Do Your Historical Research

“How Do I Know When I Can Vary from Historical Significance?”

Your downtown has most likely had a historical district review. Regardless of how old the review is, it will provide you valuable information on how to proceed with your façade renovation. Most of these reviews will categorize each building relative to historical significance. It should define each building as: Contributing, Non-contributing, or Permanently Intrusive. Your city may use different terminology, but the definitions should be similar.

Contributing – Your façade currently meets a high historical design standard. You should do what you can to adhere to the historic design guidelines for any improvements you make. Once you have destroyed a historic element on the façade, your community can never get this status back.

Non-Contributing – This façade label puts you in the middle. You have some historic elements remaining that are worth keeping. This is where a novice remodeler will make many mistakes, not knowing what to properly do to the façade. This building classification is why I have become “The Practical Historian.” My online membership “Click & Learn” is full of valuable information that will assist you in how to improve your “partially historic façade.”

Permanently Intrusive – It is what it says! Your façade does not contribute to the downtown district, nor will it ever! At least historically. I love to work on these buildings! You get to create your own historic design. But as you design, remember to adhere to  historic design elements.

I have another article on just this subject. A well-designed new façade will certainly be the talk of the town. You will be greatly admired for this work. Be sure to do your historical homework, though. Take the time to research what your façade used to look like. Know that fires were many and there might be a number of different facades that represented your building. Chose a design that is well documented and easy to replicate. Don’t worry about exact material choices used in the past. Focus on the scale and balance of the final result. You will often find that the intricate detailing used in the past is not practical today.

That is okay! The three images represent an impactful transformation from permanently intrusive to a prideful façade that works within the historic downtown district. It will, however, remain permanently intrusive per Historic Preservation.