Begin Here: Introductions & Information forum: FAQs about preservation.

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Feb 22, 2010 6:15 PM CST
Name: Huckleberry
Washington, D.C.
What is historic preservation?

Historic preservation (sometimes known as heritage conservation) is the process of preserving part of a community, from an individual building or part of a building to a whole neighborhood (including objects, roadways, landscapes, and waterways), because of its historical importance.

Historic preservation in the United States tends to be structured more towards preserving things (objects, architecture, monuments, etc) for two reasons. Reason #1 is because of planning and development. Reason #2 for a property oriented preservation system is that all cultural practices (folkways, customs, etc) can (usually) somehow be tied to an object or place that can then tell their story.

Conservation can also sometimes take the definition above, but it more often used to refer to the treatment of materials (see below).


What are the differences between preservation/conservation, rehabilitation, restoration, and reconstruction?

Conservation: the action or process of protecting, maintaining, and/or stabilizing the existing materials, form, and integrity of a historic place or of an individual component, while protecting its heritage value. Conservation can include both short-term and interim measures to protect or stabilize the place, as well as long-term actions to retard deterioration or prevent damage so that the place can be kept serviceable through routine maintenance and minimal repair, rather than extensive replacement and new construction.

Rehabilitation: the action or process of making possible a continuing or compatible contemporary use of a historic place or an individual component, through repair, alterations, and/ or additions, while protecting its heritage value.

Restoration: the action or process of accurately revealing, recovering or representing the state of a historic place or of an individual component, as it appeared at a particular period in its history, while protecting its heritage value.

Reconstruction: is an architectural term meaning returning a damaged building to a known earlier state by the introduction of new materials.


What makes a site historic or worthy of preservation?

In the United States, the National Register of Historic Places uses the following "Criteria" for evaluating the significance of a property. These guidelines, although applied at the Federal level as directed by the National Historic Preservation Act, are also often used at the state and local level, too.

Criteria for Evaluation
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:

A. That are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or

B. That are associated with the lives of significant persons in or past; or

C. 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

D. That have yielded or may be likely to yield, information important in history or prehistory.

In addition to qualifying under one of the above criteria, a site must also posses integrity of location, design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling, and association in order to convey its historic significance.

More on National Register Criteria can be found here.


What is the National Register of Historic Places (or whatever you call it)? Who runs it?

The National Register of Historic Places is the Nation's official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. Authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect our historic and archeological resources. Properties listed in the Register include districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that are significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. The National Register is administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior. There are currently over 85,000 properties listed!


How does this apply to your life? To your home?

Listing on the National Register of Historic Places is primarily honorific. Being listed cannot prevent you from painting your house a certain color, changing the windows, or even tearing it down (unless federal dollars are involved).

Being listed on the National Register CAN, however, make your property eligible for the following benefits :

Consideration in planning for Federal, federally licensed, and federally assisted projects: -- Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires that Federal agencies allow the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation an opportunity to comment on all projects affecting historic properties either listed in or determined eligible for listing in the National Register. The Advisory Council oversees and ensures the consideration of historic properties in the Federal Planning process.

Eligibility for certain tax provisions -- Owners of properties listed in the National Register may be eligible for a 20% investment tax credit for the certified rehabilitation of income-producing certified historic structures such as commercial, industrial, or rental residential buildings. This credit can be combined with a straight-line depreciation period of 27.5 years for residential property and 31.5 years for nonresidential property for the depreciable basis of the rehabilitated building reduced by the amount of the tax credit claimed. Federal tax deductions are also available for charitable contributions for conservation purposes of partial interests in historically important land areas or structures.

Qualification for Federal grants for historic preservation. Owners of private property listed in the National Register are free to maintain, manage, or dispose of their property as they choose provided that no Federal monies are involved.

While listing on the National Register has little sway over how you manage your historic property, there may be state or local preservation laws that do. You should be aware of these before they undertake a project with a historic property and be sure to make contact with your State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), the state agency that oversees historic preservation efforts in your state.

Click here to look up your State Historic Preservation Office!


Do you have questions that are not answered? Contact Huck!

[Last edited Mar 17, 2010 12:18 PM CST]
Quote | Post #66890 (1)

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