Historic Preservation Basics No. 4

Series introduction. No. 1 = Ideas You Should Not Believe About Historic Preservation. No. 2 = Vocabulary for Translating and Holding Your Own in a Preservation Conversation. No. 3 = Let’s Talk about Architecture / The Very Beginning of Describing Buildings.

No. 4 = Let’s Talk about Buildings A Bit More

Historic Preservation Basics No. 3 introduced a simple outline for learning how to approach a building; how do you talk about the buildings around you? Now you have the basics: number of stories, roof shape, windows, footprint, and then details. The first four are easy; as they say, the devil is in the [architectural] details.

Let’s first establish that architectural details can be structural or aesthetic. Details matter because architectural styles are read through details, shapes, massing, and materials. So, the more you can identify on a building, the more likely you are to clearly match it with a style. (A slight disclaimer: the majority of buildings will fall under more than one architectural style; just be able to support your reasoning.)

If you want to become familiar with architectural styles, pick up a copy of Virginia & Lee McAlester’s A Field Guide to American Houses or another style book. Read it. Mark it. Refer to it constantly. Professionals do it all the time.

Again, I will not write a book here. Instead, let’s look at details. The intent is to train your eye to pull out details and to know where to look.

1. Door/window surrounds

How are the doors and windows accented? How are they set in the building? What surrounds them? Are there columns? Moldings? Arches over the windows? Pediments (think triangles) over the windows?

Madison Heights, VA. June 2008.

This set of double doors is striking, right? It’s a feature that you don’t see everyday or on modern houses, so you know that you want to mention it when talking about the building. Each door has 14 panes of glass over an inset panel. There is a four light/pane transom over the door. You could also mention the screen doors. The molding is hard to see in this photograph, but you can see some detail near the transom, indicating that it’s probably part of the style.

2. Windows

What are the shapes of the windows? Of the window panes? What are the materials?

Burlington, VT. August 2008.

The 1/1 window in this picture is likely a replacement window, based on the materials not the fact that it is 1/1. (Albeit, this replacement is not nearly as bad as white vinyl windows.) The interesting feature about this is the cast iron lintel (above the window) and the cast iron sill.

3. Decorative Details

Different styles will have varying levels of details. To find details, just pick out anything that seems beyond the standard box frame that you would draw for a building. Look for anything that doesn’t seem structural (as in, the house could stand up if it were removed).Note the surfaces and materials of walls and details.

Thousand Island Park, NY. August 2008.

(This house has so much to talk about! But let’s start with the details.) You can see the stickwork in the gable (thanks to the thoughtful painting) and the turned balusters (porch railings) and turned, decorative porch support posts. The porch roof has patterned shingles. The screen door detailing flows with the details.

Shelburne Farms Inn, VT. September 2009.

This image shows false timbering (the stripes in this image between bricks and the stucco, which beckons Tudor style usually). Note the diamond pane windows in the bay and the brackets under the eaves (the overhang of the roof).

4. Roof

Aside from the shape, what are the roofing materials? Is it patterned? Is there anything distinctive about it?

Montpelier, VT. October 2009.

This church steeple has a distinctive patterned slate roof; obviously, you’ll talk about it in your building description.

5. Massing

Another important part of describing buildings involves the massing, or how the elements of the building fit together in terms of scale and proportion. It isn’t always something that you can describe, but something that you can judge. Consider the massive McMansions and how large they are. Then compare them to pre-mid 20th century homes. The massing or scale of the elements of modern homes is exaggerated and often looks wrong.

Burlington, VT. April 2010.

Burlington, VT. April 2010.

Massing, shapes, elements, and sections of the buildings are just one thing to keep in mind. What else can you notice about this pictures? Window size, window panes, roof details? Wall materials? Porch entry? Chimney location?

