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The National Historic Preservation Act and The National Park Service: A History





current topic Getting (Re)Organized

Expanding the Register

Aiding Preservation

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An Appraisal

Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Appendix D

Appendix E

Appendix F


The National Historic Preservation Act and The National Park Service: A History
Getting (Re)Organized
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When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Historic Preservation Act on October 15, 1966, planning for its implementation was already underway within the National Park Service. That May Director George B. Hartzog, Jr., had appointed a special committee on historic preservation to consider both the bureau's existing preservation responsibilities—mostly within the National Park System—and its anticipated responsibilities beyond the parks under the pending legislation. The distinguished committee comprised Dr. John Otis Brew, a prominent archeologist and director of Harvard's Peabody Museum, who had served on the Secretary of the Interior's national parks advisory board; Dr. Ernest Allen Connally, professor of architectural history at the University of Illinois, who had participated in several Historic American Buildings Survey and historic structure restoration projects for the Service; and Ronald F. Lee, a former National Park Service chief historian and regional director and then special assistant to Hartzog, who had been instrumental in founding the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Historic preservation had been a major activity of the Park Service since the 1930s, when it acquired most of the government's historical parks and monuments in a 1933 executive branch reorganization. The Historic Sites Act of 1935 charged it with implementing "a national policy to preserve for public use historic sites, buildings, and objects of national significance for the inspiration and benefit of the people of the United States." Ever since the reorganization most units of the Park System had been historical or archeological. Yet the great natural parks—the Yellowstones and Yosemites—still predominated in the public image of the System and in the minds and hearts of Service management.

This traditional bias, the committee perceived, was detrimental to historic preservation in the inevitable competition for funding, personnel, and management attention within the organization. During consideration of the Historic Sites Act legislation, some had foreseen the problem and advocated a separate historic sites agency. In his 1935 report on the expanded program envisioned by the act, J. Thomas Schneider implicitly favored this course, but since the act specified the National Park Service, Schneider fell back to urging an autonomous historic sites branch within the Service. [1] Such a branch was created, but it lacked the recommended autonomy and did not survive successive bureau reorganizations.

Reporting to Director Hartzog in September 1966 as the new legislation was en route to enactment, the Brew-Connally-Lee committee echoed Schneider's concern about the subordination of historic preservation in the Park Service. "We are deeply aware that in most European nations...the preservation of historic and architectural monuments is the special responsibility of a separate bureau or department created solely for this purpose," it wrote. "We sense that within the Government of the United States, and specifically within the National Park Service, there is a need to bring professional preservation work into sharp focus, and to conduct it at a very high level." [2]

The committee went on to specific complaints:

The professional staffs in history, archeology, and historical architecture are now subdivided, and in our view, fragmented, under four of the six Assistant Directors. These fragmented staffs function at a regrettably low level in the Service organization. This...makes communication of staff professional viewpoints within the Service, and outside the Service, both difficult and often ineffective.

As a result of this fragmentation, the committee felt, historic restoration work in the parks sometimes suffered. [3]

The committee's prescription for the problem was an "Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation" whose chief would report directly to the director. The office would consolidate the Service's top-level historians, archeologists, and historical architects, although some would retain their duty stations in the regional offices, archeological centers, and three existing planning and service centers. The committee recommended that the office be headed by a historical architect, "partly because we foresee rapidly increasing national need for experts who have specialized in historic buildings, and also because this side of Service professional work is most in need of further strengthening and development." [4]

Hartzog adopted in large measure the committee's recommendations. Early in 1967 the Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation—quickly dubbed OAHP—was formed in the Service's Washington headquarters. Ernest Connally, trained as an architect as well as an architectural historian, accepted Hartzog's offer to head it. [5] With his university background, Connally sought to organize and staff OAHP in a manner that would gain it academic respectability and professional standing equivalent to the foreign government offices charged with similar responsibilities. He envisioned it as "a kind of scholarly institute" benefiting from frequent personnel exchanges with academic departments in related fields. [6]

