The first 25 years of National Historic Preservation Act

Posted in: Cultural Resources

An evaluation of William Land Park in Sacramento, a Certified Local Government, is an example of the increasing trends of going local and diversity in historic preservation

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.

Going local

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.

Economic benefits

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.

Chad Moffett

About the Author

Chad Moffett enjoys different types of historic preservation projects and helping our clients. “Every place has a unique and interesting history. Discovering and understanding these stories and how history affected the built environment is an exciting challenge,” he says. Chad specializes in developing balanced solutions that meet client needs while respecting historic resources for future generations.

Read more posts by Chad Moffett

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