One of the most common barriers between preservationists and those who do not define themselves as preservationists, is the language we building-huggers use.  So here are some common preservation terms defined:

[sws_toggle1 title=”Historic Context”]Historic Context is a unit created for planning purposes that groups information about historic properties based on a shared theme, specific time period and geographical area.

From the Secretary of the Interior’s “Standards and Guidelines”[/sws_toggle1]

[sws_toggle1 title=”Historic Integrity”]Historic Integrity the authenticity of a property’s historic identity, evidenced by the survival of physical characteristics that existed during its historic or prehistoric period; the extent to which a property retains its historic appearance.

From the Architectural Heritage Centers “Preservation Glossary”[/sws_toggle1]

[sws_toggle1 title=”Historic District”]Historic Districts are local or national geographically definable areas, urban or rural, possessing a significant concentration, linkage, or continuity of sites, landscapes, structures, or objects, united by past events or aesthetically by plan or physical developments. A district may also be composed of individual elements separated geographically but linked by association or history. (See the National Register Bulletin 15 for more information.)

From the Architectural Heritage Centers “Preservation Glossary”[/sws_toggle1]

[sws_toggle1 title=”Architecturally and/or Historically Significant, aka Cultural Resource”]Includes, but is not limited to, any building, area, place, record or manuscript, site, structure, street furniture, monuments, object, district, or landscape evaluated as historically or archaeologically significant, or is significant in architectural, engineering, scientific, economic, agricultural, educational, social, political, military, or cultural annals of local towns, specific states, or the nation.

From the San Francisco Preservation Bulletin #17[/sws_toggle1]

[sws_toggle1 title=”Conservation District”]Conservation District. Conservation Districts are areas that contain substantial concentrations of buildings that together create sub areas of special architectural and aesthetic importance.

From the San Francisco Preservation Bulletin #17[/sws_toggle1]

[sws_toggle1 title=”National Register of Historic Places”]National Register of Historic Places: The official roster of the nation’s historic properties, sites, districts, structures, objects, and landmarks.

From the Smithsonian Directive #418[/sws_toggle1]

[sws_toggle1 title=”Preservation”]Preservation is the act or process of applying measures to sustain the existing form, integrity, an material of a historic structure, landscape or object. Work generally focuses upon the ongoing preservation maintenance and repair of historic materials and features, rather than extensive replacement and new work.

From the Architectural Heritage Centers “Preservation Glossary”[/sws_toggle1]

[sws_toggle1 title=”Reconstructing”]Reconstruction is defined as the act or process of depicting, by means of new construction, the form, features, and detailing of a non-surviving site, landscape, building, structure, or object for the purpose of replicating its appearance at a specific period of time and in its historic location.

From the Secretary of the Interior’s “Standards and Guidelines”[/sws_toggle1]

[sws_toggle1 title=”Rehabilitation”]Rehabilitation is the process of returning a property to a state of utility, through repair or alteration, and makes possible an efficient contemporary use while preserving those portions and features of the property which are significant to its historic, architectural and cultural values.

From the Smithsonian Directive #418[/sws_toggle1]

[sws_toggle1 title=”Restoration”]Restoration is returning a site to its original form and condition as represented by a specified period of time using materials that are as similar as possible to the original ones.

From Preservation Nation’s “10 on Tuesday” Blog Post on 9/11/12[/sws_toggle1]

[sws_toggle1 title=”Standards and Guidelines”]The Depart of the Interior’s “Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties with Guidelines for Preserving, Rehabilitating, Restoring, and Reconstructing Historic Buildings”. The Standards are neither technical nor prescriptive, but are intended to promote responsible preservation practices that help protect our Nation’s irreplaceable cultural resources. For example, they cannot, in and of themselves, be used to make essential decisions about which features of the historic building should be saved and which can be changed. But once a treatment is selected, the Standards provide philosophical consistency to the work.

From the Secretary of the Interior’s “Standards and Guidelines”[/sws_toggle1]

[sws_toggle1 title=”Section 106″]Refers to Section l06 of the National Historic Preservation Act of l966, which requires federal agencies to take into account the effects of their proposed activities on properties included, or eligible for inclusion, in the National Register of Historic Places.

From the Architectural Heritage Centers “Preservation Glossary”[/sws_toggle1]


An interesting end note: the term “historic preservation” is unique to the U.S. and is a relatively new term – it originated in the 1960’s in response to an urban renewal planning movement that would eventually fail.  Other English-speaking countries use different terms like “architectural conservation”, “built environment conservation”, “built heritage conservation” and “immovable object conservation”. 


