Preservation, Rehabilitation, Restoration, and Reconstruction: Different Treatments for Historic Properties

The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Preservation



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I. There are four treatments defined in the language of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 as amended. These are Preservation, Rehabilitation, Restoration and Reconstruction.

    A. Standards for Preservation

      1. Preservation is defined as the act or process of applying measures necessary to sustain the existing form, integrity, and materials of an historic property. Work, including preliminary measures to protect and stabilize the property, generally focuses upon the ongoing maintenance and repair of historic materials and features rather than extensive replacement and new construction. New exterior additions are not within the scope of this treatment; however, the limited and sensitive upgrading of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems and other code-required work to make properties functional is appropriate within a preservation project.

        a. A property will be used as it was historically, or be given a new use that maximizes the retention of distinctive materials, features, spaces, and spatial relationships. Where a treatment and use have not been identified, a property will be protected and, if necessary, stabilized until additional work may be undertaken.

        b. The historic character of a property will be retained and preserved. The replacement of intact or repairable historic materials or alteration of features, spaces, and spatial relationships that characterize a property will be avoided.

        c. Each property will be recognized as a physical record of its time, place, and use. Work needed to stabilize, consolidate, and conserve existing historic materials and features will be physically and visually compatible, identifiable upon close inspection, and properly documented for future research.

        d. Changes to a property that have acquired historic significance in their own right will be retained and preserved.

        e. Distinctive materials, features, finishes, and construction techniques or examples of craftsmanship that characterize a property will be preserved.

        f. The existing condition of historic features will be evaluated to determine the appropriate level of intervention needed. Where the severity of deterioration requires repair or limited replacement of a distinctive feature, the new material will match the old in composition, design, color, and texture.

        g. Chemical or physical treatments, if appropriate, will be undertaken using the gentlest means possible. Treatments that cause damage to historic materials will not be used.

        h. Archeological resources will be protected and preserved in place. If such resources must be disturbed, mitigation measures will be undertaken.

    B. Standards for Rehabilitation

      1. Rehabilitation is defined as the act or process of making possible a compatible use for a property through repair, alterations, and additions while preserving those portions or features which convey its historical, cultural, or architectural values.

    C. Standards for Restoration

      1. Restoration is defined as the act or process of accurately depicting the form, features, and character of a property as it appeared at a particular period of time by means of the removal of features from other periods in its history and reconstruction of missing features from the restoration period. The limited and sensitive upgrading of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems and other code-required work to make properties functional is appropriate within a restoration project.

        a. A property will be used as it was historically or be given a new use which reflects the property’s restoration period.

        b. Materials and features from the restoration period will be retained and preserved. The removal of materials or alteration of features, spaces, and spatial relationships that characterize the period will not be undertaken.

        c. Each property will be recognized as a physical record of its time, place, and use. Work needed to stabilize, consolidate and conserve materials and features from the restoration period will be physically and visually compatible, identifiable upon close inspection, and properly documented for future research.

        d. Materials, features, spaces, and finishes that characterize other historical periods will be documented prior to their alteration or removal.

        e. Distinctive materials, features, finishes, and construction techniques or examples of craftsmanship that characterize the restoration period will be preserved.

        f. Deteriorated features from the restoration period will be repaired rather than replaced. Where the severity of deterioration requires replacement of a distinctive feature, the new feature will match the old in design, color, texture, and, where possible, materials.

        g. Replacement of missing features from the restoration period will be substantiated by documentary and physical evidence. A false sense of history will not be created by adding conjectural features, features from other properties, or by combining features that never existed together historically.

        h. chemical or physical treatments, if appropriate, will be undertaken using the gentlest means possible. Treatments that cause damage to historic materials will not be used.

        i. Archeological resources affected by a project will be protected and preserved in place. If such resources must be disturbed, mitigation measures will be undertaken.

        j. Designs that were never executed historically will not be constructed.

    D. Standards for Reconstruction

      1. Reconstruction is defined as the act or process of depicting, by means of new construction, the form, features, and detailing of a non-surviving site, landscape, building, structure, or object for the purpose of replicating its appearance at a specific period of time and in its historic location.

        a. Reconstruction will be used to depict vanished or non-surviving portions of a property when documentary and physical evidence is available to permit accurate reconstruction with minimal conjecture, and such reconstruction is essential to the public understanding of the property.

        b. Reconstruction of a landscape, building, structure, or object in its historic location will be preceded by a thorough archeological investigation to identify and evaluate those features and artifacts which are essential to an accurate reconstruction. If such resources must be disturbed, mitigation measures will be undertaken.

        c. Reconstruction will include measures to preserve any remaining historic materials, features, and spatial relationships.

        d. Reconstruction will be based on the accurate duplication of historic features and elements substantiated by documentary or physical evidence rather than on conjectural designs or the availability of different features from other historic properties. A reconstructed property will re-create the appearance of the non-surviving historic property in materials, design, color, and texture.

        e. A reconstruction will be clearly identified as a contemporary re-creation.

        f. Designs that were never executed historically will not be constructed.

II. Applying the Treatments

    A. Preservation as a treatment. When the property’s distinctive materials, features, and spaces are essentially intact and thus convey the historic significance without extensive repair or replacement; when depiction at a particular period of time is not appropriate; and when a continuing or new use does not require additions or extensive alterations, Preservation may be considered as a treatment.

    B. Rehabilitation as a treatment. When repair and replacement of deteriorated features are necessary; when alterations or additions to the property are planned for a new or continued use; and when its depiction at a particular period of time is not appropriate, Rehabilitation may be considered as a treatment.

    C. Restoration as a treatment. When the property’s design, architectural, or historical significance during a particular period of time outweighs the potential loss of extant materials, features, spaces, and finishes that characterize other historical periods; when there is substantial physical and documentary evidence for the work; and when contemporary alterations and additions are not planned, Restoration may be considered as a treatment. Prior to undertaking work, a particular period of time, i.e., the restoration period, should be selected and justified, and a documentation plan for Restoration developed.

    D. Reconstruction as a treatment. When a contemporary depiction is required to understand and interpret a property’s historic value (including the re-creation of missing components in a historic district or site ); when no other property with the same associative value has survived; and when sufficient historical documentation exists to ensure an accurate reproduction, Reconstruction may be considered as a treatment.

III. When the Standards are Regulatory

    A. The Secretary of the Interior is responsible for establishing professional standards and providing advice on the preservation and protection of all cultural resources listed in or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

    B. The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, apply to all proposed development grant-in-aid projects assisted through the National Historic Preservation Fund, and are intended to be applied to a wide variety of resource types, including buildings, sites, structures, objects, and districts. These Standards, revised in 1992, were codified as 36 CFR Part 68 in the July 12, 1995 Federal Register (Vol. 60, No. 133). They replace the 1978 and 1983 versions of 36 CFR 68 entitled “The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Preservation Projects.”

    C. The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties may be used by anyone planning and undertaking work on historic properties, even if grant-in-aid funds are not being sought. Another regulation, 36 CFR 67, focuses on “certified historic structures” as defined by the IRS Code of 1986. The “Standards for Rehabilitation” cited in 36 CFR 67 should always be used when property owners are seeking certification for Federal tax benefits.

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