Laying the Preservation Framework: 1960-1980

An aerial view shows symmetrical curving pathways dividing garden beds.
A Historic Grounds Report for the Custis Lee Mansion Flower Garden was prepared in 1964.

NPS Photo


First NPS historic landscape treatment plans.

Publication of the first "Historic Grounds Reports" for national park historic landscapes.


Development of Land Trusts and preservation easements.

One of the earliest historic preservation easements was made in the early 1960s to preserve the view shed from Mount Vernon, when local residents became concerned that proposed development on the surrounding area would detract from the natural and historic character of the land.
In the late 1970s, Congress passed a law to provide eligibility for tax benefits to property owners who donate historic preservation easements.
Passengers gather in the expansive concourse of a train station under an arching glass and metal ceiling.
The demolition of Penn Station helped inspire the U.S. historic preservation movement.

Photo by Cervin Robinson for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS NY, 31-NEYO), April 24, 1962


Penn Station demolition catalyzes historic preservation movement.

The decision to replace the New York's Penn Station, designed by McKim, Mead and White, and its subsequent demolition becomes a key moment in the birth of the US historic preservation movement--a movement that came too late to save Penn Station, but galvanized the preservation of Grand Central Terminal in the 1970s.

A street is lined by two rows of houses with second-story porches and wood railings.
The Locke Historic District in California clearly illustrates a period in the history of Chinese communities in America. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in December of 1990.

NPS/National Register of Historic Places


The National Historic Preservation Act passed.

The NHPA's preservation program is conceived as a partnership between the Federal Government, led by the NPS, and the States (now including Indian Tribes and Certified Local Governments). The NHPA also created the National Register of Historic Places, the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation, and Section 106 –a legal status for historic preservation in Federal planning.


Passage of the Department of Transportation Act

The creation of the Department of Transportation and the development of a National Transportation Policy called for the section 4(f) "requirement for consideration of park and recreation lands, wildlife and waterfowl refuges, and historic sites in transportation project development."


National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is passed.

The National Park Service and other federal agencies are required by NEPA to evaluate environmental impacts of their actions and to involve the public in the decision-making process.
A log cabin with two doors and a long front porch stands on a slope.
Buffalo National River was the country's first national river. Boxley Valley Historic District, located in the park, was the first historic vernacular landscape preserved by the NPS. This log house at the Beaver Jim Villines farmstead dates to the early "Old Ozarks Frontier" period of the 1850s.

J. McGilvray/NPS Photo, 2014


First NPS vernacular landscape preserved

Buffalo National River in Arkansas is designated as a national park unit and the country's first national river. The river's surrounding land contains indigenous and historic vernacular landscapes.


"Historic scene" defined in NPS Administrative Policies.

The precursor to the term "cultural landscape," "historic scene" denotes the overall appearance of all historic resources and their surroundings as they were in the historic period.
Logo for the Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation, with text and mature tree
The Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation now operates in over 30 U.S. states, multiple Canadian Provinces, and Europe.


Tension between landscape preservation and landscape dynamism raised.

J.B. Jackson criticizes the practices of landscape preservation in a letter to Landscape Architecture magazine, cautioning that the movement should, "create a sense of time," not a "sterile reconstruction."


NPS landscape preservation guidance published.

Thomas Kane, founder of the Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation, prepares guidelines on historic landscape preservation for State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs) involved with the National Register program.


The Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation established.

The Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation is a professional organization that provides a forum for cultural landscape academic study and advancement of the field of landscape preservation. AHLP now operates in over 30 U.S. states, multiple Canadian provinces, and Europe.
Drawing of the General Plan of Franklin Park, with map and text
Frederick Law Olmsted's plan for Franklin Park in Boston, MA is maintained by the Olmsted Archives.



Historic design drawings of the Olmsted Firm preserved.

The language of the 1935 Historic Sites Act is used to preserve and conserve the Olmsted archives. The archives are a foundation for work to preserve historic Olmsted landscapes.


New York's Central Park Conservancy is formed.

The Central Park Conservancy is formed by a group of citizens dedicated to improving the condition of Olmsted's and Vaux's NYC masterpiece. The park was designated a landmark in 1974 by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. The Conservancy is one of the earliest examples of a public-private partnership for preservation of a public park.

Park conservancies continue to play an active role in supporting many of the large, historic city parks around the country.

Stereoscopic photo shows side-by-side images of a man tipping his hat to a woman on the edge of a wooded pathway.
Central Park, New York was first designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1858.

Strohmeyer & Wyman, ca. November 23, 1896, via Library of Congress

Last updated: July 26, 2017