Book Cover
Cover Page




Selected Constitutional Decisions

Other Sites

Existing National Historic Landmarks


First Bank of the United States

Pittsylvania County Courthouse

Second Bank of the United States

Sumner Elementary School

Supreme Court Building

The U.S. Constitution
Introductory Essay

Pittsylvania County Courthouse
Pittsylvania County Courthouse, Chatham, Virginia
(Photo by Marvin B. Scruggs, Chatham, VA)


On March 13, 1984, Chief Justice Warren Burger, Mr. Howard Westwood, senior partner of the law firm of Covington and Burling, and Edwin C. Bearss, Chief Historian of the National Park Service, met in Washington, DC, to discuss a proposed National Historic Landmark Theme Study of the Constitution of the United States as part of the commemoration of the Bicentennial of the Constitution to be celebrated in 1987. At this meeting the participants agreed that the purpose of the study was to identify sites associated with the Supreme Court's landmark decisions that have resulted in the growth of the Constitution and have had such a tremendous effect on our Nation, particularly in defining the powers of the branches of the federal government and the rights and responsibilities of the states and the people. The study was also to identify and recognize sites associated with the giants of the court.

At the suggestion of Chief Justice Burger, an additional meeting was held with Dr. Mark W. Cannon, Administrative Assistant to the Chief Justice, Dr. David O'Brien, Visiting Scholar at the court and Professor at the University of Virginia, Dr. Maeva Marcus, editor of the multi-volume documentary series on the early court, Mr. Jim Charleton, National Park Service Historian, and Mr. Bearss, on March 30, 1984, to examine the proposed Constitution Theme Study in greater detail.

At this meeting the participants recognized a number of potential problems that confronted the study. These problems included:

(1) A wide diversity of opinion concerning what were the most significant cases.

(2) The National Historic Landmark practice of excluding from consideration events that have occurred within the past 50 years which would rule out a number of significant cases.

(3) The fact that many sites potentially associated with significant cases such as Ernesto Miranda's house in Phoenix, Arizona, Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), have only marginal value as evidence of significant aspects of those cases.

In order to begin the study and to resolve the issue of the selection of the appropriate cases, Mr. William H. Allen of Covington and Burling, and one time law clerk to Chief Justice Earl Warren, was asked to prepare a list of cases for consideration in the theme study.

In his memorandum dated January 9, 1985, "Cases Construing the Constitution," Mr. Allen recognized the following points:

(1) No selection of cases can possibly encompass the entire Constitution.

(2) The selection of cases should not be dependent on the previous identification of a site associated with the case or the survival of a site known to be associated with a case.

(3) Cases such as Dred Scott v. Sandford, 19 Howard 393 (1857), while not significant to a lawyer, even as a step in the historical development of doctrine, may be highly significant to an historian.

(4) There should be no arbitrary temporal standards, but cases decided within the last 10 to 30 years have to be considered with special care before they are selected to be sure that the conclusions drawn from these cases are not dated by changing case law and perspective within the next few years.

In his memorandum Mr. Allen selected 123 cases that reflect a wide body of opinion regarding what is significant. His criteria for selection included the following:

(1) Cases that would be on everyone's list.
(2) Cases for which there is a large if not complete consensus in the scholarly community.
(3) Cases that illustrate a particular constitutional point.
(4) Cases that best represent a line of constitutional doctrine.
(5) Cases that are historically significant.
(6) Cases whose doctrinal future may be in doubt but which ruled for a period of time.
(7) Cases that were significant but were subsequently overruled.

All of the cases suggested by Mr. Allen were examined as part of the theme study and are addressed in the section of this report titled: SELECTED CONSTITUTIONAL DECISIONS AND OTHER SITES.

