What Is A National Historic Landmark In The US?

The Sergeant Floyd Monument was the first US National Historic Landmark.
The Sergeant Floyd Monument was the first US National Historic Landmark.

National Historic Landmarks are sites, objects, or structures that are recognized as being of great historical and cultural significance by the United States government. The decision to designate a site as a National Historic Landmark lies with the Secretary of Interior. All 50 states of the United States have national historic landmarks, with few being seen in offshore territories and dependencies such as in Puerto Rico.

National Historic Landmarks

There are over 2,500 National Historic Landmarks in the US. The landmarks are drawn from a big pool of items, which includes ships and places of worship, among many more.


Ships make up a large number of National Historic Landmarks—5% of all designated landmarks to be exact—with oil tankers, destroyers, aircraft carriers, ferries, and schooners having the designation. Some ships recognized as National Historic Landmarks include the Eureka, the USCGC Fir, the Falls of Clyde, the USS Drum, and the USS Alabama among others. Some submarines that have received the designation include the USS Cod, USS Clamagore, USS Bowfin and the USS Cobia. Interestingly, even shipwrecks are considered as National Historic Landmarks with some examples being the USS Arizona, the USS Monitor, and the Antonio Lopez. Additionally, there are four shipyards also recognized as National Historic Landmarks, and these are the Mare Island Naval Shipyard found in California, Norfolk Naval Shipyard in the state of Virginia, the Boston Naval Shipyard in Massachusetts, and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington.

Places of Worship

Religion has played a leading role in shaping the culture and the history of the US. As a result, places of worship dominate in the list of National Historic Landmarks. Some Jewish synagogues that have the designation include the Eldridge Street Synagogue, the Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue, the Plum Street Synagogue and the Central Synagogue. Churches that are recognized as National Historic Landmarks include the First Baptist Church of Ventura, the Mission San Antonio de Padua Catholic Church, the Huguenot Church, and New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral among many more. While there are no mosques yet to be designated as National Historic Landmarks, the Iowa-based Mother Mosque of America has been listed by the National Register of Historic Places.

National Historic Landmarks in Other Countries

There exists only one national historic landmark on a foreign country; the American Legation in Tangier, Morocco. Constructed back in the early 19th century the building exhibits authentic Moorish architecture at its best. The American Legation was designated by the United States government as the first National Historic Landmark on foreign soil in December 1982. The reason behind the designation of the legation was due to its great historical and cultural significance and remains a testament to the close relationship shared between the United States and the Kingdom of Morocco.

Criteria Used To Designate National Historic Landmarks

For a site to be established as a National Historic Landmark, it should have met at least one of these conditions. The site could represent the place where a prominent person resided in, or it exhibits outstanding architectural design. The site could characterize a way of life or could be the location of a historical event.


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