The country’s youngest national park sites National Parks Conservation Association

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Some national parks are famous for their vast landscapes, but these 10 sites share enormous stories and achievements in surprisingly small spaces.

Here are the smallest spots, from largest to smallest.*

1. First Ladies National Historic Site, Ohio

Size: 0.46 acres

They capture the attention of millions and lead initiatives that shape our culture, but for years no comprehensive resource has documented and interpreted the lives of America’s first ladies. Recognizing this need, the passionate Mary Regula, wife of a former congresswoman from Ohio, helped compile a bibliography on these public figures. Her efforts led to the establishment of a National First Ladies Library in 1996, and in 2000 Congress designated this historic site one of the few national parks dedicated specifically to interpreting women’s history. Although the site preserves the childhood home of just one woman – First Lady Ida Saxton McKinley – it also archives a wealth of information about the diverse lives of dozens of influential women who played this rare and distinctive role in the American politics and culture.

2. Federal Hall National Memorial, New York

Size: 0.45 acres

Manhattanites are known for making the most of small spaces; Yet the amount of history that has unfolded in less than half an acre at this Wall Street spot is staggering. The original Federal Hall, built in 1700, served as the city’s administrative offices, the site of George Washington’s presidential inauguration, and the first building of the United States Capitol. After the seat of federal power moved to Philadelphia in 1790, the original building was eventually razed and a second building was completed on the same site in 1842. This new facility became the nation’s first customs house, as well as one of the six federal treasuries. buildings storing millions of dollars worth of precious metals between 1862 and 1920. The memorial now houses a museum about Washington’s administration, including the original Bible from its dedication.

3. African Cemetery National Monument, New York

Size: 0.35 acres

Prior to the Revolutionary War, New York City was one of the largest slave-holding regions in the country, and slave labor contributed significantly to the city’s growth. In 1991, workers in lower Manhattan stumbled across a piece of this often-overlooked history when they found this cemetery while excavating a federal office building. The site contains the remains of more than 400 Africans and African Americans, both enslaved and free, who were buried here from the late 1600s to the late 1700s. The monument, a National Historic Landmark, now contains four exhibit areas in its interpretive center to help commemorate the lives of Africans and African Americans in the colonial state of New York. The design of the monument is heavily influenced by African motifs, including an outdoor area known as the “Circle of the Diaspora”, decorated with symbols from different cultures across Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

4. Belmont-Paul National Women’s Equality Monument, Washington, DC

Size: 0.34 acres

This site preserves the former home of suffragist Alice Paul and the headquarters of the National Woman’s Party which she founded in 1916. Paul and other outspoken activists worked passionately for decades – enduring strikes from the hunger and routine mockery and assault from men who opposed it – ultimately resulting in many victories for women. The group helped pass hundreds of laws, including, most notably, the 19th Amendment, which gave women in every U.S. state the right to vote (although many African-American women remained unable to vote until passage of the Voting Rights Act 1965). ). The site has become a center for feminist education and social change, and the monument now includes a museum with some of the best resources on women’s suffrage in the country.

5. Ford’s Theater National Historic Site, Washington, DC

Size: 0.30 acre

History buffs won’t want to miss a tour of the fateful theater where Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth assassinated the 16th President Abraham Lincoln just five days after General Robert E. Lee surrendered in April 1865, ending the war civil. The site includes the compact performance space where the President and First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln watched a production of “Our American Cousin” from a box above the proscenium arch. Beneath the theater, a basement museum now houses artifacts from the event, including the President’s overcoat, the assassin’s journal, and the real .44 caliber Derringer from the fatal attack. Across the street, visitors can also explore the home of German tailor William A. Petersen, where Lincoln was taken after the shooting and nursed until his death hours later.