In line with these objectives, the disciplines of archeology, history, and historic architecture formed the primary divisions of the office. Chief Historian Robert M. Utley, who had risen through the Service organization and combined professional and bureaucratic skills to an uncommon degree, was chief of the Division of History. Under him were the Branch of Park History Studies, which conducted research for preservation and interpretation within the National Park System, and the Branch of Historical Surveys, which studied properties outside the System for designation as national historic landmarks. The Division of Archeology was headed by Dr. John M. Corbett, another Service veteran, who supervised a Washington staff, archeologists stationed in several of the regional offices, and the Southeast and Southwest archeological centers. Whereas these divisions predated OAHP in the Washington headquarters organization, the Division of Historic Architecture was a new amalgamation of functions and staff. It comprised the Branch of Restorations, which planned and supervised Park System projects, and the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), whose recording work transcended the System. Joseph Watterson, a newcomer to the Service, was appointed chief of the division in November.

Most of the duties and many of the personnel of these disciplinary divisions had been with the Service for years. In contrast, the National Register branch was an innovation stemming directly from the National Historic Preservation Act. It would carry out the act's directive "to expand and maintain a national register of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects significant in American history, architecture, archeology, and culture." It was also charged with establishing and administering the new program of grants-in-aid to the states and National Trust for Historic Preservation authorized by the act.

The Register unit, which did not become a "division" until 1972, was headed by Dr. William J. Murtagh, an architectural historian who had been director of program with the National Trust. Murtagh was styled "Keeper of the National Register" rather than registrar, because Ernest Connally foresaw that the states would ultimately be doing most of the registering and that OAHP would be merely "keeping" the register. [7] The first National Register employee was Russell V. Keune, an architect from HABS, who acted as keeper until Murtagh's arrival in August and remained as assistant keeper until departing for the National Trust in January 1969. Next came Jerry L. Rogers, a newly hired historian who arrived the same day as Connally in June, succeeded Keune as assistant keeper, became chief of the new Division of Grants in October 1973 when that function separated from the National Register Division, rose to head OAHP in 1976, and after 1983 oversaw the historic preservation responsibilities of the National Park Service as its associate director for cultural resources.

Another unit responding directly to the 1966 act constituted staff to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation established by the act, which specified the director of the National Park Service or his designee as executive director of the Council. Robert R. Garvey, Jr., who had worked actively for the legislation as executive director of the National Trust, left that post in July 1967 to assume the full-time staff responsibility of executive secretary to the Council. Although Garvey did not remain within OAHP officially after 1969, his office was housed with OAHP until 1973, and like the National Register unit it drew heavily on the resources of the established disciplinary divisions. After Council review of a controversial Park Service undertaking—permitting access to a privately built tower next to Gettysburg National Military Park—raised conflict of interest questions, Director Ronald H. Walker (Hartzog's successor) delegated his executive directorship to Garvey in 1973 in an effort to give the Council staff a greater measure of autonomy within the Service. The potential for conflict remained until 1976, when legislation amending the National Historic Preservation Act reconstituted the Council as an independent federal agency to which Garvey and his staff were transferred. [8]

A January 1968 report on the first year's progress in implementing the act restated the prospect of OAHP becoming "an American equivalent of the 'monuments offices' that European and Latin American countries have long maintained to guard the national patrimony." [9] Achieving this goal would have required an accretion of preservation responsibility, including line authority over the cultural areas and resources of the National Park System. Instead, OAHP became less comprehensive as some of its initial responsibilities were withdrawn in successive Service reorganizations. The separation of the Advisory Council support function has been noted. The first removal of traditional Service responsibilities placed under OAHP came in early 1970, when park-related historical and architectural research and restoration project supervision were reassigned to the Eastern and Western service centers (combined as the Denver Service Center in the fall of 1971) and when the Southeast and Southwest archeological centers were placed under the respective regional offices. Several factors motivated the transfers. Under pressure to reduce Washington overhead, management needed to show fewer people assigned to the headquarters office. There was hope for improved collaboration among the historians and historical architects and the planners and other professionals in the service centers. Finally, Director Hartzog seemed concerned that OAHP might amass too much power and break away, with or without the historical parks—perhaps to the rival Smithsonian Institution. [10] Hartzog supported historic preservation, but his primary devotion was to the integrity and expansion of his bureau, and the implications of the "monuments office" concept did not arouse his enthusiasm.