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Conversation Starters:

What other preservation terms do you find confusing?
Are you still unsure of what the terms defined above mean?
What is the preservation term that endears itself the most to you?
How do you clarify confusing preservation terms?
What is the most commonly misunderstood preservation term you run into?

Let us know in the comments below….



This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania.  In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century.  This article focuses on an overview of the Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950.


Traditional/Vernacular Mode 1638 – 1950

Buildings constructed in the Traditional/Vernacular mode fall into this broad category due to the cultural origins of their design, rather than their period of construction.  While buildings within this tradition were built in great abundance in the early European settlement days of our state, the forms continued to be used and replicated with some frequency until roughly the turn of the twentieth century.  Some traditional forms such as meetinghouses and one room school houses continue to built today, especially within certain religious sects.

Traditional/Vernacular buildings derive their form and design from a commonly shared tradition of construction. Buildings that fit into this category are not architect or pattern book designs where appearance is dictated by contemporary stylistic trends. Rather, buildings of this type reflect the ethnic or regional heritage and cultural traditions of their builders.

Traditional/Vernacular buildings are often direct links to the building practices of the European medieval past, employing the basic construction techniques of that era. They were often strictly utilitarian structures, built from affordable and readily available materials to satisfy basic and immediate needs.  A Traditional/Vernacular form may also be chosen for cultural reasons, not because it is the only available design option, but out of respect for past tradition. Certainly, buildings of this type were intended for both short term and long term use. For many reasons, economic, cultural, and environmental, these basic vernacular buildings continued to be built far beyond the settlement period for Pennsylvania.

The Traditional/Vernacular category is a rather broad umbrella, covering a wide variety of building forms based on common cultural past designs. Floor plans and site orientation can be important elements in identifying vernacular design, since simple vernacular forms were often later enhanced by high style architectural details. The distinctive building types commonly seen in Pennsylvania include: log buildings, post-medieval English inspired buildings, Pennsylvania German traditional buildings, meetinghouses, schools  and agricultural outbuildings.

The architectural description “vernacular style” is often used to describe all non-architect designed buildings, or hybrids displaying bits and pieces of various styles. This term is used to describe workaday urban housing forms like row houses and duplexes and also utilitarian single family dwellings lacking any particular stylistic elements. It is also used to refer to barns, summer kitchens, springhouses, smokehouses, and other agricultural outbuildings. In truth, vernacular buildings include a wide array of structures across a long span of time. They are an important part of our state’s architecture heritage; they tell the story of most Pennsylvanians – the “common folk” of our state. For that reason these types of buildings are sometimes referred to as “folk architecture” as well.

Produced by Restore Media: Clem Labine’s Traditional BuildingClem Labine’s Period Homes, and the Traditional Building Exhibition and Conference, the following free webinar is being offered on September 19th:

Click here to register for this webinar.

Credits Where Credits Are Due: Tax Credits for Historic Preservation Projects 

September 18, 2012, 2:00 p.m., 90 minutes, 1.5 AIA HSW LUs

For more than 30 years, generous federal tax credits have been the driving economic force behind the rehabilitation of historic structures in the United States. Through case studies of successful projects, learn how to earn tax credits while navigating a sometimes exacting process. This is a must-attend event for architects, contractors, building owners, and developers.

Learning Objectives

After the session, participants will be able to do the following:

  • Discuss in detail the federal tax credit program for the rehabilitation of historic buildings.
  • Identify essential characteristics – both in design and construction – sucessful projects share.
  • Apply the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation to individual projects.
  • Cite lessons from the tax credit-worthy projects presented during the Webinar.


Staff from the National Park Service, Washington, D.C.


Judy L. Hayward, education director, Traditional Building Exhibition and Conference and Traditional Building Conference Series, Restore Media, LLC, Washington, D.C.

We’ve added Big Spring Farm to our Hidden Gem list for a good reason.  With no website, no official or regular hours, no main contact information, no obvious advertisements, and yet huge preservation efforts and achievements – Big Spring Farm may very well be our most hidden gem of all.

Somewhere around 5am Saturday morning, I was woken up by the loud, shrill sound of a steam whistle.  Momentarily confused (since I live nowhere near a railroad where steam engines run much at at all, yet alone at 5am), I wondered if I was dreaming.


Then I remembered – today was the thresher’s reunion at the Swiss Pioneer Preservation Association’s Big Spring Farm, just a few miles from my door.  Apparently, threshers start their work early in the morning.  (Actually, later in the day I learned that the steam engine had to start traveling to Big Spring Farm that early because it took three hours to take it that short distance.  Yes, it really does drive slower than one could walk.)