While this is just a brief overview of talking about buildings, hopefully it gets you thinking the next time you’re looking around your built environment. Once you are comfortable picking out elements of buildings, pick up an architectural style book and start browsing through the styles. You’ll probably find that details such as lots of stickwork or 6/6 windows can help you find the style of and date your building. In addition, construction techniques and interior details can help your categorize and date your building, too. For now, just enjoy the buildings and know that quite often, the details tell the story.

Readers, this was a short list – feel free to add!


Preservation Photos #77

A lone barn in New Haven, VT on a cold, gray March morning. It is waiting for spring, like the rest of us in the north country.

Studying and Evaluating Ranch Houses

As odd as this is for me to admit (again), ranch houses are growing on me. But, let’s clarify here, by ranch houses I mean those carefully designed, not your standard, modern ranch house. Ranch houses have an interesting history, and when considered in context, it is possible to appreciate the ranch house.

Clearly, the folks in Georgia are light years ahead of me in terms of appreciation and study of the ranch house. New South Associates has recently released, The Ranch House in Georgia: Guidelines of Evaluation. It is a beautiful, colorful, fun, thorough and intriguing publication — one that will make you look differently than ranch houses.

The Ranch House in Georgia

The Ranch House in Georgia discusses the context for ranches, their architectural typology, how to identify and categorize ranch houses, and their period of significance. I love it.

As far as I know, 200+ page document is only available as a PDF. If it were a book, I’d buy it!

If you’re interested, here’s the press release from New South Associates:

The Ranch House in Georgia: Guidelines for Evaluation was awarded national public history prize. The Guidelines also received an award from the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Ranch House in Georgia: Guidelines for Evaluation, authored by Mary Beth Reed and Patrick Sullivan and designed by Tracey Fedor, lays the groundwork for the research, survey, and evaluation of the Ranch House in Georgia for preservation professionals. Funded by the Georgia Transmission Corporation, the document is one of the first in the nation focusing on this iconic mid-century house type. The authors collaborated with the Georgia Historic Preservation Division, the Georgia Transmission Corporation, and the Georgia Department of Transportation in the effort, producing a history of the Ranch House, a field guide for its identification, and evaluation tools to assess eligibility to the National Register of Historic Places. Since its release in 2010, the Guidelines has received the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation Service Award and has been named recipient of The National Council on Public History’s 2011 Michael C. Robinson Prize for Historical Analyses that recognizes studies that directly contribute to public policy formation. The Guidelines and Georgia’s approach to Ranch House architecture have also been featured in an article by Dr. Richard Cloues of the Georgia Historic Preservation Division in the Winter 2011 issue of the Recent Past.

New South Associates is a women-owned small business providing cultural resource management services, both nationally and internationally. Incorporated in Georgia in 1988, the firm has grown to include offices in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The firm’s work has been recognized for its ability to integrate studies of sites and structures of the past, with planning and construction for the future. New South Associates is a historic preservation and cultural resources management consultant, providing archaeology, history, architectural history, preservation planning, and public interpretation resources as well as cemetery, geophysical and subsistence studies. To learn more, visit our website at www.newsouthassoc.com or contact Kristen Puckett. Share on Facebook or Twitter.

Historic Preservation Basics No. 3

Series introduction. No. 1 = Ideas You Should Not Believe About Historic Preservation. No. 2 = Vocabulary for Translating and Holding Your Own in a Preservation Conversation.

No. 3 = Let’s Talk about Architecture / The Very Beginning of Describing Buildings

Much of historic preservation has roots in historic architecture. Our built environment is, well, built; and, in order to appreciate and discuss our surroundings, preservationists and others alike use an architectural vocabulary. This vocabulary provides a cohesive literature for reading about, writing about and talking about buildings. These architectural terms are the foundation for how architectural styles are identified, studied, and described. It can be complicated; students spend years studying historic architecture. Entire dictionaries of architectural vocabulary exist, and entire books are devoted to architectural styles.

