Historic Sites Act of 1935

The Historic Sites Act declared "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." It authorized the Secretary of the Interior to obtain information, survey, conduct research, maintain, and preserve sites with archeological significance. It brought about the coordination of federally-owned parks, monuments, and historic sites - including archeological places - under the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior.

The Antiquities Act of 1906 established that the preservation and protection of the nation's antiquities was the under the purview of the Federal government. Establishment of the NPS through the Organic Act of 1916 provided an administrative body to preserve and manage parks, but they were predominantly located in the western half of the US. Post-contact sites such as forts, monuments, memorials or battlefield sites were located in the eastern half and administered by the Departments of War or Agriculture. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, a program began to "round out" the National Park System by acquiring these sites and identifying new ones to add.

President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 6166 on June 10, 1933 brought a number of historic sites administered by the Departments of War and Agriculture under NPS. Then, during the Great Depression, work crews provided labor and professional archeological and historic preservation expertise to care for, develop, and document historic sites. These activities created a tipping point for the creation of a comprehensive national program for the identification, evaluation, acquisition, and preservation of historical and archeological sites.

Section 462 enumerates a wide range of powers and responsibilities given to the National Park Service and the Secretary of the Interior, including codifying and institutionalizing the Historic American Buildings Survey, authorization to survey significant sites and buildings (which became the National Historic Landmarks program), and authorization to conduct preservation.

Section 463 established the National Park System Advisory Board to advise the Secretary of the Interior on sites to include in the National Park System.

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Last updated: February 25, 2021