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Project One: define the concept of federal external preservation programs and summarize their
origins, organization, and objectives under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

Federal policy and programs in regards to historic preservation, which began their development over 70
years ago, address the needs of, and provide assistance to, cultural resources significant to American
history, culture, and identity. The definition of the federal historic preservation program used by the
Federal Historic Preservation Task Force is meant to refer to the federal component of a broader set of
federal, state, tribal, and other prescribed programs and partnerships referred to within the National
Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the responsibility for most of which rests with the Department of
Interior and is assigned to the National Park Service (NPS). As an administrative matter, it includes
several programs overseen by the NPS Associate Director for Cultural Resources and subsequently
managed by an Assistant Associate Director for Heritage Preservation Assistance Programs and an
Assistant Associate Director for Historic Documentation Programs. Often this collection of programs is
referred to by the NPS as “External Programs,” because they necessitate collaboration, assistance and
resources from outside the NPS. Core functions included within the general concept of External
Programs include the National Register of Historic Places, the Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program,
administrative and oversight functions of federal Grants-in-Aid programs, federal agency preservation
programs, the Save America’s Treasures, Preserve America and National Heritage Area programs,
Certified Local Government programs and others. The implementation of these programs also relies on
such key partners as the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the National Trust for Historic
Preservation, tribal authorities, and Certified Local Governments across the nation. As the National
Academy of Public Administration concluded in its December 2007 report: “The National Historic
Preservation program is not a traditional ‘program,’ but a continually evolving partnership among state
and local governments, tribes, property owners and the private sector, working in concert with the
National Park Service, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and other federal agencies.”
Federal protection of nationally significant properties began in 1872 with establishment of
Yellowstone National Park. Public discontent over vandalism and looting in Yellowstone, other early
national parks such as Yosemite, Sequoia, Mt. Rainier, Wind Cave, and public domain western lands
prompted Congress to pass the Antiquities Act of 1906, which empowered the president to designate
national monuments within the public domain to protect sites of prehistoric, historic, or natural value.
Following its establishment under the National Park Service Organic Act of 1916, the National
Park Service (NPS) began providing administrative oversight of national monuments. 1 The Organic Act
stipulated that “the service thus established shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known
as national parks, monuments, and reservations hereinafter specified by such means and measures as
conform to the fundamental purpose of the said parks, monuments, and reservations, which purpose is to
conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the
enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the
enjoyment of future generations.” 2 President Franklin D. Roosevelt further expanded the National Park
system in the 1930s by transferring historic battlefields and forts from the War Department to NPS.
Additionally, under the New Deal, NPS assumed responsibility for the Historic American Buildings

James A. Glass, The Beginnings of a New National Historic Preservation Program, 1957-1969.
Nashville: American Association for State and Local History, 1990, xiii.!
National Park Service Organic Act of 1916.!


Survey, which funded professional measured drawings and photographs of historic properties, many of
which were privately owned, throughout the country. 3
The Historic Sites Act of 1935, according to historian James A. Glass, “established…a national
program for the preservation of historic properties outside of the National Park System.” 4 The act
authorized NPS “to inaugurate surveys of nationally important historic sites and to work cooperatively
with other units of government and private citizens to preserve such properties for the ‘inspiration and
benefit’ of the American people.” 5 Dr. Ernest Allen Connally, first Director of the National Park
Service’s Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, acknowledged that “the 1935 statute confirmed
the role of the Park Service as the federal government’s central agency for historic preservation.” 6
Following passage of the Historic Sites Act, the NPS created the Historic Sites Survey to inventory
nationally significant historic sites and recommend worthy properties, some federally owned or controlled
but many under other government jurisdictions or privately owned, for further recognition and
protection. 7
When the United States entered World War II in 1941, federal preservation activity waned as the
NPS budget necessarily decreased. After the war, the Park Service resumed its activities, but funding did
not reach pre-war levels, a situation resulting in deactivation of the Historic Sites and Historic American
Buildings surveys. 8
The congressional charter for the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1949 (amended
1960) established a federal-private partnership as a leadership tool for the nation’s growing historic
preservation movement. Congress declared that the charter was “to further the policy enunciated in the
Historic Sites Act (49 Stat. 666) and to facilitate public participation in the preservation of sites,
buildings, and objects of national significance or interest.” Besides acquiring and administering historic
properties, the National Trust was further empowered “to contract and make cooperative agreements with
Federal, State, or municipal departments or agencies, corporations, associations, or individuals, under
such terms and conditions as it deems advisable, respecting the protection, preservation, maintenance, or
operation of any historic site, building, object, or property used in connection therewith for public use,
regardless of whether the National Trust has acquired title to such properties, or any interest therein.” The
wording of “any historic . . . property used in connection therewith for public use,” whether or not the
National Trust held title or interest in the property, underscores the mid-20th century vision shaping an
initial public-private foray in a federal external preservation program.
Congress enacted the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 in response to widespread
concerns about the impact from federal projects on historic properties outside the National Park System as
well as a realization that federal policy and agencies had inadequately met the needs created by private
and public preservation efforts at the state and local level. Federal impact on significant cultural
resources had increased since the passage of the Historic Sites Act of 1935 and the charter for the
National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed an interstate
highway system, and with passage of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of that year, many preservationists
worried about the subsequent destruction of historic resources caused by interstate highway construction.

