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Demolition of the former Penn Station concourse raised public awareness about preservation
Historic preservation or heritage conservation is a professional endeavor that seeks to preserve, conserve and protect buildings, objects, landscapes or other artifacts of historic significance. Other names for the discipline include urban conservation, landscape preservation, built environment conservation, built heritage conservation, object conservation, and immovable object conservation; however, historic preservation is generally used in reference to activities in the United States and Canada.

As used by practitioners of the endeavor, "historic preservation" tends to refer to the preservation of the built environment, and not to preservation of, for example, primeval forests or wilderness.


In England, Antiquarian interests were a familiar gentleman's pursuit since the mid 17th century, developing in tandem with the rise in scientific curiosity. Fellows of the Royal Society were often also Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries . The UK's Ancient Monuments Act of 1913 officially preserved certain decayed and obsolete structures of intrinsic historical and associative interest, just as Modernism was lending moral authority to destruction of the built heritage in the name of progress. The UK's National Trust began with the preservation of historic houses and has steadily increased its scope. In the UK's subsequent Town and Country Planning Act 1944, and the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, steps were taken toward historic preservation on an unprecedented scale. Concern about the demolition of historic buildings arose in institutions such as the pressure group The Society for the Preservation of Historic Buildings, which appealed against demolition and neglect on a case by case basis.

In The United States one of the first historic preservation efforts was theWashington's Headquarters State Historic Sitemarker, in Newburgh, New Yorkmarker. It was the first-ever property designated as a historic site by a U.S. state.Another early Historic Preservation undertaking was that of George Washington's Mount Vernonmarker in 1858. Founded in 1889, the Richmond, Virginia-based Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities was the United States' first statewide historic preservation group.The architectural firm of Simons & Lapham (Albert Simons and Samuel Lapham) was influential in creating the first historic presrvation ordinance in Charleston, South Carolinamarker in 1930. The Vieux Carre (French Quartermarker in New Orleansmarker was the second historic preservation ordinance.

The US National Trust for Historic Preservation, another privately funded non-profit organization, began in 1949 with a handful of privileged structures and has developed goals that provide "leadership, education, advocacy, and resources to save America's diverse historic places and revitalize our communities" according to the Trust's mission statement. In 1951 the Trust assumed responsibility for its first museum property, Woodlawn Plantationmarker in northern Virginia. Twenty-eight sites in all have subsequently become part of the National Trust, representing the cultural diversity of American history. In New York City, the destruction of Pennsylvania Stationmarker in 1964 shocked many nationwide into supporting preservation. On an international level, the New York-based World Monuments Fund was founded in 1965 to preserve historic sites all over the world.

Under the direction of James Marston Fitch, the first advanced-degree historic preservation program began at Columbia University in 1964. It became the model on which most other graduate historic preservation programs were created. Many other programs were to follow before 1980: M.A. in Preservation Planning from Cornell (1975); M.S. in Historic Preservation from the University of Vermontmarker (1975); M.S. in Historic Preservation Studies from Boston Universitymarker (1976); M.S. in Historic Preservation from Eastern Michigan Universitymarker (1979) and M.F.A. in Historic Preservation was one of the original programs at Savannah College of Art & Design. The M.Sc. in Building Conservation degree program is offered by the School of Architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institutemarker in Troy, New York. The first undergraduate programs (B.A.) appeared in 1977 from Goucher Collegemarker and Roger Williams College, followed by Mary Washington College in 1979. Today there are three community colleges that offer an Associates Degree in Historic Preservation; Colorado Mountain College in Leadville Colorado, College of the Redwoods in Eureka California, and Belmont Technical College in St. Clairsville Ohio.

Historic districts

1848 Duncan House, Cooksville Historic District, Wisconsin
A historic district in the United Statesmarker is a group of buildings, properties or sites that have been designated by one of several entities on different levels as historically or architecturally significant. Buildings, structures, objects and sites within a historic district are normally divided into two categories, contributing and non-contributing. Districts greatly vary in size, some having hundreds of structures while others have just a few.

The U.S. federal government designates historic districts through the U.S.marker Department of Interiormarker, under the auspices of the National Park Service. Federally designated historic districts are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Historic districts allows rural areas to preserve their characters through historic preservation programs. These include "Main Street" programs that can be used to redevelop rural downtowns. Using historic preservation programs as an economic development tool for local governments in rural areas has enabled some of those areas to take advantage of their history and develop a tourism market that in turn provides funds for maintaining an economic stability that these areas would not have seen otherwise.

