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The National Register of Historic Places was created in 1966 as a part of the National Historic Preservation Act. The intent of the National Register is to recognize and to record those properties that are significant in our country's history on the national, state, or local level. Starting on October 15, 1966, with the listing of twelve properties previously designated National Historic Landmarks, 1,236 Oklahoma properties had been listed in the National Register by December 31, 2013. These listings represent the broad patterns of Oklahoma history.

Recognized properties can include buildings, structures, objects, and historic and archaeological sites and districts. From the Spiro Mounds group near Poteau to Camp Nichols near Wheeless, from the Nellie Johnstone Number One Oil Well in Bartlesville to the Bruce Goff–designed Bavinger House in Norman, the National Register recognizes those places that represent the span of human occupation in Oklahoma. These properties have been recognized as being significant in the history of the nation, such as the Guthrie Historic District, also a National Historic Landmark (NR 74001664), of the state, such as the Arcadia Route 66 Roadbed (NR 99001424), or of the local community, such as the Hotel Cherokee (Cherokee, Alfalfa County, NR 98000200), and Bridge Number 18 at Rock Creek (near Sapulpa, Creek County, NR 95000031).

Properties are listed in the National Register because they are significant in one or more areas. They may be associated with a significant event, such as the Honey Springs Battlefield (NR 70000848) or with a significant person, such as Tulsa's Cosden Building (NR 70002027). They may embody distinctive characteristics, reflecting a style, type, or period of construction, such as the Oklahoma State Capitol (NR 76001572), significant as an example of the work of architect Solomon Layton. A property may have or be likely to yield information important in prehistory or history, such as the Pine Creek Mound Group (McClain County, NR 74002194). Above all, a property must have a high degree of integrity in order to be listed in the National Register. Its current appearance must reflect its historic significance. Although there are exceptions, a property must be at least fifty years old to be listed in the National Register.

Beyond prestige, National Register listing has other tangible benefits. It provides a guide to help federal, state, and local governments in planning activities. It allows for a review of federally assisted undertakings that might affect the property. It brings greater recognition to our nation's cultural resources, enabling citizens and private and governmental groups to acknowledge and to protect and sustain a shared heritage.

Through National Register–level documentation a vast store of information relating to Oklahoma's heritage has been accumulated. A National Register nomination consists of an extensive physical description of the property and a detailed analysis of its historic significance. A bibliography is provided, citing the sources of information the nomination preparer used in establishing the significance of the property. Archivally stable black-and-white photographs are taken of the nominated property to document its physical characteristics and to help identify its character-defining aspects.

After a property is documented, it is reviewed by the State Historic Preservation Review Committee, composed of experts in the fields of history, archaeology, and architecture. If the nomination has merit, it is passed on to the Keeper of the Register in Washington, D.C. A copy of the nomination, photographs, and requisite maps are sent to the National Register offices, a section of the Department of the Interior. A second set of documentation, accessible by the public for research or informational purposes, is kept at the Oklahoma Historical Society's State Historic Preservation Office.

A number of listed properties have fallen victim to neglect or destruction. Often, the National Register document is the only record remaining that recognizes the significance of a lost property. As a part of the documentation process, primary and secondary sources of information are identified that place a property in a historic context and establish its significance. The National Register of Historic Places provides a permanent record of those Oklahoma places that are significant in the state's history. It brings recognition to those places and helps to preserve and protect them for future generations.

Jim Gabbert

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Twentieth Century

Learn More

Gail Greenberg, A Comprehensive Guide for Listing a Building in the National Register of Historic Places (N.p.: Lucid Press, 1996).

Fay Metcalf, Teaching with Historic Places (Washington, D.C.: Preservation Press, 1992).

National Register of Historic Places, 1966 to 1994: Cumulative List through January 1, 1994 (Washington, D.C.: Preservation Press, 1994).

Oklahoma's National Register Handbook (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society, 2013).

Related Resources

Arcadia Route 66 Roadbed, National Register of Historic Places
Bridge No. 18 at Rock Creek, National Register of Historic Places
Guthrie Historic District and Guthrie Historic Landmark District, National Register of Historic Places
Honey Springs Battlefield, National Register of Historic Places
Hotel Cherokee, National Register of Historic Places
Oklahoma State Capitol, National Register of Historic Places


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Jim Gabbert, “National Register of Historic Places,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=NA012.

Published January 15, 2010

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