, plan, and spatial organization of a historic neighborhood. This includes the arrangement of streets, division of blocks into house lots, arrangement of yards, and construction of houses and other buildings. Design may have resulted from conscious planning decisions set forth in the historic plat, project specifications, building contracts or deed restrictions, or it may be the result of the personal tastes and individual efforts of homeowners to shape their domestic environment.

Integrity of design can be affected by changes to the size of housing lots by recent subdivision or consolidation and alterations to individual dwellings in the form of additions, siding, window replacements, and other changes.

Small-scale additions, such as the construction of modest porches or garages, may not detract in a major way from the historic character of individual homes and the neighborhood. Large-scale additions, however, that double the elevation, add substantially to the mass of a historic house, or alter the spatial relationship between house and street generally threaten integrity of design.

Setting is the physical environment within and surrounding a historic suburb. Many historic neighborhoods were designed to provide a semi-rural environment within commuting distance of the city, joining nature and urban amenities. A semi-rural character was often created through the design of an open, parklike setting of landscaped streets, private yards, and sometimes public parks. Subdivisions were often surrounded by buffers of trees or bordered by undeveloped stream valleys to reinforce the separation of city and suburb.

Integrity of setting requires that a strong sense of historical setting be maintained within the boundaries of the nominated property. This relies to a large extent on the retention of built resources, street plantings, parks and open space. Elements of design greatly affect integrity of setting, and those consistent with the neighborhood's historic character or dating from the period of significance add to integrity. Small-scale elements such as individual plantings, gateposts, fences, swimming pools, playground equipment, and parking lots detract from the integrity of setting unless they date to the period of significance.

The setting outside many historic neighborhoods will have changed substantially since the period of significance. Evidence of early streetcar or railroad systems in large part has disappeared, and arterial corridors have been widened and adapted to serve modern automobile traffic. Historic train stations, stores, churches, schools and community buildings, however, may still be present, and may be nominated separately, or, if located within or on adjoining parcels, may be included within the boundaries of a historic residential suburb.

Materials include the construction materials of dwellings, garages, roadways, walkways, fences, curbing, and other structures, as well as vegetation planted as lawns, shrubs, trees, and gardens. The presence of particular building materials (e.g., stone, stucco, brick, or horizontal siding) may be important indicators of architectural style and methods of construction that give some neighborhoods a cohesive historic character.

Integrity of materials in an architecturally significant neighborhood requires that the majority of dwellings retains the key exterior materials that marked their identity during the historic period. The retention of original materials in individual dwellings may be less important in assessing the integrity of a neighborhood significant for its plan or landscape design. Original plant materials may enhance the integrity, but their loss does not necessarily destroy it. Vegetation similar in historic species, scale, type and visual effect will generally convey integrity of setting although integrity of materials may be lost.

Workmanship is evident in the ways materials have been fashioned for functional and decorative purposes to create houses, other buildings and structures, and a landscaped setting. This includes the treatment of materials in house design, the planting and maintenance of vegetation, as well as the construction methods of small-scale features such as curbs and walls.

Integrity of workmanship requires that architectural features in the landscape, such as portals, pavement, curbs, and walls, exhibit the artistry or craftsmanship of their builders and that the vegetation historically planted for decorative and aesthetic purposes be maintained in an appropriate fashion and replaced in kind when damaged or destroyed.

Feeling, although intangible, is evoked by the presence of physical characteristics that convey the sense of past time and place. Integrity of feeling results from the cumulative effect of setting, design, materials, and workmanship. A streetcar suburb retaining its original street pattern, lot sizes, and variety of housing types and materials will reflect patterns of suburban life reminiscent of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Association is the direct link between a historic suburb and the important events that shaped it. Continued residential use and community traditions, as well as the renewal of design covenants and deed restrictions, help maintain a neighborhood's integrity of association. Additions and alterations that introduce new land uses and erase historic elements of design threaten integrity.

Integrity of association requires that a historic neighborhood convey the period when it achieved importance and that, despite changing patterns of ownership, it continues to reflect the design principles and historic associations that shaped it during the historic period.

Classifying Contributing and Noncontributing Resources:

Buildings, structures, objects, and sites within a historic residential suburb are classified as "contributing" if they were present during the period of significance and possess historic integrity for that period. Those resources built or substantially altered after the period of significance are classified as "noncontributing" unless they have individual significance that qualifies them for National Register listing.

