Standard 2 of the Standards for Rehabilitation states that “The historic character of a property shall be retained and preserved. The removal of historic materials or alterations of features and spaces that characterize a property shall be avoided.” Character refers to all those visual aspects and physical features that comprise the appearance of every historic building and allow it to convey why it is important. Just as with the building exterior, site, and setting, deteriorated character-defining interior spaces, features, and materials should be retained and preserved, and when beyond repair replaced to match, consistent with Standards 5 and 6.
Deteriorated interior spaces, features, and materials need to be evaluated within the context of the specific historic property and why they are significant to determine their relative importance to the property’s overall historic character and, therefore, whether they should be retained and preserved. Some spaces, features, and materials may be too deteriorated to be repaired. Historic character is, however, generally not readily lost through deterioration, and deteriorated historic spaces, features, and materials should generally be replaced to match when they are beyond repair.
In some instances, interior spaces may be so highly deteriorated or altered to convey little to no historic character, and the integrity of a space and its ability to convey its historic associations may be compromised or irretrievably lost. Such spaces may often be more readily altered than other spaces of a property that retain a high degree of integrity. A ballroom heavily damaged in a fire may be so deteriorated that it conveys no or little historic character to a hotel building or may be less important than other similar primary interior spaces in the building that remain more intact. In such cases, it may not be necessary to repair, replace, or even retain the space’s component historic features, depending upon the integrity of the space and the importance of the space and its features to the overall historic character of the property. Replacement features and materials would need to be compatible with the property’s overall historic character.
Conversely, if a property’s other spaces do not retain higher integrity or are of lesser importance to its historic character, a deteriorated space or one that otherwise lacks architectural character may still be sufficiently important that it should be retained and preserved regardless of its condition. For example, the main meeting space in a small fraternal hall or an assembly space expressed in the exterior design of a YWCA building (e.g., with tall windows), even if highly deteriorated, may still be significant to the historic character of the property due to its important associations. A ballroom that was the main or only remaining such space of a hotel may still be important to conveying the historic character of the property, even if the entirety of its features and materials are highly deteriorated and unrepairable, or even irretrievably lost, or the space altered and less intact.
Depending upon the importance and relative integrity of a severely deteriorated space and its features, the space itself may be more important to the building’s historic character to retain and preserve due the space’s historic associations even though its component features and materials may be themselves so highly deteriorated that their integrity is irretrievably lost. In such cases it may be necessary to retain and preserve the overall space, but not its, or all of its, surviving features and materials. Replacement features and materials within the space would still need to be compatible with the property’s historic character.
As with interior spaces, deteriorated interior features and materials need to be evaluated within the context of the specific historic property, whether they are in primary or secondary spaces, and why they are significant to determine their relative importance to the property’s overall historic character and, therefore, whether they should be retained and preserved. Some features and materials, even if in highly deteriorated condition, may be important to the historic character of the property and still convey important historic associations, and therefore must be retained and preserved. In other instances the features and materials may be too deteriorated to be repaired accurately, no longer retain sufficient integrity to convey their historic associations, or be of less importance to the historic character of the property, and therefore may not need to be retained. For example, a surviving section of a deteriorated plaster frieze may be important to the historic character of a parlor in a residence, regardless of the space’s condition, but of lesser importance in a secondary space, and therefore not as important to retain.
Last updated: October 25, 2022