Overall page navigation start option: INTRODUCTION: What is the Historic Character? STEP ONE: Identify the building's overall visual aspects STEP TWO: Identify the close range visual aspects STEP THREE: Identify the interior visual aspects Introduction to Identify the Historic Character QUIZ
A distance learning site by Technical Preservation Services, National Park Service
What is the Historic Character?
this is a non-navigational graphic This is an image of the interior staircase at the Octagon House, Washington, DC. Photo: HABS Collection, NPS. Walk Through Historic Buildings

That's the question you always need to ask – and answer – before starting to rehabilitate a historic building. If you can identify the visually distinctive materials, features, and spaces prior to work, you are much more likely to preserve them during the work.

WHO SHOULD COME IN? This web site is designed especially for new members of historic preservation commissions, as well as property owners, architects, and developers. Anyone is welcome, of course!

WHAT CAN YOU LEARN? Through illustrated examples, we show you how to weigh the visual impact of proposed changes to the exterior, interior, and site using a 3-step approach. By applying this method to evaluate a historic building from a distance, up close, and inside, you can begin to decide where alterations might reasonably take place – and which visual aspects you need to preserve.

This is an image of the distinctive portico at Villa Lewaro, Irvington-on-Hudson, New York. Photo: HABS Collection, NPS.


Step 1. Identify the building's overall visual aspects, by examining the exterior from afar to understand its distinctive features, and the building site, or landscape.

Step 2. Identify the visual aspects of the exterior at close range by moving up very close to see its materials, craftsmanship and surface finishes.

Step 3. Identify the interior visual aspects – spaces, features and finishes – by going into and through the building.
Let's Begin

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