Glass, The Beginnings of a New National Historic Preservation Program, xiii.!
Ernest Allan Connally, “Origins of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966,” in CRM Bulletin 9,
no. 1 (February 1986).!
Glass, The Beginnings of a New National Historic Preservation Program, xiii.!


The Housing Act of 1956 similarly contributed to the destruction of older historic neighborhoods by
funding so-called slum clearance and blighted area demolition. Additionally, the General Services
Administration (GSA), which maintained buildings for federal agencies throughout the country,
demolished some of its nineteenth century buildings to make way for new facilities following World War
II. The unrestrained actions of GSA, as just one example, threatened important historic buildings under
federal care. Just as large of a problem was that federal agency decision-makers had no idea of which
affected buildings, structures, sites, or landscapes might be significant, and worthy of protective
measures. 9 The newly created federal external programs, such as the National Register of Historic
Places, the state architectural/historical/archaeological surveys, and the Advisory Council for Historic
Preservation, were designed to help keep federal decision-makers from inadvertently destroying valuable
cultural resources.
At this time, the only means of preserving threatened historic buildings or sites under the Historic
Sites Act was for the federal government to acquire the property or negotiate agreements with owners to
facilitate preservation, a costly and slow-moving process exacerbated by meager congressional funding.
By the 1950s, according to Glass, “it had become clear that only small numbers of nationally important
landmarks or sites could be saved through inclusion in the system.” 10 Additionally, under Conrad Wirth’s
tenure as Director of National Parks, NPS initiated an internal infrastructure improvement program in
1956 that emphasized maintenance of its own facilities. Known as “Mission 66” the program aimed to
improve the infrastructure and facilities at the nation’s national parks for the fifty-year anniversary
celebration of NPS in 1966. 11 Sometimes Mission 66 projects impacted historic properties from earlier
periods of a park’s history. Cumbersome Historic Site Act requirements and NPS concentration on
internal priorities thus highlighted the need for new national preservation legislation to facilitate
protection of historic buildings and sites outside the orbit of existing federal law.
In addition to public indignation over interstate construction, urban renewal, and destruction of
federal buildings, other federal actions spurred preservation advocacy. The Johnson administration,
continuing the Kennedy administration’s support of conservation initiatives, convened a task force on
natural beauty that involved NPS participation. George P. Hartzog, appointed to replace Wirth as director
of the National Park Service in 1963, expanded the Park Service mandate to include historic preservation
strategies. He aimed to make the Park Service a national leader in the preservation movement by
supporting new legislation to give NPS responsibility for local as well as national preservation initiatives.
Hartzog supported federal matching grants to states for historic preservation oversight and to the
National Trust for its programs, placing Park Service funding into the mix for local and state historic
preservation needs and initiatives. Additionally, the efforts of what came to be known as the Rains
committee (after its chairman, Albert M. Rains) led to publication of With Heritage So Rich, a powerful
argument for active federal involvement in historic preservation efforts. Many concepts included in the
1966 National Historic Preservation Act originated in the Rains Committee’s report, including the
creation of a National Register of Historic Places (which Hartzog pressed to have housed in the National
Park Service), federal government matching grants to public agencies for acquisition and preservation of


