National Historic Landmarks may be districts, sites, buildings, structures, or objects. All Landmarks are nationally significant. Each Landmark demonstrates exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States in history, architecture, archeology, technology, and culture. National Historic Landmarks possess a high degree of integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association, and meet one or more of the following criteria:
- That is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to, and are identified with, or that outstandingly represents, the broad national patterns of United States history and from which an understanding and appreciation of those patterns may be gained; or
- That are associated importantly with the lives of persons nationally significant in the history of the United States; or
- That represent some great idea or ideal of the American people; or
- That embody the distinguishing characteristics of an architectural type specimen exceptionally valuable for the study of a period, style or method of construction, or that represent a significant, distinctive and exceptional entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or
- That are composed of integral parts of the environment not sufficiently significant by reason of historical association or artistic merit to warrant individual recognition but collectively compose an entity of exceptional historical or artistic significance, or outstandingly commemorate or illustrate a way of life or culture; or
- That have yielded or may be likely to yield information of major scientific importance by revealing new cultures, or by shedding light upon periods of occupation over large areas of the United States. Such sites are those which have yielded, or which may reasonably be expected to yield, data affecting theories, concepts, and ideas to a major degree.
Ordinarily, cemeteries, birthplaces, graves of historical figures, properties owned by religious institutions or used for religious purposes, structures that have been moved from their original locations, reconstructed historic buildings, and properties that have achieved significance within the past 50 years are not eligible for designation. Such properties, however, may qualify if they fall within the following categories:
- A religious property deriving its primary national significance from architectural or artistic distinction or historical importance; or
- A building or structure removed from its original location but which is nationally significant primarily for its architectural merit, or for association with persons or events of transcendent importance in the nation's history and the consequential association; or
- A site of a building or structure no longer standing but the person or event associated with it is of transcendent importance in the nation's history and the consequential association; or
- A birthplace, grave, or burial if it is of a historical figure of transcendent national significance and no other appropriate site, building or structure directly associated with the productive life of that person exists; or
- A cemetery that derives its primary national significance from graves of persons of transcendent importance, or from an exceptionally distinctive design or from an exceptionally significant event; or
- A reconstructed building or ensemble of buildings of extraordinary national significance when accurately executed in a suitable environment and presented in a dignified manner as part of a restoration master plan, and when no other buildings or structures with the same association have survived; or
- A property primarily commemorative in intent if design, age, tradition, or symbolic value has invested it with its own national historical significance; or
- A property achieving national significance within the past 50 years if it is of extraordinary national importance.