May 27, 2015

Preservation Glossary: Historic Feeling

  • By: Jamesha Gibson

Since it is in many ways an abstract concept, historic feeling -- as it relates to preservation -- can be a bit tricky to define. But Preservation Glossary has your back.

Let's say you’ve been following our “How to Save a Place” toolkit series this month and you run across the Apply for Historic Designation toolkit. You read the post and decide you want to list your historic site on the National Register of Historic Places.

You do your research and read the guidelines for evaluating the integrity of a historic site nominated to the National Register. Your site seems to be a perfect match! The location is on point, and the design, setting, materials, workmanship, and association are perfect. Then you hit a wall -- the abstract stumbling block that is the term "feeling."

150218_blog-photo_Prince Room_POG

The Prince Room in the Palace of the Governors transports visitors back to 17th-century Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Section VIII: “How to Evaluate the Integrity of a Property of the National Register Criteria for Evaluation" defines Historic Feeling as:

Feeling, Noun : A property’s expression of the aesthetic or historic sense of a particular period of time. It results from the presence of physical features that, taken together, convey the property's historic character.

The photo above shows the Prince Room of the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Prince Room, in addition to the Palace’s adobe-style exterior, evokes the sense that visitors are back in 17th century Santa Fe when New Mexico was under Spanish rule.

Word in use: “Another damaging practice is to use industrial power sanders on historic pine and hardwood floors. Unless used with caution by experts, these sanders often scratch and gouge the floor surface and remove the historic patina, which reduces the historic feeling of the room.” -- Peter B. Dedek, Historic Preservation for Designers

If you are evaluating the feeling of your historic site for the integrity criteria of the National Register, it should be noted that feeling can be subjective and depends largely on individual perceptions. Therefore, a historic site’s retention of feeling alone is not enough to make it eligible for the National Register. A site’s feeling should be evaluated in conjunction with other integrity factors such as location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, and association.

Jamesha Gibson is an Editorial Intern at the National Trust. She is passionate about using historic preservation as an avenue for underrepresented communities to share their unique stories. Jamesha also enjoys learning about other cultures through reading, art, language, dancing, and especially cuisine.

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