Ibid., 3-4. For more detailed information on the impact of highway construction, urban renewal, and
federal demolition to the nation’s historic fabric, see Connally, “Origins of the National Historic Preservation Act of
Glass, The Beginnings of a New National Historic Preservation Program, 4.!
Ibid., 5-6.!


historic structures, the creation of an Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and federal agency
accountability for impacts on historic sites and structures prior to project implementation. 12
Most importantly was the legislation’s stated policy of creating a federal framework to shape
historic preservation at all levels of federal government. The seventh stated purpose of the 1966 act
emphasized the importance of more resources and support for a federal historic preservation program:
although the major burdens of historic preservation have been borne and major efforts
initiated by private agencies and individuals, and both should continue to play a vital role,
it is nevertheless necessary and appropriate for the Federal Government to accelerate its
historic preservation programs and activities, to give maximum encouragement to
agencies and individuals undertaking preservation by private means, and to assist State
and local governments and the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the United
States to expand and accelerate their historic preservation programs and activities.
(emphasis added)
The legislation put teeth to this stated purpose by charging the Secretary of the Interior, and in
turn NPS, with developing several new programs whose success depended on effective partnerships
between different levels of government and property owners. According to Ernest Connally, “the enlarged
federal responsibility that came with the Act of 1966 was meant to extend beyond properties of national
significance to include those important at the state and community level.” 13 The State Historic
Preservation Officers and (later) Tribal Historic Preservation Officers were given specific duties and
responsibilities, and received federal funding to for this work.
The key new tool was the establishment and administration of the National Register of Historic
Places. The National Register, administered by the Keeper but carried out at the state and tribal
jurisdiction, defined “significant” properties covered in the act and included properties of local and state
significance along with those of national significance. The National Register brought a uniform system of
definitions and criteria of evaluation to the assessment of significant properties across the nation. Its
official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects determined to be of significance to
American history and culture has become a building block for preservation efforts at all levels of
government. National Register eligibility and/or listing determined property eligibility for multiple types
of federal programs and support, as well as support from state and local governments and from non-profit
organizations and foundations. The National Register also gave individual property owners a way to
interact with the federal preservation program; the over 80,000 properties individually listed in the
National Register form a dynamic, vital network of grassroots support for historic preservation.
After the passage of the 1966 act, its immediate impact on state and local preservation projects
was meager since Congress provided few funds for its implementation. The NPS did provide some funds
to state preservation officials to provide small preservation grants, and most states had functioning
SHPOs and rudimentary state historic preservation plans by the early 1970s. Within the NPS, the agency
created, first, the Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (1967) to administer and coordinate the
new law. Then in 1971 President Nixon’s executive order No. 11593 put the weight of the White House
behind the 1966 act, ordering federal agencies to be more urgent in working with SHPOs. Two years
later, the OAHP was given jurisdiction over the National Register for Historic Places Division, the Grants

Glass, The Beginnings of a New National Historic Preservation Program, 8-13; With Heritage So Rich;
Ernest Allen Connally, “Origins of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 – Part II” in CRM Bulletin 9, no.
2 (April 1986).!
Connally, “Origins of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.”!


