10 on Tuesday

[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 Twitter Terms Explained, Preservation-Style

Posted on: September 18th, 2012 by Sarah Heffern


“I don’t read your tweets. Everything on Twitter looks like it’s written in some sort of code that only the cool kids understand.”

This statement, made not too long ago by my younger sister, is one I’ve heard echoed by many others, including many colleagues in preservation. Since I’ve spent a couple of weeks making lists of why social media is important to our work and how to find the time to do it, I thought a quick primer on Twitter might be a great next step.

Bonus: This is actually two lists of 10 wrapped into one. Each explanation comes with an example from a local preservationist or preservation organization that’s worth following on your own account!

1. Feed:  The main item you see when you’re logged into your Twitter account. The feed is made up of the latest tweets from the people you follow. The feed for @PresNation looks like this:

@PresNation Twitter Feed

2. Following:
The users whose tweets you have chosen to see. A good way to find new people or organizations is to look at who other preservationists are following; for example, check out who @FHLouisiana (Foundation for Historical Louisiana) tracks on Twitter. You don’t have to follow everyone, of course, but it’s a helpful way to discover like-minded folks.

3. Followers: The people who follow you. There is no requirement to follow everyone who follows you, but if someone looks interesting, by all means, follow them back! Here’s an example of a list of followers from our @PresNationLive account.

4. Tweet:  The message you send out. The maximum length is 140 characters, including links to websites or images. Twitter automatically shortens any link to 20 characters (no matter how long it is!) and you can upload photos from either the Twitter website or its mobile applications.

5. RT:
Short for retweet, which is the term used for sharing a tweet created by someone else. Retweets can be done two ways:

  • Using the retweet button, which sends the entire tweet in its original format to your followers.
  • Using the quote tweet option (alas, only available on mobile applications), which allows you to add a comment before or after before sending.

You may also see MT, rather than RT. This stands for modified tweet, and is used when editing someone else’s tweet: 

 6. @mention: Using someone’s Twitter handle in a tweet so it links back to their account.

7. @reply:
Replying to a person’s question/comment; others' @replies show up in your feed only if you follow both the sender and the receiver. If you'd like your @replies to be visible to all, add a period before the @.

8. #hashtag:
Using a “#” before a word makes it a clickable search term in Twitter. We often use #preservation, #savingplaces, #PresConf, and #builtheritage. If you’re planning a campaign that uses Twitter, such as #SavePrentice, it’s a great idea to come up with a hashtag in advance and do a quick search on Twitter to see if anyone else is using it.

If a hashtag or other term becomes wildly popular, it is said to be trending -- and appears in a box on your main page, to the left of the feed.

Additional note about hashtags: they are also often used to denote a side comment or sarcasm. So, if you see a hashtag like #nerdswithcameras, it’s not really meant to be a search term.

9. Direct message: Twitter’s non-public communication channel. It can be found via the envelope icon on most mobile apps or in the same drop-down menu as settings on the Twitter website. You can only send direct messages to people that follow you.

@PresNation direct message

10. Twitter chat/Tweet chat. A designated time for folks to discuss a topic, using a hashtag to gather all the conversation together. We host one monthly on the #builtheritage hashtag, and @JennWelborn, a public historian, has pulled together a list of other history-related chats on her blog.

Did I miss anything you find incomprehensible about Twitter? Let me know in the comments, and I'll follow up.

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.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the National Trust's social media strategist. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.

[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] 10 Tips for Introducing the Public to Preservation

Posted on: September 4th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment


Written by Dana Saylor

This week's 10 on Tuesday toolkit comes from one busy lady -- Dana Saylor, an active preservationist, historian, genealogist, and artist in Buffalo, NY. We had the pleasure of working with Dana on Buffalo Unscripted in 2011 and have long been in awe of her passion and commitment. Read on to learn her tips for spreading the preservation love throughout your own community.