In 1971 OAHP moved down a notch in the Service organization: Ernest Connally now reported to an associate director for professional services instead of the director. The following year Connally became the associate director for professional services and Bob Utley was elevated to head OAHP, so the proximity of preservation to the director was restored in fact if not name.

Soon after the last reshuffle, the Conservation Foundation published National Parks for the Future to coincide with the centennial of Yellowstone National Park's establishment in 1872. Arguing that the natural and historical parks would both be better served by separate administration, the report called for divesting the latter from the Service. Predictably, Hartzog opposed this recommendation; but he was fired at the end of 1972 and replaced by Ronald Walker, an advance man from the Nixon White House who did not share Hartzog's instinctive aversion to narrowing the bureau's scope.

Walker formed a committee of Service managers to recommend further organizational changes. Their report proposed that OAHP be dismantled. It reflected the widespread lack of sympathy for the office's non-park activities among those who had risen through the traditional park ranger and administrative ranks ("smoky bears" to Connally), as well as animosity toward its perceived elitism, academic pretensions, and separatist tendencies. Connally and Utley persuaded Walker to reject most of the committee's recommendations for OAHP and to adopt an alternate scheme, effected in September 1973.

OAHP was pared down to those programs that were basically external to the National Park System. It consisted of the National Register Division under Bill Murtagh, the Grants Division under Jerry Rogers, the Historical and Architectural Surveys Division (the Historic American Buildings Survey, Historic American Engineering Record, and National Historic Landmarks Program) under Cornelius W. Heine, and the Interagency Services Division for archeology under Rex Wilson. In charge as assistant director for OAHP was Dr. A. Russell Mortensen, a former University of Utah history professor who had succeeded Bob Utley as chief historian. What remained of the history, archeology, and historic architecture divisions (under Dr. Harry W. Pfanz, Dr. Robert H. Lister, and Henry A. Judd respectively) was placed under Bob Utley, who became assistant director for park historic preservation.

This segregation of "in-house" and "out-house" preservation responsibility was in part a response to the criticism that park needs had been subordinated within the former organization. The assistant directorate for park historic preservation was announced as a corrective to that drift. Not announced was Connally's and Utley's other agenda for the reorganization: an OAHP divested of its Park System functions would be easier to remove from the Park Service to more sympathetic custody. [11]

Connally's grand design was outlined in a paper he and Walker presented to Walker's boss, Assistant Secretary of the Interior Nathaniel P. Reed, on October 31. It noted that cultural responsibilities in the federal government were dispersed inefficiently among the Smithsonian, the arts and humanities endowments, and the Park Service. Historic preservation was a peripheral concern in the Interior Department, and it would be even more so in the Department of Energy and Natural Resources that the Nixon Administration was planning to supersede Interior. Connally's ultimate solution was a new independent agency, an Administration of Cultural Affairs, that would encompass both OAHP and the Service's historical parks along with the Smithsonian, the endowments, the National Archives, and performing arts administration. As an intermediate step, he proposed that OAHP be transferred (with its 98 positions and $15 million budget) from the Service to the departmental level. [12]

Reed had previously come out against the Conservation Foundation recommendation for the historical parks, and he refused to endorse either the grand design or the OAHP transfer. Realizing that Interior's top officials were unlikely to favor anything aimed at removing responsibility from the department, Connally gained Walker's support for a more modest proposal in August 1974. It would place the historical parks and OAHP in a separate Historic Sites and Monuments Service under Reed's assistant secretariat. Walker's memorandum with this proposal (prepared by Connally) cited the differences between historical and natural park management and the greatly increased extramural responsibilities of OAHP as justification for the new bureau. But Reed again thwarted the separation. [13]

When Walker was replaced by Gary Everhardt, a Park Service careerist, in January 1975, there was no further prospect of advancing such proposals through the bureau's leadership. Rather than seeking to reconcile OAHP and its outside constituency to its Service tie, however, the Everhardt administration seemed bent on proving that the preservation program beyond the parks could not prosper in a park management organization. When the water system at Crater Lake National Park broke down, Everhardt slashed OAHP's fiscal 1977 grants-in-aid budget request in half (from $20 million to $10 million) for the money to repair it. Connally denounced this action at the 1976 spring meeting of state historic preservation officers, winning their applause but incurring Everhardt's and Reed's displeasure.

