Documenting Historic Streetscapes

Mount Vernon Place, Baltimore
Mount Vernon Place, Charles & Monument Streets, Baltimore, MD (perspective view looking northeast at the north street side of East Mount Place; view includes the statue “Force”) / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, HALS MD-1-19

The mission of the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) is to document historic landscapes of the United States. Since 2010, landscape architecture preservation enthusiasts have been challenged to complete at least one HALS short format history to increase awareness of particular cultural landscapes through the annual HALS Challenge competition. Past themes have been: Cultural Landscapes of Childhood, Cultural Landscapes of Diversity, the American Latino Landscape, Cultural Landscapes of Women, Landscapes of the New Deal, Modernist Landscapes, National Register-Listed Landscapes, City and Town Parks, and Memorialization, Commemorating the Great War.

For the tenth annual HALS Challenge, the National Park Service invites you to document a historic streetscape—either an individual street or a contiguous network or grid of streets. The deadline to enter is July 31, 2019.

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.

Vale Commercial Historic District, Vale, Malheur County, OR / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, HABS OR-177-3

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.

General view from Rue Touline looking to north, Front Street (Commercial Buildings), Natchitoches, LA / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, HABS LA-1319-1

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.

Bunker Hill District, Los Angeles, CA / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, HABS CAL,19-LOSAN,17–1

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.

East San Antonio Avenue, South El Paso Street Historic District, El Paso, TX / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, HABS TEX,71-ELPA,4–98

This is a writing competition, but up to 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.

Irish Channel Historic District, Fourth Street, New Orleans, LA / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, HABS LA,36-NEWOR,82A–1

For more information on preparing a HALS Short Format Historical Report, and to earn 1.0 PDH (LA CES/HSW) , please see the ASLA Online Learning webinar The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS): An Introduction to HALS and the Short Format Historical Report.

The HALS Challenge winners will be announced at the HALS Subcommittee meeting at the 2019 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Diego this November.

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

Detail view of historic street sign at Chapman and Flower from northeast, National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, Marion, IN/ image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, HABS IN-306-7

For more information, contact Chris Stevens, ASLA, HALS Landscape Architect at the National Park Service, at (202) 354-2146 or

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