Designating a building or site as a local landmark is a great way to recognize and protect a historic resource. It is a proactive tool, and often something owners and members of the public can do before a property is threatened.
Landmark THIS! is a Minnehaha County Historical Society initiative to help you with local landmark designation. This is designation through the local city or county government because it is often the most accessible and most likely to provide protection from demolition or inappropriate alterations. Other designation options are available at the state level through the South Dakota State Historical Society and at the federal level with the National Register of Historic Places.
Our Landmark THIS! Guide provides an overview and answers questions about local landmark designation. It also offers tips on research, writing an architectural description, making the case for your site’s significance, and navigating the process. We use South Dakota's state designation process for Historic-Cultural Monuments (HCM) as an example throughout, but the process as well as the kinds of information required applies to other communities and types of landmark designation.
The Conservancy offers Landmark THIS! as a workshop, often in partnership with the South Dakota State Historical Society. This is a chance for those who have a building or site they want to pursue local landmark designation to learn more about the process, including how to fill out the forms, writing an architectural description, and understanding how best to make the case for your site. Check our events page for upcoming Landmark THIS! workshops.
If you would like technical assistance or have questions about local landmark designation, please contact the Historical Society at (213) 623-2489 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Writing an Architectural Description
As part of a landmark nomination, you are asked to describe the building’s physical description. This is an important documentation of the building (or structure, object, or site) that helps to determine the character-defining features that will be protected through landmark designation.
Here are some tips for writing an architectural description from the Landmark THIS! guide, as well as a step-by-step illustrated guide to help you. It may also be useful to see the architectural descriptions in successful nominations, such as the Gould-LaFetra House, the Plymouth Apartments, and the Golden State Mutual Insurance Building.
Practice describing what you see and crafting a concise but comprehensive architectural description using a modern house or a coffee shop as examples.
There is no single correct description and you’re working with just the images in front of you, so don’t worry about the areas you can’t see. For your nomination, you will want to visit the site in order to write a complete description, including the rear, sides, and significant character-defining details. You can see how the Kramer House and Johnie’s Coffee Shop were described in their HCM nominations.