The state representatives now spoke out for divorcing OAHP, if not the historical parks, from the Service. After the meeting Truett Latimer of Texas, president of the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, wrote Sen. Henry M. Jackson of Washington, chairman of the Senate Interior and Insular Affairs Committee:

When a choice must be made between identifying, preserving, and protecting historic resources across the country and upgrading park sanitation systems, it is time for the two to be separated. The majority of SHPOs who have expressed opinions on this issue favor the creation of a "Bureau of Historic Preservation" within the Department of the Interior, with organizational status equal to that of other Departmental bureaus. [14]

Chairman Carlisle H. Humelsine and President James Biddle of the National Trust for Historic Preservation signed another letter to Jackson on the subject:

[W]e have recently suggested to the Assistant Secretary of Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks [Reed]..., in view of the disastrous consequences to historic preservation reflected in the President's 1977 budget request, flowing from its competition for funding available for other worthy National Park Service undertakings, that it is timely to consider transfer of historic preservation responsibilities from the National Park Service to an organizational entity reporting directly to the Departmental Secretary level....

Alternatively, and perhaps even preferably, we believe that serious consideration should be given to action by the Congress to divest, entirely, from the Department of the Interior, responsibility for carrying out the national historic preservation policy, reassigning that responsibility to a Federal entity where the primary thrust is in the direction of achieving compatible goals. We believe that such an entity exists in the National Foundation for the Arts and Humanities.... [15]

Another Service reorganization just, afterward, in May 1976, removed Bob Utley's assistant directorate for park historic preservation from Connally and reduced it with its three disciplinary divisions to a single Cultural Resources Management Division, under the assistant director for park operations and associate director for management and operations. Connally, retitled Associate Director, Preservation of Historic Properties, and retaining only OAHP, was left isolated from Park System concerns. The progressive retreat from the original concept of OAHP as a central unit consolidating the bureau's preservation professionals was complete.

The change of administrations in January 1977 raised the hopes of many in the preservation community that OAHP and its programs might at last be liberated from Park Service shackles. The following month Rep. John F. Seiberling of Ohio, chairman of the public lands subcommittee of the House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, introduced a bill titled "The National Historic Preservation Policy Act of 1977." [16] Drafted in collaboration with the newly independent Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the bill would transfer OAHP's functions to the Council.

Bob Utley, who had come to the Council as deputy executive director after his descent in the last Service reorganization, helped prepare a staff paper supporting the transfer. It traced the fate of the preservation program in the Service and catalogued the disadvantages of leaving it there: "Past record with the program, including deficiencies in management of historic resources of the National Park System, subordination of historic preservation budget and personnel needs to other priorities, delays in issuance of needed regulations caused in part by perceived inconvenience to Interior land managers, lack of interest in or understanding of historic preservation by key management officials, continuing inability after forty years to adopt original principles urged by historic preservation specialists." [16]

In April Council staff met at Williamsburg with representatives of the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, the National Trust, and the Defense, Treasury, and Transportation departments to consolidate support for the Seiberling bill. The group's report, favoring the bill, was adopted by the full Council in May. Interior was asked but declined to participate in the Williamsburg meeting, and Director Everhardt persuaded the Secretary of the Interior's Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings, and Monuments to strongly oppose divestiture of the OAHP programs. [17]