A similar concept exists in the United Kingdom: a Conservation area is designated in accordance with the Planning Act 1990 in order to protect a zone in which there are buildings of architectural or cultural heritage interest.

Historic parks

The department of the interior designated several areas of Morristown, New Jerseymarker as the first historic park in the United States national park system. It became designated as the Morristown National Historical Parkmarker. [98150] The community had permanent settlements that date to 1715, is termed the military capital of the American Revolution, and contains many designations of sites and locations. The park includes three major sites in Morristown.

Preserving historic landscapes

The United States led the world in the creation of National Parks, areas of unspoiled natural wilderness, where the intrusion of civilization are intentionally minimal.

In addition to preserving the natural heritage, the U.S. Park Service also maintains the National Register of Historic Places to recognize significant buildings and places, including historic parks, battlefields, National Historic Landmarks, memorials and monuments.

Landscapes and sites of outstanding universal value can be designated as World Heritage Sites. A requirement of such designation is that the designating nation has appropriate legislation in place to preserve them.

Heritage conservation in Canada

In Canadamarker, the phrase “heritage preservation” is sometimes seen as a specific approach to the treatment of historic places and sites, rather than a general concept of conservation. “Conservation” is taken as the more general term, referring to all actions or processes that are aimed at safeguarding the character-defining elements of a cultural resource so as to retain its heritage value and extend its physical life.

Historic objects Canadamarker may be granted special designation by any of the three levels of government: the federal government, the provincial governments, or a municipal government.The Heritage Canada Foundation acts as Canada's lead advocacy organization for heritage buildings and landscapes.

Federal level

The most obvious way the federal government becomes involved with heritage conservation is through the National Historic Sites of Canada. Plaques are erected by Parks Canada and the site is listed in the Directory of Designations of National Historic Significance of Canada. Only National Historic Sites commemorate buildings, there are also plaques for National Historic People and National Historic Events. However National Historic Site designation provides no legal protection for the buildings on the site. Heritage management of federal buildings is handled by guidelines from the Federal Heritage Building Review Office. These guidelines are often ignored by other federal departments and has led to calls by groups such as the Heritage Canada Foundation for legislation to protect federal buildings. The only other direct protection provided to buildings by the federal government are that of "Heritage Railway Stations" (because railways are federally regulated). and "Heritage Lighthouses", through the Act to Protect Heritage Lighthouses. passed in 2008.


Each provincial government has distinct systems and approaches to heritage conservation. They may delegate the authority to preserve historic buildings to municipalities, and / or have a provincial heritage register.

For example in the province of Albertamarker, only sites owned by the provincial government and run as a fuctioning historic site or museum are known as Provincial Historic Sites or Provincial Historic Areas. Buildings and sites owned by private citizens and companies or other levels or branches of government may gain one of two levels of historic designation, "Registered Historic Resource" or "Provincial Historic Resource".. Historic designation in Alberta is governed by the Historic Resources Act.. The province also lists buildings deemed historically significant by municipal governments on the Alberta Register of Historic Places, which is also part of the larger Canadian Register of Historic Places although this does not imply provincial or federal government status or protection. To supplement this system, the province also run the Alberta Main Street Program which helps to preserve historic buildings in the downtowns of smaller communities. The baisis for the preservation system in Alberta is the Heritage Survey Program, which is a survey of 80,000 historic buildings in Alberta which lack a protected status but are documented for possible future protection.

In Quebecmarker, the Conseil du patrimoine religieux du Québec is a non-profit organization created in 1995 to promote the conservation of churches and other religious heritage buildings in the province.


Cities, towns, counties and other local governments in Canada may use zoning and other bylaws to restrict the demolition of individual historic buildings or districts. They may maintain a municipal hertiage register, such as Edmontonmarker's "Register of Historic Resources in Edmonton". The city of Vancouvermarker uses a traditional heritage register and a new system called a density bank, under which developers are rewarded for preserving and restoring heritage buildings by being awarded expections to restrictions (usually height restrictions) on other sites they own.

In Montrealmarker, one of Canada's oldest and most historically rich cities, the Le Conseil du patrimoine de Montréal advises the municipal government on matters related to heritage building preservation. A pair of non-governmental groups have worked to preserve Montreal historic buildings since the 1970s: Save Montreal, co-founded by Michael Fish in 1974, and Heritage Montreal, founded by Phyllis Lambert two years later. In October 2009, Lambert, Heritage Montreal and others formed a think tank called the Institut de politiques alternatives de Montréal to advise the city on a range of matters including urban planning, development and heritage.

