The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of this country’s most important buildings, places, and archeological sites. Some of these places are historic areas in National Parks, some are publicly-owned cultural sites, and some are privately owned homes, archeological sites, and other properties.
In Arkansas, archeological sites on the National Register include prehistoric rock art sites, Caddo Indian mounds in the Ouachita and Saline River valleys, Mississippian town sites in the Delta, pioneer era pottery-making kilns, and prehistoric novaculite quarries in the Ouachita Mountains. By the year 2000, however, only a very small number of Arkansas’s important archeological sites will be listed on the National Register.
Benefits of a National Register Site
Public Recognition. A National Register site receives public recognition that it is an important part of both Arkansas and American history.
Consideration During Site Development. National Register sites also receive extra consideration for protection when site activities, paid for by Federal money or with Federal permits, are planned that may damage or destroy the site. This does not necessarily mean that a project will be abandoned or delayed, but it does mean that special care will be taken so that Federal money won’t be used to unknowingly destroy a site. Some action might be required to alter the project to avoid destroying the site or to rescue the important historic information before the site is lost.
Possible Tax Benefits. For private individuals who own National Register sites, there may be tax benefits. Donating site conservation or preservation easements can be partially tax deductible gifts. National Register sites might also be eligible for Federal Historic Preservation grants that may be established in the future.
How a Site is Evaluated for the National Register
To be considered for the National Register, a site is evaluated according to criteria established by the U.S. Department of the Interior. A form describing the site and listing the reasons why it’s important is filled out by an archeologist or some other historic preservation professional. This form, along with photographs, then is presented to a citizen’s Review Board, which meets three times a year. The Board recommends to the Arkansas Historic Preservation Officer which buildings and places it believes are eligible to be added to the National Register. The Historic Preservation Officer makes the official recommendation to the Keeper of the National Register in Washington, D.C., and it is the Keeper who makes the final decision about which sites and properties are added to the list. All of this may take as long as a year to complete, after which the landowner will receive an official letter and certificate of the site’s placement on the National Register.
Site Information is Confidential
The exact location of an archeological site is kept confidential in order to protect the site from vandals and trespassers. If a site is privately owned, placing it on the National Register will not interfere with a landowner’s private property rights to control-or even destroy- it. If a site is seriously damaged, however, resulting in the loss of its scientific or historic importance, it could be removed from the National Register.
How to Nominate a Site
If you think you know about a significant archeological site and would like to know more about putting it on the National Register, you can contact the Registrar’s Office of the Arkansas Archeological Survey (479-575-6552) or the Department of Arkansas Heritage, Historic Preservation Program (501-324-9787). At the DAH web site, you can access a Determination of Eligibility Form, which is the first step in determining the eligibility of a property for the National Register.
For More Information
For more information about sites on the National Register and the process of nomination, check out the attractive National Park Service website about the National Register of Historic Places.
A new book by the University of Arkansas Press offers essays and reflections on many of Arkansas’s National Register sites. The book includes the prehistoric sites of Toltec and Parkin, the Contact Period site of Arkansas Post, and the historic sites of Old Washington, Cadron, and the Old State House, where the Survey has conducted archeological research projects.