The following is a guest post by Emily Beran, a former intern with the Digital Resources Division of the Law Library of Congress. She studied library and information science at the University of Washington.
The National Register of Historic Places is overseen by the National Park Service and lists sites in the United States considered worthy of preservation due to their historic and cultural significance, particularly for the local communities. As of 2020, almost every county in the nation has at least one site on the National Register.
How do such registrations come about? The National Register of Historic Places was established in 1966 by the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) (Pub. L. 89-665, 80 Stat. 915), the most comprehensive preservation law in United States’ history. Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the NHPA was built on both the Antiquities Act (ch. 3060, 34 Stat. 225) and the Historic Sites Act (ch. 593, 49 Stat. 666). The NHPA was more sweeping in scope than the previous pieces of legislation and was developed out of concern for historically significant buildings and places in the wake of new development in the United States after World War II. In addition to the National Register of Historic Places, the NHPA also created the president’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
You may be wondering how the National Register of Historic Places differs from some of the previous methods for protecting historic and cultural sites. Both the Antiquities Act and the Historic Sites Act outlined the roles of the federal government when it came to preservation. The National Historic Preservation Act was more comprehensive in its outlining of the government’s duties, and it also created a process where private citizens had a role in preserving sites of significance (DeSantis, at 7). Anyone can nominate a site for consideration on the National Register of Historic Places. While approval comes from the secretary of the interior, a nomination does not need to be initiated by a government actor.
Not just any site is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places; the nominating process has rules and regulations. The secretary of the interior, with input from national historic and archaeological associations, maintains a list of criteria that sites must meet in order to be considered for inclusion. For more information about these criteria, check out these resources on the website of the National Register of Historical Places.
Wondering what sites on the National Register of Historic Places are near you? Use their database to search for sites in your state!
But wait, what about National Historic Landmarks? All National Historic Landmarks are included in the National Register of Historic Places, the official list of the nation’s historic properties worthy of preservation.
Check out these National Historic Places we’ve previously covered on this blog:
- Jennifer González, Magna Carta Connection in Historic Jamestown – Pic of the Week
- Margaret Wood, The History of the Library of Congress James Madison Memorial Building
- Robert Brammer, Clark County Courthouse, Kentucky – Pic of the Week
- Jenny Gesley, Albemarle Circuit Court in Charlottesville, VA – Pic of the Week
- Jenny Gesley, Four Corners of Law, Charleston, SC – Pic of the Week
- Jennifer Davis, Somerset County, PA Courthouse — Pic of the Week
- Jennifer González, Pic of the Week: Public Quarry on Government Island, Virginia
- Jim Martin, “Old Soldiers Never Die…”
- David Mao, A Legal Tale of Two Structures
- Francisco Macías, George Washington’s Boyhood Home 1738-1754 – Pic of the Week
- National Historic Landmarks
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