The Swiss Pioneer Preservation Association (SPPA) was founded in the 1970’s as an organization dedicated to preserving the early pioneering experience of Swiss immigrants in the U.S.  Their initial project was the re-construction and restoration of log cabin home from the 1700’s.  Spending nearly 30 years to raise funds and find the right location, their dedication to their mission is obvious and the results of their work is stunning – they have reconstructed the log cabin to a full-functioning cabin that exists as it did when it was built in the 1700’s.  Including a working squirrel-tail bake oven they use to bake bread as a demonstration at their events.

Big Spring Farm was willed to the Association by founding member Paul Martin before he passed away.  He wanted the farm to not only be a location for the cabin, but also a preserved working farm operating as it always has over hundreds of years.  SPPA maintains is as a family home and farm, as well as their museum and location of their preservation projects.  The log cabin was their initial preservation project, but the SPPA also restored an original stone springhouse on the farm and recreated a stone root cellar after finding the foundation of one while restoring the springhouse.

The Shirktown Thresher’s reunion has been occurring annually for over ten years now, though it was originally held at a farm near Churchtown, PA, moving to Big Spring Farm only a few years ago.  The reunion is a gathering of not just historic tractors, engines, and other farm implements – but also a demonstration of the evolution of threshing over the course of American History.  There were several threshing machines operating at the reunion to show how wheat berries have historically been separated from the straw stalks, including two different horse-powered threshers.

One was even powered by a horse on a treadmill.  I kid you not.  The horse’s walking turns the belt, which in turn powers the gears on the machine.



The other threshing machines there:




The log cabin rebuilt and restored by SPPA sits on the lawn of the farm, not far from the large stone farmhouse.  It’s a tiny two-room cabin, with a full basement and an open attic that would have been used for sleeping space.  Several Martin generations inhabited the cabin and sometimes over ten people lived in the cabin.  That is mind-boggling to me.  I don’t own a large McMansion, but even still the entire living space of the cabin would easily fit in my living room and kitchen.  And there are days (usually the rainy, too cold, or too hot ones that keep us from spreading out into the fields and forest that surround our house) when I pretty sure the six people in our family are way too many for our house.






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 The springhouse and root cellar:




Other features of the farm:



Activities and demonstrations at the farm during events:




Exciting news just in….from Preservation Pennsylvania:

Historic Tax Credit Established in Pennsylvania
On Saturday, June 30, Pennsylvania became the 30th state in the country to have a state historic tax credit when Governor Tom Corbett signed the FY 2013 Commonwealth Budget and established the Historic Preservation Incentive Act. (Click on the link to read an overview of the act.) This tax credit will be a companion to the very successful federal tax credit program.
Preservation Pennsylvania thanks the General Assembly for the establishment of this program that will offer a 25% state tax credit for the rehabilitation of qualified income-producing buildings that are also using the federal tax credit. By leveraging the existing 20% federal tax credit with an additional 25% state credit, the program will help lure investment into Pennsylvania. Data show that states with state credits tend to have an advantage over states that do not have tax credits in attracting investment in historic rehabilitation.
“We are thrilled with the passage of this legislation,” said Mindy Crawford, Executive Director of Preservation Pennsylvania. “This program is not just about historic preservation – it is about local jobs, economic development, neighborhood revitalization and vibrant strong communities. Pennsylvania has historically been one of the strongest users of the federal tax credit and the creation of a state tax credit will result in more projects that return abandoned buildings to useful life and place them back on the tax rolls.”
Credit for moving this effort forward goes to Senator Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, who introduced the legislation and continued championing for it throughout budget negotiations. Representative Robert Freeman, D-Northampton, who advocated for this legislation in the House and helped move it to the finish line. In the end, this program was established as part of the Commonwealth Budget in the Tax Reform Code.
Efforts to establish this credit in Pennsylvania began in 1996 under the leadership of former State Representative Tom Tangretti, D-Westmoreland, who worked for the passage of this program until his retirement in 2008. Many groups and individuals worked to advocate for the passage of this program during the last 16 years. We thank each and every one of you for your efforts.
What’s Next? The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the Department of Economic and Community Development will develop the program guidelines. The credit goes into effect July 1, 2012 but the first tax credits will not be issued until after July 1, 2013. Just like the federal program, this credit is issued after the project is completed. To start, the program is limited to $3 million annually with an individual project cap of $500,000. Please check the Preservation Pennsylvania website for the latest information.