The progress of the Seiberling bill was overtaken by other events. Following President Jimmy Carter's environmental message to the Congress in May, Secretary of the Interior Cecil D. Andrus appointed a National Heritage Trust Task Force to consider the preservation of natural and cultural resources and the provision of recreational opportunities. The 100-member group, representing some 50 public agencies and private organizations concerned with these matters, labored throughout the summer to define problems and propose solutions, including organizational realignments. But the outcome reflected the influence of Interior's Bureau of Outdoor Recreation under its Carter-appointed director, Chris T. Delaporte, more than the input of most other interests. [18]

On January 25, 1978, Secretary of the Interior Cecil D. Andrus ordered reconstitution of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation as the Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service. HCRS would be "the focal point within the Federal government for planning, evaluating, and coordinating the protection and preservation of the Nation's cultural and natural heritage, and for assuring adequate recreation opportunities for all its people." [19] The order transferred both OAHP and the Park Service's Natural Landmarks Program to the new bureau. Ernest Connally retained his associate directorship in the move, Jerry Rogers remained under him as OAHP chief, and subordinate personnel kept their positions as well.

Historic preservationists who had looked for better times ahead were soon disillusioned by the new regime. HCRS, dominated by the outdoor recreation interests of its predecessor, seemed no more hospitable to the concerns of OAHP than the Park Service had been. A month after its establishment Bruce K. Chapman, a National Trust trustee and Advisory Council member, attacked OAHP's shift to HCRS in a Washington Post column:

This will create an organizational mishmash, reminiscent of comedian Shelley Berman's old skit about the "Grace L. Ferguson Non-Scheduled Airline and Storm Door Company."

Worse, it suggests little comprehension of the new concept of preservation as an urban activity.

While disappointing historic preservationists, the new plan is not likely to satisfy those who are primarily concerned with saving endangered natural areas. They, too, expected more innovation from the five-month-long policy review that followed the president's environmental message last May.

I think President Carter is missing a major opportunity. Instead of consigning historic preservation to an inappropriate niche he should make it the core of his forthcoming urban policy.... [20]

As HCRS director, Chris Delaporte seemed unresponsive and even hostile on occasion to his preservation constituency. After the president of the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers questioned the legality of HCRS under the secretarial order and urged that it be disbanded, Delaporte announced in mid-1979 that grants funds could no longer be used for dues to the organization. [21] The decision may have been correct, but its timing suggested retaliation. Simultaneously, Delaporte proceeded with plans to relocate much OAHP business to the bureau's eight regional offices by transferring positions and personnel from Washington. This was part of an overall scheme under which basic program operations would be delegated to the states as much as possible, the regional offices would perform essential federal operations and provide guidance, and the Washington office would be trimmed to a policy, budgeting, and evaluation center. But regionalization met resistance inside and outside the organization: program leaders foresaw that staff would be spread too thinly if dispersed without augmentation, while state historic preservation officers disliked having to deal with another bureaucratic layer. [22]

Matters were not helped by Delaporte's failure to develop good personal relationships with the preservation establishment in and outside his organization. Ernest Connally and Bill Murtagh found him unsympathetic to their somewhat academic management styles. Following a period of heavy pressure to reform office operations, Murtagh left the National Register to head the preservation program at Columbia University in May 1979. Connally stayed on the rolls but relinquished his associate directorate in November to devote himself to his other duties as secretary general of the International Council on Monuments and Sites. The departures of these widely respected leaders, generally perceived as forced, further diminished Delaporte's image beyond the bureau.

Displeased with the fate of preservation under HCRS, Representative Seiberling introduced another bill on August 2 titled "National Historic Preservation Amendments of 1979." [23] This second Seiberling bill proposed an independent Historic Preservation Agency, headed by an Administrator for Historic Preservation. The agency would assume all OAHP functions. The Advisory Council would receive new membership but would remain a separate body. The independent agency was dropped from a later version of the bill enacted as the National Historic Preservation Act Amendments of 1980.

On September 24, 1979, the Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation ceased to exist under that name. The associate director, preservation of historic properties, became the associate director, cultural programs, and the chief of OAHP became the deputy associate director. The deputy, Jerry Rogers, acted as associate director between Connally's departure and the arrival of his successor, Hope T. Moore, on January 29, 1980.

