The 2019 Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) Challenge

by Chris Stevens, ASLA

Left to right: HABS LA-1319-26; HABS GA,123-AUG,56–1; HABS ARIZ,10-TUCSO,30–1; and HALS MD-1-19 / image: National Park Service 2019 HALS Challenge Banner

For the tenth annual HALS Challenge, the Historic American Landscapes Survey invites you to document historic streetscapes. Many cities have come to appreciate the cultural and commercial value of their historic streets. Disneyland and Walt Disney World have welcomed arriving visitors with an idealized, nostalgic representation of Main Street U.S.A. since their inception. Main Street programs across the nation have encouraged the revitalization of commercial historic districts, and now the Complete Streets movement is sweeping the design world.

What makes your favorite historic street(s) unique? Does your local Historic Preservation Commission protect the streetscape characteristics and features of historic districts along with the contributing buildings? You may increase historic landscape awareness with your local governments and preservation commissions by documenting historic streetscapes for HALS and illuminating these significant pieces of America’s circulatory system.

Please choose an individual street or a contiguous network or grid of streets to document and pay particular attention to the landscape features, including: benches, bollards, bus stops, circles, context, crosswalks, curbing, drainage, facades, fencing, festivals, fountains, gutters, islands, lampposts, medians, meters, monuments, paving, pedestrian malls, parades, parking, planters, plazas, porches, public art, ramps, setbacks, sidewalks, signage, significance, squares, steps, stoops, street trees, traffic lights, trolley tracks, and utilities.

Greene Street Historic District HABS GA,123-AUG,56—1, Augusta, Georgia / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Please contact your ASLA Chapter’s volunteer HALS Liaison if possible when you have selected a site to document for the HALS Challenge to be sure no one else is already preparing a HALS historic report for it. HALS Liaisons’ contact information may be found by on ASLA’s website. If your chapter’s volunteer HALS Liaison position is vacant, please consider volunteering yourself or suggesting it to a colleague who may be interested.

Short format histories should be submitted to HALS at the National Park Service no later than July 31, 2019. The HALS Short Format History guidelines, brochure, and digital template may be downloaded from either the NPS or ASLA HALS websites. NOTE: There have been some changes to HALS Challenge rules and MS Word digital HALS Short Form History Template since 2017! These updates are included within the template itself as well as within the 2019 HALS Challenge Brochure. Please read both thoroughly before entering the competition.

The biggest change in the rules is that no more than ten digital photographs may be included at the end of each HALS Challenge entry. These may ONLY consist of digital, existing-conditions photographs taken by the author(s) of the site being documented. Your research should still include analyzing historic drawings and photos of the landscape you are documenting. Historic graphics are often the most important primary source for analytically writing about a historic landscape. Due to copyright restrictions, we are banning the reproduction of all historic graphics within HALS Challenge entries. Historic graphics may still be referenced and described in the text with their repository source named. A thoroughly written analysis is even more useful to readers than a reproduced copy of historic graphic itself, and all copyright issues may be avoided. Remember, this is a writing competition!

Barrio Libre HABS ARIZ,10-TUCSO,30—1, Tucson, Arizona / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Winners will be announced at the HALS Subcommittee meeting at the 2019 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Diego this November. Employees of the National Park Service, American Society of Landscape Architects, and Library of Congress may submit HALS Short Format Historical Reports, but are ineligible for prizes.

People from every state are hereby challenged to complete at least one HALS short format history to document historic thoroughfares. Preservation through documentation!

For more information, contact Chris Stevens, ASLA, at (202) 354-2146 or

Chris Stevens, ASLA, is the HALS Landscape Architect at the National Park Service, Past Chair of the ASLA Historic Preservation Professional Practice Network (PPN), and current ASLA HALS Subcommittee Chair / Coordinator.

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