Keep calm and keep reading: this post will not recreate those dictionaries and books.  This post will guide you as you look at a building, because before you can start classifying buildings, you need to feel confident in looking at the elements.

To look at a building and to identify what you see may seem intimidating. But, you do not need to know every architectural term in the books or every style – not even close. Rather, you can visually find your way around a building with a few categories and lessons on how to talk about what you see. Once you start talking about buildings and noticing their elements and characteristics, you’ll never look at a building the same way, and you’ll gain a greater understanding of your built environment.

Let’s start at the beginning. Buildings are easiest when thought of in largest to smallest elements. For now, let’s stick to the basics. How would you describe the overall look of a house? You can start without knowing any architectural vocabulary. Forget the complicated architectural dictionary; let’s just look at the basic shape, layout, and some details of a building. You’d talk about the number of floors, the siding, the colors, porches, windows, etc., right? And that is close to what preservationists do – we just tweak our colloquial vocab a bit and go into more detail.

Here’s a fairly simple building for practice. Let’s go through a few basic items. I’ll give some short explanations and the answers for this building will be in red. Okay, what do you see?

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, August 2010.

1. How many stories?

A story/floor is a full story. A half-story means that the top floor does not have a full height wall and ceiling.

This red house has 2.5 stories.

2. What is the shape of the house footprint?

Is it a  rectangle? A square? An octagon?

From this angle, it appears to be a rectangular shaped foundation with a smaller rectangular addition.

3. Look at the front of the house – how many windows/doors are on the first floor?

The number of windows and doors = the number of bays.

Click and go to page 3.

There are two windows on either side of the door, so this house has five bays. The side of the house has two bays.

4. What shape is the roof?

Gable, mansard, hipped, pyramidal, shed, flat, gambrel? The easiest and most common roof is the gable — it’s the triangular shaped roof, the kind most of us drew as little kids. Gables can be in the front (front gable) or on the side (side gable). Mansard is the most ornate, and looks like another story rather than a roof. Pyramidal looks like a pyramid, with all roof sides equal. Hipped is almost like pyramidal, but all faces of the roof are not the same length. Shed is one plane on an angle and flat is flat. Gambrel reminds most of us of a barn.

Hopefully that makes sense, but if not … see the image to the right, which is from the District of Columbia Historic Preservation Guidelines: Roofs on Historic Buildings booklet.

This house has a side gable roof. The rear addition has a shed roof.

5. Describe the windows.

Typically windows are hung sashes (one or both sashes slide up and down). The sashes hold panes of glass. How many panes are in the window on the top sash? The bottom sash? As an example, you would describe windows as six-over-one (6/1), meaning the top sash has six panes of glass on the upper sash above the bottom sash, which is a single pane of glass.

You’d have to get up closer, but for the sake this exercise, let’s discuss if they are replacement windows or original windows. Replacement windows, most often, are a single pane. Any pieces (muntins) dividing the sash are simply attached to the window. Historic windows would have individual pieces of glass set into the muntins.

The way a window opens will also help you to describe it: do both sashes move up and down? Does the window swing open? Lift open? Not open? You can guess sometimes, but it is best if you can actually open the window yourself.

If the windows were original, they would be six-over-six. If they are replacement, they are likely one-over-one. Unless the top sash is fixed (in place), these windows are probably double hung (meaning both sashes move up and down). We’ll pretend they are original because they’re more fun to describe — see below.

6. Look at other details of the building that strike you.

Paint colors may help to highlight elements. Are there chimneys? What is the foundation?

This house has cornerboards (the white vertical boards on the edges — and the eaves (the edges of the roof) are white as well). From this angle, there does not appear to be a chimney. The foundation is stone. See that triangle over the door – that’s a pediment.

Alright, number six was just leading you to thinking about more.  Here is the house again. Let’s put these descriptions together – nothing fancy or stylized, just plain. Go down the list.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, August 2010.

