The 2020 Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) Challenge

by Chris Stevens, ASLA

The Smokey Hollow Community
The Smokey Hollow Community, HALS FL-9-4, Tallahassee, Leon County, Florida. / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

For the 11th annual HALS Challenge, the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) invites you to document vanishing or lost landscapes. Many historic American landscapes are under threat or have been lost. Threats include development pressure, neglect and climate change.

By documenting vanishing or lost historic landscapes for HALS, you may increase historic landscape awareness with your local governments and preservation commissions by illuminating these almost forgotten vestiges of America’s past. People from every state are hereby challenged to focus their 2020 vision to complete at least one HALS short format history to document vanishing or lost landscapes.

Short format histories should be submitted to HALS at the National Park Service no later than July 31, 2020. The HALS Short Format History guidelines, brochure, and digital template may be downloaded from the National Park Service’s HALS website.

Please contact your state 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. If your chapter’s volunteer HALS Liaison position is vacant, please consider volunteering yourself or suggesting it to a colleague who may be interested.

Ellis Island, HALS NY-9-16, Statue of Liberty National Monument, New York Harbor, New York County, New York. / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

NOTE: there are 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 2020 HALS Challenge Brochure. Please read both thoroughly before entering the competition.

The biggest recent change in the rules is that no more than ten (10) 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 complicated and frustrating 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 the historic graphic itself, and all copyright issues may be avoided. This is a writing competition!

Pine Ranch, HALS AZ-4-5, Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, Littlefield, Mohave County, Arizona. / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Winners will be announced at the HALS Subcommittee Meeting at the 2020 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in Miami Beach, Florida. 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 vanishing or lost landscapes. Preservation through documentation!

For more information, contact Chris Stevens, 202-354-2146,

Chris Stevens, ASLA, is NPS HALS Landscape Architect, past chair of the ASLA Historic Preservation Professional Practice Network (PPN), and past ASLA HALS Subcommittee chair / coordinator.

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