Government approach to policy

Two of the primary conservation tools in Canada's Historic Places Initiative are the Canadian Register of Historic Places and the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada. This document was the result of a major collaborative effort among federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments, heritage conservation professionals, heritage developers and many individual Canadians. A pan–Canadian collaboration, it is intended to reinforce the development of a culture of conservation in Canada, which will continue to find a unique expression in each of the jurisdictions and regions of the country. In the document, conservation approaches are broken down into three categories: Preservation, Rehabilitation, and Restoration. As published in the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada, these conservation approaches are defined as follows:
Preservation: the action or process of protecting, maintaining, and/or stabilizing the existing materials, form, and integrity of a historic place or of an individual component, while protecting its heritage value. Preservation can include both short-term and interim measures to protect or stabilize the place, as well as long-term actions to retard deterioration or prevent damage so that the place can be kept serviceable through routine maintenance and minimal repair, rather than extensive replacement and new construction.
Rehabilitation: the action or process of making possible a continuing or compatible contemporary use of a historic place or an individual component, through repair, alterations, and/ or additions, while protecting its heritage value.
Restoration: the action or process of accurately revealing, recovering or representing the state of a historic place or of an individual component, as it appeared at a particular period in its history, while protecting its heritage value.

Influential people

  • Ann Pamela Cunningham: saved Mount Vernon marker from demolition and created the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association.
  • James Marston Fitch: educator, author, critic and design practitioner made a major contribution to the philosophical basis of the modern preservation movement and trained and inspired generations of preservationists.
  • William Morris: founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.
  • W. Brown Morton: Author of "The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation and Illustrated Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings".
  • William J. Murtagh: first Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places in the United States and significant contributor to the literature of the discipline [98151]
  • Lee H. Nelson: worked for Charles E. Peterson at the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey and helped to formulate national policies on historic preservation.
  • Charles E. Peterson: considered to be the "founding father" of historic preservation in the United States.
  • John Ruskin: established the basic theory of preservation (retention of status quo).
  • Eugène Viollet-le-Duc: well known French architect that restored Gothic buildings; believed that restoration could improve on the past—especially with the introduction of modern technology.
  • Walter Muir Whitehill: Chair of the Whitehill Report in the late 1960s which established the first guidelines for higher-ed historic preservation programs.
  • Alvin Wiederspahn: Attorney in Cheyennemarker who led the move to preserve the historic district in the Wyomingmarker capital city


Although volunteers continue to play a large role in historic preservation activities, the field has seen an increased level of professionalization. Today, there are many career options in historic preservation in the public, non-profit, and private sectors. Institutes of secondary education (universities, colleges, etc.) in the United States offer both certificate and degree (A.A.S, B.A., B.F.A., B.S., M.A., M.F.A., M.S., and PhD) programs in historic preservation. Some students—at schools with such programs available—choose to enroll in "joint degree" programs, earning a degree in historic preservation along with one in another, related subject, often an MArch, MUP or JD degree.

Possible career fields include:
  • Architectural Conservator (Focus specifically on the physical conservation of building materials. Most hold degrees in chemistry or materials science.)
  • Architectural Historian/Historian (Primarily researches and writes statements expressing the historical significance of sites.)
  • Historic Preservation Planner (Most are employed by local, county, state, or Federal government planning agencies to administer tax abatement programs, ensure compliance with local ordinances and state and Federal legislation, and conduct design reviews to ensure that proposed projects will not harm historic and archaeological resources. At the state level, they are known as a State Historic Preservation Officer while at other levels of government they may be known as a Federal or Tribal Historic Preservation Officer. Some may also serve as consultants to local governments, conducting Section 106 reviews in accordance with the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.)
  • Preservation Architect (Design and develop architectural conservation plans and work specifications in consultation with Engineers, Historians, and Planners, ensuring compliance with local design guidelines to protect sensitive historic building fabric. Most are employed by private architecture firms though some find work with government agencies.)
  • Preservation Engineer (Work with Architects to devise conservation solutions of a structural or material -specific nature. Most are employed by private architecture and/or engineering firms.)
  • Public Historian and Resource interpreters (Most are employed by government agencies and private foundations to interpret the significance of historic resources for the general public.)
  • Historic Site Administrator
  • Non-profit Sector Careers (Engage in a variety of activities concerned with historic preservation advocacy, easements, and private foundations at the local, regional, statewide, or national levels.)
  • Preservation Craftsperson/Traditional Trades Practitioner (Employ knowledge of traditional building techniques and contemporary conservation technologies to complete the conservation, repair, or restoration of historic buildings.)

