Knowing What’s Authentic - How do I find out about the history of my house?
There are numerous resources available to research the history of your house. Your property’s legal description, which is very useful for conducting research, can be obtained by searching county tax records.
What Style is my House?
Determining the architectural style of your house can be a challenging yet highly educational experience. Once you know the style of your home you can better understand how it fits within the context of your city or neighborhood’s history. Information on house styles can be found by consulting books such as Virginia & Lee McAlester’s A Field Guide to American Houses, by researching local records at your library or historical society
What paint colors are appropriate for my historic home?
Historic houses and neighborhoods benefit from the use of colors used when a house was first constructed. Understanding the architectural style and the era in which your home was built, helps to more easily identify appropriate color options. If you live in a historic district, consult with your neighbors to see if there are any established paint color guidelines for the district. If you know the style and era in which your home was constructed you can do research at your local library for books on your particular architectural style. Robert Schweitzer’s Bungalow Colors is but one example. Magazines, like Sunset or House Beautiful, from the period in which your home was constructed, can also be a good resource for not only paint colors but decorating tips as well. If you want to know your home’s original color scheme you can try to carefully scrape away the layers of paint from your siding (if original), trim, doors, window sashes or other architectural details that have been painted. Once removed you may be able to find the original layer of color you seek, or if you insist on complete authenticity, you can have your paint samples analyzed at a laboratory. If you have some knowledge of the type of home you have, and do decide to change your exterior paint scheme, consider researching and using historic paint colors. There are books on the subject, and at least two paint companies (Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams) that have historic color charts geared to homes from different periods. While color is important, the correct placement of the color is imperative. Using the right colors on the wrong areas will not provide the classic look you are hoping for. Again, there is so much information on restoring homes that just a little research can go a long way. Don't paint unpainted woodwork. Most pre-WWII homes, and some mid-century homes as well, originally had finished, unpainted woodwork. Leave it alone for at least a year, and preferably forever. If you find the woodwork is too dark for your tastes, it makes more sense to move into a style of home that embraces painted woodwork than to reduce the value and damage the historic fabric by painting the woodwork.
A very basic “primer” for historic paint colors based on house styles.
The vast majority of historic homes in Timrod Park Neighborhood were built between the second half of the nineteenth century and the first few decades of the twentieth century. Here are some basic guidelines for paint colors based upon the common house styles from this period.
- Colonial Revival - The original colors on houses of this style were typically pale, often white or yellow, but sometimes gray as well. Trim was usually pale too; whites, off-whites and yellows were fairly commonplace. Contrast was created by painting shutters black or dark green.
- Queen Anne or others from the “Victorian Era” - Houses of the Queen Anne or “Victorian” style were often intense in color, with the use of contrasting colors used to highlight the highly decorative architectural features. Appropriate colors from this period include: rich browns, reds, yellows or greens. Architectural details were typically painted in a contrasting color, either lighter or darker.
- Craftsman or Arts & Crafts - Many houses of these styles have a different siding material on each floor. A typical paint scheme on a house of this style would be the use a different color on each floor. Earth tones were typical, with red, green, yellow, or brown the most common choices. Unlike with Victorian era houses, Craftsman paint schemes usually used complimentary rather than contrasting colors on trim and other architectural elements.
- Mid-Century Modern - Homes from the Post World War II era into the 1960s were often painted in vibrant colors like blue or green combined with white trim or vice-versa.
Will replacing my original wood windows save money on energy?
We don't recommend it. Only 15% of a home's heat loss is through the windows - most is through the walls and roof. So it would take many years to recoup the money spent on replacement windows. And your original windows are an integral part of the historic character of your house. Click here for a in for a tip sheet in PDF format from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Respect the craftsmanship of your home. Don't remove any original detail, these details are what make up the home's character and have stood the test of time. If you are unsure as to what is original, talk to friends and neighbors who are knowledgeable and who may have similar homes; do a little research and look at as many books and articles about your style of house as you can.