When a district's period of significance extends to a date within the past 50 years (see discussion of Criterion Consideration G on page 96 { above on this page}), resources less-than-50-years of age are classified as contributing if they were constructed or achieved significance within the defined period of significance, and by function, historic associations, and design, reflect important aspects of the neighborhood's history and physical evolution. For example, a Colonial Revival home built in 1954 would contribute to a historic residential suburb whose period of significance extends from 1926, the date of platting, to 1958 when the last house following the original plan was constructed, providing the house was built on one of the original lots and was in keeping with the historic design character set by early deed restrictions. Conversely in the same neighborhood, a 1960s Ranch house on an original lot and a 1990s house imitating the Colonial Revival style on a newly subdivided lot would both be classified as noncontributing because their location and design departed from the neighborhood's historic plan and their construction occurred outside the period of historic significance.

Nonhistoric Alterations and Additions

Alterations and additions since the period of significance affect whether an individual dwelling contributes to a district's significance. Designed to be small but expandable, the houses built from the early 1930s through the 1950s have typically been enlarged as home owners have added garages, porches, sun rooms, family rooms, and additional bedrooms. Houses with relatively modest additions that have little effect on the historic design of the original dwelling are classified as contributing. Those with additions that alter the original building's massing and scale, introduce major noncompatible design elements, and interrupt the spatial organization of the streetscape and neighborhood, however, are classified as noncontributing.

When evaluating the extent to which the addition changes the dwelling's individual character and the character of the streetscape of which it is a part, it is important to consider the size, scale, and design of the addition as well as its placement on the house lot. Information such as original setback requirements, historic design guidelines, and deed restrictions may also be useful in assessing the effect of additions on historic integrity. Whereas the construction of dormers on a Cape Cod house is unlikely to affect the dwelling's integrity in a serious way, the addition of a full, second story by "popping up" the roof substantially alters the character of both house and streetscape.

Replacement siding poses a serious threat to the historic character of residential neighborhoods. Not only have wooden clapboards and shingled surfaces given way to a wide array of commercially available siding in aluminum and vinyl, but the asbestos-based materials of many World War II era and postwar subdivisions, now considered unsightly and unhealthy, are being covered. Whether new siding is the result of maintenance, health, aesthetic or energy saving concerns, it can have a substantial, cumulative impact on the character of historic neighborhoods, especially those with architectural distinction.

[photo] Four-unit block of row houses (above) and a double house (below) built in the 1880s in the Barnum-Palliser District, Bridgeport, Connecticut, an important collection of mid-to-late nineteenth-century homes, many attributed to architects George and Charles Palaver. The houses depicted contribute to the district's significance because, despite asbestos siding placed on the houses during the mid-twentieth-century period, they still exhibit the distinctive architectural features-including bays, vergeboards, porches, dormers, capped chimneys, and gables-that characterized their original designs in the Eastlake and Stick styles. In fact, some of the siding is actually in keeping with the variety and fanciful treatment of the original siding. (Photos by Charles Brilvitch, courtesy Connecticut Historical Commission)

However, classifying all homes with nonhistoric siding as noncontributing is often too strict a measure. A wise approach is to consider the effect siding has on the character of the individual dwelling, and the character of the neighborhood as a whole. When determining whether a house with nonhistoric siding contributes, consider the following:

• The extent to which the new material visually approximates the house's original material, design, and workmanship. Siding made of horizontal aluminum or vinyl boards would have less effect on the visual integrity of a house originally sheathed in clapboards or novelty siding than one built of brick or stone.
• The degree to which other distinctive features or architectural styling are obscured or lost by the application of the siding. The negative effect of siding is minimized if features such as window surrounds, purlins, wood detailing, barge boards, and brackets remain undamaged and visible.
• The extent to which new siding is accompanied by other alterations or additions that substantially or cumulatively affect the building's historic character.

In general, houses may be classified as contributing resources where new siding: 1) visually imitates the historic material; 2) has been thoughtfully applied without destroying and obscuring significant details; and 3) is not accompanied by other alterations that substantially or cumulatively affect the building's historic character.

Replacement siding is not a new phenomenon, and when evaluating the integrity of a historic neighborhood, one must consider the date when materials such as form stone, imitative brick sheathing, asbestos shingles, and other materials were added. Where these materials were installed during the period of significance, either by original home owners or later ones, they may reflect important aspects of the neighborhood's evolution.

In sum, determining a reasonable threshold for evaluating the integrity of component resources begins with considering the reasons why the district meets the National Register criteria, and extends to examining the resource not only for its individual characteristics, but also for its contribution to the historic character of the overall neighborhood.

