HALS FAQ2022-08-24T11:56:07-07:00

Northern California Chapter of the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS)

We promote the documentation, preservation, and enjoyment of historic landscapes in California.



  • ASLA – American Society of Landscape Architects
  • CLI – Cultural Landscape Inventory
  • CLR – Cultural Landscape Report
  • CRGIS – Cultural Resources Geographical Information Systems
  • HABS – Historic American Buildings Survey
  • HAER – Historic American Engineering Record
  • HALS – Historic American Landscapes Survey
  • HDP – Heritage Documentation Programs
  • LOC – Library of Congress
  • NPS – National Park Service
  • SHPO – State Historic Preservation Officer or Office
What are the Heritage Documentation Programs (HABS/HAER/HALS/CRGIS)?2022-08-05T17:38:50-07:00
  • HABS (Historic American Buildings Survey) was established by the National Park Service, American Institute of Architects, and Library of Congress in 1933 to document America’s architectural heritage.
  • HAER (Historic American Engineering Record) was established by the National Park Service, American Society of Civil Engineers, and Library of Congress in 1969 to document America’s engineering and industrial heritage.
  • HALS (Historic American Landscapes Survey) was established by the National Park Service, American Society of Landscape Architects, and Library of Congress in 2000 to document America’s landscape heritage.
  • CRGIS (Cultural Resources Geographical Information Systems) was established by the National Park Service in 1989 to institutionalize the use of GIS, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and Remote Sensing technologies in historic preservation.
Who Administers HALS?2022-08-05T17:39:07-07:00

HALS is jointly administered by three entities: The National Park Service, the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Library of Congress. NPS generally administers, ASLA guides, and LOC services the collection.

How is a landscape documented?2022-08-05T17:39:35-07:00

There are three components to the documentation: historic research and narrative, measured drawings, and photographs. Each of these is described in detailed guidelines that describe what information should be recorded and how it should be done. HALS is intended to be a comprehensive, scholarly record that provides a permanent detailed record of the landscape.

There are four levels of HALS documentation:

  1. large-format photographs, long-format report, and measured drawings
  2. large-format photographs, long-format report, and reproductions of original drawings (must adequately, concisely, legibly represent the current landscape)
  3. large-format photographs, short-format report, and optional but preferable sketch plan
  4. short-format report with optional sketch plan and optional digital photographs on a figure page at the end of the report

Critical need, time, and resources will all factor into your decision of which level to follow. The short-format report is typically two to four pages long. The long-format report is prepared using the standard HALS outline format.

What are the criteria for documentation?2022-08-05T17:39:55-07:00

To qualify for documentation, a landscape must be at least 50 years old if traditional or 30 years old if modern, be significant, and possess integrity.

There are several criteria for rating significance. For example, a landscape may be associated with a significant historic person. The property surrounding the home of John Muir in Martinez would qualify in this category. The property could be an example of the “work of a master.” Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, designed by Frederic Law Olmsted who is considered the Father of Landscape Architecture, meets this criterion. The Kaiser Roof Garden in Oakland is an example of a landscape that included innovative technologies in the field of landscape architecture–another criterion of significance. The significance can be at the local, state, or national level.

“Integrity,” according to NPS, is “the authenticity of a property’s historic identity, evinced by the survival of physical characteristics that existed during the property’s historic or prehistoric period. The seven qualities of integrity as defined by the National Register Program are location, setting, feeling, association, design, workmanship, and materials.”

How do I find out if a landscape is a candidate for HALS documentation?2022-08-05T17:40:18-07:00

See the inventory list for landscapes that are potential candidates for HALS documentation in northern California.

Where can I view completed HALS documentation for a landscape?2022-08-05T17:41:19-07:00

You can view completed documentation at the Library of Congress HABS/HAER/HALS Collection. Because HALS is such a new program, only a limited amount of HALS documentation is available online at this time. See the Landscapes page for landscapes that have been documented in northern California.

What is the difference between a designed landscape and a vernacular landscape?2022-08-05T17:43:47-07:00

A designed landscape is one that was consciously designed or laid out by a landscape architect, master gardener, architect, engineer or horticulturist according to design principles. A vernacular landscape is one that evolved through use by the people whose activities or occupancy shaped it. Such a landscape reflects the physical, biological, and cultural character of everyday lives. Function plays a significant role in vernacular landscapes.

Is a natural landscape like Yosemite also a cultural landscape?2022-08-05T17:44:03-07:00

Yes and No. To be considered a cultural landscape the land has to have been impacted by “the touch of man,” as opposed to the natural areas of Yosemite Park such as Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Mirror Lake, etc. The designed landscape leading up to Yosemite Falls — by landscape architect Lawrence Halprin — is a designed landscape, while Yosemite Falls itself is a natural landscape.

What is the difference between HALS, Cultural Landscape Inventory (CLI), and Cultural Landscape Report (CLR)?2022-08-05T17:44:18-07:00

Good question with no simple answer. CLIs and CLRs typically include an inventory of historic features, and an assessment of their condition, integrity and significance. The CLR typically also includes recommendations for treatment of the resource, which is useful to those responsible for managing a landscape. Treatment recommendations can also help guide how best to implement needed changes to a historic property in a manner that will minimize impacts on historic features. HALS is the only form of documentation that is accessible to the public.

Government agencies and private property owners use CLIs and CLRs as guides to managing their property. Since 1966, the National Historic Properties Act (NHPA) has mandated that all federal projects or projects using federal money be required to prepare a CLI or CLR when impacts to resources are unavoidable.

HALS is similar in some ways to CLI and CLRs. HALS is intended to be a comprehensive, scholarly record of a landscape. The historic narrative provides a description of the history of the landscape. The measured drawings depict what the landscape looks like when the documentation is done. HALS photographs record what the landscape looks like when the photographs are taken.

Who might be interested in HALS documentation of a property?2022-08-05T17:44:58-07:00

Anyone who wants to learn more about a historic landscape including landscape architects, architects, community groups, non-profit groups, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, government agencies such as the National Park Service, California State Parks, CalTrans, private property owners, historians, students, historic preservationists, and others.

How can a historic landscape be preserved?2022-08-05T17:45:25-07:00

See the registration programs of your State Office of Historic Preservation, the preservation projects of the Garden Conservancy, and Protecting Cultural Landscapes by the National Park Service.

How do I get involved?2022-08-05T17:45:55-07:00

HALS is a national program. Most states have a HALS liaison appointed by ASLA. If you are not in California, contact the HALS Chapter for your state. If you are in California, please join us and get involved.

The Chapter has approximately 100 members including arborists, community activists, enthusiasts, landscape architects, landscape historians, students, and writers. Membership is free. If you are seriously interested in historic landscapes, please join us and get involved.




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