Division, the Historical and Architectural Surveys Division, and the Interagency Services Division for
Archaeology. These programs then largely defined the federal external preservation program.
In 1974, Congress approved the Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act (1974), which
provided new, more effective safeguards against the loss of archaeological or historic resources due to a
federal action. This act calls for the preservation of historic and archeological data that would otherwise
be lost as a result of Federal construction or other federally licensed or assisted activities. Previous law
covered the impact of federally funded and licensed dam and reservoir projects (the Reservoir Salvage
Act); the new law aimed to extend those protections to significant archaeological or historic properties
that could suffer “irreparable damage” from a federal undertaking. Congress even provided a funding
mechanism of up to 1% of project costs so that agencies could undertake recovery and preservation with
their own project funds, or they could request the Secretary of the Interior—and by extension the National
Park Service-- to undertake preservation measures.
By the mid-1970s, a coalition of preservationists composed of the National Trust for Historic
Preservation, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (founded in 1969), and
Preservation Action (founded in 1974), lobbied Congress for adequate funding for the act’s Historic
Preservation Fund so that matching grants to state historic preservation office would better implement and
meet the goals of the 1966 act. In 1976, this coalition successfully convinced Congress to dedicate funds
from the Outer Continental Shelf oil leases to the HPF, which in turn funded state and (after the 1980
amendments) local survey and planning plus a much smaller amount for “bricks and mortar” projects, a
grant category that has not seen extensive funding for almost 30 years.
The 1976 amendments are part of a process that has seen expansions of the reach of the 1966 act,
as well as retractions of its impact, over the past generation. Since its passage in 1966, the National
Historic Preservation Act has been amended over 20 times, with the amendments of 1976, 1980, and 1992
perhaps being the most important. The 1976 amendments not only created the Historic Preservation Fund
but they also extended Section 106 to cover National Register-eligible properties not just those already
formally listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It further established the independence of the
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation as an independent executive agency to carry out historic
preservation activities.
During the Carter administration, a new law and major amendments to the National Historic
Preservation Act impacted the direction of federal external programs. The Archaeological Resources
Protection Act of 1979, in order to better protect archaeological resources on federal lands and Indian
lands, created a permit procedure for the excavation and removal of archaeological resources. President
Carter by executive order 12232 also created an initiative for Historically Black Colleges and Universities
(HBCU). As an outgrowth of the initiative, the Secretary of Interior carried out a survey of historic
campuses and established a grant program, funded from the HPF, to carry out renovations at the most
endangered historically significant buildings. Every president since Carter has reaffirmed the HBCU
program. The most important decision of the Carter administration was the establishment of the Heritage
Conservation and Recreation Service (HCRS), which once again redefined the administration of historic
preservation within the Park Service. HCRS became a powerful and controversial agency in its own
The 1980 amendments better defined the duties and responsibilities of the state historic
preservation officers, created the Certified Local Government (CLG) program, and added Section 110,
which required federal agencies to identify and provide constructive preservation solutions for significant
cultural resources under their ownership and/or control. These amendments, however, required property
owner concurrence for individual nominations of private property to the National Register and required at


least a majority of property owners approving the designation of a historic district that contained private
property. The 1980 Amendments creating the Certified Local Government program took the lessons and
benefits learned from the SHPOs and extended it to the local level. At the same time, the National Trust
piloted and then institutionalized its Main Street Program, which brought an economic-focused historic
preservation initiative to small towns and cities across the country. Often at the local level, CLG
programs and Main Street programs worked together to create local preservation commissions, new
private funding for historic preservation, and a higher local profile for preservation activities.
The public-private partnership model that worked for Main Street communities soon was applied
to larger landscapes. A long-standing concern for better assistance to, and preservation management of,
large, interconnected landscapes manifested itself in the congressional designation of the first national
“heritage area,” the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor in 1984. In the 25 plus years
since, the National Heritage Area program has grown to 49 congressionally designated areas, some
spanning across multiple state boundaries. National Heritage Areas have been defined as “meaningful
places where residents, property owners, nonprofits, businesses, and governments work through
reciprocal partnerships to enhance, conserve, interpret, and promote community resources, peoples, and
traditions that define their region as a special place worthy of conservation for the benefit of the present
and the future.” 14 Congress directed NPS to provide seed money and technical assistance without
assuming ownership or management of heritage area lands.15 There is no “program bill” or “organic act”
for National Heritage Areas, although Senator Craig Thomas (R-WY) in the mid-2000s introduced
legislation that passed the Senate. The administration is currently drafting such a program bill.
The flurry of new laws, amendments, and programs during the Carter administration and the first
term of the Reagan administration placed new burdens on the responsibilities of SHPOs at the very same
time that recommended funding reached zero (Congress typically ignored the recommendation and
designated some funding, but at a number far below authorized levels).
This trend of new burdens on the external programs but limited funding marked the
administration of President George H. W. Bush. The Archaeological Resources Protection Act
amendments of 1989, for example, required that Federal agencies develop public awareness programs,
and develop plans for cultural resource surveys of their properties. Then, in 1992, came another set of
amendments to the National Historic Preservation Act. The amendments provided for a greater role by
Native Americans and Native Hawaiians in federal and state preservation programs and required federal
agencies to establish their own internal processes for historic preservation planning. Other technical
changes also significantly impacted the Section 106 compliance process within the act.
The major addition to federal historic preservation programs in the Clinton administration came
in 1998 with executive order No. 13072, which created the “Save America’s Treasures” program to
provide matching grants for preservation of nationally significant structures, sites, and artifacts. 16 Like
National Heritage Areas, the administration and funding of this program depends on a broad publicprivate partnership. The National Park Service works with such other executive agencies as the
President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the

