Identify, Retain and Preserve
Identifying, retaining, and preserving a floor plan
or interior spaces that are important in defining the
overall historic character of the building. This includes
the size, configuration, proportion, and relationship
of rooms and corridors; the relationship of features
to spaces; and the spaces themselves such as lobbies,
reception halls, entrance halls, double parlors, theaters,
auditoriums, and important industrial or commercial
The Pacific Hotel, located in
downtown Seattle, was constructed
in 1916. In conversion from its original use to affordable housing, the hotel rehabilitation
successfully utilized the historic floor plan with only minimal
changes, as is shown
in these before and
after plans of the
wing. Drawings: NPS files.
Radically changing a floor plan or interior spaces--including
individual rooms--which are important in defining the
overall historic character of the building so that,
as a result, the character is diminished.
Altering the floor plan by demolishing principal walls
and partitions to create a new appearance.
Altering or destroying interior spaces by inserting
floors, cutting through floors, lowering ceilings, or
adding or removing walls.
Relocating an interior feature such as a staircase
so that the historic relationship between features and
spaces is altered.
-INTERIOR FEATURES AND FINISHES-
Identifying, retaining, and preserving interior features
and finishes that are important in defining the overall
historic character of the building, including columns,
cornices, baseboards, fireplaces and mantels, panelling,
light fixtures, hardware, and flooring; and wallpaper,
plaster, paint, and finishes such as stencilling, marbling,
and graining; and other decorative materials that accent
interior features and provide color, texture, and patterning
to walls, floors, and ceilings.
This modest entry hall to a historic school
features a utilitarian stair, slender newel post
and handrail, paneled door, wood wainscoting,
and simple trim define the nature of the space
and also emphasize its overall verticality. Dropping
the ceiling or even adding a more elaborate newel
post and handrail during rehabilitation would
change the spatial character of this entry hall
and upset the delicate balance of its architectural
components. Photo: NPS files.
Removing or radically changing features and finishes
which are important in defining the overall historic
character of the building so that, as a result, the
character is diminished.
Installing new decorative material that obscures or
damages character-defining interior features or finishes.
Removing paint, plaster, or other finishes from historically
finished surfaces to create a new appearance (e.g.,
removing plaster to expose masonry surfaces such as
brick walls or a chimney piece).
Plaster has been inappropriately removed from the perimeter walls during rehabilitation,
leaving the brick wall exposed. The plaster should have
been retained and repaired, as necessary. Photo:
Applying paint, plaster, or other finishes to surfaces
that have been historically unfinished to create a new
Stripping paint to bare wood rather than repairing
or reapplying grained or marbled finishes to features
such as doors and panelling.
Radically changing the type of finish or its color,
such as painting a previously varnished wood feature.
Protect and Maintain
Protecting and maintaining masonry, wood, and architectural
metals which comprise interior features through appropriate
surface treatments such as cleaning, rust removal, limited
paint removal, and reapplication of protective coating
This corridor has glazed walls, oak trim, and
marble wainscotting, typical of those found in
the late 19th and early 20th century office buildings.
Maintaining and preserving corridors that display intact and simple detailing,
should be a priority in rehabilitation projects
involving commercial buildings. Photo: NPS files.
Protecting interior features and finishes against
arson and vandalism before project work begins, erecting
protective fencing, boarding-up windows, and installing
fire alarm systems that are keyed to local protection
Protecting interior features such as a staircase,
mantel, or decorative finishes and wall coverings against
damage during project work by covering them with heavy
canvas or plastic sheets.
Installing protective coverings in areas of heavy
pedestrian traffic to protect historic features such
as wall coverings, parquet flooring and panelling.
Removing damaged or deteriorated paints and finishes
to the next sound layer using the gentlest method possible,
then repainting or refinishing using compatible paint
or other coating systems.
Repainting with colors that are appropriate to the
Limiting abrasive cleaning methods to certain industrial
warehouse buildings where the interior masonry or plaster
features do not have distinguishing design, detailing,
tooling, or finishes; and where wood features are not
finished, molded, beaded, or worked by hand. Abrasive
cleaning should only be considered after other, gentler
methods have been proven ineffective.
Evaluating the existing condition of materials to
determine whether more than protection and maintenance
are required, that is, if repairs to interior features
and finishes will be necessary.
Failing to provide adequate protection to materials
on a cyclical basis so that deterioration of interior
Permitting entry into historic buildings through unsecured
or broken windows and doors so that the interior features
and finishes are damaged by exposure to weather or vandalism.
Stripping interiors of features such as woodwork, doors,
windows, light fixtures, copper piping, radiators; or
of decorative materials.
Failing to provide proper protection of interior features
and finishes during work so that they are gouged, scratched,
dented, or otherwise damaged.
Failing to take new use patterns into consideration
so that interior features and finishes are damaged.
In a rehabilitation project, all the previously unpainted
wood trim in the 19th century house was painted white. Because the existing interior trim, with its
unpainted natural-colored finish, was such an important feature, painting
it white resulted in a dramatic change to the historic character of the
house. Photo: NPS files.
Using destructive methods such as propane or butane
torches or sandblasting to remove paint or other coatings.
These methods can irreversibly damage the historic materials
that comprise interior features.