This is a 2.5 story, five bay x two bay, side gable building. The main rectangular block has a shed roof addition to the rear. The house sits on a stone foundation. On windows are six-over-six double hung sash.

Alright, that wouldn’t win any description awards — effectively and succinctly describing buildings takes practice, but you have to start somewhere. But before you hone your architectural writing craft, you need to look at a building, pull out the elements, and put them together.

So, there you have it! You just told me what you see in that building. It’s not so bad, right?

Once you have the basic ideas, then you can get into more details. Now you’ll notice that not all houses are boxes, not all roofs are gables, windows can be incredibly detailed. Door frames and window frames come into play. Corner boards, water tables, materials… it’s good stuff.

Go take a walk and tell me what you see.

Next week we’ll add in another level of description — more nuances.

Historic Preservation Basics No. 2

Series introduction. No. 1 = Ideas You Should Not Believe About Historic Preservation.

No. 2 = Vocabulary for Translating and Holding Your Own in a Preservation Conversation.

Every field has its jargon, historic preservation included. Some may be shared with architectural history or planning, for example, but most of the preservation vocabulary has unfamiliar connotations to those who are in other fields. So here is a list of words that will help you to understand and participate in conversations about preservation. Without a doubt, there are many more than I include here, but these represent my most commonly used technical words.

You’ll notice that many of these words tie into the definitions of each other, and many derive from federal regulations. The explanations are

Adverse Effect:

An alteration to the historic resource that will diminish the property’s integrity and its characteristics of integrity that qualify it for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. Usually referenced in discussion with Section 106 and regulatory review.


When discussing context, it often refers to understanding a resource within its historic context (e.g. an art-moderne gas station within its context of roadside architecture and the associated context of the growing United States and automobile industry, etc.). Resources out of context are at risk for losing their significance (e.g. a lone Queen Anne house that was once part of a neighborhood, but now sits lonely among a sea of strip malls). Concerning the National Register, “historic contexts are historical patterns that can be identified through consideration of the history of the property and the history of the surrounding area.” Read more about historic contexts and the NR here.


Listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Typically, such properties are 50 years or older, though that is a guideline, not a rule.


When referencing historic integrity there are seven aspects to evaluate: location, design, setting, workmanship, feeling, association, and materials. Integrity will convey the significance of a property. When integrity is lost, the property is no longer significant, which is why alterations must be carefully reviewed. Read more about integrity from the National Register Bulletins.

National Historic Preservation Act of 1966:

Often abbreviated NHPA or NHPA 1966 (16 USC 470). As explained by the National Trust, this is the “primary federal law governing the preservation of cultural and historic resources in the United States. The law establishes a national preservation program and a system of procedural protections which encourage the identification and protection of cultural and historic resources of national, state, tribal and local significance.”

National Register of Historic Places:

Called the National Register for short, or “NR,” it is the scale for significance — how we know what is important.  The National Park Service clearly explains it as, “The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archeological resources.”

National Trust for Historic Preservation:

Abbreviated NTHP or referred to as the National Trust. From the National Trust “about us” section: “The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a private, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to saving historic places and revitalizing America’s communities. Recipient of the National Humanities Medal, the Trust was founded in 1949 and provides leadership, education, advocacy, and resources to protect the irreplaceable places that tell America’s story. Staff at the Washington, DC, headquarters, six regional offices and 29 historic sites work with the Trust’s 270,000 members and thousands of preservation groups in all 50 states.”


Referring to a property that does not possess historic significance or historic integrity. Not eligible for listing in the National Register.


The maintenance and repair of existing historic materials and retention of a property’s form as it has evolved over time. (Protection and Stabilization have now been consolidated under this treatment.)


Re-creates vanished or non-surviving portions of a property for interpretive purposes.


Acknowledges the need to alter or add to a historic property to meet continuing or changing uses while retaining the property’s historic character as it has evolved over time.


Depicts a property at a particular period of time in its history, while removing evidence of other periods.