What is the purpose of a Historic District?
To maintain, protect and preserve the scale and basic character and salient architectural details of homes within a historical district. A historical district is not a static museum, but rather a living, changing neighborhood. There is room for private renewal and architectural creativity, within appropriate controls and standards. Historical designation in a neighborhood will encourage continuous research into a community's human past and culture for the benefit of future generations and protect our high-quality architecture, mature landscaping and pedestrian orientation of our historic community by denying demolition of existing older homes to simply build out-of-scale super-houses that overwhelm the neighborhood. The character of a neighborhood is threatened by the teardown phenomenon, which is destroying the architecture and heritage of many communities. A historic district will provide protection from demolition, insensitive alterations and out-of-character new construction and emphasize the value of the historic neighborhood.
Seven Key Benefits that Historic Preservation Offers
As detailed in the book by Steven Tiesdell: Revitalizing Historic Urban Quarters, Architectural Press, 1996.
- Aesthetic value - "Old buildings and towns are valued because they are intrinsically beautiful, or because the have a scarcity value. In a world of rapid change, visible and tangible evidence of the past may also be valued for the sense of place and continuity it conveys."
- Architectural diversity - "The aesthetic appeal of a historic place may result from the combination or juxtaposition of many buildings rather than the individual merits of any particular building."
- Environmental diversity - "There is often a stimulating contrast between the human scale environment of a historic quarter or district and the monumental scale of the more modern central business distric."
- Functional diversity - "A diverse range of different types of space in buildings of varying ages, enables a mix of uses.
- Resource value - "Whether beautiful, historic or just plain practical, buildings may be better used than replaced. The reuse of buildings constitutes the conservation of scarce resources, a reduction in the consumption of energy and materials in construction, and good resource management."
- Continuity of cultural memory/heritage value - "Visible evidence of the past can contribute educationally to the cultural identity and memory of a particular people or place, giving meaning to the present by interpreting the past."
- Economic and commercial value - "Historic buildings usually possess scarcity, which can present opportunities for tourism." Coupled with tax and other incentives the cost of utilizing them is often lower than for other alternatives.
What are the general guidelines for getting a property listed on the National Register?
- The property must be at least 50 years old, unless it can be shown to have exceptional importance.
- The property must have “integrity” or closely resemble its historic appearance.
- Districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects should maintain their integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association.
- The property must be significant or retain some form of physical connection to an important aspect of the past.
- Significance may include a connection with an historic event or trend, a notable historic person, an example of notable architecture and engineering, or the potential to yield scientific information, such as an archaeological site.
- Nominations can be submitted for individual properties, multiple properties, historic districts, historic sites, or even objects, such as historic signs.
What other tax incentives are available for historic properties?
The federal government offers a tax credit program for income producing historic buildings. This program is administered by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the National Park Service, which has the final approval for a project’s eligibility. The basics of the federal tax credit program are as follows:
- The federal tax credit is equal to 20% of the total rehabilitation costs of the project.
- The building must be listed n the National Register of Historic Places.
- All rehabilitation work must meet the Secretary of the Interior’s standards for Rehabilitation.
- The building must be used for income producing purposes after it has been rehabilitated.
- The rehabilitation project must be “substantial” exceeding either the "adjusted basis" of the building or $5,000, whichever is greater. "Adjusted basis" is the purchase price minus the value of the land minus any depreciation already taken by the current owner of the building, plus any capital improvements.
April brings showers - and thoughts of taxes. If you've ever wondered what it takes to qualify a historic building rehab project for a Federal tax credit but been daunted by the complexity, a new tool can help you out.
INCENTIVES! is an online guide created by the National Park Service to introduce historic building owners, preservation consultants, community officials, architects and developers to the ins and outs of the 20 percent tax credit. The Website answers basic questions, provides general guidance on preparing and submitting application forms, documentation requirements, timing, reviews, and the overall decision-making process, and explains how to use the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation.