Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases:
Florida: Proposed Demolition of Stiltsville (Biscayne National Park)
Agency: National Park Service
Criteria for Council Involvement:
- There has been substantial public controversy concerning evaluation of the significance of Stiltsville, a property from the recent past (Criterion 3).
In expectation that Section 106 would apply if an appeal of Stiltsvilleís nomination to the National Register of Historic Places is successful, preservation advocates requested the Councilís assistance. Subsequent Council involvement has included letters to the National Park Service (NPS) asking that plans for demolition of Stiltsville be postponed pending a decision from the National Register. In response to the groundswell of support for the preservation of Stiltsville, NPS has agreed to suspend action on the expiring leases and subsequent demolition pending results of negotiations with the parties, irrespective of the outcome of a renewed National Register nomination review.
The Council was recently contacted by the citizens' group, Save Old Stiltsville (SOS), regarding the proposed demolition of Stiltsville, seven houses built on stilts in Biscayne Bay. Principally constructed in the 1950s, the houses are all that remain of a complex of approximately thirty such structures. The houses were incorporated into Biscayne National Park in 1980 and are leased to residents. These leases are due to expire soon, and the park's General Management Plan calls for the buildings' demolition.
As part of its campaign to save Stiltsville, SOS prepared a National Register nomination for the buildings as an historic district. The Keeper of the Register rejected the nomination, citing the property's age and its failure to reach the threshold of exceptional significance required for listing properties less than 50 years old. In response, the Florida State Historic Preservation Officer, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Stiltsville residents, and other members of the public argued that local views on the area's significance should be given greater weight in determining its eligibility for the National Register.
A wide constituency, including local and State officials, citizens of nearby Miami, and many of the area's frequent visitors have appealed to NPS for recognition and preservation of the structures, based on the high value they place on the picturesque and evocative qualities of Stiltsville. Acknowledging that Stiltsville is atypical of the usual properties nominated to the National Register in several important ways, preservation proponents have resolved to revise and resubmit the National Register nomination, presenting Stiltsville as a property whose unique character transcends National Register norms.
The manner in which the recent past is regarded in National Register eligibility decisions continues to draw scrutiny as the 21st century approaches. There is a growing recognition that the essence of certain types of properties, such as cultural landscapes and traditional cultural places, may not be captured by standard National Register criteria. Especially in cases where the built environment does not represent the totality of the resource, and, moreover, that resource is less than 50 years old, National Register criteria may fall short. Insofar as the protective measures contained within the National Historic Preservation Act rely on affirmative National Register decisions, this is an important issue in the context of Section 106 review of Federal actions in local communities.
Staff contact: Martha Catlin
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