Upon seeing a rickety old building or an old rusting fence, it’s easy to overlook the appeal. After all, it’s just the fading remnants of years gone by, right? Maybe not. These sites were once as important to the people who lived and worked in them as our structures are to us today. In fact, restoring such sites can bring the meaning back to life. It can even be quite beneficial to you in the process.
The Economic Impact
It might surprise you that preserving and restoring historic sites could have monetary benefits. This practice has a huge impact on the local economy by increasing the property value (both of the historic site itself and of the buildings surrounding it), bringing in sales and creating jobs in the district. This is because “heritage tourism,” as the National Park Service calls it, is a thriving market.
The Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program might be a motivating factor leading businesses toward preserving and restoring historic sites. In fact, over 42,000 historic sites have been preserved as a result. The program grants businesses a 20% tax credit for restoring historic buildings and structures that generate an income.
Historic Preservation Easements are yet another economically beneficial means to preserve history. According to the National Park Service, a business that donates the deed of its historic property to a preservation society could receive tax benefits as well. With so many opportunities for financial benefits, restoring historic sites could be quite lucrative.
The Environmental Impact
In addition to the sheer monetary gain, there is a certain environmental impact that comes with historic preservation. This is due to the fact that preserving historic sites is, by nature, a reuse of resources. The restoration of a building or site uses significantly less energy than tearing it down and creating an entirely new structure.
It is simply not realistic to continuously tear down old buildings to make way for new ones. Sooner or later, the resources will run out. As the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation says, “preservation is an effective method of sustainability.” Businesses that practice historic preservation will be leaders in such sustainability.
The Educational Impact
We certainly can’t ignore the benefits that will be reaped by the younger generations. Children will be able to visualize what they learn about in history class; historic preservation brings the past to life. It can preserve a community’s culture and heritage. In the same way, it can preserve lasting memorials of past events, giving students the option to ponder the past.
Formal education aside, there is a certain intangible benefit that accompanies the preservation of history. It gives us a window into past, the ability to see and touch the very same things that our ancestors saw and touched. With the knowledge of history comes the knowledge of human nature, and that can be an invaluable resource.
Following Restoration Guidelines
When it comes to following guidelines for historic preservation practices, the National Park Service first recommends planning for the restoration. This could include contacting historians or archeologists, or even a historic society. Bringing in a professional ensures that the proper measures are taken to care for the historic site. It is also important from a scholarly perspective that the correct historical context is identified.
Once the planning is complete, the NPS gives us four approaches to historic preservation. First comes preservation, which includes making the necessary repairs to the historic site. Rehabilitation steps in when major alterations or additions are needed to maintain the site. Restoration is utilized to create a snapshot in time; it restores the structure or artifact to the way it would’ve looked at the time of its original creation. Last, reconstruction brings an entirely new life to portions of the site that are unusable or have disappeared entirely.
When it comes to specific guidelines offered by the NPS, creating a “false historical appearance” is strongly discouraged. Instead, focusing on maintaining the integrity of the site while incorporating modern architecture that reflects historical appearances is the way to go.
Additionally, missing elements may be replaced if there is documented evidence that they existed during the site’s historic period. These elements might include designs or structures that were commonly found in the time period or were recorded to have existed at the site itself.
There are also several laws in place regarding the preservation of historic sites. This is to ensure the safety of everybody involved while maintaining the historic integrity. With these measures, the sites, structures and artifacts can be preserved for future generations and for the benefit of your business. These guidelines are available to the public on the National Park Service website.
The next time that you encounter a site, building or artifact that looks like it may be of historic value, consider the benefits that could come from bringing it back to life. With your help, what was once a rusty old relic or crumbling site could be returned to its former glory.
If you are considering an historic preservation or restoration project that includes cast iron work, please feel free to reach out to our team at Antique Cast Iron, LLC for some additional information. We work on projects throughout the Northeast U.S.