1.   Property types

There is no single right way to classify a historic landscape, and some resources fit more than one classification. The important issue is that a property’s historical qualities are adequately and fully assessed. Use the historic landscape designation when it is logical to do so, and when that designation provides the best recognition of a property’s historical values.

National Register bulletins have been developed on designed and vernacular landscapes specifically, and on several kinds of resources which may qualify as landscapes, such as cemeteries, mining properties, traditional cultural properties, and battlefields. More than one classification may apply, as landscapes can contain other, smaller landscapes or individually eligible properties, or may have evolved from one type to another, such as a battlefield now maintained as a park. The primary classification should reflect the property type that gives the property its historical significance.

2.   National Register categories

Historic landscapes as a whole are categorized as either sites or districts for the National Register.

Small landscapes without buildings or structures, such as an experimental orchard, trail, or archeological resource, are categorized as sites. They might be landscapes in and of themselves, or they could be individual components of a landscape.

Larger landscapes having substantial acreage and a number of buildings, structures, sites, or objects are districts. Districts may contain individual sites, districts, buildings, structures, and objects within their boundaries, including smaller landscapes, some of which could be individually eligible. Districts often contain substantial areas of vegetation or open space and may contain natural features that embody significant historical values through past use or physical character. A landscape containing multiple resources is generally classified as a district by the National Register.

Within the categories of sites or districts can be found vernacular, including ethnographic, and designed landscapes. Vernacular landscapes are the result of past human activities, land uses, and choices. They may display a particular arrangement of resources reflecting a significant land use, rather than a conscious design. These landscapes are often rural. Ethnographic landscapes are typically vernacular landscapes that contain natural and cultural resources that associated people define as heritage resources. Designed landscapes are conscious works in a recognized style or tradition. They may be associated with significant developments, persons, or events in landscape architecture. Aesthetic values often play an important role.

The following examples indicate some of the types of properties which might be found to be historic landscapes under the NPS categories of sites or districts.

      Ruins of buildings or structures
      Small industrial sites
      Food processing areas
      Rock shelters
      Road traces
      Refuse sites
      Small battlefields
      Treaty-signing locations
Ethnographic landscapes:
            Ceremonial sites
            Small-scale culturally significant topographic features

      Vernacular landscapes
      Farms or ranches
      Industrial areas:
            Railroad yards
            Logging camps
            Factory complexes
      Recreation sites
      Rural communities
      Transportation systems:
            Roads, trails
            Navigation canals
      Ethnographic landscapes:
            Ethnic neighborhoods
            Traditional cultural properties
            Culturally significant topographic features
            Culturally significant plant communities
            Large ceremonial sites

      Designed Landscapes:
      Parks, park systems
      Estates, residential grounds
      Parkways, designed scenic highways
      Botanical gardens, arboreta
      Zoos, zoological parks
      Commercial or industrial parks or tracts
      Planned communities, civic design plans
      Commemorative and memorial parks
      Cemeteries, churchyards
      Institutional grounds:
            Hospitals or convalescent facilities
            Correctional facilities
            Military bases
      Water conveyance systems:
            Dams, reservoirs, and canals
            Decorative or recreational water features
      Outdoor recreation and sports:
            Golf courses, sports stadiums, racetracks
            Fairgrounds, theme parks