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Preserving and Restoring Historic Buildings and Sites

Rebuilding, restoring, or upgrading sites and buildings of importance to an area’s history is an effective way to contribute to your local environment. You can join in one of thousands of projects going on around the country or, if you’re ambitious, you can launch one of your own locally. The following federal programs provide opportunities to get involved in a variety of projects in the areas of building restoration and archaeological studies:

  • The National Park Service is one of many resources that you can tap into if you’re interested in either restoring an old house you’re purchasing as your home or launching a community project to preserve a building with historic significance. The service’s Technical Preservation Services department is the best place to start; use its checklist for evaluating the building and planning the rehabilitation:

    • Check available documentation.

    • Evaluate the building’s historic character.

    • Assess architectural integrity and physical condition.

    • Plan the rehabilitation work.

    • Check codes and other legal requirements.

    • Check use of federal funds.

    • Check available publications.

  • The USDA Forest Service offers ordinary people a Passport in Time — a volunteer archaeology and historic preservation program in which you work with professionals in national forests throughout the nation. Previous projects indicate the range of work that you can participate in: stabilizing ancient cliff dwellings in New Mexico; excavating a 10,000-year-old village site in Minnesota; restoring a historic lookout tower in Oregon; cleaning vandalized rock art in Colorado; and serving as information specialists at various sites.

To find local projects in need of help, contact local historic preservation societies or groups, local chambers of commerce, local community or county government offices, and state historic preservation offices. You also may find projects via the Internet by entering the name of your local area plus the words historic building preservation or historic restoration.

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