German Village Gazette

Village Notebook

What are the Secretary of the Interior's Standards?

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Being on the National Register of Historic Places is an honor not every historic district, structure or landscape earns.

Once an historic entity is listed on the National Register it is expected to strive to maintain the standards set forth by the Secretary of Interior of the United States. If a site loses its integrity then it can be removed from the National Register.

The German Village Guidelines, used by the German Village Commission, reflect the Secretary of the Interior's Standards in many ways, such as:

* Removal or alteration of key aspects of the property should be avoided.

* Deteriorated features should be repaired not replaced if at all possible/

* Chemical treatments that cause damage should not be used.

One of the most important and perhaps most misunderstood federal standards used by the German Village Commission states that:

"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."

In simple terms, this means that additions should not be intended to look historic. It does not mean that the addition needs to look modern.

Neither the Secretary of Interior's Standards nor the German Village guidelines expect people to propose additions that look like Zaha Hadid's designs (it's a fun internet search), instead the intention is for additions to avoid being faux-historic.

What is faux-historic? Additions that are purposely made to impersonate a historic structure are considered faux-historic.

These kinds of additions are deceptive to both visitors and unknowing residents, because they misrepresent the historic fabric of the neighborhood.

It is important to appropriately characterize our historic structures and the way people lived.

For example, adding a modest wood sided addition at the rear of a Dutch Double allows the original's architecture to shine through and honestly represent the modest origins of the home and its earliest residents.

Compare that to a Dutch Double with a brick addition that is a duplicate of the original home, which would confuse people and mischaracterize the lives and means of the original inhabitants.

The object is that additions should be reflective of the time in which it is built, but also compatible.

Contemporary does not necessarily refer to the style of architecture, it instead reinforces the concept that additions should not try to reimagine historic architecture.

The Secretary of the Interior's Standards and the German Village Historic Guidelines allow homeowners to build additions that accommodate their contemporary lifestyles, but assure that historic integrity is held of the utmost importance in order to appropriately preserve the community and ensure that key aspects of the historic district continue to be the key focus.

For more information about the Secretary of Interior Standards, visit the web site: nps.gov/history/hps/TPS/standguide/.

If you have any questions about the Certificate of Appropriateness application process, need some renovation project insight, or have any other questions about preservation, please contact me at smarsom@germanvillage.com; or at 614-221-8888.

German Village Historic Preservation Advocate Sarah Marsom submitted the Village Notebook.

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