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A National Historic Landmark (NHL) is a building, site, structure, object, or district, that is officially recognized by the United States government for its historical significance. All NHLs are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Out of more than 80,000 places on the National Register, however, only about 2,430 are NHLs.

A National Historic Landmark District (NHLD) is a historic district that is recognized as a NHL. It may include contributing properties that have buildings, structures, sites or objects, and it may include non-contributing properties.


On October 9, 1960, 92 properties were announced as designated NHLs by Secretary Fred Andrew Seaton. The first of these was a political nomination, Sergeant Floyd Grave and Monumentmarker in Sioux City, Iowamarker. It was officially designated on June 30 of that year, but for various reasons the public announcement of the first several NHLs was delayed.


NHLs are designated by the United States Secretary of the Interior because they are:
  • Sites where events of national historical significance occurred;
  • Places where prominent persons lived or worked;
  • Icons of ideals that shaped the nation;
  • Outstanding examples of design or construction;
  • Places characterizing a way of life; or
  • Archeological sites able to yield information.

Overview of current NHLs

Of the 2,442 or so current NHLs, more than 10 percent are located in New York State, which has 256. There are NHLs in all 50 states. There are 74 in the District of Columbiamarker, 15 in Puerto Rico and other U.S. commonwealths and territories, five in U.S.-associated states such as Micronesiamarker, and one in a foreign state (Moroccomarker).

There are 128 ships or shipwrecks that are NHLs.


About half of the National Historic Landmarks are privately owned. The National Historic Landmarks Program relies on suggestions for new designations from the National Park Service, which also assists in maintaining the landmarks. A friends' group of owners and managers, the National Historic Landmark Stewards Association, works to preserve, protect and promote National Historic Landmarks.

If not already listed on the National Register of Historic Places, an NHL is automatically added to the Register upon designation. About three percent of Register listings are NHLs.

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