Significance of United States Landmarks

Instructor: Dr. Douglas Hawks

Douglas has two master's degrees (MPA & MBA) and a PhD in Higher Education Administration.

Selecting the best landmarks in the U.S. is difficult--a list of 'places to see' could easily go into the hundreds. But in this lesson, in rapid-fire succession, we'll discuss the history and significance of ten of the most popular U.S. landmarks.

The History of United States Landmarks

The history of the U.S. has a significant impact on the layout of the landmarks in the U.S. With the Northeast being settled 225 years before any substantive migration west of the Mississippi River, historical landmarks are generally on the East Coast, while geographical or architectural landmarks tend to be in the West. We'll start our list not far from where many early immigrants did--at the Statue of Liberty--in our rapid-fire approach to highlighting some of the most significant U.S. landmarks.

Before we start, note that you should not take this as a definitive list of the 'best of' or 'most important' landmarks in the nation. Rather, we will discuss those most commonly cited in top ten lists for U.S. landmarks.

Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France received in 1886 and designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. The purpose of this gift was to celebrate the friendship between the two nations and to symbolize the American dream of freedom. It stands on Liberty Island in New York Harbor and is one of the most recognized landmarks in the world. Sometimes called 'Lady Liberty,' it is often said to be the welcoming face of America to the immigrants coming to the U.S., especially in the early days when they would come via boat and pass the statue on their way to Ellis Island.

Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty

Niagara Falls

In Northwest New York State, you'll find Niagara Falls. On the border between the U.S. and Canada, it actually has three massive falls: American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls. Over 750,000 gallons of water fall every second. Aside from its popularity as a tourist attraction and immense natural beauty, Niagara Falls had great spiritual significance to native peoples, and the falls serve as a source of hydroelectric power for both the U.S. and Canada

9/11 Memorial

The newest landmark on this list is New York City's National September 11 Memorial & Museum, erected to honor the nearly 3,000 people who died in the September 11 attacks. The museum portion contains artifacts from the attacks, such as belongings found in the aftermath. The memorial sits on the World Trade Center site and displays a forest of trees (including the Survivor Tree saved from Ground Zero) with two square pools where the Twin Towers once sat. The names of those lost during the tragedy lines the walls of the pools, an effort to mark the significance of what's considered the country's most devastating tragedy.

White House

In Washington, D.C., we'll find the home of the president: the White House. Much like the abundance of other landmarks throughout D.C., the White House is a symbol of democracy and leadership, and it is a celebration of early U.S. history and government. Since 1800, with the exception of some interesting gaps, the White House has been located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and offers both public and private tours.

White House
White House


The Alamo isn't only a famous landmark--it's also the site of a battle often referenced to remind an underdog there is always a fighting chance. In 1836, when Texas was fighting for independence from Mexico, about 200 Texans at the Alamo Mission held off thousands of Mexican forces for 13 days, before the Texans lost. They won independence a month later, but the Battle of the Alamo is remembered because of the steadfastness of those 200 Texans. The Alamo Mission still stands in San Antonio, Texas.

Gateway Arch

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, is a 630-foot-high arch that spans the Mississippi River and represents the 'Gateway to the West,' or the westward expansion of the United States. Construction started in 1963, so it isn't a historic landmark, per se, but it certainly represents an important time in U.S. history. The Gateway Arch is the tallest arch in the world and the tallest monument in the Western Hemisphere. It also has an observation area accessible by way of tram or elevator, providing a panoramic view of St. Louis.

Mount Rushmore

Established in 1925, Mount Rushmore is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The original idea of carving the likenesses of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt into a mountain originally came from an essay contest won by a college-age student. Fourteen years later, the essay became a landmark. About 3 million tourists each year visit Mount Rushmore, which has been open to visitors since 1941.

Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account