Crafting Preservation Criteria
The National Register of Historic Places and American Historic Preservation
In 1966, American historic preservation was transformed by the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act, which created a National Register of Historic Places. Now comprising more than 1.4 million historic properties across the country, the National Register is the official federal list of places in the United States thought to be worthy of preservation.
One of the fundamental principles of the National Register is that every property is evaluated according to a standard set of criteria that provide the framework for understanding why a property is significant in American history. The origins of these criteria are important because they provide the threshold for consideration by a broad range of federal preservation programs, from planning for continued adaptive use, to eligibility for grants, and inclusion in heritage tourism and educational programs.
Crafting Preservation Criteria sets out these preservation criteria for students, explaining how they got added to the equation, and elucidating the test cases that allowed for their use. From artworks to churches, from 'the fifty year rule' to 'the historic scene', students will learn how places have been historically evaluated to be placed on the National Register, and how the criteria evolved over time.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Prehistory of Preservation
Chapter 2: An Orderly, Baanced, and Comprehensive Panorama
Chapter 3: Integrity and Authenticity
Chapter 4: Both Artistic and Historic
Chapter 5: A More Difficult Problem
Chapter 6: The 50 Year Rule
Chapter 7: Separation of Historic Church and State
Chapter 8: Le Tout Ensemble
Chapter 9: The Preservation Movement
Chapter 10: Eligible for Inclusion
John H. Sprinkle, Jr. is a Historian at the National Park Service in Washington, D.C. He teaches courses on historic preservation at the University of Maryland, George Mason University, and Northern Virginia Community College.
The National Register of Historic Places transformed historic preservation in the United States. John Sprinkle's lively history of the formulation of the Register's criteria of significance transforms our understanding of policies fundamental to the modern preservation movement and historic preservation's own rich history.
— Carter L. Hudgins, Director, Clemson University/College of Charleston Graduate Program in Historic Preservation
In this nuanced look into the origins of the National Register criteria, Sprinkle shows the fascinating evolution of ideas for determining a property’s significance in American history. Sprinkles’ meticulous historical approach and mastery of an amazing body of evidence allows him to explore the many test cases and dilemmas faced by the early preservation community. His close reading and critical eye will help students and professionals alike to understand this bedrock of preservation policy.
— Donald W. Linebaugh, Professor and Area Chair, Graduate Program in Historic Preservation, University of Maryland
Sprinkler’s distinctive contribution is in his foregrounding of the criteria and the politics and personalities that inflected their crafting. The book comes out at a time when all kinds of non-economic values in the public realm are being classified and assessed. The wonderful and revealing detail of this book can function, therefore, to caution against the authority enjoyed by those ‘neutral’ frameworks that assume to work on behalf of us all. — Gareth Hoskins, Aberystwyth University
“[Sprinkle’s] book opens new perspectives on the history of our preservation processes and assumptions. I predict it will be a springboard for future students and scholars…”-Greg Donofrio, University of Minnesota, USA
“History can be dry. Not so for Sprinkle’s terrific book.” -Jay Roberts, Jaybird's Jottings