Pittsylvania County Courthouse
Pittsylvania County Courthouse, Chatham, Virginia
(Photo by Marvin B. Scruggs, Chatham, VA)


In August 1985 I was assigned the Constitution Theme Study for completion. After my review of Mr. Allen's list I decided to add a number of cases that were of historical significance, although not necessarily significant in terms of current case law. Some examples of these cases are given below:

(1) Worcester v. Georgia, 6 Peters 515 (1832)— Marshall held that the Cherokee nation was a distinct political community within which "the laws of Georgia can have no force...."

(2) United States v. Gettysburg Electric Railway Company, 160 U.S. 668 (1896)— Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of acquiring private property for Gettysburg National Park and established the principle that the preservation of nationally important historic sites and buildings is a legitimate purpose of the Government of the United States.

(3) Delima v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 1 (1901); Downes v. Bidwell, 184 U.S. 244 (1901)— Supreme Court held that the Constitution protected the inhabitants of colonial territories in their basic civil rights, but did not confer citizen ship on them.

(4) Northern Securities Company et al. v. United States 193 U.S 197 (1904)— First action under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act upheld by the Court. Created a moral climate that permitted government to control the actions of business.

(5) Lane v. Wilson, 307 U.S. 268 (1939)— Oklahoma's law perpetually disenfranchising black voters who failed to register between April 30, 1916, and May 11, 1916, is ruled unconstitutional.

In addition to examining cases, I investigated sites associated with the signers of the Constitution not already designated as National Historic Landmarks, justices of the Supreme Court and other courts, famous lawyers and scholars of the Constitution, and sites associated with significant events in the history of the Constitution. A list of these additional sites is contained in the section titled: SELECTED CONSTITUTIONAL DECISIONS AND OTHER SITES.

As a result of this effort I determined that 165 existing National Historic Landmarks and units of the National Park System (NPSy) already illustrate the history of the Constitution. These sites are described in the section of this report titled: EXISTING NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARKS AND UNITS OF THE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM (NPSy) THAT REFLECT ONE OR MORE AREAS OF CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY.

For the 155 new cases and sites examined I discovered the following:


Many famous cases are represented today by no surviving property. Examples of this class include:

Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge, 11 Peters 420 (1837)— Court ruled that grants by state legislatures may not be construed as exclusive unless they specifically state so. (Both of these bridges are no longer extant.)


In some cases the primary property associated with the facts of the case was no longer extant but an existing National Historic Landmark could represent the case.

McCullough v. Maryland, 4 Wheaton 316 (1819)— Congress has the power, as necessary and proper to carry out its express powers, to incorporate the Bank of the United States.


(a) The Baltimore Branch of the Second Bank of the United States occupied the second floor of a two-story building in the historic financial and business center of Baltimore. Its precise address is unknown. Since this area was leveled by a fire in 1904 it is unlikely that the building survives. A search of the records of the Maryland Historical Trust and the Baltimore Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation failed to yield any information about this structure.

(b) Andalusia (Nicholas Biddle Estate), 1.4 miles north of Philadelphia on State Road, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, 1794; 1834 Thomas U. Walter— Residence of Nicholas Biddle, head of the Second Bank of the United States, famous as President Jackson's opponent in the struggle to recharter the Bank. To the original house, whose north front is an outstanding example of the Regency style in the U.S., he added a wing modeled on Greek temples. (National Historic Landmark.)


Many cases have surviving property associated with the facts of the case but the property no longer possesses sufficient integrity to warrant designation.

Crandall v. Nevada, 6 Wallace 35 (1867)— Capitation tax on interstate passengers is ruled unconstitutional.


St. Charles Hotel—Muller's Hotel (Pony Express Hotel), South Carson Street, Carson City, Nevada (National Register Property).

The St. Charles Hotel housed the Pioneer Stage Coach Company. Mr. Crandall worked for the Pioneer Stage Coach Company and had his office in the building. The property has been severely mutilated over the years and lacks integrity. Alterations include but are not limited to the following: removal of the one-story porch, alteration of the sills of the second floor windows, application of stucco in 1930 and removal of stucco by sandblasting resulting in damage to softer brick exterior, removal of cornices, placement of a two-story, brick, shed-roofed addition to the rear, placement of a one-story concrete addition to two-story addition, and the alteration of the interior spaces of the lobby. (No integrity.)


