Original Martin factory added to National Register of Historic Places

The original Martin Guitar factory in Nazareth, PA has just been listed on The National Register of Historic Places. This is the property known within the company as The North Street plant, located at the intersection of North and Main streets in Nazareth.

The land was purchased in 1857 by C.F. Martin, who built his first large-scale guitar-making facility there when he hung out his shingle. It was in this shop that Martin developed and perfected the X-bracing system for guitar tops that ushered in the era of steel string guitar over the next 50 years. Other luthiers had been using such a bracing scheme beforehand, especially in Germany, but Martin’s focus on it to the exclusion of any other put him at the forefront when the market turned to steel strings in the early 20th century.

As the company grew, this shop was expanded by additions to its initial brick building, and served as their primary site for business operations and instrument making until 1964 when a new plant was opened about a mile away on Sycamore Street. When Martin first opened this North Street plant, it was on the outskirts of town, on an 8-acre plot where they also built a family home.

A designation on the National Register of Historic Places is limited to properties recognized for their significance in American history, architecture, archeology, and culture. They must be at least 50 years old, and have been maintained to look much the same as in years past. Additional criteria apply, such as being tied or related to historic events or persons, or having architectural importance of their own.

This Register is maintained by the US General Services Administration, and currently lists more than 300 properties under this designation, with more being added all the time. 

In addition to the distinction, tax incentives are available to owners for maintaining these places in their original condition.

Cindy McAllister, Director of Intellectual Property and Community Relations for Martin, explained the process they went through to be listed.

“In Pennsylvania, it was necessary for me submit our North St. Complex nomination to a representative of the State Historic Preservation Office (PA SHPO). The SHPO’s role in this process is review and advisory in nature. SHPO staff members review submitted draft nominations to determine whether they meet the criteria for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places; conduct site visits to proposed historic districts; review the adequacy of the nomination and accompanying documentation; and assure that the procedures and standards of the National Register program are met.

Completed nominations are then submitted to the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Board. Letters of support for the North St. Complex nomination were sent to the PA Historic Preservation Board by the Borough of Nazareth, PA State Senator Mario Scavello, U. S. Congressman Matt Cartwright, and U. S. Senator Bob Casey. The Board reviews the nomination, considering whether or not it meets the criteria for evaluation and recommending a level of significance prior to its submittal to the U. S. National Park Service.

The National Park Service completes a final review of nominations and approves qualifying nominations for listing in the National Register. The Martin North Street Complex has been listed in the National Register with a ‘national’ level status.”

These days, Martin uses the North Street Complex as the retail headquarters for their Guitar Maker’s Connection, where shoppers can purchase guitar parts, kits to build their own instrument from Martin parts, luthiery tools, and all sorts of accessories.

Congratulations to Martin for this recognition. Who can doubt that the development of the Martin Guitars in Pennsylvania is of historical importance?

Well done, all!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.