The United States Federal Government used several acts during the twentieth century to recognize historic significance. First with the passage of the Antiquities Act of 1906, then the Historic Sites Act of 1935, and then with the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, including additional amendments.
Beginning in 1953, the idea of an Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) happened with the establishment of the History Section of the Division of Beaches and Parks. The Office of Historic Preservation was officially established eventually in 1975 within the offices of the Director of California State Parks and was the outgrowth of the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 which called for the creation of a state agency to implement provisions of the law.
Preservation Movement in the United States
ANTIQUITIES ACT OF 1906
The Antiquities Act provided general protection for any general kind of cultural or natural resource and established the first national historic preservation policy for the United States. What it did was give the President the authority to set aside “…historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States…” for protection. The Act designated these protected areas “national monuments” and these resources were afforded proper care and management by federal agencies. Prior to this Antiquities Act, specific areas had been set aside as national parks or reserves. Yellowstone National Park which had been created in 1872 and Casa Grande Ruin in Arizona created in 1892 required an act of Congress as well as Presidential approval. With the Antiquities Act in place the future establishment of national monuments would be quicker and far easier to execute.
HISTORIC SITES ACT OF 1935
The Historic Sites Act of 1935 declared “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.” The Secretary of the Interior was authorized to obtain information, conduct research, survey, maintain and preserve sites with archaeological significance. The coordination of federally owned historic sites, monuments, and parks, including archeological places, became the responsibility of the National Park Service (NPS) and the Department of the Interior.
NATIONAL HISTORIC PRESERVATION ACT OF 1966
The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 authorized the Secretary to expand this recognition to properties of state and local significance. Significance in this statement is defined as archeology, architecture, culture, engineering, and history and worthy of preservation.
The National Register of Historic Places is the United States federal government’s official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of this preservation for their historical significance of “great artistic value”. It was formed at the time of the National Historic Preservation Act also in 1966, making it 56 years old this year. The parent department of this National Register of Historic Places is the National Park Service (NPS), on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior.
Preservation Methods in the State of California
CALIFORNIA OFFICE OF HISTORIC PRESERVATION (OHP)
The OHP administers federal, and state-mandated historic preservation programs. These programs identify, evaluate, register, and protect the irreplaceable resources of California. The concept of an Office of Historic Preservation began in 1953 with the establishment of the History Section of the Division of Beaches and Parks. By 1975, the OHP was officially established within the offices of the Director of California State Parks. California State Parks is an outgrowth of the passage of the National Preservation Act of 1966; the Act called for the creation of a state agency to implement provisions of the law, including a comprehensive historic preservation plan and a statewide survey of historical resources. Many developments ensued and now the OHP is responsible, among other obligations, for administering federally and state mandated historic preservation programs under the direction of the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) and the State Historical Resources Commission (nine members). Some of these are listed here:
- Architectural Review
- Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program
- Interpretation and application of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and
Guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Properties
- Information management (Historical Resources Inventory)
- Local government assistance (Certified Local Government Program)
CALIFORNIA HISTORICAL LANDMARKS (CHLS)
California Historical Landmarks (CHLs) are buildings, structures, sites, or places that have been determined to have statewide historical significance by meeting criteria.
CALIFORNIA POINTS OF HISTORICAL INTEREST
California Points of Historical Interest are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of local (city or county) significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific and/or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Points of Historical Interest designated after December 1997 and recommended by the State Historical Resources Commission are also listed in the California Register.
No historical resource may be designated as both a Landmark and a Point. If a Point is subsequently granted status as a Landmark, the Point designation will be retired.
CALIFORNIA REGISTER OF HISTORICAL RESOURCES
The State Historical Resources Commission has designed this program for use by state and local agencies, private groups, and citizens to identify, evaluate, register, and protect California’s historical resources. The Register is the authoritative guide to the state’s significant historical and archeological resources. The program is helpful for state and local planning purposes and determines eligibility for state historic preservation grants.
CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS IN SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY
Amy Hart is the California State Parks Historian working in San Luis Obispo County. She researches, designs and curates exhibits across multiple Statle Parks within the San Luis Obispo Coast District. The Wine History Project has enjoyed collaborating with Amy on our 2022 Exhibit at the Spooner House in Montana de Oro State Park, Dog Boats and Rum Runners in State Parks.
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