The Arlington National Cemetery Historic District, which includes the famed military cemetery among 69 contributing features, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, the official list of the nation's historic places worthy of preservation.
The historic district was determined to be nationally significant in the following ways: 1) as America's most sacred national cemetery and as a national memorial to the military history of the United States; 2) it contains the burials of persons of national importance, including presidents, Supreme Court justices and countless military heroes; and 3) as the final resting place of service men and women from the Civil War to the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it continues to serve as a national monument to the America's war dead.
'For 150 years, Arlington National Cemetery has defined how America commemorates and memorializes those who have fought for the freedom of its citizens,' said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. 'We are proud to provide this formal recognition of its historical significance to our nation and to those who have served so proudly and sacrificed for our nation in the armed forces.'
Arlington National Cemetery was established during the Civil War as a final resting place for Union soldiers on approximately 200 acres of Mary Custis Lee's 1,100-acre Arlington estate. The property was also used as a military camp and Freedman's Village during and after the end of the Civil War. It took shape as a picturesque rural cemetery with the planting of trees, shrubs, and other landscaping, and the addition of roads through the property.
Much of the planning and design of the cemetery is attributable to the direction of Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs during the first decades of Arlington National Cemetery's existence. Several memorials, beginning with the Tomb of the Civil War Unknowns in 1866, were erected during his tenure.
The commemorative use of Arlington National Cemetery continued to grow throughout the 20th century. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, placed in 1921, strongly emphasized the memorial nature of the cemetery, and the burial of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, with a monument and eternal flame on his gravesite, escalated the commemorative use of the cemetery.
Today, Arlington National Cemetery continues to serve as an active cemetery and is the final resting place of more than 400,000 military personnel, their family members and other dignitaries. The Department of the Army administers Arlington National Cemetery, overseeing all burial and maintenance services, and accommodating the more than three million visitors who pay their respects annually.
The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources. It is one of dozens of programs administered by the National Park Service that preserve nature and historic sites and improve access to outdoor recreation in local communities around the country.