Weighing Overall Integrity:

The final decision about integrity is based on the condition of the overall district and its ability to convey significance. The integrity of historic characteristics such as the overall spatial design, circulation network, and vegetation as well as the integrity of individual homes should be considered. Integrity depends to a substantial degree on the context of a metropolitan area's pattern of suburbanization and the condition of comparable neighborhoods in the area. The loss or relocation of a few features usually does not result in the loss of integrity of an entire historic neighborhood; however, the loss of entire streets or sections of the plan, cumulative alterations and additions to large numbers of dwellings, the subdivision of lots, and infill construction all threaten the integrity of the historic plan and the neighborhood's overall historic character.

The integrity of a historic residential subdivision relies in part on the cohesion of the historic plan and aspects of spatial organization, including street design, setbacks, and density. For this reason, integrity cannot be measured simply by the number of contributing and noncontributing resources. The retention of historic qualities of spatial organization, such as massing, scale, and setbacks, and the presence of historic plantings, circulation patterns, boundary demarcations, and other landscape features, should also be considered in evaluating the overall integrity of a historic neighborhood. Historic and contemporary views may be compared through old photographs, correspondence, news clippings, and promotional brochures to determine the extent to which the general design, character, and feeling of the historic neighborhood are intact and to measure the impact of alterations.


The selection of boundaries for historic residential suburbs generally follows the guidelines for historic districts found in National Register bulletins, How to Complete National Register of Historic Places Forms and Defining Boundaries for National Register Properties. Dwellings by noted architects, distinctive examples of a type or method of house construction, or designed landscapes, such as a park or parkway, may be nominated separately if they possess significance for which they individually meet the National Register criteria.

Defining the Historic Property:

Boundaries are typically defined by the extent of a historic subdivision or group of contiguous subdivisions, particularly where significance is based on design. Factors such as identity as a neighborhood community based on historic events, traditions, and other associations may be more relevant and should be considered when defining the boundaries of neighborhoods important in social history or ethnic heritage.

Deciding What To Include:

Boundaries should be clearly drawn on the basis of physical characteristics, historic ownership, and community identity as a neighborhood. In cases where a plan was only partially completed, the district boundaries should correspond to only the area where the plan was realized. Areas annexed or added to a historic plan may be included in the boundaries if such additions are shown to be historically important aspects of the overall suburb's evolution and therefore possess historical significance. If sections of a historic neighborhood have lost historic integrity, it is necessary to determine whether the sections lacking historic integrity can be excluded from the boundaries and whether the remaining unaltered area is substantial enough to convey significance.

For residential suburbs that developed in several stages, perhaps as a single farm was sold and subdivided in segments, boundaries are generally drawn to encompass the largest area that took form during the historic period and that possesses historic importance. The nomination should document the sequential stages of development, indicating the boundaries of each stage on a sketch map or period plan. Areas added within the past 50 years should be excluded from the district's boundaries unless they are shown to have exceptional importance. Peripheral areas lacking integrity should also be excluded from the boundaries, for example, in the case of a recently zoned commercial corridor on the edge of a historic subdivision where the relationship of individual dwellings to the original plan and to the historic neighborhood have been lost. However, "donut holes" are not acceptable.

Natural areas such as ponds or woodlands may be included in the boundaries when they have recreational or conservation value and were included in the historic plan. Preexisting resources such as farmsteads may be included in the boundaries when they are integral to the design of the subdivision, were clearly designated for preservation in the subdivision plan, or have individual importance that is documented in the nomination.

Selecting Appropriate Edges:

Lines drawn on historic plats, legal boundaries, rights-of-way, and changes in the nature of development or spatial organization are generally used to define the edges of a historic neighborhood. In general, the boundaries should be drawn along historic lot lines or boundary streets. An explanation of the relationship between the historic plan or subdivision and the proposed National Register boundaries should be given in the boundary justification.



Where the history of suburbanization for a metropolitan area is studied for the purpose of identifying a number of historic suburban neighborhoods, the National Register Multiple Property Documentation Form (NPS-10-900b) may be used to document the context, property types, registration requirements, and study methodology. Individual registration forms are then used to document each eligible neighborhood. Instructions for completing the form are found in the National Register bulletin, How to Complete the National Register Multiple Property Documentation Form, and videotape, The Multiple Property Approach.


Nominations are made on the National Register Registration Form (NPS-10-900) and processed according to the regulations set forth in 36 CFR Part 60. The form is intended as a summary of the information gathered during identification and a synthesis of findings concerning significance, integrity, and boundaries. General instructions for completing the form are found in the National Register bulletin, Guidelines for Completing the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. Guidelines for documenting nationally significant properties for NHL designation by the Secretary of the Interior are found in the National Register bulletin, How to Prepare National Historic Landmark Nominations. The following section provides supplementary instructions for each part of the form.


