ABSTRACT

Anniversaries often provide an opportunity to revisit how well a particular theme or story in American history is reflected in our historic properties. Just such an occasion occurred as the two hundredth anniversary of the United States Constitution approached in 1988. In March 1984, Chief Justice Warren Berger met with NPS Chief Historian Ed Bearss to discuss the implementation of a National Historic Landmark Theme Study on the U.S. Constitution. The goal of the study was to identify sites associated with the Supreme Court’s landmark decisions. Two issues immediately came to the fore: first, there was “a wide diversity of opinion” regarding what were the most significant cases; and, second, the so-called 50-year rule would exclude many significant cases from consideration. William H. Allen, who had clerked for the Chief Justice, compiled a list of 155 landmark cases and NPS Historian Harry Butowsky prepared a careful analysis of properties closely associated with the interpretation of the Constitution by the Supreme Court. The theme study focused on each Article of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and various other amendments.1