July 1, 2015

[Preservation Glossary] Today’s Word: Restoration

  • By: Jamesha Gibson
The mansion at James Madison's Montpelier was restored between 2003 and 2008.

"Restoration" is a term frequently used in the preservation industry, but what exactly does it mean? Is it interchangeable with preservation? Is it similar? Or does it mean something totally different?

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

Restoration, noun

The act or process of accurately depicting the form, features, and character of a property as it appeared at a particular period of time by means of the removal of features from other periods in its history and reconstruction of missing features from the restoration period. The limited and sensitive upgrading of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems and other code-required work to make properties functional is appropriate within a restoration project.

The photo at the top of the post shows the mansion at James Madison’s Montpelier, which was restored to the 1820s state that the fourth president and his wife, Dolley, knew and loved.

Word in Use: “Strict restorations -- ones that eliminate everything not present during the period chosen -- are rare for homes, with most owners opting to maintain modern systems (plumbing, anyone?) and sympathetically designed changes, such as later additions, that add to the house’s history.” -- Julia Rocchi, “[10 on Tuesday] Restore vs. Rehabilitate: Which is Right for Your Historic House?

According to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards, restoration can be used as a treatment for a historic property when: 1) The property's historical or architectural significance during a particular time period outweigh the potential loss of extant materials, features, or spaces that characterize other historical time periods; 2) There is a significant amount of physical and documentary evidence for the work; and 3) when there are no contemporary alterations and additions planned.

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.

Announcing the 2021 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

See the List