What do Tampa's Kiley Garden, Jacksonville's Haydon Burns Library, Sarasota's Paul Rudolph buildings, and Miami's Stiltsville have in common?
They're all less than 50 years old, yet considered by some to be historically significant.
To be considered eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, a historic property (i.e., building, bridge, park, etc.) should meet several criteria. Generally, a historic property would need to be 50 years old to be considered significant. The 50-year mark does not automatically bestow historical significance, and fifty years is an arbitrary date, but the idea is that five decades will give historians enough perspective to evaluate a property rationally and accurately.
If a building does not meet the criteria set forth by the Secretary of the Interior, then it is not considered significant, and is not considered eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register does provide an "out" for less-than-50-year-old buildings -- the property may be considered eligible if it has "exceptional" significance.
An example of a property in Florida less than 50 years old and listed on the National Register due to exceptional significance is the Cape Canaveral space center.
The most effective protection for historic buildings is often at the local level. Some local governments use the National Register criteria to evaluate significance, yet hesitate to extend preservation protections to properties less than 50 years in age.
The four properties listed above faced this challenge with varying degrees of success. The Kiley Garden is in disarray. Many of the original Stiltsville buildings are gone, and what remains may not be enough to ensure its survival. Debate currently swirls in Sarasota around Riverview High School, designed by Paul Rudolph. Jacksonville declined to grant landmark status to its 1965 modern-style library. A new library has been built downtown, and the city is working on a redevelopment project for the Haydon Burns Library building.