Abbreviation for Rehabilitation Investment Tax Credit. Also called the Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit. From the National Trust, “The federal rehabilitation tax credit encourages the preservation and reuse of the nation’s built environment by offering federal tax credits to the owners of historic properties. Since it was enacted in 1976, the tax credit has generated over $50 billion in renovation and revitalization dollars. As a disincentive to demolition, it allows the owner of a historic building to receive an income tax credit of 20% of the amount spent to rehabilitate a certified historic structure. There is also a 10% credit for older, non-historic buildings…To qualify for the 20% rehabilitation credits, a building must be a “certified historic structure.” A certified historic structures is one that is listed individually in the National Register of Historic Places or located in a registered historic district and certified by the Secretary of the Interior as being of historical significance to the district. In addition, the rehabilitation work must qualify as “certified rehabilitation.” A certified rehabilitation is one that is approved by the Secretary of the Interior as consistent with the historic character of the building and, where applicable, with the district in which the building is located. All elements of the project must meet certain standards to ensure that the historic character of the building is preserved in the process of the rehabilitation.

Secretary of the Interior’s Standards:

Sometimes referred to as the Secretary’s Standards or Standards for Treatment of Historic Properties and sometimes Standards for Rehabilitation. The Standards for Rehabilitation are the most common, but there are four sets: preserving, restoring, rehabilitation, and reconstructing. Read all about the Standards for Rehabilitation from the National Park Service. From the National Park Service, “The Standards are neither technical nor prescriptive, but are intended to promote responsible preservation practices that help protect our Nation’s irreplaceable cultural resources. For example, they cannot, in and of themselves, be used to make essential decisions about which features of the historic building should be saved and which can be changed. But once a treatment is selected, the Standards provide philosophical consistency to the work.” These Standards are the benchmark for work on historic properties and for maintaining a property’s significance.

Section 106:

Federal regulations (36 CFR 800) implementing the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. This process determines the effect that a project has on a resource and then seeks ways to avoid, minimize, or mitigate the effects. Section 106 is applicable to all federally funded projects. Read more about Section 106 from the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation.

Section 4f:

Section 4(f) of the DOT Act stipulated that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and other DOT agencies cannot approve the use of land from a significant publicly owned public park, recreation area, wildlife or waterfowl refuge, or any significant historic site unless the following conditions apply: (1) There is no feasible and prudent alternative to the use of land and (2) The action includes all possible planning to minimize harm to the property resulting from use. Read more from the Section 4f interactive training site.

Sense of Place:

Without finding a technical, regulatory related definition, sense of place refers to the feeling of a defined place, whether it be a town, village, landscape, park, etc. Sense of place means that people understand the built environment and how each element ties together. Sense of place gives people pride and connection to their environments, which is an important part of understanding historic preservation. To understand, consider sense of place in reference to a small town or a big city — both have a strong sense of place, usually. But then consider sense of place among highways of strip malls and run down neighborhoods. It’s not there, right?


Abbreviation for State Historic Preservation Office (or Officer, depending on your state). Pronounced S-H-P-O by some or ship-po by others. Established by the NHPA 1966, the SHPO has many roles including: surveying properties across the state in order to determine their significance, nominating properties to the National Register, administering grants, assisting local agencies, conducting and consulting on Section 106 review, reviewing applications for federal investment tax credit projects.


In relation to the National Register, significant means historically significant. In order to be historically significant a property must have high levels of integrity and be significant under one of the criteria for evaluation of the National Register. Local, state, and national levels of significance may be different; i.e. a property may be significant locally (perhaps a barn where defining town events happened) but not nationally (as it would have to be important to the shaping of the nation). In short, when you read significance think historically significant and National Register.


Streetscape refers to the massing of buildings, the street plantings, the physical environment and feel from the ground, from the human experience. It often goes hand-in-hand with view shed.


