National Historic Landmarks (NHLs) are cultural resources (buildings, sites, districts, structures, and objects) that have been determined by the secretary of the interior to be nationally significant in American history and culture, under the authority of the Historic Sites Act of 1935. In 2017 Georgia had 49 NHLs, among approximately 2,600 nationwide. Unlike listings in the National Register, which depend upon nomination by the state historic preservation officer, NHLs are processed through the National Park Service and designated through the secretary of the interior. NHLs may be designated only after a special nationwide study has been completed and a cultural resource has received a favorable recommendation from the National Park System Advisory Board.

The Designation Process

Potential NHLs are identified through theme studies and special studies, usually conducted by the National Park Service, often in conjunction with professionals from different fields. These findings are then evaluated by the National Park System Advisory Board, which makes recommendations for designation to the secretary of the interior, who makes the final decision. NHL designation is the nation’s highest official recognition of a cultural resource’s significance to the history and culture of the United States. The National Park Service is required to monitor NHLs and provide a periodic report to Congress on the status of these nationally significant properties. This monitoring process often provides impetus for the care and preservation of these special properties.

Selection Criteria

Although the National Park Service’s criteria for evaluating cultural resources for national significance are similar in many ways to those used for National Register properties, they require that exceptional national significance be demonstrated. The resource must represent broad national patterns of U.S. history, be associated with the lives of persons significant in the history of the nation, or embody some great idea or ideal of the American people. Exceptional historical or artistic quality is required for resources designated for architectural and construction importance. Archaeological resources and sites are recognized if they have yielded or are likely to yield information of major scientific importance by revealing new cultures or by shedding light on periods of occupation over large areas of the United States. A cultural resource can also be designated if it commemorates or illustrates a way of life or culture in an outstanding manner. As with properties listed in the National Register, designated resources must possess a high degree of integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, and feeling.

Traveler’s Rest State Historic Site
Traveler’s Rest State Historic Site

Courtesy of Explore Georgia.

The National Register can recognize properties of state and local importance, but NHL status is conferred only on cultural resources that are exceptionally valuable in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States in the fields of history, architecture, archaeology, technology, and culture. Landmarks illustrate the nationwide impact of events or persons associated with the cultural resource.

Landmarks in Georgia

NHLs in Georgia cover a broad range of time and subject matter, from the distant prehistoric past, as at the Etowah Mounds near Cartersville, to the colonial period, as in the Savannah Historic District or the George Walton House (Meadow Garden) in Augusta. In addition to the great battlefields, the struggles of the Civil War (1861-65) are represented in places like the Robert Toombs House in Washington and Liberty Hall, the home of Alexander Stephens, in Crawfordville. Some NHLs, such as the Warm Springs Historic District and the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District, are associated with people whose lives have affected the nation. Some recognize cultural resources of architectural, industrial, and engineering importance. Examples are the Central of Georgia Railway Shops and Terminals, the Savannah Historic District, and the Historic Augusta Canal and Industrial District. Among the other themes represented in Georgia NHLs are literature, at the home of Joel Chandler Harris (Wren’s Nest); commercial history, in the Dixie Coca-Cola Bottling Plant; and African American entrepreneurial achievement, in the Herndon Home—all three located in Atlanta.

Georgia’s NHLs, like those in the rest of the nation, are not restricted to any particular type of ownership. With the exception of nine that are privately owned and where access is restricted, Georgia’s NHLs are open to the public on a regular basis.

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Lapham-Patterson House

Lapham-Patterson House

The Lapham-Patterson House in Thomasville was built in 1884-85 as a winter home for the Chicago shoe merchant C. W. Lapham. A Victorian-style home with many unusual architectural characteristics, including a double-flue chimney with a walk-through stairway, the house was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1975.

Traveler’s Rest State Historic Site

Traveler’s Rest State Historic Site

Traveler's Rest in Toccoa once stood on Georgia's western frontier; the Cherokee Nation comprised the lands to the west. Built in the early 1800s by a white frontiersman, the inn is notable for its ninety-foot-long porch. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964.

Courtesy of Explore Georgia, Photograph by Ralph Daniel.

Warm Springs Historic District

Warm Springs Historic District

The historic district of Warm Springs and the Little White House, the part-time residence of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, received National Historic Landmark status in 1980.

Council House, New Echota Historic Site

Council House, New Echota Historic Site

A replica of the Council House at the New Echota Historic Site, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973.

Image from J. Stephen Conn

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St. Catherines Island

St. Catherines Island

St. Catherines Island, located in Liberty County, is one of the barrier islands lining the coast of Georgia. The privately owned island, a National Historic Landmark, is about ten miles long and approximately one to three miles wide. From the 1590s to the 1680s a Spanish mission, Santa Catalina de Guale, was located on the island (at that time part of the Spanish colony La Florida).

Photograph by Jason D. Williams

Fox Theatre

Fox Theatre

Atlanta's Fox Theatre has seen more than $20 million in restoration projects since coming under the ownership of the nonprofit organization, Atlanta Landmarks, in 1975. The Fox was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976.

Hay House

Hay House

The Hay House (1855-59) in Macon is a National Historic Landmark and is open to the public for tours. At the time it was built, the house was among the first in the country to feature hot and cold running water, central heating, an in-house kitchen, a speaker-tube system, and an elaborate ventilation system.

Thomas E. Watson House

Thomas E. Watson House

Georgia politician Thomas E. Watson purchased a home in Thomson in 1881 and lived there until 1904. The home is now a National Historic Landmark and serves as the administrative headquarters for the Watson-Brown Foundation.

Courtesy of Watson-Brown Foundation, Inc.

Fountain Hall

Fountain Hall

Fountain Hall, a National Historic Landmark, is the oldest building on the Morris Brown College campus in Atlanta. Originally built in 1882 as Stone Hall on the Atlanta University campus, the structure was renamed in honor of the Reverend W. A. Fountain Jr., Morris Brown's seventh president.

Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey, #HABS GA,61-ATLA,10A--12 (CT).

Jekyll Island Club Hotel

Jekyll Island Club Hotel

The original clubhouse for the Jekyll Island Club was completed late in 1887. In 1978 the 240-acre club district was designated a National Historic Landmark, and seven years later work began to restore the clubhouse and annexes into a world-class hotel and resort named the Jekyll Island Club Hotel.

Courtesy of Explore Georgia, Photograph by Ralph Daniel.

Taylor-Grady House

Taylor-Grady House

On the west side of Athens, Robert Taylor built a Greek revival-style house with thirteen columns, one for each of the original thirteen colonies. Now known as the Taylor-Grady House, it was the boyhood home of "New South" spokesman Henry W. Grady and is designated a National Historic Landmark.

Photograph from GeorgiaInfo

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