Rhonda Sincavage (Associate Director for Intergovernmental Affairs at the National Trust for Historic Preservation) talks about what historic preservationists do, and what they look like (we’re not the little old, blue-haired women most people think of, she points out).  And most importantly, how historic preservation encourages economic growth, incubates independent and small business growth, promotes green building practices and sustainable construction, and builds a sense of community.


Last weekend, Danielle and Jonathan spent the day at the Bowmansville Roller Mill’s open house – a Lancaster County hidden gem of preservation that sits just a stone’s throw (okay, a hearty stone’s throw) from the Berk’s County line.

Put together by The Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County, the open house occurs four times a year and shows both the gristmill and the sawmill in full operation, as well as offers expert tradespeople showing and explaining how the mill operated and the preservation efforts that went into a mill.

The Bowmansville Roller Mill operated from the mid-1700’s to the mid-1900’s – switching hands only once during that time when Henry Von Neida bought it from the Good family in the mid-1800’s.   After a fire shortly after he bought the mill, Von Neida tore down the original mill and rebuilt the present stone millhouse.  He also added the sawmill structure (the one that looks like a covered bridge) in 1860.

To read The Historic Preservation Trust’s flyer about the Bowmansville Roller Mill, click here.

To learn more about the Bowmansville Roller Mill, you can visit the Trust’s website, or read Jim Miller’s excellent write-up on his historic mill website.  To see a great animated illustration of how exactly gristmills work, as well as blueprints of typical gristmill designs, visit the Old Sturbridge Village’s website on gristmills.  While you’re there, poke around a bit and explore all the fabulous information they offer – and don’t forget to stop at their page on water power.  It even includes a description and illustratio of the four different types of waterwheels.   In the video below that we put together from the open house, you’ll learn which type of waterwheel the Bowmansville Mill uses, so watch it first and then head over to read more about how that type of waterwheel works.
One of the more intriguing interpretative strategies we read about during our research into expanding historic preservation to include women’s history was the use of heritage trails.  By now, we are all familiar with heritage trails – those walking and driving journeys around to different historic sites that historical commissions, museums, public agency, community organizations, and even private individuals put together to motivate us put on our shoes, grab our keys, and plan a trip to explore history.  
And motivate us it does, who doesn’t read about a particular heritage trail and decide they *don’t* want to make that particular journey?
Which is why a historic preservation master’s thesis we stumbled across piqued our interest with its title, “Commemoration and Protest: The Use of Heritage Trails to Connect Women’s History with Historic Sites” submitted to the University of Pennsylvania by Marissa J. Moshier.
We’re not going to bore you with a full-blown rehash and review of the excellent information Moshier conveyed in her thesis, mostly because you can read it for yourself right here, but also because we’d really rather make a better use of this space (and your time) to discuss this topic.

You see, for all the information Moshier presented (and believe us, you should read it, because it was a ton), it was what was missing from that information that stood out the most to us.  For all those wise, wise words, for all her obviously extensive research, for all the astute observations and connections she made, for all the motivation her writing inspired, for all her details on the women’s heritage trails in states and cities across the country, there was one thing Moshier failed to include in her information: any mention of a woman’s history heritage trail in Pennsylvania.

Because there isn’t one.

So what we would LOVE to discuss is how a heritage trail could be developed, promoted, and used by the public to connect women’s history to the rich network of historic sites we have here.

Here are our beginning questions, let’s open up the discussion.  Feel free to give us your thoughts in response to these questions, or respond with more questions you might have.

           Who would develop this heritage trail?             

                                            How would they develop it?   

   Would it be contained to publicly operated sites?  

             Could it blend both publicly and privately operated sites?  

     What were the important contributions women made in 
     Pennsylvania’s history?  

                                What were the roles they played 
throughout our history?  

              How are those contributions and roles already 
              represented in our history sites?  

  How can we connect those sites with a heritage trail?  

                       Which sites would we use?  

            Which sites specifically include women’s history already?  
    Are they the best ones to use to tell women’s stories in 
   Pennsylvania history?  
Do we need to develop new ones?

On Thursday, April 22nd, any contractor working on a building with lead-based paint will have to be a lead-safe certified firm. The EPA is has written guidelines to help protect homeowners from lead dust and contractors have to complete a 8 hour training course. Helping to protect homeowners is important – the downside is the increased cost to each project (we will have to see what that is once we have set up a few projects with the new protective barriers).

For more information on lead and how to protect your family visit the EPA website: