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Historical Background

Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

Suggested Reading


Explorers and Settlers
Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

A FULL APPRECIATION of our national historical heritage can never be gained by the reading of historical narrative or formal study alone—interesting and important though such study is. Visits to historic sites and buildings rekindle, stimulate, and broaden historical interest and knowledge; they add new dimensions to the past. The numerous sites and buildings that are described below illustrate an intriguing and vital epoch in our history: early exploration and settlement. They reveal the widespread activities of the various European nations, the clashes of imperial rivalry, and the beginnings of the amalgam of nationalities, cultures, and races that became the United States.

Sites and buildings associated with the epoch are scattered throughout the United States. They include: Missions, pueblos, presidios, houses, memorial parks, ruins, and lost sites. Spanish sites, which indicate the broad geographical extent of Spanish exploration and settlement, range from the lower Atlantic seaboard across the Southeast and the gulf coast to the Southwest and the Pacific coast. The remains or ruins of various forts, missions, and trading posts in the Great Lakes region, the Mississippi Valley, and the Southeast are remnants of the French Empire in the New World. Dutch and Swedish sites are in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey. Because sites pertaining to the later English colonial period, after 1700, are described in a separate volume of this series, Colonials and Patriots, those treated in this volume are proportionately fewer than those for Spain, France, Holland, and Sweden. Indian archeological sites have been included that reveal European contact and extent of exploration.

The identification, maintenance, preservation, and reconstruction of historic sites and buildings associated with the period of early exploration and settlement present some unique problems because of the passage of so much time and the paucity and obscurity of the early historical records. More sites have been "lost" than in later periods of history; some sites were definitively located only after exhaustive historical and archeological research. Also, as would be expected, more of these historic buildings are in ruins or partial ruins than are those of later times. All these problems have been encountered by the various governmental and private groups and individuals on the National, State, county, and local levels that maintain historic sites and buildings representing the period.

Some of the fruits of the National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings program are presented in this volume, which also includes sites in the National Park System that illustrate early exploration and settlement. State universities, park departments, and historical societies throughout the Nation have done important work in this period of history, as have also many county and municipal governments. Private organizations, too, have made substantial contributions. These include, for example, on the National level, the National Trust for Historic Preservation; on the State level, in California, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Native Daughters of the Golden West, and the Native Sons of the Golden West; on the city level, in New Mexico, the Historic Santa Fe Foundation and the Old Santa Fe Association. Examples in the East include Sleepy Hollow Restorations, Inc., in New York; the Society for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities; the Association for the Preservation of New England Antiquities; the Antiquarian and Landmarks Society of Connecticut; the Plymouth Antiquarian Society, in Massachusetts; and the St. Augustine Historical Society, in Florida. Private local associations of historians and archeologists have also done much valuable work.

The efforts of all these organizations, as well as those of numerous others and scores of private owners, have fostered our national heritage by making it possible for Americans to visit and enjoy many of the historic sites and buildings illustrating early exploration and settlement that are described below. The sites and buildings are arranged alphabetically by State and Territory within the following five categories: Units of the National Park System; National Historic Sites in non-Federal ownership; sites eligible for the Registry of National Historic Landmarks; Historic Districts eligible for the Registry; and sites of sufficient importance to merit attention but which are not considered to be nationally significant when measured and evaluated by the special Landmark criteria (pp. 421-422).

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Last Updated: 22-Mar-2005