National Archives News

National Archives Building Designated National Historic Landmark

By Angela Tudico | National Archives News

 

WASHINGTON, December 13, 2023 — The National Archives Building, located near the National Mall and the most prominent structure in the Federal Triangle in Washington, DC, is now a National Historic Landmark. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland signed the designation on December 13, 2023. 

The new status comes more than 50 years after the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, in 1966, as part of the Federal Triangle. It was also listed individually in 1971. The status covers not only the National Archives Building but the entire 5.2-acre square and green spaces, the sculptures at both main entrances, and the small garden and monument stone to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which was dedicated in 1965.

"It is such an honor to receive the National Historic Landmark designation for the National Archives Building," Archivist of the United States Dr. Colleen Shogan said. "It is a well-deserved distinction for this extraordinary building that is in its own way a treasure, surpassed only by the priceless documents held within it."

On August 16, the National Park Service Advisory Board voted to recommend their approval on the National Historic Landmark nomination for the National Archives Building, along with five other nominees. The board recognized the building’s significance as the first archives built specifically for federal records in the United States and as a masterpiece work of New York–based architect John Russell Pope. 

“The National Archives Building had long been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The designation as a ‘Landmark’ further underscores the building's importance as documentation of our nation's architectural history,” said Mark Smith, Executive for Business Support Services. “Much like the archived records it protects, the building itself is recognized for its importance in understanding our country's history.”

The building, designed by Pope, was completed in 1935. Notable milestones over the nearly 90-year history of the building include the almost immediate change to fill the interior courtyard with additional stack space, the arrival of the nation’s founding documents in the 1950s, and a major building-wide renovation in the early 2000s. 

These improvements did not alter the essential features or functionality of the building, as it continues to be used for the same purposes for which it was designed and built: as a federal repository for the nation's most valuable records with public research rooms and exhibit hall spaces accessible to all.

“In addition to marking the significance of the building's architecture, the National Historic Landmark designation highlights the property’s national importance as the permanent home of America’s founding documents,” said National Archives Historian Jessie Kratz. “It’s one of the first purpose-built archival facilities in the world, and it serves as a symbol of the permanence of the American federal government, its institutions, and democratic access to its records.”

The National Archives Building joins over 2,600 other National Historic Landmarks but is the only National Archives building with landmark status. The New York office currently occupies space in the landmarked Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, while the Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Richard Nixon sites are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Learn more about the National Archives Building on the new special topics page dedicated to the building.

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