Dana Saylor (second from right, front) poses with fellow local preservationists at the Lyth Building in Buffalo, NY.

The word "preservation" induces a variety of responses, depending on who you're talking to. Some people feel all warm and fuzzy about saving historic places; others get the sense that a small group of cranky old people wants to obstruct all progress.

If you want to share the concept of preservation -- and get an enthusiastic "How can I help?" response -- you must first engage the public and show them the importance of preservation in our society.

As I plan the event CITY of NIGHT, which will take place September 8 at Buffalo's "Silo City" grain elevators, I have considered ways to encourage everyday citizens to get involved with history and saving our built environment. Here are the approaches I have found to be successful:

1. Start small. Rome wasn't built in a day! You have to start with a "small group of thoughtful, committed citizens" (thank you, Margaret Mead!), make sure they're all on the same page, then build your effort from there. Heck, starting with just yourself is ok, too; sometimes, all it takes is one person to leads the charge.

2. Speak the language. When speaking with potential supporters of your cause, address the aspects of the issue that they will identify with most. This means selecting universal themes that apply to most people. For example, if you are trying to convince your neighborhood to help prevent developers from tearing down historic landmarks that they allowed to become blighted, describe the injustice of uneven codes enforcement. Neighbors will think, "It IS unfair that some rich corporation doesn't get fined for long grass and broken windows, but if I let that happen, I'd be hauled into housing court!"

3. Be a light in the darkness. We live in an oft-times depressing world. Share the exciting and pleasant side of your preservation experiences with people, and they'll respond positively. Try turning negatives such as "This thoughtless company doesn't care about our waterfront history" to "Think about how exciting this place will be when we have tons of people and heritage tourism dollars pouring in!" A shift in your mindset will change the way the public responds to you.

4. Try, try again. If one approach to get the public engaged doesn't work, there's always another way. Maybe you need to reach a younger segment of your audience? Reach out to social media gurus. If your calls for action are falling on deaf ears, maybe you just need to adjust the message. Try a variety of techniques and modes of communication, and you'll reach many more willing supporters.

5. Assign homework. Show volunteers and potential supporters how important they are to you by giving them useful, meaningful tasks. No one wants to show up and realize they have no way to contribute. Make a list of your contacts' skill sets and experiences, and reach out -- even to those who haven't offered to help yet. If you tell them you need them, you'll be surprised at how quickly and ably they'll respond.

6. Celebrate successes. While much of the media demonizes preservation, we who are involved know how important our work is. Gather your crews of assistants, board members, volunteers, and supporters, and celebrate the wins, no matter how small. Group cohesion is essential in improving morale and gaining additional outside support. When new people to the effort learn that it's a fun bonding experience to work on preservation issues, they'll want to be a part of it.

7. Channel the Information Age. Everyone says that the key to a productive and happy life is a good education. And educating the public about current events, especially preservation-related ones, is hugely important. One-on-one communication with friends, neighbors, colleagues and even the media is necessary to gain understanding and support. Keep making small talk and gently share your views to ensure the people in your circles have a grasp on WHY we fight and WHAT we're fighting for.

8. Make it personal. We all share our hopes and dreams with friends and family. If you discuss preservation concepts through the same lens, sometimes it's much more effective at changing people's minds. Talk about what we've lost since you were a kid, what kind of place you envision living in, and what you want the world our children will inherit to look like. You'll immediately find common ground.

9. Pare it down. The complexities surrounding many preservation battles can be incredible. However, if you speak about all of these to a potential supporter, their eyes will glaze over and you could lose them. We all have busy lives. Think about the major points -- things that will really hit home -- and discuss those. Whether you're appearing on the news or talking to the person serving your coffee, this technique will serve you well.

10. Build a community. In Buffalo, there is a strong sense of unity among many in the preservation scene. While we all have our own methods and approaches, we understand that we're fighting for the same things in the long run. Those who find themselves (intentionally or not) in leadership roles must build consensus and community among their ranks. Reward volunteers with praise. Try hard to set aside your ego. And keep remembering the reasons why you do what you do. It will speak volumes to the public and they'll want to be a part of preserving our shared experience.

