Questions About NHL Designation

Questions about the Benefits of NHL Designation

No. Designation of private property as a National Historic Landmark or in the National Register does not prohibit under federal law or regulations any actions which may otherwise be taken by the property owner with respect to the property. The National Park Service may recommend to owners various preservation actions, but owners are not obligated to carry out these recommendations. They are free to make whatever changes they wish if federal funding, licensing, or permits are not involved. Federal laws that involve National Historic Landmarks are listed in the federal regulations governing this program, specifically in 36 CFR 65.2 "Effects of Designation" (c)(1-7).

Owners should keep in mind that state laws or local ordinances may affect National Historic Landmarks if these legal mechanisms recognize and protect Landmarks, independent of federal law.

Yes. If a private owner, or the majority of private owners of a potential Landmark with multiple owners, object to Landmark designation, the Secretary of the Interior cannot designate the property.

No. National Historic Landmark designation does not require a property to be made open to the public. The overwhelming majority of Landmarks are privately-owned properties. Property owners may choose to welcome visitors (or not).

Some grant sources, however, may require that recipients of funding make their property available to the public under very restricted circumstances.

No. The National Park Service monitors the status of new Landmarks, and may contact owners and discuss preservation needs. While the NPS encourages owners to use the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, owners are under no requirement to follow this guidance.

Yes. This tends to be a rare occurrence. The designation of a property as a National Historic Landmark means that the property is recognized as being of national significance and "possesses exceptional value or quality in illustrating and interpreting the heritage of the United States." This recognition does not, however, prevent changes being made to the property that can completely alter its character. When a designated property is altered so that it has lost its ability to convey its national significance, the withdrawal of its NHL designation must be considered. The National Historic Landmark designation of a property can be considered for withdrawal either at the request of the owner or on the initiative of the Secretary of the Interior. Often, efforts to withdraw Landmark status develop from NPS regional offices as part of the NPS mission to monitor the status of nationally significant historic places.

There are four criteria which justify the withdrawal of a National Historic Landmark designation:

  1. The property has ceased to meet criteria for designation; the qualities for which it was originally designated have been lost or destroyed.
  2. Additional information forthcoming after the designation demonstrates that the property does not possess sufficient significance to be a National Historic Landmark.
  3. A professional error was made in the designation of the property.
  4. There was prejudicial procedural error in the designation process.

Properties that were designated before December 13, 1980, can only be withdrawn because they have ceased to meet the criteria for designation. Loss of integrity (through alteration, addition, or demolition) is the most common reason for the withdrawal of Landmark designation. Although the NHL designation may be withdrawn, a property can remain listed in the National Register of Historic Places if it still meets the separate criteria for that listing.

Read about properties whose designation has been withdrawn.

Last updated: August 29, 2018