Preservation Treatments: 1

The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards are guidelines for responsible preservation approaches. Few projects fall entirely in one zone or another, the standards can often not be perfectly adhered too but they present one with the philosophy of each of four treatment options which should serve as a guide to the preservation project and the roll of preservation in general.

This is the first of 4 Preservation Treatment posts. It is also likely that these posts may be updated in the future with more information, examples, and discussion of each treatment.

Preservation places a high premium on the retention of all historic fabric through conservation, maintenance and repair. It reflects a building’s continuun over time, through successive occupancies, and the respectful changes and alterations that are made. At it’s most minimal, a structure or historic site may be stabilized and necessary repairs to the fabric of the structure made with material that is beyond repair being replaced “in kind”*. In general the Preservation Treatment is the least invasive and often the cheapest of preservation treatments as little or no upgrading, demolition or new material is required or asked for, however, it is not always the right choice of approach.

*Replacing in kind means replicating a historic feature/material with the same materials. It may sometimes seem prudent to use a substitute material, see Preservation Brief 16 for advice and reasoning behind this.

Example 1:
Let’s consider a fairly simple log cabin, built as early as 1810 possibly by Cherokee Indians. It was expanded with a frame structure, less than 20 years later and was the home of a prominent farmer-planter and his family, by the late 1860s, the planter as passed and the wife/daughters made additions across the front and interior remodels to use the home as a boarding house/hotel through the 1930s. The town no longer needing a wayside inn, it was used for various purposes after that—as a law office, doctor’s office and garden center office. At some point in there half of the front porch was enclosed for a waiting room.

This building has had quite a history! The building was only recently out of use and is in good condition. The office space is no longer needed and the town wishes to interpret this building for its contribution and position in the history of the town. Indeed, the way this structure has changed over time is a significant reflection of the town’s evolution and much can be learned about the community simply through this one building. Even standing alone, the story the building itself tells is fascinating. A Preservation Treatment of this building may be a good solution for its preservation, retaining all the additions to the building that have occurred over time, preserving the structure as is. Every effort should be taken to identify, retain, and preserve the historic character and features, and stabilization and repairs following the Secretary of the Interiors Standards for Preservation should be made.

In an extreme situation, even the latest additions to the building—the pine panelling added to the waiting room in 1979, the carpet covering the hardwood floors added in 1995—should be preserved and maintained, it could be argued that they contribute to the building’s story and thus it’s historic character, even if today they are not “old” one day they will be. However, discretion may be used in determining the historic character/integrity of a building and decisions made to remove certain finishes or features.

Also consider that the Preservation Treatment may be used for most of the structure but not all. In this example for instance, the town may desire to put their town museum in part of the building in which case upgrades are likely necessary including climate control, but if they limit the museum aspect to say the front porch waiting room, or the c. 1830 frame addition on the lower level, more invasive rehabilitation work may be necessary there while the rest of the building may still receive the Preservation Treatment.

to come:

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