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This section of the facilities toolbox provides information to help you manage historically significant facilities. The topics below address the most common concerns and provide links to detailed information.

Historic Facilities Tools Topics

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Historic Facilities Tools Topics

  • Twin Lakes Recreation Area Picnic Pavilion, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

    Forest: Allegheny
    District: Bradford
    Region: 9

    What is a historic facility?

    Do historic facilities have special requirements?

    How do I address historic facilities in the Facilities Master Plan?

    How do I address historic facilities in the Preliminary Project Analysis?

    How do I make historic facilities accessible?

    How can historic buildings be made more sustainable?

    What is required to upgrade or remodel a historic facility?

    What if we no longer need a historic facility?

    What if we don't need a historic facility now, but plan to use it later?

    What if we want to tear down a historic facility?

    Where can I find technical information?


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  • People often confuse a "historic" facility with a "historically significant" facility. While the first term technically refers to any "old" facility, the second term applies to one that is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. For the sake of simplicity, we'll assume that the historic facilities discussed in the Facilities Toolbox are eligible.

    There are several considerations when evaluating a facility for eligibility:

    1. Generally, a facility must be at least 50 years old unless it is of "exceptional importance." To determine the age of a building, rely on historic research. INFRA or real property records sometimes reflect the date of major remodeling.

    2. The facility must possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association.

    3. The facility must meet at least one of the following four criteria:

    1930s photo of Seely Creek Guard Station, eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

    Forest: Manti-LaSal
    District: Ferron
    Region: 4

      1. It is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history.

      2. It is associated with the lives of persons significant in our past.

      3. It embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction; represents the work of a master; possesses high artistic values; or represents a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction.

      4. It has yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.

    To illustrate, consider Forest Service facilities constructed between 1933 and 1942. Most meet Criterion "a" because they are associated with New Deal programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps. However, they are not eligible if inappropriate renovations have caused a loss of integrity.

    A heritage specialist evaluates historic facilities by conducting a field survey and historic research. The specialist submits a Determination of Eligibility to the appropriate State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) for concurrence. This is often done as part of a Section 106 review. You can find State-specific guidance at individual SHPO websites.

    Many SHPOs require specialists who evaluate historic buildings to meet Professional Qualification Standards. If you do not have a qualified professional on staff, consider contracting the work. Most SHPOs maintain a list of qualified professionals. Click here for a sample Statement of Work for your contract.

  • Jubilee Guard Station

    Forest: Dixie
    District: Escalante
    Region: 4

    Historically significant facilities are treated differently than facilities that are not eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Several regulations and laws require us to give them special consideration.

    The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) contains several requirements. Section 302303 (b) (9)(page 11) requires consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), any Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization that attaches religious and cultural significance to property(page 17)[and in some cases the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation ], and public scoping whenever there is a Federal undertaking. Undertakings include, but are not limited to, constructing additions, remodeling, licensing, demolishing, and permitting. This section is often referred to as “section 106”, which is the section number of the original Act. The Act has since been amended numerous times, changing the section numbers.

    Section 306101 (a) (2) of the NHPA (Page 41) directs us to use historic facilities "to the maximum extent feasible" before acquiring, constructing, or leasing new buildings.

    Section 306121 of the NHPA (Page 44) requires us to implement titleernatives for surplus historic buildings when practicable, rather than demolishing them. These titleernatives include adaptive use, leasing, and exchange for a comparable historic property.

    Three Executive Orders also give special attention to historic facilities. Executive Order (EO) 11593 directs us to preserve, restore, and maintain our historic facilities to certain standards. We must reconsider any plans to transfer, sell, demolish, or substantially titleer these properties. If we want to move forward with those plans after reconsideration, we must prepare detailed documentation of the property and cooperate with purchasers or transferees to maintain the historic values of the property as much as possible without creating an unreasonable economic burden to public or private interests.

