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Step Three: The visual character of interior spaces, features and finishes


10. Individual Spaces

  1. Are there individual rooms or spaces that are important to this building because of their size, height, proportion, configuration, or function, like the center hallway in a house, or the bank lobby, or the school auditorium, or the ballroom in a hotel, or a courtroom in a county courthouse?

11. Related Spaces and Sequences of Spaces

  1. Are there adjoining rooms that are visually and physically related with large doorways or open archways so that they are perceived as related rooms as opposed to separate rooms?
  2. Is there an important sequence of spaces that are related to each other, such as the sequence from the entry way to the lobby to the stairway and to the upper balcony as in a theatre; or the sequence in a residence from the entry vestibule to the hallway to the front parlor, and on through the sliding doors to the back parlor; or the sequence in an office building from the entry vestibule to the lobby to the bank of elevators?

12. Interior Features

  1. Are there interior features that help define the character of the building, such as fireplace mantels, stairways and balustrades, arched openings, interior shutters, inglenooks, cornices, ceiling medallions, light fixtures, balconies, doors, windows, hardware, wainscoting, paneling, trim, church pews, courtroom bars, teller cages, waiting room benches?

13. Surface Finishes and Materials

  1. Are there surface finishes and materials that can affect the design, the color or the texture of the interior?
  2. Are there materials and finishes or craft practices that contribute to the interior character, such as wooden parquet floors, checkerboard marble floors, pressed metal ceilings, fine hardwoods, grained doors or marbleized surfaces, or polychrome painted surfaces, or stenciling, or wallpaper that is important to the historic character?
  3. Are there surface finishes and materials that, because of their plainness, are imparting the essential character of the interior such as hard or bright, shiny wall surfaces of plaster or glass or metal?

14. Exposed Structure

  1. Are there spaces where the exposed structural elements define the interior character such as the exposed posts, beams, and trusses in a church or train shed or factory?
  2. Are there rooms with decorative ceiling beams (nonstructural) in bungalows, or exposed vigas in adobe buildings?

This concludes the three-step process of identifying the visual aspects of historic buildings and is intended as an aid in preserving their character and other distinguishing qualities. It is not intended as a means of understanding the significance of historical properties or districts, nor of the events or people associated with them. That can only be done through other kinds of research and investigation.

This Checklist/Questionnaire is included in Nelson, Lee H., FAIA. Preservation Briefs 17: Architectural Character Identifying the Visual Aspects of Historic Buildings as an Aid to Preserving Their Character, Washington, D.C.: Technical Preservation Services (TPS), National Park Service, September, 1988 (Web: Last Modified: Thursday, April 25 2002 08:30:08 am EDT, KDW) [Layout for this version has been changed: section questions have been separated and numbered; images have been added.