The Backbone of Preservation
ELIZABETH A. LYON AND DAVID L. S. BROOK
Since passage of the landmark National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the states have become both the central point and the critical mechanism for the administration of the national-state-local historic preservation partnership. Absent the state programs, the national inventory of cultural resources, the distribution of historic preservation information, the administration of financial incentives, and the provision of technical assistance could not happen.
State preservation programs did, in fact, exist long before passage of the 1966 act, but prior to this, the state preservation agencies that administered them were widely scattered and primarily concerned with relics, ruins, and other historic properties. In the early twentieth century they focused on the interpretation of historic sites, museum properties, plaques, publications, and highway markers. Around midcentury, a number of states—Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Florida, and a few others—supported local preservation efforts by passing enabling acts for historic districts. Other state pioneering activities predating NHPA included surveys of both buildings and archaeological sites, and programs of financial assistance to local projects. The new federal law was still a decade in the future when some states began to establish preservation agencies specifically to respond to the destruction of historic properties by the massive public works of the post—World War II period.1
With the passage of NHPA, the character and direction of state historic preservation programs changed quickly and expanded dramatically. National standards and guidelines for programs, supported with federal funding, created a