Challenge #13: Constantly Getting “Carded” Problem

Since the National Historic Preservation Act came into being in 1966, it set a threshold of 50 years as the timeframe for which we have come to judge buildings as meeting a minimum test for gaining historic credentials nationally.

Generally known as the “50-year rule,” a building cannot be considered for the National Register of Historic Places until half a century after it was built. There is, however, a back door entry for buildings and landscapes considered “exceptionally important,” which allows some underaged places to be listed.

Some think the 50-year rule is outdated and needs adjustment, advocating instead for something less stringent, such as a 30-year rule -- or no timeframe at all, which some communities (including the City of Los Angeles) use for the purposes of local designation.

Defenders of the current policy say that we need proper perspective and distance in which we can properly judge and evaluate the significance of a place, and the 50-year rule does that well. The debate over the 50-year rule has been going on for awhile and will likely continue for years to come.

In the meantime, the harsh reality is that we are losing a lot of Modernist and recent past places well before they reach their 50th birthday. For the most part, there is little acknowledgment of their passing or place in history.