Preservation ABCs: D is for Door

Preservation ABCs is a series that will work its way from A to Z, bringing words into conversation that are relevant to historic preservation, whether it’s an idea, feature or vocabulary term. The idea is to help you see preservation everywhere you look and wherever you go. Enjoy! See previous letters.


D is for Door

D is for Door. This door is on State Street in Montpelier, VT.

Architectural styles are defined by all elements of a building, from siding to windows to shape to massing, ornamentation, details and doors. As much as preservationists discuss the negative effects of window replacements, door replacements are often overlooked, yet just as detrimental. Doors are replaced for a variety of reasons: security, fire codes, new locks, damage, updates, etc. It might seem that one opening of the entire building elevation would not have such an impact of the architectural integrity and the impression of a building, but when you consider the fact that doors are the entrances, the focal points, the main thoroughfare into a building, they begin to have more influence.

Imagine a 19th century house with original windows, clapboard siding and a brand new, vinyl door (the kind with the oval window, for example). The image doesn’t match, does it? Or sidelights and transoms blocked in when the door is changed. Door styles are part of architectural style. The number of panels in doors, the methods of construction, details of hardware, height of the doorknob, type of wood, overall size of the door, type of door surrounds, are all indicative of a particular time period and influence.

Think about historic storefronts with generic metal frames and glass doors, the same doors that you can find in any strip mall. It completely changes the feeling of entering a historic building, aside from the architectural design. When a door is replaced with an incompatible door, the historic integrity and therefore historic significance of a building suffers.

The next time you look at a building, look at the door. What do you think? Original? Replacement? Appropriate? Incompatible? Save the historic doors!