Making Their Mark: America’s National Historic Landmarks

From sea to shining sea, these are 12 of America’s best historic landmarks

National Historic Landmarks are America’s most exceptional historic properties. Their stories reflect the breadth and depth of the American experience and capture the uniqueness of our communities by recognizing their most important historic treasures. Landmarks are conspicuous objects known to many through either their remarkable appearance or their compelling stories.

America’s historic landmarks include places where significant events occurred, where important Americans worked or lived, that represent the ideas that shaped the nation, that reveal the past or that are outstanding examples of design or construction.

Fort Toulouse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Fort Toulouse site

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: October 9, 1960

Location: Elmore County, Aabama

Description: In 1717, when this region was part of French Louisiana, the French built a fort near the strategically vital junction where the Tallapoosa and Coosa Rivers form the Alabama River. The fort was primarily a trading post where Indians exchanged fur pelts for guns and household items. There were no battles at the post as French diplomacy forged allies with the natives. The surrounding Indians wanted peace so they could trade with both the French and British.

A re-creation of the last or 3rd French fort built between 1749 and 1751, the outside walls are constructed of split timbers that were not strong enough to stop a cannon shot but were ample protection against musket fire. Fences enclose the sides and rear of the building. On the inside, posts sunk into the ground were joined with mortise and tenon joints. There were two barracks in the fort each had four rooms for use by the troops. Along the southern wall is an igloo-shaped bread oven.

Read more: History Comes Alive at Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson State Historic Site

Hoover Dam © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Hoover Dam

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: August 20, 1985

Location: Mohave County, Arizona and Clark County, Nevada

Description: Linking Arizona and Nevada, Hoover Dam is one of America’s great engineering marvels to date and a fantastic Arizona road trip. Completed in 1935, this massive and hard-to-miss structure crosses the Colorado River and sits at a total of 726 feet high and 1,244 feet long. You can drive or walk across the dam for free or take a tour of the dam. The visitor center provides information on the tours and has a café where you can stop for some basic grub.

Kennedy Compound © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Kennedy Compound

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: November 28, 1972

Location: Hyannisport, Barnstable County, Massachusetts

Description: When the Kennedys needed to get away from the hectic world of politics for some peace and quiet, there was one place they always went to: Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. The Cape Cod destination has a rich history that first began in 1928 when Joe and Rose Kennedy purchased a family home in the area. After JFK, his brother Ted and his sister Eunice purchased the three surrounding estates, the Kennedy Compound was officially born.

Mesilla Plaza © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Mesilla Plaza

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: July 4, 1961

Location: La Mesilla, Dona Ana County, New Mexico

Description: Mesilla did not become part of the United States until the mid-1850s but its history begins with the end of the Mexican-American War and the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe. Soon after, the sleepy border town would become one of the most important towns in the West, playing a key role in western expansion. By the mid-1800s, Mesilla’s population had reached 3,000 making it the largest town and trade center between San Antonio and San Diego and an important stop for both the Butterfield Stage Line and the San Antonio-San Diego Mail Lines.

Read more: La Mesilla: Where History and Culture Become an Experience

Historic Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Jacksonville Historic District

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: November 13, 1966

Location: Jacksonville, Jackson County, Oregon

Description: Jacksonville got its start as a gold rush town. Gold was first discovered at Rich Gulch in 1851. Within months, thousands were scouring the hills hoping to stake a claim. A thriving mining camp emerged along the gold-lined creekbeds and before long, the bustling camp was transformed into a town named Jacksonville.

More than 100 buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1966, the entire town of Jacksonville was designated a National Register of Historic Landmark.

Fort Ticonderoga © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Fort Ticonderoga

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: October 9, 1960

Location: Essex County, New York

Description: Fort Ticonderoga, formerly Fort Carillon is a large 18th-century star fort built by the French at a narrows near the south end of Lake Champlain in northern New York. It was constructed between October 1755 and 1757 during the action in the North American theater of the Seven Years’ War often referred to in the US as the French and Indian War. The fort was of strategic importance during the 18th-century colonial conflicts between Great Britain and France and again played an important role during the Revolutionary War. The name Ticonderoga comes from the Iroquois word tekontaró:ken meaning “it is at the junction of two waterways”.

