PUTTING HISTORIC LANDSCAPE PRESERVATION ON SOLID GROUND
AN INTRODUCTION TO
HISTORIC LANDSCAPE PRESERVATION
Historic landscapes are places that, through their physical characteristics and features, reflect the interaction of human beings with the environment. They may be associated with a historically significant activity, event or person, or otherwise manifest the values or traditions of a culture. Sometimes called cultural landscapes or heritage landscapes, historic landscapes often incorporate both natural resources, such as vegetation, bodies of water and topographical characteristics, and human-made features, such as buildings, monuments and path systems. Ranging in size from a small plot to thousands of acres, historic landscapes may be the setting for an important building or might be significant in their own right. Some historic landscapes are easily identified while others are less obvious — so subtle that you might not notice them until they are gone.
Due to their dynamic nature, historic landscapes present complex preservation challenges: the trees and shrubs in a designed garden grow, mature and eventually die; gravel paths winding through a town park become compacted and their edges erode; grave markers in an ancient burial ground wear over time. As with buildings, it is generally preferable to retain as much of the original fabric of a historic landscape as possible, but change is inevitable and historic landscape elements may be lost through the years. Careful planning and the implementation of appropriate preservation tools can help identify historically significant landscape characteristics, develop a preservation treatment approach and decrease the rate of deterioration. Through the preservation of the property’s essential elements and sensitive adaptation, the overall character and integrity of a landscape can be retained.
This issue of Terra Firma is intended to assist readers in the identification of historic landscapes and to provide an overview of tools for preserving these significant places. Resources that offer further guidance are noted throughout the text and on the back cover.