Preservation Efforts Grow: 1930-1949

Several church towers stand out above a district of low buildings.
Charleston, South Carolina was the first U.S. city with a historic district zoning ordinance.

Detroit Publishing Co., Charleston, S.C., [created between 1900 and 1915], via Library of Congress.


First Historic Preservation and Planning Review Board created.

The City of Charleston proposed a historic district zoning ordinance in October of 1931. This was a new blend of historic preservation and planning with a review board to examine and propose solutions to design problems of residents in the historic district boundary.


First federal preservation treatment efforts.

Congress authorizes President Franklin Roosevelt's proposed Civilian Conservation Corps, a labor force for early conservation efforts, including the restoration of federally-owned historic properties.

A row of young men in work uniforms dig post holes for a fence.
The Civilian Conservation Corps labor force replanted and rebuilt historic properties with the NPS. Here, a CCC work crew puts up a fence in Greene Country, Georgia.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. May 1941. Retrieved from The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Cannons, monuments, and stone walls are part of the Gettysburg landscape.
Gettysburg National Battlefield was added to the national park system in 1933.

NPS Photo


National parklands and federal historic sites are centralized under the NPS.

President Roosevelt signs executive orders transferring the War Department's parks and monuments as well as those held by the Forest Service and the District of Columbia to the National Park Service.


First systematic documentation of historic properties.

The Historic American Building Survey (HABS) is created to document America's architectural heritage and to provide employment for Depression Era architects.

Bright blue-green water surrounds a fort, its walls surrounding open lawn.
Fort Jefferson was designated a National Monument in 1935 under the Historic Sites Act.

NPS Photo


Historic Sites Act passed.

Passage of the Historic Sites Act (formerly 16 USC 461-467, now four sections in Title 54) leads to a federal policy to preserve historic properties for public use. Historic preservation becomes a primary focus of the NPS.


First systematic documentation of historic landscapes.

Members of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) participating in the HABS program, complete the Historic American Landscape and Garden Project, which documents 40 historic landscapes in Massachusetts.


The National Trust for Historic Preservation established.

Creation of the National Trust for Historic Preservation (National Trust) is chartered by Congress. The National Trust supports the preservation of historic properties in local communities.

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Last updated: July 26, 2017