National Historic Landmark
A National Historic Landmark (NHL) is a building, site, structure, or object that is officially recognized by the United States government for its national-level historical significance. Out of more than 85,000 places on the National Register of Historic Places only about 2,500 are NHLs.
A National Historic Landmark District (NHLD) is a historic district that has received similar recognition. The district may include contributing properties that are buildings, structures, sites or objects, and it may include non-contributing properties. Contributing properties may or may not also be separately listed.
Prior to 1935, efforts to preserve cultural heritage of national importance were made by piecemeal efforts of the United States Congress. In 1935 Congress passed the Historic Sites Act, which authorized the Interior Secretary authority to formally record and organize historic properties, and to designate properties as having "national historical significance", and gave the National Park Service authority to administer historically significant federally-owned properties1 Over the following decades surveys such as the Historic American Building Survey amassed information about culturally and architecturally significant properties in a program known as the Historic Sites Survey.2 Most of the designations made under this legislation became National Historic Sites, although the very first designation, made December 20, 1935, was for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, Missouri. The first National Historic Site designation was made for the Salem Maritime National Historic Site on March 17, 1938.3
In 1960 the National Park Service took on the administration of the survey data gathered under this legislation, and the National Historic Landmark program began to take more formal shape.4 When the National Register of Historic Places was established in 1966, the National Historic Landmark program was encompassed within it, and rules and procedures for inclusion and designation were formalized. Because listings (either on the National Register, or as an NHL) often triggered local preservation laws, legislation in 1980 amended the listing procedures to require owner agreement to the designations.5
On October 9, 1960, 92 properties were announced as designated NHLs by Secretary of the Interior Fred Andrew Seaton. The first of these was a political nomination: the Sergeant Floyd Grave and Monument in Sioux City, Iowa was officially designated on June 30 of that year, but for various reasons, the public announcement of the first several NHLs was delayed.
NHLs are designated by the United States Secretary of the Interior because they are:
- Sites where events of national historical significance occurred;
- Places where prominent persons lived or worked;
- Icons of ideals that shaped the nation;
- Outstanding examples of design or construction;
- Places characterizing a way of life; or
- Archeological sites able to yield information.
Of the approximately 2,500 NHLs, three states, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York, account for nearly 25 percent of the nation's NHLs. In addition to these states, cities within these states, Boston, Philadelphia, and New York City (each separately) alone have more NHLs than 40 out of the 50 states. There are NHLs in all 50 states. There are 74 in the District of Columbia, 15 in Puerto Rico and other U.S. commonwealths and territories, five in U.S.-associated states such as Micronesia, and one in Morocco.67
One hundred-twenty-eight ships or shipwrecks have been designated as NHLs.
About half of the National Historic Landmarks are privately owned.8 The National Historic Landmarks Program relies on suggestions for new designations from the National Park Service, which also assists in maintaining the landmarks. A friends' group of owners and managers, the National Historic Landmark Stewards Association, works to preserve, protect and promote National Historic Landmarks.
- American Water Landmark
- List of National Historic Landmarks by state
- List of National Register of Historic Places entries
- Listed building, a similar designation in the UK
- National Natural Landmark
- United States Memorials
- Robinson, Nicholas. Environmental Regulation of Real Property, Volume 1. New York: Law Journal Press, 1982. pp. 6:22-23.
- Lee, Antoinette Josephine. The American Mosaic: Preserving a Nation's Heritage. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1997. ISBN 978-0-8143-2719-7. p. 7
- McDonnell, Janet; Mackintosh, Barry. The National Parks: Shaping the System. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2005. ISBN 978-0-912627-73-1. p. 52
- Frank, Karolin; Petersen, Patricia. Historic Preservation in the USA. Berlin: Springer, 2002. ISBN 978-3-540-41735-4. p. 66
- Robinson, p. 6:24
- National Park Service (November 2007). "National Historic Landmarks Survey: List of National Historic Landmarks by State" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-07-01
- The counts and locations of NHLs are described most accurately in List of National Historic Landmarks by state. This extends, and corrects errors from, the National Park Service's "National Historic Landmarks Survey List of National Historic Landmarks by State", also referenced.
- National Historic Landmarks Update, National Park Service, October 2004
- "Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 65". US Government Printing Office. Retrieved 2008-04-05.
- National Historic Landmarks Program Official website
- National Historic Landmarks: Archaeological Properties