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Reasons to Follow the SI Standards

  • 1.  Reasons to Follow the SI Standards

    Posted 04-07-2019 21:39
    Does anyone know of an instance where not following the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties in a rehabilitation project has led to taking a property off the list of National Historic Landmarks, or had any other consequence?
    There's a project here that would essentially reconstruct a building that contributes to a NHL --  removing and replacing siding, replacing original windows with vinyl ones, building an addition in the original style that's visible from the facade, all stuff not recommended by the standards.
    There are no local historic districts here to be a part of, although the property has a plat note that says the owners are to follow the standards in any project undertaken. Has anyone seen a similar situation? I'm on the board that owns other buildings that contribute to the same NHL, and am looking for good arguments for our neighbors to follow the standards. Thanks

    James Poulson
    Sitka AK

  • 2.  RE: Reasons to Follow the SI Standards

    Posted 04-08-2019 11:03
    Hi James,

    Here in Chicago, the former National Historic Landmark Soldier Field (home of the Bears) was delisted in 2006 after a particularly unsympathetic demolition and addition/alteration. The building, which is owned by the city park district, undertook a renovation in 2003, but because no federal funds or permits were needed, the project was not subject to 106 review. However, after completion, a 10-member federal advisory committee recommended that it be delisted. Hope this helps your case.


    Alyssa Frystak
    Chicago IL

  • 3.  RE: Reasons to Follow the SI Standards

    Posted 04-18-2019 11:15
    Hi -

    I direct answer I am not aware of any buildings being removed due to inappropriate "Restoration" work. I am aware of a number of buildings that have been allowed to be demolished because changes have eliminated historic character.

    However I, as a designer as well as a preservationist, would suggest that you focus on the poor "Payback" and durability characteristics of many replacement windows on that element of the project, and to go softly with the "Building an addition in the original style that's visible from the facade" as that portion of the standard is, in my reading of the history, an artifact of the dominance of "Modernism" in the architectural community in the 1960s when the Penn Station debacle resulted in passage of the Preservation Act.

    It is my observation that this provision has resulted in a great deal of unfortunate design work being done as part of preservation projects, as well as some downright weird work, all of which has the effect of undermining public support for preservation as a strategy. It would be better if designers were allowed to enhance the cohesion and general design integrity of projects they work  on rather than  mandating deliberate schizophrenia, which often undermines design quality. Any knowledgeable observer can generally tell new work from old, despite efforts to match colors, etc., so the whole argument of making buildings "Of their time" is really nonsense, except to the extent that it is propaganda for the "Modernists" who claim that their chosen "Style" is the only architectural expression appropriate to modern times.

    It seems to me that it is easier to gain support for work that is generally understood by the public as 'Preserving the traditional character' of areas targeted for preservation.

    David Gaby
    Preservationist and Designer
    Springfield MA

  • 4.  RE: Reasons to Follow the SI Standards

    Posted 04-18-2019 14:44
    Thanks David, I've found out since posting my initial question that Alaska  SHPO has approved the addition, but said the windows should be repaired rather than replaced. Which would be great, but the project manager of the remodel is a weatherization guy who is completely sold on vinyl windows (actually sawdust and polymer windows). A board member is also sold on vinyl, having replaced not just windows, but also siding on another national register building in town. 
    It seems to be a matter of quickly and cheaply making buildings "look good" for 20 years or so -- and getting them into a throw-away cycle. It's hard to convince people to look at the long term. And it's hard not to sound like a snob if you get into the subject of aesthetics. Nobody here likes a snob.
    That the original windows have lasted 100 years -- and are in pretty decent shape -- in a rain forest is working against them. "They're old."