Historic residential suburbs are historic districts and may be named in various ways relating to their history and significance: historic name given in the original plat or plan, name used by the community during the period of significance, or name based on geographical location such as a town, village, or street. The name can include the term "historic district" or "historic residential suburb."


A historic subdivision is generally classified as a historic district because it is a collection of buildings, structures, and other features. The land covered by the overall plan is generally counted as a single site, and all buildings and structures substantial in size or scale therein are counted separately as contributing or noncontributing resources. The count should include bridges, freestanding garages, and outbuildings of sufficient size and scale to warrant being counted separately. Landscape features such as curbing, roadways, paths, tree plantings, ponds, and storm drains are generally considered integral features of the overall site and are not counted separately, unless they are substantial in size and scale or have special importance such as a central landscaped avenue or a designed park.


The narrative description documents the physical evolution and current condition of the historic neighborhood being registered. Figure 7 (Guideline for Surveying Historic Residential Suburbs) can be used as a checklist for describing residential districts. In summary, the description documents:

1) The historical relationship of the suburb or neighborhood to the growth and development of the local community or metropolitan area, including the location of major transportation corridors; the provision for public utilities, such as power and water mains; the location of civic centers, business districts, schools, and parks and parkways; and local planning measures, such as subdivision regulations and zoning ordinances.

2) Neighborhood's relationship to the area's natural topography and physiography, including natural features comprising and surrounding the district, such as streams, canyons, rivers, escarpments, mountains, floodplain, and geological features.

3) The subdivision plan and its component features, including the circulation system, entrance features, arrangement of blocks and house lots, provision of sidewalks and pedestrian paths, landscape plantings, and community facilities such as parks, playgrounds, and recreational centers. Developer's role and relationship to architects, landscape architects, and home builders involved in the neighborhood's design and development. Principles of landscape design characterized by the overall plan or by specialized areas within the plan. Improvements provided by the developer, including water and septic systems, roads, and parks. Terms of deed restrictions that provided a form of "private control" over aspects such as the cost of construction, required setbacks, architectural style, and future alterations. The presence of street plantings, lampposts, curbs and gutters, entrance portals or signs, memorials, sculpture, landscape elements, principal vegetation, and important natural features.

4) Principal house types, architectural styles, and methods of construction, including predominant characteristics, such as scale, proportions, materials, color, decoration, workmanship, and quality of design. Significant groupings of dwellings, as well as distinctive individual examples. Architectural types, styles, and methods of construction evident in houses, garages, sheds, and community buildings. Housing may be classified by type based on housing models, architectural style or period, or other descriptive means. Principal architects and home builders, and representative examples of their work should be identified.

5) Design and function of schools, churches, commercial centers, and transportation facilities within the boundaries of the historic neighborhood.

6) Principles of landscape design and historic landscape features evident in yard design, such as open lawns, border gardens, specimen trees, fences and walls, hedges, shrubbery, and foundation plantings. Identity of landscape architects involved in the design and development of the neighborhood, noting any landscape features that represent their work.

7) Appearance of the district during the period when it achieved historical significance and any subsequent changes or modifications. This includes alterations and additions to the plan or to the dwellings and other buildings, noting the types of changes and the degree to which alterations affect the integrity of individual resources. Identify threats to the integrity of the overall plan, such as infill, consolidation and redevelopment of lots, the clearing of previously built-upon lots (commonly called "scraping"), widening of interior roads, widening of circumferential roads, loss of street trees, construction of fences, and traffic calming measures (e.g. traffic circles). Patterns of alterations that markedly alter the historic appearance of the housing (e.g. siding; window replacements; the raising of roofs to add stories, commonly called "pop ups"; and porch enclosures). Any restoration or rehabilitation activities.

8) Factors considered in classifying contributing and noncontributing resources. Because historic neighborhoods typically embody the tastes, economic conditions, and lifestyles of several generations of American home owners, preservationists need to carefully consider the nature of the alterations, the period in which they occurred, and the effect they have on the ability of the neighborhood to reflect important historic associations or aspects of design.

9) A list of contributing and non-contributing resources keyed to a sketch map for the entire district. This list should provide the address, date of construction, and condition for all principal buildings, as well as streets, avenues, parks, playgrounds, and recreational areas that are part of the historic neighborhood. Because many residential districts will have a large number of component resources, which often share common aspects of size, plan, and style, it may be useful to develop a typology of housing types that can be used in listing contributing and non-contributing resources and locating examples on sketch maps. Many computer programs are particularly helpful in formulating such a list.



