Cultivate culture by salvaging structures. Part two.

Posted on Aug 29, 2015 in inspiring INvironmentalism

“Protect the past. Shape the future.”-DAH&P

By Brett Marlo DeSantis

If every building has its own story to tell….what would yours say? Would you save the structure if you could? Would it have historic integrity? What are the qualities of a certified historic structure? What are the benefits of historic preservation? 

There are the seven qualities to assess when considering a historic designation: location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association. The goal is to understand the property itself, its time period, its history and its materials.

Historic integrity is the essence of how a building relates to its physical environment, such as the time period in which it was created, or an event or person of significance. Let’s dig a bit deeper into the seven qualities to identify if the building will qualify for a historic designation:

1. Location- consider the structure’s current location, orientation and height; and if moved, where it was originally constructed.
2. Design- explore the elements of design that create the form, plan, space, structure and style of a property.
3. Setting- examine the environment, site conditions and other resources of the property. 
4. Materials- investigate the physical elements that were combined or deposited during a particular period of time and in a particular pattern or configuration.
5. Workmanship- study the physical evidence of the crafts of a particular culture or people during the given period in history.
6. Feeling- sense of history; discover the property’s expression of the aesthetic or historic sense of a particular period of time.
7. Association- seek context; connect the link between an important historic event or person and the property.

All seven qualities do not need to be present for eligibility as long as the overall sense of past time and place is evident. After you have completed your assessment and decided that your structure does have a story to tell, nominate your property!Consider the nomination; will it be for the local register, the State or the National?

Tell your story. Be brief and sweet. Use a summary paragraph to outline your case. State under which criteria the property is being nominated. Provide a map, show orientation with a north arrow and a legend identifying any other resources on the site.Accurately describe the character defining features. Include images of all four elevations of the structure, and label them properly. If you are able, also include pictures of the original building and close-ups of the existing defining features.

Economic benefits of historic preservation include an increase in property values, managing your valuable resources and the opportunity to receive historic tax credits. According to Washington State’s Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation, the Federal Historic Tax Credit Program encourages preservation of the built environment by providing incentives such as 20% federal income tax credit on qualified private investments on certified rehabilitations. 

The credit can be taken as income tax credit and applied over 20 years or you can apply for a special valuation. A special valuation revises the assessed value of a historic property. The value of approved rehab costs is then subtracted, for up to ten years, from your property taxes.

Last but certainly not least, let’s not overlook fame. It’s appealing…you could be on WISAARD,  Washington’s award winning online GIS map tool for locating designated historical sites which are listed on the state and national registry!

If you are interested in learning about the City of Gig Harbor’s historic preservation program or listing on the local register, please contact Senior Planner Lindsey Sehmel at (253)851-6170.

For another great resource on historic preservation, check out the Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation at or call (360)586-3065. As the DAH&says, “Protect the past. Shape the future.”