If you enjoy exploring America’s past, the National Register of Historic Places is a great resource. It lists more than 90,000 properties, many of which are open to the public, and there’s at least one in almost every county in the United States.
Established as part of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the register recognizes buildings, districts, sites and objects for their significance in American history, architecture, art, archaeology, engineering and culture.
Here are a few examples:
If you’re a fan of the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” you can visit the New York City landmark named for the first secretary of the treasury. The Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, a grand Beaux Arts-style building completed in 1907, is located at the tip of Manhattan. It’s home to a U.S. Bankruptcy Court and a branch of the National Museum of the American Indian.
Many of the landmarks associated with the civil-rights movement are part of Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn Historic District, a center of African-American life in the city since the early 20th century. The district’s noteworthy sites include the house where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was born and the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King and his father and grandfather preached.
Chicago is known for its stunning modern architecture but there are plenty of historic buildings to admire, too. You can put together your own walking tour of some two-dozen structures on the National Register, including The Rookery, a 19th-century office building in the heart of the financial district. Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright remodeled the building’s ground-floor lobby in 1905.
San Francisco’s iconic cable cars, which debuted in 1873, are on the National Register, and taking a ride along one of the city’s steep hills is a thrilling experience. Also on the list is Alcatraz, the former maximum-security prison located on an island in San Francisco Bay. Alcatraz is accessible by ferry, and an audio guide tells the stories of inmates like Al Capone.
Ybor City, a historic neighborhood in Tampa, Florida, was founded in the 1880s as a center for cigar manufacturing, becoming home to immigrants from Cuba, Spain and Italy. Historic buildings include El Centro Espanol de Tampa, a clubhouse and cultural center built in 1912. Today, it’s a spot for shopping, dining and entertainment.
An entire town can attain historic designation, like the 19th-century silver-mining community of Wallace, Idaho, located on a scenic spot along the South Fork of the Coeur D’Alene River. You’ll find lots of Old West charm, along with museums, mine tours and outdoor activities including hiking, cycling and boating.
Some sites have also been designated as National Historic Landmarks. They include Boston’s 18th-century Old North Church, known for its role in the American Revolution. A signal in the church’s steeple on the evening of April 18, 1775, warned American colonists that British troops were approaching Lexington and Concord by sea, not land.