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[10 on Tuesday] 10 Basic Principles for Rehabbing the Right Way

Posted on: September 25th, 2012 by Emily Potter

 

New feature: The 10 on Tuesday slideshow! Feel free to post it, link it, email it, embed it, and otherwise share it with the world.

A couple weeks ago we defined the preservation term rehabilitate as: “To repair a structure and make it usable again while preserving those portions or features of the property that are historically and culturally significant.”

To successfully rehabilitate a historic building, though, it’s important to know more than just the definition. So this week we’re bringing you 10 basic principles to keep in mind when undertaking a rehabilitation project.

Of course, every project is different and will have different needs and solutions. But this handy reference guide is a great way to get you started.

1. Make every effort to use the building for its original purpose, when possible. But, if you can’t, make sure the new use requires minimal change to the original historic features.

Tip: You might also want to think about ways to recognize, or memorialize, the building’s original function (ex. a special plaque, framed historic photographs, or a small informational sign).

2. Do not destroy distinctive original features. Identify those unique and historic elements that define the building’s character, and make every effort to preserve and protect them. Avoid removing or altering elements that are critical to maintaining the original historic fabric of the building.

3. Recognize all buildings are physical products of their own time and tell a unique story about the people, places, and things surrounding them when they were built. Avoid changes that may create a false sense of historical development.

4. Recognize and respect changes that have taken place over time. Like a patina that is acquired over time, historic properties may change in ways that add to their historic value. Respect and retain those changes to the property that have occurred over time and have gained historic significance in their own right.

5. Treat and preserve distinctive stylistic features or examples of skilled craft work sensitively. Carefully save and preserve the materials, features, finishes, and examples of craftsmanship that characterize the property.

6. Repair rather than replace worn architectural features, whenever possible. And when replacement is necessary, new materials should match the old in design, composition, and color.

Tip: When constructing a replacement, look for physical evidence in and around the property or research historical documents to find out what the original feature looked like.

7. Clean façades using the gentlest methods possible. Avoid sandblasting and other damaging methods. Be especially cautious when using chemical or physical treatments, and always test the materials first.

8. Protect and preserve archeological resources. Keep surrounding archeological areas intact; however, if an area must be disturbed, take every step necessary to mitigate any harm done.

9. Compatible contemporary alterations are acceptable if they do not destroy significant historical or architectural fabric. When making a significant alteration (like a new addition, exterior alteration, or other new construction), be aware of how it will impact the look and feel of the property.

Tip: Find a way to differentiate the new alteration from the old structure, while using compatible and historically accurate materials as much as possible.

10. Build new additions so they can be removed without impairing the underlying structure. This way, if they are removed in the future, the essential historic structure will remain intact.

This may seem like a long list, and trying to follow them all -- or even just a few -- a little (more than a little?) daunting, but they’re intended to help you rehabilitate a historic property in the most accurate and appropriate way possible.

Plus, there are many professionals available to assist you during every phase of your project, from architects and landscapers to researchers and librarians. You can also check with your local or state preservation office for more help.

Tell us about a rehabilitation project you’ve worked on. What were the toughest things to accomplish? How did you solve problems you came up against?

Bonus: For a more detailed list of recommendations, check out the Secretary of Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Emily Potter

Emily Potter is a copywriter at the National Trust. She enjoys writing about places of all kinds, the stories that make them special, and the people who love them enough to save them.

[10 on Tuesday] 10 Common Preservation Terms Defined

Posted on: September 11th, 2012 by Emily Potter 7 Comments

 

As you delve into preservation projects (maybe our 10 on Tuesday posts have inspired you to green your home or use social media to promote your cause), you might find you need a little clarification on common -- and seemingly interchangeable -- preservation terms. We’ve pulled together 10 (surprise!) of the big ones for you here.

1. Preserve: To maintain a site’s existing form through careful maintenance and repair.

2. Conserve: To keep a place in a safe or sound state in such a way as to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect. This often refers to environmental and natural resources.

3. Cultural resource: Broadly, this is evidence of past human activity and includes places like buildings or old roads, battlefields, sacred landscapes, and historic artifacts or objects. They are generally considered non-renewable resources.

4. Reconstruct: To re-create an historic place that has been damaged or destroyed; to erect a new structure resembling the old by using historical, archaeological, or architectural documents.

5. Rehabilitate: To repair a structure and make it usable again while preserving those portions or features of the property that are historically and culturally significant.

6. Remodel: To change a building without regard to its distinctive features or style. This often involves changing the appearance of a structure by removing or covering original details and substituting new materials and forms.

7. Renovate: To repair a structure and make it usable again, without attempting to restore its historic appearance or duplicate original construction methods or materials.

8. Restore: To return a site to its original form and condition as represented by a specified period of time using materials that are as similar as possible to the original ones.

9. Stabilize: To protect a building from deterioration by making it structurally secure, while maintaining its current form.

10. Easement (as it relates to historic preservation): A voluntary legal agreement, typically in the form of a deed, which permanently protects a historic property.

Now it’s time for a pop quiz! Just kidding. We hope this glossary is a handy reference for you going forward.

If you’ve already familiarized yourself with these terms through personal experience, tell us about it -- have you rehabilitated an older home, reconstructed an old barn, or dealt with/put in place easements on a historic property? Also, any other terms you’d like to better understand?

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Emily Potter

Emily Potter is a copywriter at the National Trust. She enjoys writing about places of all kinds, the stories that make them special, and the people who love them enough to save them.