Professional Organizations:


There actually are many people who are hostile to this movement. Chief among them are many LEED, futurists, technophiles, postmodernists, developers, downsizers, and minimalists who feel that it warps natural market and societial forces when people try to save something old; that it is inefficient, wasteful, and/or gets in the way of progress. Some even equate it with socialism, parochialism, and especially Ludditism.

See also


  1. Maryland Association of Historic District Commissions, Handbook (1997).
  2. Society for the Preservation of Historic Buildings
  3. Lea, Diane. "America's Preservation Ethos: A Tribute to Enduring Ideals." A Richer Heritage: Historic Preservation in the Twenty-First Century. ed. Robert Stipe. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003. p.2
  4. (accessed 15 August 2008 )
  5. Blevins, Documentation of the Architecture of the Architecture of Samuel Lapham and the Firm of Simons & Lapham, Masters of Fine Arts in Historic Preservation Thesis, Savannah College of Art & Design, 2001
  6. Murtagh, William J. Keeping Time: The History and Theory of Preservation in America. New York: Sterling Publishing, Co., 1997.
  7. Michael Tomlan. "Historic Preservation Education: Alongside Architecture in Academia." Journal of Architectural Education, Vol. 47, No. 4. (1994): 187-196.
  8. --~~~~
  9. Preservation News (Oct 1, 1979)
  10. Federal, State and Local Historic Districts, TOOLBOX, FAQ, National Park Service. Retrieved 19 February 2007
  11. Stenberg, Peter L. (October 1995). “Historic Preservation as Part of Downtown Redevelopment.” Rural Development Perspectives, Vol. 11, no.1, pp. 16-21. Washington, DC : Economic Research Service. Retrieved December 30, 2008.
  12. John, Patricia LaCaille (July 2008). “Historic Preservation Resources.” Rural Information Center Publication Series no. 62. National Agricultural Library. Rural Information Center. Retrieved December 30, 2008.
  13. Parks Canada - National Historic Sites
  14. Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada - Heritage Railway Stations - List of designated stations in Alberta
  15. Alberta Culture and Community Spirit - Historic Resources Management - Historic Places Stewardship Section - Alberta's Historic Places Designation Program
  16. Alberta Queen's Printer
  17. Alberta Culture and Community Spirit - Historic Resources Management - Historic Places Stewardship Section - Alberta's Historic Places Designation Program - Municipal Historic Resource Designation
  18. The Alberta Main Street Program
  19. Alberta Culture and Community Spirit - Historic Resources Management - Historic Places Stewardship Section - Heritage Survey Program
  20. City of Edmonton
  23. Gravenor, Kristian (October 23, 2003). " The museum that is Montreal", Montreal Mirror 19 (19). Retrieved on 2009-02-11.
  24. Standards and Guidelines - Definitions of Some Key Terms, Canada's Historic Places. Retrieved 30 March 2007.
  25. National Council for Preservation Education - Academic Programs in Historic Preservation


  • Fitch, James Marston. Historic Preservation: Curatorial Management of the Built World. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1990.
  • Jokilehto, Jukka. A History of Architectural Conservation. Oxford, UK: Butterwort/Heinemann, 1999.
  • Munoz Vinas, Salvador. Contemporary Theory of Conservation. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Butterworth Heinemann, 2005.
  • Page, Max & Randall Mason (eds.). Giving Preservation a History. New York: Routledge, 2004.
  • Price, Nicholas Stanley et al. (eds.). Historical and Philosophical Issues in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage. Los Angeles: The Getty Conservation Institute, 1996.
  • Ruskin, John. The Seven Lamps of Architecture. New York: Dover Publications, 1989. Originally published, 1880. Important for preservation theory introduced in the section, "The Lamp of Memory."
  • Stipe, Robert E. (ed.). A Richer Heritage: Historic Preservation in the Twenty-First Century. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2003.
  • Tyler, Norman. Historic Preservation: An Introduction to its History, Principles, and Practice. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2000.
  • Viollet-le-Duc, Eugène Emmanuel. The Foundations of Architecture; Selections from the Dictionnaire Raisonné. New York: George Braziller, 1990. Originally published, 1854. Important for its introduction of restoration theory.

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