Bellevue Avenue Historic District © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Bellevue Avenue Historic District

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: May 11, 1976

Location: Newport, Newport County, Rhode Island

Description: Bellevue Avenue or The Avenue as it’s known to some of the older locals is teeming with history. Its only 2½ miles long but it contains more history and elegance than just about any other avenue in the nation.
Bellevue Avenue was home to many of America’s elite during the Gilded Age. Its residents included the Astors, Vanderbilts, Morgans, and other members of the Four Hundred (New York’s premier social list), who made Newport Rhode Island their summer home.

The Avenue is home to many Newport Rhode Island attractions, including International Tennis Hall of Fame, Redwood Library (oldest in the nation), Newport Art Museum, and Newport Tower.

Read more: Newport Cliff Walk: Ocean Views, Mansions and more

Charleston Historic District © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Charleston Historic District

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: October 9, 1960

Location: Charleston, Charleston County, South Carolina

Description: Charleston is home to one of America’s most intact historic districts. Nestled along a narrow peninsula—where the Ashley and Cooper rivers meet and empty into the Atlantic Ocean—it exudes Deep South charm. With very few tall buildings, Charleston instead offers quaint cobblestone roads, colonial structures, a unique culture, and gobs of history.

More than 300 years ago, Charleston was originally named in honor of King Charles II of England. Charles Towne, as it was known, was founded in 1670 at Albmarle Point, a spot just across the Ashley River. Since that time it has played host to some of the most historic events in US history including the first major battle of the American Revolution, and the start of the Civil War.

Bastrop State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Bastrop State Park

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: September 25, 1997

Location: Bastrop, Bastrop County, Texas

Description: Bastrop State Park is the site of the famous Lost Pines, an isolated region of loblolly pines and hardwoods. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) designed and constructed buildings and facilities in many Texas parks including Bastrop. Bastrop State Park earned National Historic Landmark status in 1997. This was due largely to the enduring craftsmanship and landscape work of the CCC. Only seven CCC parks in the nation have this recognition.

Vermont State House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Vermont Statehouse

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: December 30, 1970

Location: Montpelier, Washington County, Vermont

Description: The Vermont State House is one of the oldest and best preserved of our nation’s state capitols. After nearly 160 years it remains an icon in Montpelier, the smallest capital city in America. Its House and Senate chambers are the oldest active legislative halls in the United States that have preserved their original interiors.

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Jerome Historic District

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: November 13, 1966

Location: Jerome, Yavapai County, Arizona

Description: An old mining town-turned ghost town-turned tourist attraction, Jerome sits on a mountainside just above the desert floor. Jerome is unique and quirky, to say the least with the Sliding Jail in Jerome that was originally built around 1928 and was built on a clay slick; it soon began to slide and now sits 2,500 feet from its original location. While you’re there, you can visit the town’s most appreciated historical landmarks including the Gold King Mine Museum and the Jerome State Historic Park.

Paul Revere House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

12. Paul Revere House

Date recognized as a National Historic Landmark: January 20, 1961

Location: Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts

Description: Built around 1680, the Paul Revere House owned by the legendary patriot from 1770-1800 is the oldest remaining structure in downtown Boston and also the only official Freedom Trail historic site that is a home. Tour his home and hear about 18th-century family life. In the new education and visitor center, enjoy displays and artifacts related to Revere’s many business ventures and learn the real story of his midnight ride presented in his own words. 

Read more: Walk the Freedom Trail and Experience over 250 years of History

Worth Pondering…

The past itself as historical change continues to accelerate has become the most surreal of subjects—making it possible to see a new beauty in what is vanishing.

—Susan Sontag