Heritage Preservation seeks to preserve of our cities’ buildings, properties and artifacts of historical significance, therein protecting our community environments.  Interior furniture; pictures; goods and chattels are associated with the preservation of a historic property, as much as its exterior fixtures, infrastructure, surrounding animal and plant life, and all that is typical of its district or environment.  Buildings and artifacts are evidence of local, state and national heritage.  Actions of historic preservation (1) prevent the destruction of historic building stock; (2) create historic zones, neighborhoods and districts; and (3) campaign for local ordinances that enact and enforce this effect.


Stakeholders in the area of heritage and preservation typically include independent home and property owners, antiquarians, historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, arts and crafts aficionados, as well as a diverse mix of private heritage organizations. Within government, there includes appointed historical commissions and inspectors (appointed or contracted).

Without the full backing of the government, official inspectors and commissions typically have limited power on behalf of the public to identify endangered landmarks, nor to offer purchase from property owners (who have their own rights).


Most preservation starts by independent activists at the city and county level, often times working at large with local groups and moving towards state and federal acknowledgment.  Preservationists…

  • Identify historic buildings, properties, and sites within various neighborhoods and vicinities;
  • Make initial considerations of intrinsic value;
  • Estimate the amount of planning and maintenance to the concern; as well as
  • Undertake or assist with the longtime care and investment that such projects need.
  • Campaign within government for legislation to protect monuments from destruction.


That first step is often before a city or county historic commission.  In turn, that commission can consider, advise and recommend inclusion to a local Historic Resources Inventory (or similar record).

Historic district can be formed if there’s several of such entries designated at a specific area; including a group of buildings, properties or sites that have been officiated by one of the several entities that are of local, state or federal significance.

As such, historic districts are typically diverse, since each entity that applies for preservation may well have different levels of designation as to how it is historically or architecturally recognized and significant to that district.  Furthermore, some designations within the boundaries of a district can be determined as “contributing” entities of historic significance, while others are not.  Both contributing and non-contributing entities make a footprint; therefore, any entity that’s within protected boundaries may well be subject to the ordinances that preserve a district’s all-inclusive integrity and character.

Indeed, a district itself can have various levels of protection, no matter its size or other aspects.  In other words, it can be a local, regional, state or national protectorate.

Beyond city and county inventories of historic sites, the next level of application that is sought by preservationists is at the regional or state level. For example, points of interest can be designated by the California Register of Historical Resources.

Nationally, the United States has a rich tradition of preservation, as established within the United States Department of Interior, under the auspices of the National Park Service.  It federally designates historic districts, as listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The relationship between preservation and conservation  is recognized by the National Park Service, a federal body that oversees both these areas; that is, respectively with concern to building stock  and its sites versus national parks and trails.   The  U.S. Department of Agriculture is the only major, federal land agency that manages numerous forests and grasslands other than the Department of Interior. The  100th anniversary of the National Park Service is recognized as of 25 August 2016.

The elongated process  represents a holistic context by which heritage preservation is established. Once all these prerequisites are made and conform to such standards, they can then be considered as World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  Such designation is typically reserved for what’s truly outstanding and universal to the heritage of all humanity. But, these contextual relationships provide the worldview by which heritage preservationists “Think globally, act locally“.   Often times, preservationists work in concert with ecological conservationists, urban planners, agricultural and foodways advocates, as well as many others to improve, green and preserve a way of life.


The greater amount of preservation and designations to any vicinity, district, city or so on, the more impact it has to that community in a number of ways:

 Preservation is foremost prevention from ruination, neglect, decay, urban blight, abandonment, arson, flight, gentrification, and planned shrinkage.

Rural areas, small towns; and inner-city neighborhoods can sustain and improve their characteristic way of life through historic preservation programs.  A historic designation gives a community stock investment, whereas it serves as a tool for economic development, ensuring the distinguishment of a community from the surrounding blight of mediocrity.  Preservation not only sustains a pleasing and quaint environment, it keeps comfort away from the hustle and bustle.

Modern designs often cannot replicate the success by which heritage preservation establishes a vital district.  Beyond aesthetics and tourism, a well preserved and marketed district provides economic stability; concepts of familiarity; as well as a tried-and-true return on investment.

Neighborhood and business associations can be organized to develop”Main Street” districts that include destination places, tourism and commerce, especially in small and rural town.  In an inner-city, Main Streets  create a sense of place and act as a neighborhood hub, where there’s otherwise immense urban sprawl.

Other examples of rural preservation programs can include agritourism; farm stays; guest ranches; viticultural areas; bed and breakfast, etc.

 Response and adaption to modernization and social change; therein celebrating the heritage of our community, its greater place, plus its diverse population and ecology. Both the  pace and way of life can be ever changing; but, recognizing our heritage and the patterns of social life gives us greater stability and equilibrium; that’s including a more profound sense of self, purpose, esteem and accomplishment.

Surrounding  factors to a building or property are often considered, such as: expansion of roads and highways; automobile traffic congestion; carbon footprint; trains and rail lines; airports; population density and so on.

