A National Historic Landmark is a nationally significant historic place so designated by the Secretary of the Interior because it possesses exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States.
Currently there are fewer than 2,500 historic places that bear this national distinction. The National Historic Landmarks Program draws upon the expertise of National Park Service staff who work to nominate new landmarks and provide assistance and upkeep for existing landmarks.
The first general preservation act was the Antiquities Act of 1906, which authorized the President to proclaim and reserve as national monuments ¬ďhistoric landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest.¬"
In 1935, the Historic Sites Act was enacted to establish a national policy to preserve for public use historic sites, buildings, and objects of national significance for the inspiration and benefit of the people of the United States. Survey activities were inaugurated in 1936 under the Historic Sites Act.
After World War II, the budget had been lowered and they were unable to research many prospective Historic Landmarks, this changed in 1956, with the approval of ¬ďMission 66¬", a 10-year development program designed to improve facilities throughout the National Park System. It covered an array of activities that the services had been unable to conduct with its usual budgets.
The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 was the most consequential law in the field since the Historic Sites Act of 1935. This broadened the Park Service¬ís concern and responsibilities to encompass properties of state and local, as well as the national, significance.
The amendment to this act in 1980, gave national historic landmarks a higher level of consideration than other National Register of Historic Places properties, and it also authorized direct grants to landmarks threatened with demolition or impairment.
Organizational changes in 1973 and 1978, increasingly distanced the landmarks program from the Park System. The Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service all but caused the Survey to be lost.
The return of the Survey under the Park Service in 1981, the Service reversed its standing on expanding the Park System, subsequently there was little need to identify potential additions.
It is unlikely that the survey and landmarks program will ever attain their original magnitude; most of their legitimate mission has been accomplished.
History continues, and a site worthy of recognition will remain and new ones will appear on the list of National Historic Landmarks.