The photographic documentation for the Wolflin Historic District in Amarillo, Texas, depicted representative house types such as the Tudor Revival Johnson-Batten-Marsh House of 1927 and panoramic views of the Wolflin Estates subdivision taken in 1931 after the developer laid out the streets and planted regularly spaced rows of Siberian elms according to the 1927 plan by Hare & Hare. (House photo by Bridget Metzger, courtesy Texas Historical Commission; historic photo courtesy Preservation Amarillo)

Statement of Significance:

The statement of significance explains the ways in which the historic district relates to the theme of suburbanization locally and reflects the national trends presented in this bulletin and sets forth the reasons the district is significant within this context. The statement addresses the National Register criteria, and if applicable, criteria considerations. The greater the importance of certain features-such as the overall plan and circulation network-the more detailed the explanation of their role should be. The reasons for selecting the period of significance and the areas of significance in which the district meets the National Register criteria must be justified.

Unless provided on a related multiple property form, a statement of historic context should identify one or more themes to which the property relates through its historic uses, activities, associations, and physical characteristics. The discussion of historic context should:

1) Explain the role of the property in relationship to broad historic trends, drawing on specific facts about the district and its community.

2) Briefly describe the history of the community where the neighborhood is located and explain the various stages in the community's suburbanization, the factors leading to the development of suburban neighborhoods, and the characteristics of historic subdivisions locally or regionally. Explain how local trends and examples relate to the national context for suburbanization.

3) Explain or discuss the importance of the suburban neighborhood in each area of significance by showing that it is a unique, important or outstanding representative when compared to other neighborhoods of the same period or type or with similar historical associations.

4) Explain how housing types, architectural style, landscape design, materials and methods of construction reflect important trends in the design and technology of the American house and yard. Note sources of plans (e.g., factory-made houses, pattern books, mail order plans, Small House Architect's Bureau, FHA-recommended designs, or professional firm).

5) Establish the importance of the developer, principal home builders, architects, and landscape architects in the history of the local community or metropolitan region.

For districts significant under Criterion A, provide an explanation of how the events, or pattern of events, represented by the district made an important contribution to the history of the community, State, or Nation. For districts significant under Criterion B, explain how the person with whom the property is associated is important in the history of the community, State, or Nation. For districts significant under Criterion C, the statement of context may be developed in one or more of the following ways:
1) as a type, period, style, or method of construction;
2) as the work of a master;
3) possessing high artistic values; and
4) representing a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction.

The documentation of neighborhoods that achieved significance within the past 50 years requires a justification of exceptional importance. An explanation of the dates when the subdivision was laid out and the housing constructed should be given in the nomination to support the period of significance and to indicate whether or not a justification of exceptional significance is needed. As a general rule, a majority of resources must be at least 50 years of age, before the district as a whole can be considered to meet the 50-year guideline. The nomination of a suburban neighborhood whose design was begun and substantially completed more than 50 years ago, although some resources within the district were built within the last 50 years, does not require a justification of exceptional importance.

Maps and Photographs:



[photo] The Wolflin Historic District consists of Wolflin Place (to the west) platted in 1923 and expanded in 1926 to follow the city's gridiron plan, and Wolflin Estates (to the east), platted with a radial plan by landscape architects Hare & Hare in 1927. Separate sketch maps were prepared to indicate the location of the community's distinctive brick streets and contributing and noncontributing buildings. Because the landscape design of Wolflin Estates dates to the historic period and is significant as a local example of the work of a master designer, it is included within the district's boundaries even though many of its buildings were built outside the period of significance. (Maps by Hardy-Heck-Moore, courtesy Texas Historical Commission)

The general requirements for maps and photographs are given in the National Register bulletin, How to Complete the National Register Registration Form. Maps include a U.S.G.S. quadrant map identifying the location and coordinates of the historic district and a detailed sketch map indicating boundaries and labeling resources as contributing or noncontributing. In addition, the sketch map should identify the names of streets and community facilities, such as schools, community buildings, shopping centers, parks, and playgrounds. The map should include street addresses or be cross-referenced by resource number or name to the list of contributing or noncontributing resources in the Description (Section 7). The number and vantage point of each photographic view should be indicated as well as the relationship of the district to surrounding streets or nearby transportation facilities.

Photographs should illustrate the character of principal streetscapes, representative dwelling types, and significant aspects of landscape design. Community facilities, such as schools and parks, and representative examples of noncontributing resources should be depicted.

If possible, supplement the required documentation with copies of historic plats, plans, and photographs. Period plans that show the extent to which housing and landscape design were completed at various intervals of time are also useful for graphically depicting the neighborhood's physical evolution and can supplement the narratives in Sections 7 and 8.

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