The Classification of the Cliff Property

So now we’re getting into the nuts and bolts of the National Register Nomination forms. It’s the part of the process that is very important in terms of how the property will be viewed by potential owners/caretakers from now on. Again, this step in the process is seemingly simple and straightforward, but in reality it requires a lot of careful consideration.

For starters, the nomination author must describe the ownership of the property based on the footprint created by its nominated boundaries. In the case of Cliff, there are two different ownership groups involved: the County Road Commission and commercial forestry interests. The choices for ownership are:





The Cliff is in part owned both by “Public-local” and “Private” interests.

The property must also be categorized based on the physical characteristics of it’s built environment. The categories are:

Building(s): This is rather obvious. Houses, barns, churches, basically any standing construction built to house and shelter any form of human activity.

District: This is a specific concentration of sites, buildings, and structures historically or aesthetically linked in plan or development.

Structure: This term is used to distinguish from buildings that were constructed for purposes other than creating human shelter. A bridge, tunnel, earthwork, railroads and paths, grain elevators, and even boats and aircraft fall under this category.

Site: The location of a specific event. It does not need to be a standing construction. It could be ruins or remains that are  prehistoric or historic and possess archaeological value.

Object: These are distinguished from buildings and structures by being primarily artistic in nature, simply constructed, or small in scale. Monuments, statuary, and fountains are all excellent examples of objects.

District: This is a specific concentration of sites, buildings, structures, and objects historically or aesthetically linked in plan or development.

So where does the Cliff property fit in? The site no longer has standing structures on it, thought there are plenty of structural remains. The ruins would at first lean one towards categorizing the property as a site. It even possesses a site number with the State Historic Preservation Office. But, but. but…

There are also objects and other types of structures on the property. The mining waste (rock pile and tailings) are considered structures, while the historic property markers (of which two are still in place—one has been moved and bent along the side of a road) are considered objects. This could all still be considered a Site only, though when one also considers the fact that there is such a diverse collection of resources on the property (and remember, there is an entire underground ‘workscape’ of shafts, drifts, winzes, and stopes beneath the property), a District is the most appropriate classification for Cliff.

The next step in classification is listing the number of contributing and noncontributing resources on the property. If a modern home was located on the property (there isn’t one), that would be listed as a noncontributing resource. All the ruins, mine waste features, and roadways are considered contributing resources. The trick with this is determining at what level does a resource consist of an individual feature or several. The Guidelines give detailed instructions on how to make these determinations, such as counting a continuous site as one resource, even if it may contain several structures/ruins/objects.

Here is where the site number designation given by the State Historic Preservation Office has a different meaning than what is being talked about here. The entirety of the Cliff Mine and Clifton are a site under that SHPO site number. However, Clifton could easily be considered a separate site from the industrial ruins. They have different functions after all, and though linked historically, are separate aesthetically, and tell differing stories about daily life.

This counting is probably the most complicated issue I’ve had to deal with so far in this process, and most likely, everything after this part will be dependent upon the decisions I make regarding how to designate single resources from collections of resources. So for now, I can’t give a hard number. That will likely come out of writing the historical narrative and description of the Cliff and Clifton, which I’ll get to in a couple of weeks.

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About Sean Gohman

Currently a PhD Degree seeking student in the Michigan Tech University's Industrial Heritage and Archaeology program.

One response to “The Classification of the Cliff Property”

  1. Mary Schwoppe says :

    Good Luck! Very interesting and complicated as most things are when dealing with government entities. We are thankful you are keeping on top of all this, in spite of numerous oddities on this historic site.

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