Brenda Barrett and Carroll Van West, “Getting Started with Heritage Areas,” Washington, D.C. The
National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2006 , 2-3.!
Carol Hardy Vincent, “Heritage Areas: Background, Proposals, and Current Issues,” Congressional
Research Service, January 7, 2010, Summary.!
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, “The Preserve America Summit Charting a Future Course for
the National Historic Preservation Program: Findings and Recommendations of the Advisory Council on Historic
Preservation,” August, 2007, 4; Preserve America and Save America’s Treasures Act, 2008.!


National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The
National Trust for Historic Preservation is a major private funder, but many communities and private nonprofits have also supported Save America’s Treasures. Funded through the Historic Preservation Fund,
Save America’s Treasures has been described by a Park Service publication as “one of the largest and
most successful grant programs for the protection of our nation’s endangered and irreplaceable cultural
heritage.” 17
The newest federal external preservation program came during the administration of President
George W. Bush, in 2003, when First Lady Laura Bush announced the “Preserve America” initiative to
“protect and restore our nation’s cultural and natural resources – from monuments and buildings to
landscapes and main streets…Preserve America will provide more opportunities for preservation and
increase tourism and economic development.” 18 On March 3, 2003, President George W. Bush signed
Executive Order 13287 directing the federal government to “increase the knowledge of historic resources
in their care and to enhance the management of these assets,” as well as “seek partnerships with state,
tribal, and local governments and the private sector to make more efficient and informed use of their
resources for economic development.” 19 Preserve America, administered by the presidential Advisory
Council for Historic Preservation, encourages federal agency involvement in promoting historic resources
for heritage tourism planning and development. 20
In the 75 years since the passage of the Historic Sites Act of 1935 and the 44 years since the
approval of the National Historic Preservation Act, effective alliances between property owners, local
jurisdictions, state governments, and the federal government have grown in number and strength. Historic
preservation in the United States today is far closer to the stated 1966 goal of “the historical and cultural
foundations of the Nation should be preserved as a living part of our community life and development in
order to give a sense of orientation to the American people.” The National Register program relies on a
partnership with property owners as well as local and state administrators and preservationists and the
National Park Service to define what is significant to our nation’s patrimony. The Advisory Council,
working with yet another broad network of agencies and property owners, continues to work to ensure
that federal agencies do not mindlessly and needlessly destroy significant properties. The National Trust,
with its independent funding secured in the mid-1990s, is the national advocate and partnership broker for
all things preservation, from the smallest community to the largest national concern. In the past decade,
new, more economically focused programs such as National Heritage Areas, Save America’s Treasures,
and Preserve America have brought expertise and funding to give new meaning to how partnerships can
engage an even wider swath of property owners, government officials, and business owners in preserving
what enables their community or region to add their distinctive voice to the American Narrative.
draft, 9/29/2010

National Park Service, “Save America’s Treasures Grant Program,”
<>, August 27, 2010.!
Remarks by Mrs. Bush to the National Association of Counties, March 3, 2003, Quoted in Jayne Daly, “Heritage Areas: Connecting People to their Place and
History,” Forum Journal, 17 no. 4 (Summer 2003).!
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, “The Preserve America Summit Charting a Future Course for
the National Historic Preservation Program: Findings and Recommendations of the Advisory Council on Historic
Preservation,” August, 2007, 5.
Ibid; Preserve America and Save America’s Treasures Act, 2008.!