6. Carter G. Woodson House National Historic Site, Washington, DC

Size: 0.15 acres

Known as the father of black history, Carter G. Woodson was an academic, author, educator, and journalist who dedicated his life to documenting and promoting stories of the African American experience. He earned his doctorate from Harvard University while teaching in public schools and later served as dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Howard University. In 1926, he founded “Negro History Week”, a celebration of African-American achievement that eventually became Black History Month. The historic site, recently renovated and first opened to the public in 2018, preserves the residence where Woodson spent the last 28 years of his life. His home also served as the headquarters of the organization he founded to promote scholarly work in African-American history, which continues today (in a separate location) as the Association for study of African American life and history. Note that the site is currently closed for renovations and should reopen in 2023; when open, tours must be arranged in advance on the park’s website.

7. Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site, New York

Size: 0.11 acres

President Theodore Roosevelt was a complicated figure and an outspoken conservationist, known for his passion for the West and for ranching in the wild lands of North Dakota. Yet the future president spent his early years in a very different environment on the East Coast – the heart of America’s largest city – suffering from asthma and debilitating illnesses. This reconstructed house is inspired by the brownstone of downtown Manhattan where Roosevelt spent the first 14 years of his life and where he developed a personal fitness program that would ultimately create lasting improvements in his health and fitness. its prospects. The site contains five rooms decorated as in the Roosevelt era, as well as two museum galleries and a bookstore.

8. John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site, Massachusetts

Size: 0.09 acres

The building where one of the 35th American presidents began his life was not only tiny but also modest. Eight people shared the house with its small but comfortably furnished bedrooms and single bathroom. John F. Kennedy was born in the master bedroom and spent the first three years of his life there with his parents, three siblings, and two house servants. Tours and interpretation at the site focus on the daily life of the house, from simple details such as favorite books and meals, to rituals that shaped the psyche of the future president and his siblings, including their mother’s theory of “scientific motherhood” and the quizzes that both parents invented at the dinner table to encourage curiosity and learning. Note: The site has limited hours and is closed during the winter months.

9. Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site, Washington, DC

Size: 0.07 acres

Educator and political leader Mary McLeod Bethune was born a decade after the Civil War ended to enslaved parents; she grew up in South Carolina as the 15th of 17 children. Despite a childhood of poverty and hard work, she walked miles every day to attend the one-room school established for African-American children in her community and became the only child in her family to receive an education. She began working as a teacher, eventually founding a school for African-American girls in Daytona, Florida, and president of the National Association of Colored Women. In 1935, she became an adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and founded her own civil rights organization, the National Council of Negro Women. This historic site preserves the former headquarters of his organization as well as details of his life and extraordinary achievements. Note that the site has limited hours and restrictions on the maximum number of visitors.

10. Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial, Pennsylvania

Size: 0.02 acres

The memorial honoring freedom fighter and engineer Thaddeus (aka Tadeusz) Kościuszko may be the smallest national park site in the country, but it preserves epic tales of war and freedom. Polish-born Kościuszko helped American colonists gain independence from Britain during the Revolutionary War by meticulously designing and fortifying their military defenses. After the war, Kościuszko returned to Poland, and in 1794 he led a failed uprising, unsuccessfully attempting to liberate Poland and Lithuania from Russian occupation. After being seriously injured and imprisoned, he was forced to spend the rest of his life in exile. He lived in a number of countries in his later life, briefly returning to America in 1797. The Philadelphia Memorial is the house where Kościuszko stayed during this second visit to America, years after helping free his countrymen from ‘adoption. Note that this park site has limited hours and is closed in the winter.

* To note: These parks are categorized by total area listed in official National Park Service records; however, one park, Pullman National Monument in Illinois, is not included because its official size (0.40 acres) does not include 12 adjacent state-run acres as part of the overall park experience , which makes the site functionally larger. Additionally, some parks encompass multiple sites that are measured together; the Seattle Unit of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, for example, would be small enough for a spot on this list if measured on its own, but it is measured officially with the total area of ​​the park’s Alaskan units, which together span over 13,000 acres.

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