Using new paint colors that are inappropriate to the
Changing the texture and patina of character-defining
features through sandblasting or use of abrasive methods
to remove paint, discoloration or plaster. This includes
both exposed wood (including structural members) and
Failing to undertake adequate measures to assure the
protection of interior features and finishes.
Repairing interior features and finishes by reinforcing
the historic materials. Repair will also generally include
the limited replacement in kind--or with compatible
substitute material--of those extensively deteriorated
or missing parts of repeated features when there are
surviving prototypes such as stairs, balustrades, wood
panelling, columns; or decorative wall coverings or
ornamental tin or plaster ceilings.
After rehabilitation, this severely deteriorated
space was returned to its original elegance. Plaster
was repaired and repainted; scagliola colums were
restored to match marble; and missing decorative
metalwork was re-installed in front of the windows.
Photo: Carol M. Highsmith.
Replacing an entire interior feature such as a staircase,
panelled wall, parquet floor, or cornice; or finish
such as a decorative wall covering or ceiling when repair
of materials and limited replacement of such parts are
Using a substitute material for the replacement part
that does not convey the visual appearance of the surviving
parts or portions of the interior feature or finish
or that is physically or chemically incompatible.
Replacing in kind an entire interior feature or finish
that is too deteriorated to repair--if the overall form
and detailing are still evident--using the physical
evidence as a model for reproduction. Examples could
include wainscoting, a tin ceiling, or interior stairs.
If using the same kind of material is not technically
or economically feasible, then a compatible substitute
material may be considered.
Rehabilitating historic dwelling units often
includes some level of lead-paint hazard abatement.
Whenever lead-base paint begins to peel, chip,
craze, or otherwise comes loose (left), it should
be removed in a manner that does not damage the historic wood trim and also protects the worker. In this
example (right), the deteriorating lead-paint was
removed throughout the apartment building and
a compatible primer and finish paint applied.
Photos: Sharon C. Park, AIA.
Removing a character-defining feature or finish that
is unrepairable and not replacing it; or replacing it
with a new feature or finish that does not convey the
same visual appearance.
The following work
is highlighted to indicate that it represents
the particularly complex technical or design aspects
of Rehabilitation projects and should only be
considered after the preservation concerns listed
above have been addressed.
Design for the Replacement of Missing Historic
Designing and installing a new interior feature
or finish if the historic feature or finish is
completely missing. This could include missing
partitions, stairs, elevators, lighting fixtures,
and wall coverings; or even entire rooms if all
historic spaces, features, and finishes are missing
or have been destroyed by inappropriate "renovations."
The design may be a restoration based on historical,
pictorial, and physical documentation; or be a
new design that is compatible with the historic
character of the building, district, or neighborhood.
Creating a false historical appearance because
the replaced feature is based on insufficient
physical, historical, and pictorial documentation
or on information derived from another building.
Introducing a new interior feature or finish
that is incompatible with the scale, design, materials,
color, and texture of the surviving interior features
The following work is
highlighted to indicate that it represents the
particularly complex technical or design aspects
of Rehabilitation projects and should only be
considered after the preservation concerns listed
above have been addressed.
Alterations/Additions for the New Use
Accommodating service functions such as bathrooms,
mechanical equipment, and office machines required
by the building's new use in secondary spaces
such as first floor service areas or on upper
Vandalized walls of an old school building
(top) became pristine halls in an apartment
for seniors in this successful rehabilitation project. (bottom). The school corridors,
as well as the existing door openings, were
preserved, but new fire-rated doors needed
to be installed to meet code requirements. Photos: NPS files.
Reusing decorative material or features that
have had to be removed during the rehabilitation
work including wall and baseboard trim, door molding,
panelled doors, and simple wainscoting; and relocating
such material or features in areas appropriate
to their historic placement.
Installing permanent partitions in secondary
spaces; removable partitions that do not destroy
the sense of space should be installed when the
new use requires the subdivision of character-defining
Enclosing an interior stairway where required
by code so that its character is retained. In
many cases, glazed fire-rated walls may be used.
Placing new code-required stairways or elevators
in secondary and service areas of the historic
Creating an atrium or a light well to provide
natural light when required for the new use in
a manner that preserves character-defining interior
spaces, features, and finishes as well as the
Adding a new floor if required for the new
use in a manner that preserves character-defining
structural features, and interior spaces, features,
Dividing rooms, lowering ceilings, and damaging
or obscuring character-defining features such
as fireplaces, niches, stairways or alcoves, so
that a new use can be accommodated in the building.
Discarding historic material when it can be reused
within the rehabilitation project or relocating
it in historically inappropriate areas.
Installing permanent partitions that damage or
obscure character-defining spaces, features, or
Enclosing an interior stairway with fire-rated
construction so that the stairwell space or any
character-defining features are destroyed.
Radically changing, damaging, or destroying character-defining
spaces, features, or finishes when adding new
code-required stairways and elevators.
A dramatic two-story interior space that should
have been retained and preserved has been radically
changed by inserting a mezzanine. Photo: NPS files.
Destroying character-defining interior spaces,
features, or finishes; or damaging the structural
system in order to create an atrium or light well.
Inserting a new floor within a building that
alters or destroys the fenestration; radically
changes a character-defining interior space; or
obscures, damages, or destroys decorative detailing.