National Historic Landmark

The Historic Burlington County Prison Museum was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987. A National Historic Landmark (NHL) is a building, district, object, site, or structure that is officially recognized by the United States government for its outstanding historical significance. 

Prior to 1935, efforts to preserve cultural heritage of national importance were made by the US Congress in piecemeal fashion. In 1935, Congress passed the Historic Sites Act, which authorized the Interior Secretary to formally record and organize historic properties, and to designate properties as having "national historical significance".  At the same time, it gave the National Park Service authority to administer historically significant federally owned properties. Over the following decades, surveys such as the Historic American Buildings Survey amassed information about culturally and architecturally significant properties, both federally and privately owned, in a program known as the Historic Sites Survey.  Click here for the survey done on the Historic Burlington County Prison.

In 1960, the National Park Service took on the administration of the survey data gathered under this legislation, and the National Historic Landmark program began to take more formal shape. When the National Register of Historic Places was established in 1966, the National Historic Landmark program was encompassed within it, and rules and procedures for inclusion and designation were formalized. For various reasons, however, the public announcement of the first several NHLs was delayed.  

The Historic Burlington County Prison Museum applied for NHL status in 1966 but was not granted the status until 1987. Go to www.catalog.archives.gov/id/135813636  to see the application submitted by the Prison Museum Association and the County in 1966.

Only a little more than 2,500 NHLs have been designated. Most, but not all, are in the United States.  If not already listed on the National Register of Historic Places, an NHL is automatically added to the Register upon designation. The 2,500 NHLs comprise only about 3 per cent  of the over 90,000 places listed on the country's National Register of Historic Places.

NHLs are designated by the United States Secretary of the Interior because they are:

  • Sites where events of national historical significance occurred;

  • Places where prominent persons lived or worked;

  • Icons of ideals that shaped the nation;

  • Outstanding examples of design or construction;

  • Places characterizing a way of life; or

  • Archeological sites able to yield information.

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© 2020 Burlington County Prison Museum Association.