Historic Resource Surveys
The Purpose of the Survey
Undertaking a survey to identify historic resources acknowledges that these resources have value to ourselves and future generations. Historic resources provide character, continuity and a sense of uniqueness to the community. Survey is fundamental to historic preservation because it results in the identification of historic resources and helps determine which of those resources should be preserved. The purpose of completing a local survey is to gather the information needed to plan for the wise use of a community’s resources.
A historic resource survey may also result in:
- Stimulation of interest in and increased public awareness of a community’s historic resources;
- Production of information useful to local units of government or planning agencies;
- Creation of an information base to be utilized by community action programs for either housing or commercial rehabilitation and neighborhood improvement;
- Identification of individual or historic districts to be nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, or commemorated with historical markers;
- Definition of areas to be designated as local historic districts under local ordinances;
- Identification of historic resources in anticipation of projects that may involve building demolition and land disturbance;
- Information that is used to meet specific environmental review requirements of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended; and
- Research on properties representing a style, period, construction type or historic theme.
The Survey Process
The essential first step in any preservation effort is the location and identification of historic resources within a geographic area and their documentation according to established standards. The survey process includes planning, research, fieldwork, data organization, evaluation and reporting.
Survey planning consists of determining the area to be surveyed, the establishment of the type of survey, when the survey is to take place, and who is to carry out survey activities and the exact role of each person.
Research involves investigating the historical background of the survey area, gathering information on specific properties, persons identified with these properties and the historic uses and events connected to them. Research is carried out within the framework of historic contexts.
Historic resources surveys fall into two general types: reconnaissance-level surveys and intensive-level surveys.
A reconnaissance-level survey is a first step in the survey process that identifies those areas and properties worthy of further study. Because reconnaissance-level surveys do not typically include research on the histories of the surveyed resources, they do not provide sufficient information for making informed evaluations of historic significance.
Intensive-level surveys include historical research on the surveyed properties that provides the information needed for determining which individual properties and areas are eligible for historic designations and for defining the boundaries of any historic districts.
The Survey as the Basis for Future Projects
Many communities initiate their involvement in historic preservation with a survey, followed by additional activities: nominations to the national register, the establishment of local ordinances, facade studies, marketing analyses, owners’ manuals, guidebooks, brochures and video presentations that utilize information from the original survey.
Funding for the Survey
Survey activity may be funded through local government expenditure, voluntary efforts and contributions, bequests from foundations or other organizations, as well as direct involvement by preservation agencies.
- For information about the Allegheny County Historic Site Survey 1979-1984, and other surveys of historic buildings and districts, contact Al Tannler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Washington & Greene County Agricultural Resource Survey.