Preservation: There’s an Act for That

by Amy Curry, Executive Director
May 14, 2024

MCHS joins hundreds of thousands of organizations in celebrating May as Historic Preservation Month. Growing out of three major Congressional Acts – the 1906 Antiquities Act, the 1935 Historic Sites Act, and the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act – historic preservation, as professional fields of work, study, and practice within our communities has made it possible for treasures of American history to be set aside for all to visit, enjoy, and celebrate.

While our nation’s first National Park, Yellowstone, was created in 1872, it wasn’t until the passage of the Antiquities Act that our first national historic preservation policy was established. Credited with streamlining and simplifying the process of setting aside places of national significance, the Antiquities Act is credited with the creation of over 100 national parks, monuments, battlefields. Of perhaps greatest local significance, it also led to the establishment of the first National Historical Park, our very own Morristown NHP. Still, recognizing more needed to be done, the Historic Sites Act of 1935 declared “a national policy to preserve… historic sites, buildings, and objects of national significance for the inspiration and benefit of the people of the Unites States” and mandated that coordination of these sites would be the responsibility of the National Park Service.

The King Canal Store & Homestead received its national register listing in 1994.

Though the significance of National Parks was universally noted, it was the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966 that created a process to similarly acknowledge places of state and local significance. A major triumph for generations of grassroots preservationists, the NHPA recognized the need to protect our heritage from rampant development. In addition to expanding the definition of “historic significance” to include archaeology, architecture, culture, and engineering, the NHPA also created the National Register of Historic Places, state historic preservation offices (and, therefore, state registers of historic places), and the national Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

Since 1966, more than 95,000 sites have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places; New Jersey is proudly home to nearly 1,800, and nearly 190 of those are located in Morris County. From historic homes, public buildings, landmarks, and bridges, there are seemingly endless ways to enjoy the rich and diverse history preserved over the past 118 years! Stay tuned for upcoming blogs highlighting the historic places in each of Morris County’s municipalities.

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