This Debris Matters: Preserving Fire-Damaged Historic Buildings
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Type of Work129 p.
ProgramMA in Historic Preservation
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post-fire historic preservation
Historic preservation -- Theses
Historic buildings -- Fires and fire prevention -- United States
Historic buildings -- Conservation and restoration -- United States
Historic buildings -- United States -- Evaluation
Historic buildings are damaged every year by fire. Without proper intervention many of these buildings are demolished or altered without understanding the property’s significance. This thesis research addresses the question: can a historic building damaged by fire retain its significance and integrity? Specifically it asks: can a historic building damaged by fire retain its significance and integrity as defined by the National Register of Historic Places? To address this question, this thesis research examines how different preservation standards are applied to preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, and reconstruction activities. It also examines the close interaction required for these activities by a number of stakeholders including property owners, architects, engineers, fire professionals, insurance companies, and historic preservation professionals. This treatise is organized in two general parts. The first part examines how significance, identity, and integrity are understood by preservation professionals, as specifically related to fire damaged buildings. It also examines firefighting, fire investigation, and insurance, and their role in preserving a building’s significance, identity, and integrity. The second part consists of four case studies to place the hypothesis in real world context. This analysis shows that a building can retain significance and integrity after being damaged by fire. This thesis research shows the importance of integrity of association and feeling in post-fire preservation. These two aspects of integrity can sometimes outweigh other aspects of integrity after a catastrophic event. This research also shows the importance of a building’s identity. A building with historic significance but little identity sometimes has little chance of being preserved. However, a building with immense identity but little historic significance will be preserved because the community becomes a partner in preservation.