 Sustainable preservation realizes the relationship between historic building preservation and that of ecological conservation, optimizing its tangible benefits.  In most cases, the most sustainable building is one that is already built. Typically one of the most intrinsic values of a historic building (or site) is its centrality; as that’s  since its designation in our community is already well established in the patterns of culture and lifestyle.

By their very nature, historic buildings reuse existing material and require significantly less new material, except for occasional fix-up, repair and restoration.  Existing buildings make continued use of land while new construction can make a larger footprint by its development of unused land, exploitation of completely new and raw materials, if not the demolition of existing structures and their waste management.  Beyond initial construction, new structures have their own material upkeep,  often times greater than that of historical structures.

Historic garden conservation is a specialized subtype of sustainable preservation, combining with ecological conservation or restoration, therein relating historical and landmark gardens and designed landscapes to a historical building and its property.

 Continuity of historic land use, including its buildings and artifacts, does have marketable and sustainable benefits; whereas, if archeological excavation of a site reveals more profound significance than what’s typically known, then it shall be provided the fidelity to preserve the inviolacy and honor of its environment.  In some cases, this can include the respects of public monuments; forgotten graveyards; foregone battlefields; ancient habitats; native flora, fauna, and subsistence; etc.

 Building restoration describes a particular treatment approach and philosophy within the field of architectural conservation.

According to the U.S. Secretary of Interior’s standards, “Restoration is said as the act or process of accurately depicting the form, features, and character of a property as it appeared at a particular period of time by means of the removal of features from other periods in its history and reconstruction of missing features from the restoration period. The limited and sensitive upgrading of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems and other code-required work to make properties functional is appropriate within a restoration project.”[1]

In the United States restoration is different from preservation (American English, conservation in British English) by allowing the removal of historic materials to create an accurate portrayal of a particular time period, not necessarily the original or final time periods.

In the field of historic preservation, building restoration is the action or process of accurately revealing, recovering or representing the state of a historic building, as it appeared at a particular period in its history, while protecting its heritage value. Restoration work may be performed to reverse decay, or alterations made to the building(s)

Restoration preservationists seek to salvage buildings and properties before they become blighted; therein, preventing the rummaging, looting, destruction of sites, including the brokering of its parts.   If not, restoration and reclamation can become one and the same endeavor.

 Adaptive reuse considers preservation, but with the reuse of an old site or building for purposes that are other than its original design and intention.  This practice employs concepts of land conservation, continuity of use, centrality and the reduction of urban sprawl.

Whether or not there’s transfer of title on properties, preservationists will often consider reuse of older buildings, such as when their original purpose has become outmoded and impractical; nevertheless, they can still be incorporated into new architecture and developments. 

San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square claims that it is considered the first successful adaptive reuse project in the country.  When the chocolate manufacturing operation was sold and transferred out of town, a group locals purchased the property fearing that the building and property would be demolished.  As of 1964, they converted the old factory into unique and fine shops, plus restaurants that featured cuisine with the flavor of San Francisco.

In other examples, brick mill buildings have undergone what’s often called “mill conversion” projects, or industrial factory building conversion.  This has been very popular in the Northeaster United States, where such structures are turned into residential housing, retail shops, office, or non-industrial mixed-use.

In some cases, outdated industrial or commercial zones are converted by municipal re-zoning, including revisions to a city’s overall urban planning agenda.  In turn, if they don’t become historic districts, these districts can become completely gentrified neighborhoods with comprehensive reuse and redesign.  Rezoning allows mixed-use accommodations and redevelopment; the cost of which is typically compensated by increases in the overall costs of living, the generation of sales tax revenue, as well as neighborhood that are re-marketed to middle or upper-class sensibilities.

Examples of re-zoned and gentrified districts include New York City’s Meatpacking District; Philadelphia’s Callowhill; San Francisco SoMa.  In most cases, the districts maintain their historic name, but their use has been completely altered.

A controversy of adaptive reuse is often found between standards of renovation, and what’s often regarded as mere facadism”and reconstruction.  Ultimately, it can be regarded as a compromise between historic preservation and demolition.  Gentrified neighborhoods typically maintain a mere semblance of their original character.

Beyond their surface appearance, structures of adaptive reuse and their historic districts can also be adapted into eco-districts, as well as part of smart and technologically oriented communities.

 Define what is “historic.”  Ancient, historic, modern.  Styles, use, types.


Local preservationists and advocacy groups  are often the first to organize and plan an elongated process that can reach from local to federal and even world designations.

Neighborhood associations and preservationist groups can supply tremendous resources and education to individuals in their community, including:

  • Lists of historic houses and a network of shared interests.
  • Examples and descriptions of architectural styles in your area and their significance
  • Lists of historic businesses (sites, mills, factories, etc.), including their contributions to the local economy and way of life; as well as (sometimes) the names of their owners and place of their homes (often, just as significant).
  • Connections to a broader network, including leadership, education, advocacy, and resources to save America’s diverse historic places and revitalize communities
  • Education on the private ownership of historic properties, as well as the ability to afford to maintain them.
  • Will, trust and estate planning
  • Safeguarding the character-defining elements of your investment, its appreciation as a cultural resource in the city’s inventory, as well as its retained heritage value and extended physical life.