[10 on Tuesday] The Essential Preservation Reading List

Posted on: August 21st, 2012 by Emily Potter 4 Comments

 

We started you off on a reading list in a previous blog post a few weeks ago with a couple of books about how to research the history of your older home.  Today, we’ve put together a few more (10 titles to fit right in for this week’s "10 on Tuesday") for you to take a look at if you’re interested in delving in to the world of historic preservation for the first time or honing your professional skills -- or anything in between.

This list is certainly not comprehensive. In fact, we plan on growing it and would love to hear your recommendations for additions below in the comments.

Head to your local or online bookstore to look for these and other related good reads on preservation. Happy reading!

To Get You Started:

1. Historic Preservation: An Introduction to Its History, Principles, and Practice by Norman Tyler

2. Historic Preservation Technology: A Primer by Robert A. Young

Books to Help You Dig Deeper:

3. The Future of the Past: A Conservation Ethic for Architecture, Urbanism, and Historic Preservation by Steven W. Semes

4. Historic Preservation and the Livable City by Eric W. Allison and Lauren Peters

Putting Preservation into Practice:

5. Housekeeping for Historic Homes and House Museums by Melissa Heaver, edited by Byrd Wood (a National Trust publication)

6. A Richer Heritage: Historic Preservation in the Twenty-First Century by Robert E. Stipe

Some Helpful Guides:

7. A Layperson’s Guide to Preservation Law: Federal, State, and Local Laws Governing Historic Resources by Julia Miller, edited by Byrd Wood (a National Trust publication)

8. What Style Is It?: A Guide to American Architecture by John C. Poppeliers and S. Allen Chambers

9. The Economics of Historic Preservation: A Community Leader’s Guide by Donovan D. Rypkema

10. Sustainable Preservation: Greening Existing Buildings by Jean Carroon

And for a little lighter reading:

From Animal House to Our House: A Love Story by Ron Tanner

At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson

Some of you may remember the National Trust’s Preservation Books collection. While we are temporarily no longer selling these books through PreservationNation.org, you can find a list of titles still available elsewhere on the Internet.

There are so many helpful and comprehensive publications out there for both the historic preservation novice and professional. Please tell us in the comments about other preservation-related books you'd recommend!

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Emily Potter

Emily Potter is a copywriter at the National Trust. She enjoys writing about places of all kinds, the stories that make them special, and the people who love them enough to save them.

[10 on Tuesday] 10 Ways to Research Your Home's History

Posted on: July 31st, 2012 by Emily Potter 6 Comments

 

When we make friends we like to learn about them -- we ask them where they grew up, where they went to school, and when they were born.

Our homes are a lot like that. We spend time with them, value them, and take care of them. So it makes sense that we want to know more about them -- who lived there before, how it’s changed over time, and when it was built.

If only walls could talk, right? Instead, here are 10 ways to uncover the story behind your older or historic home (or any other building you’re interested in):

1. Look closely at your house. Exposed rafters in the attic and bricks in the basement can tell you a lot about how old your house might be. You might find dates or stamps left by the builder; different-sized bricks will tell you that the house was built in different construction cycles.

Tip: Closets are great places to uncover clues like old wallpaper or paint -- certain paper patterns or color-schemes can be traced back to a popular period style.

2. Be your own archaeologist. Scope out your backyard the next time you’re in the garden and look carefully at buried treasure you might find, like old glass bottles or children’s toys. Items like that can tell you a lot about who lived in the house and when.

3. Talk to people. Talk to your neighbors, local business owners, even the mailman. They might be able to tell you who lived in the house before you and remember if any changes have been made to it over time.

4. Explore the neighborhood. Are there other older buildings that look similar? How does your house fit in -- for example, does your house face a different way? It could have been built on land that was once a farm while the rest of your neighborhood was built later.

Tip: If you live near a city, measure the distance to the city center. The farther you are from the original core, the younger your house might be.

5. Learn the history of the area. How old is the city or town you live in? Did any major events take place in the area? (For example: Was it the scene of a battle? Was your home, or any other nearby building, designed by a noted architect?) Answering these questions can offer important clues to your house’s own history.

6. Check your historic district status. If you don’t already know if your house is designated as a historic structure, you can check with your State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) or other local preservation office. They will also be able to tell you whether you live in a historic district.

Tip: Look for properties in your area on the National Register of Historic Places.

7. Research land and property records. A simple deed or title search can tell you who owned the property and when and tax records can tell you how the property has changed over time. Many city or county records offices also have Sanborn fire maps, which can date back as far as the 19th or 20th centuries and show the footprint of your house and layout of the neighborhood.

8. Look up local census data. Census records can tell you more about the lives of previous owners, like the number of children in the house, cost of the home, whether the home had a radio, and more.

Also: Stop by your local public library and look for a city directory -- a precursor to the modern phone book -- which might offer more details on previous occupants.

9. Contact your local historical society and visit your public library. Ask to see old photographs they might have of your house or the surrounding land, historical maps of the area, or newspapers with specific articles that reference history of the local town.

10. Read! There are many books out there to guide you further in your research, such as Nearby History: Exploring the Past Around You by David E. Kyvig and Myron A. Marty; or Discovering the History of Your House and Your Neighborhood by Betsey J. Green. Search your public library or local bookstore for more titles.

You don’t need a master’s degree to learn about the history of your home, public building, or any other place. All you need is a little time, your eyes, ears, and feet … and 10 helpful tips to get you started.

Bonus: Check out the University of Maryland University Library’s webpage on researching historic houses. You’ll find the information there can be applied to places nationwide.

Let us know what you find out!

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Emily Potter

Emily Potter is a copywriter at the National Trust. She enjoys writing about places of all kinds, the stories that make them special, and the people who love them enough to save them.