Clarke & Sampson Blog

Ten Principles of Historic Property Preservation

Scott Jefferson | Monday, December 16, 2013

Historic_Home_AlexandriaIn the 1989 issue of Historic Preservation, Susan Morse described what she called, "The Do's and Don'ts" for those who have invested their time and resources into restoring historic properties. The list that she compiled is still widely circulated and regularly cited by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. While the list was intended for owners of historic properties, it is also relevant to our work as insurers of historic properties. We'd like to share the ten principles with you, and add some helpful guidance from an insurance and risk management perspective.


Here are the ten principals as Morse originally described:

 1. Make every effort to use the property for it's intended purpose.

2. Do not alter or destroy distinctive original features.

3. Recognize all buildings as products of their own time.

4. Recognize and respect all changes that have taken place over time.

5. Treat sensitively distinctive stylistic features or examples of skilled craftwork.

6. Repair rather than replace worn architectural features when possible. When replacement is necessary, new materials should match the old design, composition, and color.

7. Clean facades using the gentlest methods possible.

8. Protect and preserve affected archeological resources.

9. Compatible contemporary alterations are acceptable if they do not destroy significant historical or architectural fabric.

10. Build new additions so they can be removed without impairing the underlying structure.

From an insurance and risk management perspective, perhaps the most important deduction is that, in order to adhere to these principals, you must work with contractors, architects, alarm companies, designers, and insurers that also adhere to Morse's principles. For example, there are very few insurance carriers that are capable of insuring historic property in accordance with the Morse principals. Knowing how difficult it can be to find the right person for the job, keep this list as a reference. While interviewing a contractor, insurance agent, or architects, ask questions about their skills, techniques, and expertise. Be sure that their approach aligns with the Morse principles. It's a simple step that can preserve the integrity of your historic property.

Since 1946, Clarke & Sampson has been an expert resource on historic property replacement valuation, property insurance underwriting, risk management, and personal insurance brokerage.


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