Guidelines for the Treatment of Cultural Landscapes

Defining Landscape Terminology


Preservation Planning

Factors to Consider

Special Requirements

Using the Standards + Guidelines

Organization of the Guidelines


Character-defining feature - a prominent or distinctive aspect, quality, or characteristic of a cultural landscape that contributes significantly to its physical character. Land use patterns, vegetation, furnishings, decorative details and materials may be such features.

Component landscape - A discrete portion of the landscape which can be further subdivided into individual features. The landscape unit may contribute to the significance of a National Register property, such as a farmstead in a rural historic district. In some cases, the landscape unit may be individually eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, such as a rose garden in a large urban park.

Cultural landscape - a geographic area (including both cultural and natural resources and the wildlife or domestic animals therein), associated with a historic event, activity, or person or exhibiting other cultural or aesthetic values. There are four general types of cultural landscapes, not mutually exclusive: historic sites, historic designed landscapes, historic vernacular landscapes, and ethnographic landscapes.

Ethnographic landscape - a landscape containing a variety of natural and cultural resources that associated people define as heritage resources. Examples are contemporary settlements, sacred religious sites, and massive geological structures. Small plant communities, animals, subsistence and ceremonial grounds are often components.

Feature - The smallest element(s) of a landscape that contributes to the significance and that can be the subject of a treatment intervention. Examples include a woodlot, hedge, lawn, specimen plant, allee, house, meadow or open field, fence, wall, earthwork, pond or pool, bollard, orchard, or agricultural terrace.

Historic character - the sum of all visual aspects, features, materials, and spaces associated with a cultural landscape’s history, i.e. the original configuration together with losses and later changes. These qualities are often referred to as character-defining.

Historic designed landscape - a landscape that was consciously designed or laid out by a landscape architect, master gardener, architect, engineer, or horticulturist according to design principles, or an amateur gardener working in a recognized style or tradition. The landscape may be associated with a significant person, trend, or event in landscape architecture; or illustrate an important development in the theory and practice of landscape architecture. Aesthetic values play a significant role in designed landscapes. Examples include parks, campuses, and estates.

Historic vernacular landscape - a landscape that evolved through use by the people whose activities or occupancy shaped it. Through social or cultural attitudes of an individual, a family, or a community, the landscape reflects the physical, biological, and cultural character of everyday lives. Function plays a significant role in vernacular landscapes. This can be a farm complex or a district of historic farmsteads along a river valley. Examples include rural historic districts and agricultural landscapes.

Historic site - a landscape significant for its association with a historic event, activity or person. Examples include battlefields and presidential homes and properties.

Integrity - the authenticity of a property’s historic identity, evinced by the survival of physical characteristics that existed during the property’s historic or prehistoric period. The seven qualities of integrity as defined by the National Register Program are location, setting, feeling, association, design, workmanship, and materials.

Significance - the meaning or value ascribed to a cultural landscape based on the National Register criteria for evaluation. It normally stems from a combination of association and integrity.

Treatment - work carried out to achieve a particular historic preservation goal.

“Fairsted,” in Brookline, Massachusetts, was the home and office of Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., his sons, and his successors from 1883-1979. Olmsted is widely recognized as the founder of the profession of landscape architecture in the United States. As a historic property, Olmsted’s home and office, is associated with the firm’s work, but it is also significant for its landscape which illustrates Olmsted’s suburban design principles. The property was designated a National Historic Landmark on May 23, 1963. (NPS