Meeting in New Orleans in September 1980, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers again attacked HCRS in a statement addressed to Secretary Andrus. The SHPOs accused Interior administrators of taking a disproportionate share of their required fiscal 1981 budget reduction from the grants program and of unduly changing the rules for state participation in the program. "[W]e can no longer in good conscience urge anyone to seek participation in the national program," they declared. [24]

Wolf Von Eckhardt, architecture critic for the Washington Post, characterized the widespread opposition to HCRS in an October article:

Members of Congress and citizen organizations concerned with heritage and recreation seem unanimous, as one spokesman put it, that "Delaporte's outfit is an unmitigated disaster." Congressional dislike caused money cuts. Professional dislike caused resignations. "Chris," as the executive of a leading citizen organization told me, "caused nothing but chaos." [25]

The end of the Carter administration in January 1981 was also the end for the bureau. With its politically appointed leadership (including Hope Moore) out of the picture, Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt—a former director of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation—immediately abolished HCRS and returned most of its functions to the National Park Service. Its five existing historic preservation divisions—National Register, State Plans and Grants, Interagency Archeological Services, National Architectural and Engineering Record, and Technical Preservation Services—remained together under Jerry Rogers, who received the title Associate Director, Archeology and Historic Preservation.

Two further Park Service reorganizations brought the preservation programs to their status at this writing. In 1982 Rogers was retitled Associate Director, National Register Programs; the first three divisions mentioned above were consolidated to the Interagency Resource Management Division, under Lawrence E. Aten; and the two remaining were renamed the HABS/HAER Division (for Historic American Buildings Survey and Historic American Engineering Record), under Robert J. Kapsch, and the Preservation Assistance Division, under Lee H. Nelson. During the HCRS interlude the old park-related History, Historic Architecture, and Anthropology (formerly Archeology) divisions had reemerged under an assistant director for cultural resources, F. Ross Holland, Jr. Holland now became Associate Director, Cultural Resources Management.

A year later the two associate directorates were amalgamated under Jerry Rogers as Associate Director, Cultural Resources. On paper, Rogers supervised three assistant directors, only one of whom existed. This was the Assistant Director for Archeology, Bennie C. Keel, who oversaw Douglas H. Scovill's park-related Anthropology Division and Victor Carbone's Archeological Assistance Division. The other assistant director positions were not filled, so that the remaining five divisions reported directly to Rogers. These were the History Division under Edwin C. Bearss, the Park Historic Architecture Division under Hugh C. Miller, and the Interagency Resources, HABS/HAER, and Preservation Assistance divisions noted above. The organization fostered much greater interchange among the "internal" and "external" programs. In one case it combined them, returning the National Historic Landmarks Program to its erstwhile home in the History Division.

Reviewing this organizational evolution since 1967, one is struck by its circular nature. Integrating the in-park and extramural preservation activities of the National Park Service under a ranking official reporting to the director, the associate directorate for cultural resources after 1983 resembled nothing so much as the original Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation. There were differences, to be sure. The Advisory Council support function and the park research and project supervision activities were absent. The regionalization initiated under HCRS continued under the Park Service, so that some former OAHP activities were carried out in the bureau's regional offices under its regional directors. But the organization headed by Jerry Rogers 20 years after the National Historic Preservation Act was closer to the initial OAHP concept than any previous arrangement since 1971.

After the HCRS experience, the return of its historic preservation component to the Park Service was greeted with general relief. Some preservationists, including Charles E. Lee of South Carolina, president of the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers in the mid-1980s, again became dissatisfied with Service custody of the non-park programs and renewed the call for separation. But the call was untimely. As program responsibilities were being shifted from the federal level to the states and localities, the federal component warranted independent agency status less rather than more. Its transfer to a less established agency or bureau (presumably one devoted to cultural programs, the alternative having been discredited) would increase rather than reduce its vulnerability to contemporary budget cutting imperatives. Although not deliberately designed to do so, the integrated organization after 1983 also militated against separation. Most veterans of the bureaucratic wars probably agreed with Jerry Rogers that the National Park Service was, for the foreseeable future, the best place for his programs. [26]

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