The first 25 years of National Historic Preservation Act
Posted in: Cultural Resources
Early impacts of the National Historic Preservation Act changed the character of preservation and led to ideas and principles that became mainstream. A 1991 issue of NPS’s CRM outlined the results that framed the Act’s first 25 years. I have highlighted four below.
After 1966, the focus for administering the Act shifted to the states, especially after revisions to the NHPA and the establishment of the local involvement through the Certified Local Government program.
The importance of tax incentives was hugely important and brought developers and investors into the preservation movement. Tax incentives, in part, also resulted in the development of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties to guide appropriate rehabilitation efforts to adaptively re-use historic properties.
Concepts of what qualified as historically significant changed after 1966, shifting away from an emphasis on individual “landmark” properties towards a greater diversity both in terms of types of properties and areas of significance. A snapshot shows the dramatic changes in the numbers of properties that were recognized as historically significant. In 1966 prior to the National Register of Historic Places, there were about 800 National Historic Landmarks. By 1991 there were 57,000 properties listed in the National Register, and by 2016, more than 1.4 million resources comprising 80,000 properties were listed in the National Register.
With state preservation offices and federal agencies hiring professional architects, historians, archaeologists and architectural historians, a whole new professional field was forged. The Act in turn also created the cultural resource management industry.
We would like to hear your thoughts on the accomplishments of the Act. Also, stay tuned for upcoming posts on our thoughts on the last 25 years of the NHPA and the future of preservation.
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