Guidelines for Preserving Cultural Landscapes


The Approach

Spatial Organization + Land Patterns




Water Features

Structures, Furnishings, + Objects

Special Considerations

Standards for Preservation

Identify, Retain, and Preserve Historic Features and Materials


Identifying, retaining and preserving existing topography. Documenting topographic variation prior to project work, including shape, slope, elevation, aspect, and contour. For example, preparing a topographic survey.

Evaluating and understanding the evolution of a landscape’s topography over time. Using archival resources such as plans and aerial photographs or, in their absence, archeological analysis techniques, to understand the historic topography.

Not Recommended

Executing project work that impacts topography without undertaking a topographic survey.

Executing project work without understanding its impact on historic topographic resources, such as watershed systems.

Stabilize and Protect Deteriorated Historic Features and
Materials as a Preliminary Measure


Stabilizing and protecting topography in a manner that is appropriate to the character of the landform. For example, installing a temporary protective textile over an eroding slope or restricting access to fragile earthworks.

Not Recommended

Allowing unstable topographic conditions to deteriorate without intervention. For example, permitting pedestrian access to further degrade threatened landforms.

Maintain Historic Features and Materials


Maintaining historic topography by use of non-destructive methods and daily, seasonal, and cyclical tasks. This may include cleaning drainage systems, mowing vegetative cover or managing groundhogs.

Not Recommended

Failing to undertake preventive maintenance.

Utilizing maintenance methods which destroy or degrade topography, such as using heavily weighted equipment on steep or vulnerable slopes.

Repair Historic Features and Materials


Repair declining topographic features. For example, re-excavating a silted swale through appropriate regrading or re-establishing an eroding terrace.

Not Recommended

Destroying the shape, slope, elevation aspect, or contour of topography when repair is possible.

Limited Replacement In Kind of Extensively Deteriorated Portions
of Historic Features


Replacing in-kind topographic features where there is extensive deterioration and damage. For example, minor filling and soil rejuvenation in areas of subsidence.

Not Recommended

Utilizing a replacement material that does not match the historic material when the historic material is available. For example, using asphaltic materials to fill in natural sink holes in a turfed or soil area.

[top] The landscape at Drayton Hall in Charleston, South Carolina, reflects seven generations of family ownership. This circular topographic addition along the approach road has been preserved. Future research is now underway to understand its date of introduction and the design intent. (NPS, 1994)


(top, right) To stabilize the earthworks at Fort Fisher in Petersburg, North Carolina, access has now been restricted to the fragile fort. A parking lot and trench area have been removed [see black areas] and stormwater runoff from local roads have been redirected. (NPS, 1989)