In some cases I was able to determine the appropriate site associated with the facts of the case but was not able to determine the location or survival of the structure.

Pollock v. Farmer's Loan & Trust Co., 157 U.S. 429, 158 U.S. 601 (1895)— Income tax is ruled unconstitutional as a direct tax, not apportioned among the states by population, insofar as it reaches income from real or personal property.


(a) Charles Pollock 's Home, Boston, Massachusetts. (Unable to locate.)

(b) Farmers Loan and Trust Company, New York City. (Unable to locate.)


Some cases have surviving property but it was not practical to nominate this property for designation as a National Historic Landmark.

Fletcher v. Peck, 6 Cranch 87 (1810)— The courts, and particularly the United States Supreme Court, in the exercise of their power and duty to apply the governing law, may declare state enactments unconstitutional.


This case involved the disputed sale of 15,000 acres of land within a larger 500,000-acre tract. The location of this land is as follows: Mississippi River, where latitude 32 degrees 40 minutes north of the equator intersects same, running thence along the same parallel of latitude a due east course to the Tombigbee River, thence up the said Tombigbee to where the latitude of 32 degrees 43 minutes 52 seconds intersects the same, thence along the same parallel of latitude a due west course to the Mississippi; thence down the said river, to the place of beginning. (Site not appropriate for designation.)


Some cases had surviving property but this property was not sufficiently associated with the facts of the case to warrant nomination.

Home Bldg. & Loan Ass'n v. Blaisdell, 290 U.S. 398 (1934)— The contract clause does not invalidate a state mortgage moratorium law relieving homeowners of the threat of foreclosure.


Vacant lot in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Lot Eight (8), Block Twenty (20), Wilson, Bill & Wagners addition to Minneapolis. (Property is not meaningful to the facts of the case.)


Some cases were already represented by existing National Historic Landmarks.

Ex parte Milligan, Wallace 2 (1866)— Martial law may not be constitutionally imposed where civil courts are open.


(1) Davis (David) House, 1000 E. Monroe Street, Bloomington, Illinois—2-story Italian Villa-style brick mansion built for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court David Davis. He wrote the majority opinion in Ex parte Milligan (1866), restricting the right of military courts to try civilians. (National Historic Landmark.)

(2) Garfield (James A.) Home (Lawnfield), 1059 Mentor Avenue, Mentor, Ohio— Garfield represented Milligan in his defense before the Supreme Court in 1866. (National Historic Landmark and National Historic Site.)


There were some cases that exhibited a combination of some or all of the above situations.

Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 4 Wheaton 518 (1819)— The contract clause bars legislative impairment of corporate charter.


(1) Woodward—Lord House, 16 North Park Street, Hanover, New Hampshire— The Woodward-Lord House was built in 1802 by William H. Woodward, a lawyer and grandson of Eleazar Wheelock (the first President of Dartmouth College), in anticipation of his marriage. Woodward was both the secretary and treasurer of Dartmouth College and a participant in the Dartmouth College Case. Woodward died in 1818, before the resolution of the case. According to tradition the house was the meeting place on at least one occasion of the Board of Trustees of Dartmouth University. A search of records at Dartmouth College failed to yield any documentation to support this claim.

After the death of William Woodward his widow sold the house (1830) to Nathan Lord, President of Dartmouth College. In 1894 the house was sold to Dartmouth College for use as college administrative offices. Between 1911 and 1920 the house was empty. In 1920 the Woodward-Lord House was moved from its original location on the Dartmouth Mall to 41 College Street in Hanover. In 1927 the house was sold to Professor Arthur Fairbanks whose wife was the granddaughter of President Lord. In 1944 Mary Fairbanks (daughter of Arthur Fairbanks) gave the house to the college. In the 1960s the house was moved to its present location at 16 North Park Street. Over the years the Woodward Lord House has been completely remodeled and changed to meet the needs of its various owners. These changes include the enlargement of the entranceway into the living room, the attachment of an ell at the rear of the house for use as a kitchen, the cutting of a door in the back wall to service the ell, addition of other doors and windows on the first floor not original to the house, subdivision of the second floor bedrooms with the addition of additional bedrooms, closets and bathrooms, addition of a classic style front porch, and the removal of original closets on both the first and second floors. The house is currently used for foreign student housing. (Moved; no integrity.)

