Forum Journal: Fifty Years of Heritage So Rich: The National Historic Preservation Act

By Forum Online posted 01-31-2017 11:21


Cover_smallforweb.jpgHeading into the 50th anniversary year of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), the fall 2015 issue of the Forum Journal looked ahead toward the next 50 years of preservation. As we leave 2016 behind, we pause to reflect on the NHPA and its role in shaping the preservation movement over the last half-century. 

Conceived and enacted in the time of President Johnson’s Great Society, the NHPA exemplified the optimism and progressive vision of the 1960s. Other legislation of the time, which sought to improve air quality, conserve natural resources, and ensure voting rights, has considerably shaped the landscape of our nation—though perhaps none quite as literally as the NHPA.

In this issue of the Forum Journal, we seek to represent the breadth the NHPA and the programs it initiated:

  • The National Historic Preservation Act at 50: “A Living Part of Our Community Life and Development” by Thompson Mayes
  • Significance Is Always Intangible: An Interview with the Keepers of the National Register by Susan West Montgomery
  • “Now that the Slums Are Fashionable”: Origins of Section 104 of the National Historic Preservation Act by John H. Sprinkle Jr.
  • The Unfulfilled Potential of the National Historic Preservation Act by Thomas F. King
  • The Historic Preservation Fund: Expanding on the Foundation We’ve Built Together by Congressmen Earl Blumenauer and Mike Turner
  • The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation at 50 by Ronald D. Anzalone
  • Taking the National Historic Preservation Program to the Next Level by Susan West Montgomery

Taking advantage of a unique moment in preservation history, we convened every Keeper that has guided the National Register of Historic Places since its inception to discuss their collective and individual experiences. The Keepers describe their favorite listings and accomplishments, the evolution of the register, and their hope for its future, but also tackle some of the controversial register nominations they saw during their tenures.

We also examine the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and its evolving role in implementing Section 106 to ensure effective preservation at the federal level. And we discuss the significant contributions of the Historic Preservation Fund—recently reauthorized, but still waiting to be fully funded. We go on to explore the unfulfilled potential of the NHPA and delve into the origins of its Section 104, which would establish a loan guarantee program for historic properties—if it were ever enacted.

We close this issue with a list of policy recommendations that could, over the next 50 years, more fully realize the core objective of the NHPA: preserving our cultural and historic resources. The 50th anniversary has coincided with an unprecedented reexamination of our nation’s policies, institutions, and objectives. Nevertheless—or perhaps all the more so—we continue to work toward fulfilling the vision articulated in the NHPA’s preamble: saving the historic heritage upon which the “spirit and direction of the nation are founded.”

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