What have you learned about engaging and teaching others about preservation? Share your tips in the comments.

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.


If there’s one thing I hear regularly from historic sites, small preservation groups, and other people working to save places, it’s “I’d love to do social media, but I don’t have time!”

And I get that, really I do, because even though now my entire job is working with social media, that was not always the case. I’ve spent many years with Facebook, Twitter, and other channels (remember MySpace?) as sideline work, sandwiched in between other responsibilities.

So, when I say you can build and maintain an engaging social media presence with just a small window of time each day, I promise it's tried and true. Here's how:

1. Plan, plan, plan. Yes, crafting a plan can’t be accomplished in a half hour a day, but a little extra time before you get started will make daily maintenance much faster. Check out this handy 101-guide to setting up a conversation calendar -- or, here’s an infographic, if you’re more visually inclined.

2. Keep a list of resources. You may not always be able to answer questions -- or be the right person to respond -- so as part of your plan, make a quick cheat sheet of resources. I’d recommend keeping basic social info (website URL, Facebook page, Twitter handle) on hand for local and statewide preservation organizations, local government agencies involved with preservation, and your State Historic Preservation Office. If you find you’re sharing the same info -- like a tip sheet, for example -- over and over, save it somewhere you can get to it easily, like Evernote.

3. Don’t try to be everywhere. As I mentioned in my post about getting started with social a few weeks back, it’s better to have one or two strong social channels than a bunch of semi-dormant ones. This kind of focus is especially important if your time is limited.

4. Make it a habit. Because social media works best when it’s a two-way conversation, be sure to participate regularly. Even if you can only engage briefly, you’ll build a following faster if people know you’re reliable.

5. Set a timer. It can be all too easy to fall down the rabbit hole with social media, so set yourself a time limit and stick to it. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done in even 15 concentrated minutes.

6. Talk about what you’re already doing. A lot of the resistance I hear to participating in social is around having to “create” one more thing. Don’t -- there’s no need. Social media works best when it’s immediate and real, so talk about what’s already going on. Tweet a photo of a cool building you see on the way to work and ask your followers to do the same. Share a news clipping about an ongoing project and ask your fans to share their opinions.

7. Let Google help you. Not sure how you’ll know when there’s a news clip about your work or an interesting preservation story on a local blog? Google has terrific -- and free! -- tools to make this easy. You can subscribe to blogs using Google Reader and stalk your own projects by creating Google Alerts, which you can have emailed to you or added to your Google Reader account. And Google even makes it easy to share directly to Facebook or Twitter from Reader.

8. Let your fans/friends/partners help you. Follow/friend people who are involved in projects in your community and look at what information they’re putting out. Re-tweet or share interesting things that you see, follow their hashtags for more leads, etc. And let your community talk among themselves -- keep your Facebook wall open to posts and comments from fans. We’ve found that questions often get answered a lot faster from “the peanut gallery” on our Facebook page than we can get to them.

9. Use free scheduling tools. Facebook lets you time your posts in advance, so users with limited time can pre-load their big stories, and then use the rest of their time to answer questions/engage with users. Likewise, a tool like HootSuite can be helpful for pre-scheduling tweets so your account isn’t a once-daily “data dump” as you share articles, photos, etc. in your designated time frame.

10. Make it simple for people to connect with you. It’s easy to lose enthusiasm for social media if there’s no conversation going on, and it’s easy to blame “no time to do it right” when that happens. Making it simple for people to connect with you -- by linking to your social channel(s) on your website, business cards, and email signature -- can expedite the community building that makes social fun (and useful)!

What tips about social media time management have you picked up in your travels? Share them with us in the comments!

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.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the National Trust's social media strategist. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.

[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.