(2) Dartmouth Hall, on the Dartmouth College Green, Hanover, New Hampshire- Dartmouth Hall is the replacement for the original Dartmouth Hall that burned in 1904. The original Dartmouth Hall was constructed from wood and is believed to have been designed by Bezaleel Woodward with the aid of plans by local carpenters. Dartmouth Hall burned again in 1935. With the exception of the use of brick rather than wood, and slightly wider proportions, and window details, the exterior is almost an exact copy of the original. The floor plan has been radically changed with a large lecture hall replacing the original two-story chapel. (Replacement building.)

(3) Webster Cottage, 32 North Main Street, Hanover, New Hampshire— The Webster Cottage was originally situated at the southeast corner of North Main Street and Webster Avenue. It was moved to Kiewit Street in 1928 and to its present location on North Main Street in 1967. Daniel Webster rented a room at the cottage between 1800 and 1801 while an undergraduate at Dartmouth College. A vestibule was added to the cottage sometime in the nineteenth century. The structure now serves as a house museum for the Hanover Historical Society. (Moved; not sufficiently associated with the facts of the case.)

(4) Wheelock House, 4 West Wheelock Street, Hanover, New Hampshire— The Wheelock House was built in 1773 by President Eleazar Wheelock as his residence. After Eleazar Wheelock's death in 1779 the house passed to his son John, the new President of Dartmouth College. John Wheelock lived in the house until his death in 1817. Between 1837 and 1838 the Wheelock House was moved from its original location on East Wheelock Street to make way for the construction of Reed Hall. After 1846 the original gambrel roof was changed to the present steep A-roof, the entry was fancied up, and a side porch was added. In 1900 the house was extensively remodeled and used as the town library for Hanover. In 1912 brick library stacks were added to the rear.

The Wheelock House is now owned by the Institute of Current World Affairs and the interior spaces have been remodeled for office use. (Moved; no integrity; not sufficiently associated with the facts of the case.)

(5) Webster (Daniel) Family Home (The Elms), S. Main Street, W. Franklin, New Hampshire— Used by Daniel Webster as a home, vacation retreat, and experimental farm. Gravesites of his parents and four brothers and sisters are located here. (National Historic Landmark.)


There were some cases that upon review did not meet the test of national significance or were too recent to determine national significance.

Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1878)— Federal law making bigamy a crime in the territories may be applied to a Mormon claiming polygamy is a religious duty. (Not believed to be nationally significant.)

Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1 (1964)— Art. I, Sec. 2, required that congressional districts be equal in population. (Too recent to determine national significance.)


Finally, there were those cases that were found to be too recent to determine national significance but should be reexamined in the future when the passage of time will permit a more realistic assessment of their significance.

Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961)— The exclusionary rule is applicable to the states.


Dollree Mapp House, 14705 Milverton Road, Cleveland, Ohio

Too recent to determine national significance. Should be reexamined in the future.


In addition to cases, other classes of sites were examined. Examples include:

1. Constitutional sites not related to specific cases.

(a) Supreme Court Building, 1 First Street, NW, Washington, DC (Recommended for designation.)

(b) First Bank of the United States, Third Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Recommended for designation.)

(c) Second Bank of the United States, Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Recommended for designation.)

