During the past few decades, the concept of historic preservation has grown beyond protecting a single building or urban district to include the historic landscape that provides the setting and context for a property as well as much larger landscapes that have regional and national significance. In response to this growing interest in the historic preservation and documentation of landscapes, the American Society of Landscape Architects worked with the National Park Service to create a national program, and in October 2000, the National Park Service established the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) to document historic landscapes in the United States and its territories to serve as tangible evidence of our nation’s heritage and development.
In early 2001, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the National Park Service, and the Library of Congress entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that established a framework of cooperation, and in 2010, the three organizations signed a new Tripartite Agreement that made HALS a permanent federal program. The National Park Service administers the planning and operation of HALS, standardizes formats and develops guidelines for recording landscapes, and catalogs and/or publishes the information when appropriate. The American Society of Landscape Architects provides professional guidance and technical advice for the program through its Historic Preservation Professional Practice Network. The Library of Congress accepts and preserves HALS documents and makes records available to the public.
Historic landscapes vary in size from small gardens to several thousand-acre national parks. In character they range from designed to vernacular, rural to urban, and agricultural to industrial spaces. Vegetable patches, estate gardens, cemeteries, farms, quarries, nuclear test sites, suburbs, and abandoned settlements all may be considered historic landscapes. Like its sister programs, the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), HALS produces written and graphic records of interest to educators, land managers, and preservation planners, as well as the general public.