The maintenance of your historic building begins with the preservation of the structure in situ. The National Park Service (NPS) has created guidelines, Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, to consider when maintaining, repairing, replacing or adding additions to historic properties. These guidelines are advisory, not regulatory. However, they are often used in the decision-making process associated with historic listings and tax credit opportunities for historic properties at the local and federal level.
If your building is over fifty years old, significant to an event, person or development in history, not yet on the local or national register of historic places but you are interested in finding out more about the process, please visit your State Historic Preservation Office’s website. Below is the list of sites for the mid-Atlantic region:
New Jersey: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/hpo/
If your state is not listed above, check out the National Register for Historic Places for a full listing of SHPOs: https://www.nps.gov/nr/shpolist.htm
If you organization is located in a religiously significant building, visit Partners for Sacred Places for more information on preserving the building and funding opportunities.
Once the building has been preserved and you want to be sure it is not harmed by haphazard construction work in the future a preservation building easement program could be the answer. Check out the National Park Services’ Easement to Protect Historic Properties for more information.
Historic Tax Incentives
For more information on the Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit options, visit the National Park Service’s Tax Incentives website and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Historic Tax Credits website.
Update: The House of Representatives’ tax reform bill which passed on November 16, 2017 eliminates the historic tax credit. The Senate bill which was passed on December 2, 2017 repeals a portion of the program and cuts the remainder in half! For more information visit the National Trust for Historic Preservation‘s advocacy page and the National Housing and Rehabilitation Association website.
For more information on properly preserving architectural features on your building including roofs, windows, doors, gutters, and stairs visit the NPS’s Technical Preservation Services. The Preservation Briefs and Preservation Tech Notes are excellent resources for best practices for architectural building elements.
Another site for the preservation and repair of windows is The Save America’s Windows blog by John Leeke which provides a video series on minor to major window repair work. This video on Sash Spot Painting is helpful for minor repairs. There is also a forum to address organizing a window project, surveying and documenting windows, and window assessment.
In terms of the preservation of the interior of the building, the NPS has a 1988 Preservation Brief 18 that is informative. The Preservation Alliance of Philadelphia also has a great resource, Historic Interiors, for the preservation of historic interiors including the opportunity to have them listed on the local register in Philadelphia. When in doubt contact you local State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO, pronounced shi-po, see below for more information) with any questions you may have concerning the preservation of your building.
In terms of day-to-day maintenance, the Minnesota Historical Society published this Historic Housekeeping Manual in 2000, but its recommendations for a regular schedule of housekeeping, and its instructions for simple, common-sense procedures, are still excellent.
From the Northeast Museum Services Center, here is a series on housekeeping for historic sites.
Wondering what to do with those beautiful but needy historic trees on your property? Check out this video from students in the University of Delaware’s Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture that will give you a few tips on how to care for your historic trees. For more information and for links in this video, download More Information on Historic Trees (pdf).
The Garden Conservancy is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and sharing America’s outstanding gardens. They offer programming on preservation services, garden-study tours, educational programs, and an Open Days Program.
This paper, titled “The Conservation of Historical Gardens in Multidisciplinary Context,” offers a case study on the restoration of an historic garden in Brazil. The paper discusses how conservation of the Burle Marx garden was done across numerous disciplines while also involving and educating residents and tourists.
In addition to preserving the building from future haphazard construction, you may also preserve the landscape with a conservation easement. Visit the Nature Conservancy and the National Conservation Easement Database to learn about the applicability of conservation easements and if it is the right form of preservation for your property.