For those involved in the stewardship of the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties are an indispensable resource for guiding decisions relating to the restoration, rehabilitation, repair and maintenance of these historic places. The Standards are the basic criteria used by state historic preservation offices, most governmental entities, and many other organizations for evaluation of work on historic buildings and sites. For instance:
Under the Standards, there are actually four distinct, but interrelated approaches to the treatment of historic properties. When beginning the preservation planning process on a property, it is important to consider which of these approaches apply, so a basic understanding of all is helpful. The National Park Service website outlines these approaches:
In some cases, guidelines from more than one approach may be useful. While preservation work on a residential property might not typically reference more than one approach, a large-scale restoration of a public site may have components that fall under all four. The Martin House in Buffalo serves as a good example of a site where aspects of all four approaches would be relevant:
According to the Department of the Interior, the Standards, “are neither technical nor prescriptive, but are intended to promote responsible preservation practices….” In other words, they are guidelines that lay out approaches to making decisions when working with historic properties. They require interpretations in each situation. This can at times seem frustrating if there is a difference of interpretation between an owner and reviewer of a project, but the ability to interpret also provides room for creativity. Preservation is not a one-size-fits-all process, any more than designing a building from scratch. Whether your project is subject to review by an outside body or not, the Standards provide an invaluable framework on which to base your decisions.
As an additional resource, the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy has developed guidelines based on the Secretary of Interior’s Standards that are tailored specifically for Wright buildings. It is these guidelines, in conjunction with the Secretary of Interior’s Standards, that the Conservancy will reference when reviewing proposed work to properties on which the Conservancy holds a preservation easement.
As always, if you have questions regarding your Wright-designed property, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Conservancy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on December 15, 2020