    The goal of Executive Order (EO) 13006 is to revitalize city or town centers, particularly central business districts. It requires us to remain or locate in these areas when "operationally appropriate and economically prudent." Keep this in mind when reviewing administrative sites located in these areas, as it encourages us to remain there rather than move to outlying areas. When locating new facilities, we must give priority to three options in this order: 1) use historic properties within historic districts; 2) use other developed or undeveloped sites within historic districts; and 3) use historic properties outside of historic districts.

    The Preserve America Executive Order (EO) 13287 was signed March 3, 2003. It reinforces our preservation responsibilities with an emphasis on promoting economic benefits through heritage tourism and partnerships. To improve agency planning and accountability, EO 13287 sets deadlines for us to report on how we are identifying, protecting, and using historic properties.

  • How Do I Address Historic Facilities in the Facilities Master Plan?

    Compounds such as the Sawtooth Work Center may be eligible to be listed on the National Register as historic districts.

    Forest: Sawtooth
    District: Sawtooth NRA
    Region: 4

    When developing recommendations for the Facilities Master Plan (FMP), keep in mind the requirements of Sections 110 and 111 of the NHPA, as well as the applicable Executive Orders. If you no longer need the facility or think it may need to be titleered, consider involving the SHPO during the FMP stage. This will help the Section 106 Review , which is completed during the Preliminary Project Analysis (PPA), to go smoothly and efficiently.

  • Gasquete Fire Warehouse was constructed in stages by the CCC as three separate joined buildings.

    Forest: Six Rivers
    District: Smith River NRA
    Region: 5

    You must complete a Preliminary Project Analysis (PPA) before programming funding for acquisition, additions, renovations, decommissioning, or other substantial facility work. The PPA includes analysis and reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).

    The level of NEPA and NHPA work will depend on the proposed titleernatives. For minor or inconsequential titleerations, the Categorical Exclusion (CE) customarily serves as the NEPA decision document. Facilities that are eligible for the National Register constitute an "extraordinary circumstance," so an Environmental Analysis (EA) or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) may be needed in some cases. In other cases, a CE may be supplemented with a separate Section 106 review.

    You can coordinate the NEPA and NHPA reviews (section 800.8, page 8) to avoid duplication of work by substituting an EA or an EIS for the Section 106 review. However, you must notify the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation that you plan to do so. In addition, the EA or EIS must meet certain standards, including participation of consulting parties (e.g., tribes, preservation groups, local governments) to identify titleernatives and mitigation measures. Refer to the Government Services Administration's Historic Building Desk Guide for more information.

  • Historic structures are not exempt from accessibility requirements. All buildings serving the public and/or used by FS employees (except certain special-use buildings or parts of buildings) must be accessible. This means that changes must be made to most historic structures to provide accessibility. Usually, accessibility can be achieved without harming the building's historic integrity.

    The ramp on the front porch of the historic Baker Ranger Station (National Park Service) in Baker, NV integrates access while minimizing impact to the building's historic fabric.

    An end view of the Baker Ranger Station ramp shows how it was integrated into the porch structure. Existing porch railings were retained.

    There are sometimes conflicts between providing accessibility and maintaining the integrity of a historically significant property. Where full compliance with accessibility requirements would create a "substantial impairment" to the historic features of the property, the ABA Accessibility Guidelines provides guidelines for accessibility. Where access to all areas of the structure is not possible, the most integrated titleernative access should be developed. titleernatives may include different entrance requirements and limited physical access supplemented by additional programmatic access. The most integrated titleernative is the best titleernative. All people should experience the building in the same way whenever possible.

    A ramp on the front would diminish the Stuart Guard Station's historic integrity.

    Forest: Manti-LaSal
    District: Price
    Region: 4

    A ramp from the parking lot leads to a secondary entrance to the Stuart Guard Station.

    Forest: Manti-LaSal
    District: Price
    Region: 4

    When physical access is not possible, such as at an historic lighthouse, access to a similar experience through programmatic features must be provided, in accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Using the lighthouse example, interpretive panels on a boardwalk around the base of the lighthouse could display the view from the top of the lighthouse, the interior of the lighthouse, information about the history of the structure, and so forth.