This is a term often used in analyzing the effects of a projects. Essentially, will the view from or to a property be adversely affected by this change? Often the viewshed contributes greatly to the setting, feeling, and association (integrity!) of property or district. The Wilderness Battlefield case addressed viewshed.


What vocabulary words would you like to add?

And, as a side note, thank you for the very positive response to the beginning of this series. Please let me know what you would like to read! I’m not sure on the length of this series, but for now, I’ll try for Wednesday and Friday posts for a few weeks.

Preservation Photos #76

The harsh Vermont winter has uncovered the historic cobblestone streets under the modern asphalt in Montpelier.

Historic Preservation Basics No. 1

Series introduction.

No. 1 = Ideas You Should Not Believe About Historic Preservation.

As the excellent article, “Misunderstanding Historic Preservation,” by Johanna Hoffman of Next American City, states,

Of all the design disciplines, historic preservation is perhaps the most misunderstood. While it’s widely accepted that architects design our buildings, and planners organize our cities, the role of preservationists merits less appreciation. Popular culture abounds with clichés of the preservation zealot – there’s the gray-haired old lady laying herself down in front of an oncoming bulldozer, the guy dedicated to rescuing decrepit buildings and saving historical artifacts, and the Not-In-My-Back-Yard types preventing economic development at every turn.

The article goes on to address the financial benefits of historic preservation and the alliance with the idea of smart growth, and the emotional value of the existing built environment. It is worth a read, for sure.

But, let’s get back to the discussion for today: ideas you should not believe (i.e. are not true!) about historic preservation. The Los Angeles Conservancy wrote a list of the Top Ten Myths About Historic Preservation, and it has been used over and over by similar organizations. I’m sharing it here because it is worth it and cannot be shared enough. How do I know that? People who know me well still think that historic district ordinances will not let you paint your house. (I guess I have yet to talk paint, because I do talk preservation all of the time… but anyway, I’ll help clear the air here). So here they are:

Myth 1: If a property is designated as a historic landmark, it’s protected forever and can never be demolished.

Actually, National, State, or Local Register status cannot prevent demolition. Designation gives more weight to properties that will be affected by federal and state funded projects, thanks to laws like the National Historic Preservation Act and the Department of Transportation Act of 1966 (Section 106 and Section 4f). Local laws differ, but essentially, nomination ensures that the effect of the project will be considered before any action is taken and adverse effects will be mitigated.

Myth 2: Historic designation will lower my property values.

Quite often, houses in historic districts have higher property values than say, modern suburbia. Why? Because historic neighborhoods were designed to a more human scale and innately people prefer walkable, cozier neighborhoods with character that has developed over time. For actual proof, refer to Maria Gissendanner’s article in the June 2009 newsletter (page 10), “Historic Preservation Makes Common Cents” which is based on a study she wrote for her graduate thesis.

Myth 3: If my property is designated as historic, I won’t be able to change it in any way, and I don’t want my property to become like a museum.

I might call this the biggest myth. Preservation does not prevent change; it manages change. When altering a historic building, the significant features that define the historic integrity must be preserved and/or restored. In the United States, we use the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards. It is best to preserve, but when that is not possible, restoration and replacement may be considered.

And my goodness, you can paint your house whatever colors you’d like. Paint is reversible. A reversible action is often the benchmark for what is allowed or what’s not.  However, I do not claim that every set of ordinances in the country does not mention paint colors. Can someone give me an example of one that does?

Myth 4: Preservation is only for the rich and elite, and for high-style buildings.

Preservation began, back in the nineteenth century, for honoring the wealthy and founding forefathers of our country, but it is far beyond that now. Consider entire neighborhoods that see a revitalization, abandoned mills converted into lofts and businesses, railroad beds turned recreational paths, 1920s gas stations converted into restaurants… the list goes on and on.

Myth 5: Historic preservation is bad for business.

