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National Historic Preservation Act 50th Anniversary

10/14/2016:

Fifty years ago, the National Historic Preservation Act was created to help preserve the diverse archaeological and architectural treasures of America. On this eve of the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the act, we look at what effect this has had on North Dakota, with over four hundred historic and prehistoric places being listed in the National Register of Historic Places. While many are individual sites, some nominations are large historic districts.

The registry tells the tale of progress. It starts with the earliest people who settled in small communal farming villages and mined the pockets of flint, thus establishing the first commerce on the Plains. It continues with those who came later to develop a vast agricultural economy that reached global markets.

The history of agriculture is documented by many Native American sites where the production of maize bound nomadic peoples to the land. Later are the large bonanza farms, and many smaller farms, that reflect the diverse ethnicity of the state’s immigrants. Not to be ignored is the history of ranching, as documented through sites such as the Elkhorn Ranch, the home of a future president; or the Chateau de Mores where one man dreamed of a cattle empire.

Commercial enterprises on the National Registry range from trading posts to large commercial centers with warehouses, hotels and markets. There are railroad depots and bridges from an era when the railroads were the mainstay in converting a prairie grassland into the breadbasket of the world.

The selection of courthouses and government buildings on the registry reflects the change from the neo-gothic buildings of the European style to the more modern, economical needs of a rural state. Opera houses, movie house and even libraries speak of the days prior to television and websites when people left their homes for entertainment and information.

Over the past fifty years, funding obtained through the act has allowed communities and organizations to retain important symbols of our varied and fascinating past. And it has also led to a wealth of information as the sites were researched and documented.

Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis

Source: National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service, US Department of Interior