<photo>Detail of reconstructed house; Link to National Park Service
<photo>detail of reconstructed site features

When a contemporary depiction is required to understand and interpret a property's historic value (including the re-creation of missing components in a historic district or site); when no other property with the same associative value has survived; and when sufficient historical documentation exists to ensure an accurate reproduction, Reconstruction may be considered as a treatment. Prior to undertaking work, a documentation plan for Reconstruction should be developed.

Choosing Reconstruction as a Treatment

Whereas the treatment Restoration provides guidance on restoring--or re-creating--building features, the Standards for Reconstruction and Guidelines for Reconstructing Historic Buildings address those aspects of treatment necessary to re-create an entire non-surviving building with new material. Much like restoration, the goal is to make the building appear as it did at a particular--and most significant--time in its history. The difference is, in Reconstruction, there is far less extant historic material prior to treatment and, in some cases, nothing visible. Because of the potential for historical error in the absence of sound physical evidence, this treatment can be justified only rarely and, thus, is the least frequently undertaken. Documentation requirements prior to and following work are very stringent. Measures should be taken to preserve extant historic surface and subsurface material. Finally, the reconstructed building must be clearly identified as a contemporary re-creation.

photo of 1930s reconstruction of the 18th century Governor's Palace at Colonial Williamsburg, VA

In the 1930s reconstruction of the 18th century Governor's Palace at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, the earliest archeological remains of the brick foundation were carefully preserved in situ, and serve as a base for the reconstructed walls. Photo: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

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Research and Document Historical Significance

Guidance for the treatment Reconstruction begins with researching and documenting the building's historical significance to ascertain that its re-creation is essential to the public understanding of the property. Often, another extant historic building on the site or in a setting can adequately explain the property, together with other interpretive aids. Justifying a reconstruction requires detailed physical and documentary evidence to minimize or eliminate conjecture and ensure that the reconstruction is as accurate as possible. Only one period of significance is generally identified; a building, as it evolved, is rarely re-created. During this important fact-finding stage, if research does not provide adequate documentation for an accurate reconstruction, other interpretive methods should be considered, such as an explanatory marker.

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Investigate Archeological Resources

Investigating archeological resources is the next area of guidance in the treatment Reconstruction. The goal of physical research is to identify features of the building and site which are essential to an accurate re-creation and must be reconstructed, while leaving those archeological resources that are not essential, undisturbed. Information that is not relevant to the project should be preserved in place for future research. The archeological findings, together with archival documentation, are then used to replicate the plan of the building, together with the relationship and size of rooms, corridors, and other spaces, and spatial relationships.

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Identify, Protect and Preserve Extant Historic Features

Closely aligned with archeological research, recommendations are given for identifying, protecting, and preserving extant features of the historic building. It is never appropriate to base a Reconstruction upon conjectural designs or the availability of different features from other buildings. Thus, any remaining historic materials and features, such as remnants of a foundation or chimney and site features such as a walkway or path, should be retained, when practicable, and incorporated into the reconstruction. The historic as well as new material should be carefully documented to guide future research and treatment.

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Reconstruct Non-Surviving Building and Site

After the research and documentation phases, guidance is given for Reconstruction work itself. Exterior and interior features are addressed in general, always emphasizing the need for an accurate depiction, i.e., careful duplication of the appearance of historic interior paints, and finishes such as stencilling, marbling, and graining. In the absence of extant historic materials, the objective in reconstruction is to re-create the appearance of the historic building for interpretive purposes. Thus, while the use of traditional materials and finishes is always preferred, in some instances, substitute materials may be used if they are able to convey the same visual appearance. Where non-visible features of the building are concerned--such as interior structural systems or mechanical systems--it is expected that contemporary materials and technology will be employed. Re-creating the building site should be an integral aspect of project work. The initial archeological inventory of subsurface and aboveground remains is used as documentation to reconstruct landscape features such as walks and roads, fences, benches, and fountains.

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Energy Efficiency/Accessibility/Health and Safety Code Considerations

Code requirements must also be met in Reconstruction projects. For code purposes, a reconstructed building may be considered as essentially new construction. Guidance for these sections is thus abbreviated, and focuses on achieving design solutions that do not destroy extant historic features and materials or obscure reconstructed features.



The Approach

Research + Documentation

Building Exterior

Building Interior



Special Requirements
Energy Efficiency
Health + Safety

The Standards



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