Historic preservation fuels downtown economies, i.e. local economies, which brings more money to communities. Economic revitalization rehabilitates buildings and communities. Donovan Rypkema, the esteemed preservationist, routinely gives lectures and presentations about the economic advantages of preservation. You can find many studies if you want the nitty-gritty details about how preservation helps business. Start at Place Economics.

Myth 6: Preservation is more expensive than new construction.

New construction requires new infrastructure. Existing buildings and neighborhoods and cities have infrastructure already. Historic preservation uses materials and structures already at their location avoiding the cost of manufacturing, shipping, associated fuel charges, etc. Granted, restoration of a place such as Mount Vernon is an expensive endeavor, but on a more common level, preservation is more cost effective. The greenest building is one that is already built, as the National Trust so often proclaims. It’s true.

Myth 7: If I buy a historic property, there’s lots of government money available to help me fix it up.

Sadly, for a homeowner, this is not true. BUT, if you are a business owner and would like to take on a Rehabilitation Investment Tax Credit project, then yes, there is money available. So whether you want to start a business or fix up a rental property there are tax credits available to you (20% usually) if the work complies with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards.

*Correction thanks to Erica’s comment: Some states do offer homeowner tax credits. To see if your state does, read this pdf about state tax credits and find out more from the National Trust.

Myth 8: Old buildings are less safe than new ones.

Yes, historic buildings may need code upgrades, but there are creative ways to do that without compromising historic integrity. Older buildings are stronger than new construction. Consider buildings with 1ft thick brick walls or 1ft hand hewn timbers as opposed to today’s stud framing.

Myth 9: Preservation is an un-American violation of property rights.

As pointed out by the LA Conservancy, your property has more covenants on it if you are part of a Home Owner’s Association or live in one of those gated communities. Historic preservation is not going to prevent you from using a clothesline to air dry your laundry or determine the number of pets you have or make your house look like everyone else’s house on the block.

Myth 10: Preservationists are always fighting new development and only care about the past.

This is a grossly misunderstood statement about the core of historic preservation. We are not fighting new development. Preservationists are managing development to blend well with the existing built and cultural environment. Remember what happened when we didn’t consider the consequences? Urban renewal. Preservationists are working to avoid such catastrophic “planning” events. Preservation hopes to honor heritage and incorporate it into the future, that way people will have an understanding and an appreciation of their world, outside of their modern bubble.

Wow. Talk about vicious rumors. Hopefully I gave each of these myths a fair explanation as to why they are false (many were adapted from those of the LA Conservancy).  The LA Conservancy Top_Ten_Myths document (pdf) would be an excellent resource to print and to use as a reference.

Historic Preservation Basics

Historic preservation is a field that is affects everyone, whether or not it’s obvious, and it is a field that is accessible to anyone who takes the time and interest to employ its benefits. But, there is much more to historic preservation than discussing quality of life and the beauty of historic buildings and making proclamations against WalMart (however fun all of those may be).

Where does someone who does not have training in historic preservation start when s/he needs relevant information? Sure, there are websites of links and National Register bulletins and a Preservation Technical series and Preservation Briefs. But, how about some historic preservation knowledge summarized simply?

Inspired by some friends of mine, who recently asked me about historic design commissions and historic districts and new development, I’m going to write a series of posts that provide accessible information. These will be factual and less tangential than usual, but hopefully still enjoyable and applicable. There are a few scattered throughout Preservation in Pink (such as Old House v. Historic House) and I’ll round up those to create a category of preservation basics. Where the information is from other sources, of course original links and sources will be provided.

Suggestions are more than welcome. What would you like to know about?

The series is here:

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

An old Irish blessing for you today:

May love and laughter light your days,

and warm your heart and home.

May good and faithful friends be yours,

wherever you may roam.

May peace and plenty bless your world

with joy that long endures.

May all life’s passing seasons

bring the best to you and yours!

May you have the luck of the Irish today! Need some Irish architecture? Check out the Buildings of Ireland – National Inventory of Architectural Heritage or the Irish Georgian Society.