July 8, 2015

[Preservation Glossary] Today’s Word: Rehabilitation

  • By: Jamesha Gibson
150313_blog-photo_jackson-library
A historic barn in Jackson, New Hampshire was rehabilitated as the city's public library.

In our last post, we examined the term “restoration” and how its specific definition shapes its unique role in preservation. Today we will look at the term “rehabilitation” and how it is applied in preservation practice.

The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards’ Four Approaches to the Treatment of Historic Properties defines "rehabilitation" as:

Rehabilitation, noun


The act or process of making possible a compatible use for a property through repair, alterations, and additions while preserving those portions or features which convey its historical, cultural, or architectural values.

The photo at the top of the post shows a historic barn in Jackson, New Hampshire that has been rehabilitated into the city's public library.

The difference between rehabilitation and restoration is that restoration requires you to replicate a particular time period, whereas rehabilitation allows you to preserve the historic character of the property while simultaneously implementing modern additions.

Word in Use: “For example, a rehabilitated old house would always include modern electrical, mechanical, and plumbing systems, a modern kitchen, and other attributes typical of present-day homes.” -- Julia Rocchi, “[10 on Tuesday] Restore vs. Rehabilitate: Which is Right for Your Historic House?

The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards recommends rehabilitation of a historic property when: 1) it is necessary to repair or replace dilapidated features; 2) alterations and/or additions to the historic property are planned for a new or continued use; and 3) it is not appropriate to depict the historic property at a particular period in time.

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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