In response to the loss of many great structures in the 1950′s and 60′s, the federal government passed the Historic Preservation Act of 1966, which created a number of provisions to protect the nation’s cultural resources.  Certainly there are some historic structures which deserve to be treated to the highest degree of preservation (Independence Hall, Mount Vernon, Monticello) but the law’s creators realized that although many buildings and sites can be considered “historic”,  not all of them can  or should be treated to the same degree as the home of our founding fathers.  There needed to be a continuum of ways to treat the operational farms, the  downtown shopping districts, the ruins and the ghost towns. That continuum is are referred to in short-hand as The Treatments.

The Treatments are defined by the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Preservation–essentially there are four ways an historic structure can be treated. Hover your cursor over the underlined word to see an expanded definition.  Click on the underlined to be taken the Technical Preservation Services site.

  1. PRESERVATION: You are Preserving as much of the existing form and fabric as possible but keeping it in a maintainable condition.
  2. REHABILITATION: You are finding a new, but compatible use for an historic structure. You’re retaining as much historic fabric as possible, and making changes that are sympathetic to the character defining features of a building.  Try your hand at determining a structure’s CDF’s by completing this online practice provided by the NPS’ Technical Preservation Services.
  3. RESTORATION: You’re adding or removing features to restore a structure’s appearance to what it looked like at a significant point in its history.  You need to have  strong documentary evidence, such as photographs, drawing and physical clues, to pursue this treatment so to ensure the physical form is historically accurate. If you don’t have that evidence, you’re likely going to preserve the structure’s existing form.
  4. RECONSTRUCTION: Got HABS drawings but no building? You might be able to reconstruct it.  This treatment requires the greatest amount of documentary evidence to recreate a structure and is probably the treatment least likely to happen in a National Park.

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