historic preservation

Standards for Historic Projects

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What standards apply to my project?

The Tacoma Landmarks Preservation Commission uses several sets of standards and guidelines to evaluate the appropriateness of proposed changes to historic buildings, including: 

This page is intended to provide access to the primary standards used for the review of projects involving historic properties in Tacoma.

Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for Rehabilitation of Historic Buildings

First published in 1976 by the National Park Service, these standards are the primary basis for reviewing the appropriateness of changes to historic properties.  The links to the right are chapters excerpted from the 1991 Illustrated Guidelines.  (The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation and Illustrated Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings. US Department of the Interior:  National Park Service.  Available from the US Government Printing Office, or online).

Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Rehabilitation 

REHABILITATION IS DEFINED AS 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 Standards (Department of Interior regulations, 36 CFR 67) pertain to historic buildings of all materials, construction types, sizes, and occupancy and encompass the exterior and the interior, related landscape features and the building's site and environment as well as attached, adjacent, or related new construction. The Standards are to be applied to specific rehabilitation projects in a reasonable manner, taking into consideration economic and technical feasibility.

1. A property shall be used for its historic purpose or be placed in a new use that requires minimal change to the defining characteristics of the building and its site and environment.

2. The historic character of a property shall be retained and preserved. The removal of historic materials or alteration of features and spaces that characterize a property shall be avoided.

3. Each property shall be recognized as a physical record of its time, place, and use. Changes that create a false sense of historical development, such as adding conjectural features or architectural elements from other buildings, shall not be undertaken.

4. Most properties change over time; those changes that have acquired historic significance in their own right shall be retained and preserved.

5. Distinctive features, finishes, and construction techniques or examples of craftsmanship that characterize a property shall be preserved.

6. Deteriorated historic features shall be repaired rather than replaced. Where the severity of deterioration requires replacement of a distinctive feature, the new feature shall match the old in design, color, texture, and other visual qualities and, where possible, materials. Replacement of missing features shall be substantiated by documentary, physical, or pictorial evidence.

7. Chemical or physical treatments, such as sandblasting, that cause damage to historic materials shall not be used. The surface cleaning of structures, if appropriate, shall be undertaken using the gentlest means possible.

8. Significant archeological resources affected by a project shall be protected and preserved. If such resources must be disturbed, mitigation measures shall be undertaken.

9. New additions, exterior alterations, or related new construction shall not destroy historic materials that characterize the property. The new work shall be differentiated from the old and shall be compatible with the massing, size, scale, and architectural features to protect the historic integrity of the property and its environment.

10. New additions and adjacent or related new construction shall be undertaken in such a manner that if removed in the future, the essential form and integrity of the historic property and its environment would be unimpaired.

For more illustrated examples of application of the Secretary of the Interior's Standards, please visit The National Park Service interactive REHAB YES/NO LEARNING PROGRAM.

Preservation Briefs

Preservation Briefs (PBs) are easy-to-read reports that provide guidance for preserving, rehabilitating and restoring historic buildings.  Over 40 topics are covered, including masonry cleaning and waterproofing, preservation of historic signs, storefronts, and so on.  PBs are published by Technical Preservation Services of the National Park Service, and are available in hardcopy from the US Government Printing Office or online.

Historic Preservation Ordinances

The Tacoma Historic Preservation Program is governed by two ordinances:  the Landmarks Preservation Commission code (TMC 1.42) and the Landmarks and Historic Special Review Districts Code (TMC 13.07).  To download, please click on the right hand menu.