(d) Blennerhassett Island, in Ohio River between Ohio and West Virginia—Blennerhassett Island is the site of the Aaron Burr Conspiracy in 1806. Aaron Burr and Harman Blennerhassett used the island to stage a private military operation down the Mississippi for private gain. Burr was charged with treason for his role in this conspiracy and brought to trial in federal circuit court in Richmond, Va., where John Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States, presided. Burr was eventually acquitted for the case against him did not meet the terms of the Constitution's definition of treason. The island has shifted in the years since 1806 and has no integrity.

2. First Ratification of the U.S. Constitution


Old State House, Dover, Delaware— The Old State House was constructed from 1787 to 1792 on or near the site of the actual ratification of the Constitution by the State of Delaware on December 7, 1787. The actual location of the ratification site is uncertain. (National Register Property.)

3. Ratification of the U.S. Constitution by New Hampshire


(a) North Meeting House, Concord, New Hampshire— This was the site of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution by New Hampshire on June 18, 1788. The North Meeting House burned in 1870.

3. John Marshall Harlan, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, 1877-1911

(b) Timothy Walker House and Store, 225 North Main Street, Concord, New Hampshire— A search of the secondary literature has failed to document any connection between this structure and the ratification of the U.S. Constitution by New Hampshire. This may be the site of the first meeting of the state legislature of New Hampshire on March 13, 1782.


Another category of sites examined involved individuals who were either signers of the Constitution or who attended the Constitutional Convention. All of these sites had previously been considered for National Historic Landmark designation and had either been rejected or deferred. No new landmarks are recommended from this list. Some examples include:

(a) Richard Bassett—Signer of the Constitution


438 State Street, Dover, Delaware.

(b) John Blair—Signer of the Constitution and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court 1789-96.


John Blair House, Duke of Gloucester Street near Nassau Street, Williamsburg, Virginia.


Finally, sites associated with famous individuals associated with the Supreme Court or the Constitution were examined. Some examples include:

1. Morrison R. Waite, Chief Justice of the United States, 1874-1888


(a) 1415 I Street, Washington, DC. (Demolished.)

(b) 27 Lyme Street, Lyme, Connecticut. (Birthplace.)

I was unable to locate any surviving property from Toledo, Ohio, where Waite practiced law prior to 1874. I was not able to determine how long Waite lived at 27 Lyme Street. This house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Old Lyme Historic District. There is no discussion of Waite or his association with the house in the National Register Form. The Old Lyme Historic District is listed as significant in the areas of Art and Architecture.

2. Judge Learned Hand, Federal Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit


Townhouse, 142 E. 65th Street, New York, New York. (Demolished.)

3. John Marshall Harlan, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, 1877-1911


(a) Harlan's Station (James Harlan Stone House), Salt River Road, 5 miles west of Danville, Boyle County, Kentucky. (Birthplace ruins.)

(b) John Marshall Harlan House, 14th and Euclid Avenue, NW, Washington, DC. (Demolished.)

4. Melville W. Fuller, Chief Justice of the United States, 1888-1910


Bacon House, 1801 F Street, Washington, DC. (No integrity.)

5. Roger B. Taney, Chief Justice of the United States, 1836-1864


(a) Taney Place, Calvert County, Maryland— The owner of this property is opposed to National Historic Landmark designation. (Birthplace.)

(b) 123 South Bentz Street, Frederick, Maryland— This property has no important association with Taney. He never lived here but owned the house at one time.


The Constitution National Historic Landmark Theme Study is organized into three sections. The first section contains the introductory essay and includes the result of the survey of 155 cases/sites studied in this effort. The second section contains the nominations of the five properties recommended for designation as a result of this search. These five properties are: The Supreme Court Building, Washington, DC; The First Bank of the United States, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; The Second Bank of the United States, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; The Sumner Elementary School, Topeka, Kansas; and The Pittsylvania County Court house, Chatham, Virginia. The third section contains a list of 165 existing National Historic Landmarks and units of the National Park System (NPSy) that are significant in one or more areas of the history of the Constitution. As a result of this survey virtually all sites related to the Constitution have been either identified, nominated, or excluded for some reason.


Last Modified: Wed, Aug 30 2000 7:00:00 am PDT

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