Historic Structures and Objects

TVA's public lands are riddled with historic structures and objects, which receive special protection.

A structure or object is considered historic if it is at least 50 years old and meets certain criteria as defined by the National Historic Preservation Act. Here’s what the Act says:

The quality of significance in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering and culture is present in districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects that possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association and:

  • That are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or
  • That are associated with the lives of persons significant in our past; or
  • That embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or
  • That have yielded or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history

A structure or object that meets these criteria would become eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. An application form is filled out and reviewed by the State Historic Preservation Officer, who makes a recommendation to the National Park Service on the validity of the listing. Most of TVA’s dams and hydroelectric plants are eligible for this listing. Certain significant objects or pieces of equipment are also eligible.

TVA has very few other historic structures on its lands; however, there are many eligible structures along its reservoirs and throughout the Tennessee River Valley. These include historic homes, farmsteads, mills, railroad stations, schools and churches. Historic districts are groupings of structures and include downtown business districts, residential districts and rural agricultural districts.

Looting or vandalizing a historic or archaeological site on TVA land is a crime.


The Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (ARPA) makes it illegal to excavate archaeological sites on federal property, which includes TVA land, without a research permit. An individual who does more than $500 worth of damage can be charged with a felony with fines of up to $100,000 and/or 2 years in prison as well as forfeiture of any vehicles or equipment used to commit the violation. If you witness the looting of an archaeological site on TVA land, or see someone using a metal detector, call the TVA Police toll-free at (855) 476-2489.

If you’re in or near Knoxville, call:
(865) 632-3631
(800) 824-3861 toll-free
(865) 632-4318 TDD

If you’re in or near Chattanooga, call:
(423) 751-4005
(800) 548-4005 toll-free
(423) 751-1605 TDD