Historic Structure Report Overview


1.0 Imperatives

As appropriate, utilize the following at all stages of Historic Structure Report preparation processes:

National Register Bulletins Relevant to Historic Structures

U.S. Department of the Interior. National Park Service. How to Apply National Register Criteria for Evaluation. Rev. ed. National Register Bulletin 15. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1991.

_____.Researching a Historic Property, by Eleanor O'Donnell. National Register Bulletin 39. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1991.

Partner Publications Relevant to Historic Structures

An Architectural Guidebook to the National Parks: Arizona, New Mexico, Texas by Harvey H. Kaiser Paperback- 240 pages (2003) Gibbs Smith: ISBN: 1-58685-068-7.

An Architectural Guidebook to the National Parks: California, Oregon, Washington by Harvey H. Kaiser Paperback - 280 pages (2002) Gibbs Smith: ISBN: 1-58685-066-0.

Landmarks in the Landscape: Historic Architecture in the National Parks of the West by Harvey H. Kaiser Hardcover - 312 pages (1997) Chronicle Books: ISBN: 0811818543.

Mission 66: Modernism and the National Park Dilemma by Ethan Carr Hardcover - 424 pages (2007) University of Massachusetts Press: ISBN: 978-1-55849-587-6.

Mission 66 Visitor Centers: The History of a Building Type by Sarah Allaback Paperback - 340 pages (2000) Government Printing Office: Stock Number: 024-005-01204-4.

Park and Recreation Structures: Administration and Basic Service Facilities: Recreation and Cultural Facilities: Overnight and Organized Camp by Albert H. Good Hardcover - 613 pages (1999) Princeton Architectural Press: ISBN: 1568981716.

The National Park Architecture Sourcebook by Harvey H. Kaiser Softcover - 600 pages (2008) Princeton Architectural Press: ISBN: 978-1-56898-742-2.


2.0 Historic Structure Report Background

A historic structure report (HSR) provides documentary, graphic, and physical information about a property's history and existing condition. Broadly recognized as an effective part of preservation planning, a HSR also addresses management or owner goals for the use or re-use of the property. It provides a thoughtfully considered argument for selecting the most appropriate approach to treatment, prior to the commencement of work, and outlines a scope of recommended work. The HSR serves as an important guide for all changes made to a historic property during a project-repair, rehabilitation, or restoration-and can also provide information for maintenance procedures. Finally, the HSR records the findings of research and investigation, as well as the processes of physical work, for future researchers.

The HSR is the primary guide to treatment and use of a historic structure and may also be used in managing a prehistoric structure. A separate HSR should be prepared for every major structure managed as a cultural resource. Groups of similar structures or ensembles of small, simple structures may be addressed in a single report. In no case should restoration, reconstruction, or extensive rehabilitation of any structure be undertaken without an approved HSR, Parts 1 and 2.

Multidisciplinary Team
Preparation of a HSR is a multidisciplinary task. For a less complex structure, the project team may include only one or two specialists. For a complex structure, a team may involve historians, architectural historians, archeologists, architects, structural engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, landscape architects, conservators, curators, materials scientists, building code consultants, photographers, and other specialists.

The disciplines involved in preparation of a HSR reflect the key areas or issues to be addressed for the particular structure. The project manager, in consultation with the cultural resource compliance staff, is responsible for assigning specific technical investigation professions according to structure type and research intention, and of coordinating and integrating the information generated by the various disciplines.

An HSR consists of three parts:

  1. Part 1 is a scholarly report documenting the evolution of a historic structure, its current condition, and the causes of its deterioration.
  2. Part 2 presents and evaluates alternative uses and treatments for a historic structure. It identifies major conflicts inherent in the ultimate use (as defined in a GMP), or other related treatments are identified and resolved.
  3. Part 3 compiles information documenting actual treatment.

The HSR in Project Development
The HSR is intended for investigation and recordation of historic properties. With a research aim, it provides insight on the importance and integrity of a historic property, covering original development of the site to existing conditions. Further, it outlines strategies for ongoing preservation that are relevant to current construction and future work, including phased construction. It is valued by management to steer park and project planning actions and resource protection decisions. It should be viewed as a special purpose study to support planning, cultural resource management and design/construction programs. It can be referenced repeatedly and its contents are the basis for progressive decisions that influence and direct architectural and technical solutions. Of necessity it is completed in advance of project planning, design and construction work. Used appropriately, the factual and detailed information and recommendations will inform management on appropriate approaches and treatments for resource conservation.

As an assist to planning, the HSR can influence new projects (construction funding requests) and provide better clarity and understanding (PMIS statements that define construction goals). It cannot replace expected park development processes. Above all, imposition of funding limits and deliverable criteria almost always prevents expanded performance, like decision modeling, value analysis or as a mechanism for conceptual ideas for rehabilitated use. Depend upon the HSR as a background document and a reasoned and researched approach for management of the resource.

In conjunction with design services, the HSR can identify resource sensitivities, provide impact analysis and propose mitigation methods. When necessary, it should pinpoint specialized needs for further investigation and research. As a reconnaissance tool, it focuses design effort toward concise and feasible work alternatives that comply with accepted preservation practice. Although a HSR supports the design process it has limitations and is ineffective at supplying in-depth, technical analysis required for large scale and complex projects. Professional services contracting is best utilized for projects requiring specialized investigations/studies, subject matter experts, non-standard consultation, product and systems research, elaborate alternatives, or a stratified selection process for sorting out wide variances and options.

Expectation for a HSR must be realistic and practical for a successful outcome. It is a custom tool with a special purpose. A manageable project objective is the appropriate measure before commencing a HSR. It is not interchangeable with traditional park planning and design/construction methods. Projects with broad rehabilitation potential, projects with uncertain support, or rare projects needing special analysis/studies are not good HSR candidates.


Last updated: January 29, 2016