    The CCC stonework on the Point Iroquois Lighthouse prevents adding a ramp to provide an accessible entrance.

    Forest: Hiawatha
    District: Sault Saint Marie
    Region: 9

    An titleernative program experience is provided at the Point Iroquois Lighthouse

    Forest: Hiawatha
    District: Sault Saint Marie
    Region: 9

    The General Services Administration (GSA) recommends the following three-step approach when applying ADA/ABA Accessibility Guidelines.

    1. Recognize that, to the maximum extent possible, historic buildings should be as accessible as other buildings.

    2. When a loss of architectural character or integrity would result from full compliance, apply titleernative standards and seek to provide at least:

      • One accessible entrance


      • One accessible restroom


      • One accessible route

    3. When an unacceptable loss of historic fabric or architectural character would result from the treatments in item 2 above, then "titleernative experiences" may be developed. titleernative experiences could include audiovisual presentation of inaccessible areas, staff assigned to accessible areas, or other innovative means of program delivery.

    A transition plan must be completed for each building serving the public and/or used by FS employees (except certain special-use buildings or parts of buildings) that is not already accessible. Each inaccessible historic structure must be evaluated following the Secretary of the Interior's Making Historic Properties Accessible and Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPO) and the unit's accessibility specialist should be included in the team evaluating the building and identifying appropriate changes that will provide for both accessibility and maintaining the building's historic character.

  • The Standards for Rehabilitation were followed in designing the new Ely District office, located in a historic compound.

    Forest: Humboldt-Toiyabe
    District: Ely
    Region: 4

    Historic facilities must often be titleered to accommodate modern uses, equipment, and technology. When carrying out any titleerations, Executive Order 11593 requires us to follow the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Treatment of Historic Properties , which address preservation, restoration, rehabilitation, and reconstruction. These are standards on appropriate materials, features, finishes, cleaning, repair, and other related concerns.

    By following the Standards for Rehabilitation , you can upgrade a facility without destroying its historic integrity. These standards should also be used for additions to historic facilities, as well as for new buildings in a historic district or compound.

    You must complete the Section 106 Review when you plan to titleer a historic facility. By using the Secretary of the Interior's Standards, you can typically avoid a finding of "adverse effect" and mitigation measures. This results in a smoother, quicker review.

    If you need to expend significant funds upgrading or remodeling a historic facility, you must complete a Preliminary Project Analysis , which includes analysis and reviews under NEPA and NHPA.

  • The Podunk Guard Station was restored and moved to the Red Canyon Visitors Center.

    Forest: Dixie
    District: Powell
    Region: 4

    Section 306121 (Page 44) requires us to implement titleernatives for surplus historic buildings when practicable. These titleernatives include adaptive use, leasing, and exchange for a comparable historic property.

    In some cases, historic buildings can be sensibly reused to serve a Forest Service purpose. One of the most common "white hat" solutions is converting facilities to rental cabins. These are usually operated under the Granger-Thye Act or the Recreation Enhancement Act program. In some cases, concessionaires manage rental cabins. Many forests and regions have successfully addressed concerns about liability and accessibility.

    Some units have come up with other creative solutions for historic facilities, while complying with laws and regulations. These often rely on partnerships.

    Some example solutions follow:

    • Region 2 is working with individuals and groups to form the Rocky Mountain Heritage Trust Partnership. The Trust will promote titleernative uses, while managing and maintaining the facilities. The Forest Service will be responsible for quality control and compliance with laws and regulations.

    • Artist-in-Residence programs that allow musicians, painters, writers, and other artists to occupy historic facilities for limited periods.

    • Use by educational institutions for research, field schools, and specialized training.

    • Use by nonprofit and civic organizations such as museums, search-and-rescue groups, Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, chambers of commerce, and interpretive associations.

    • "Adopt-a-Cabin" programs that rely on individuals or groups to care for historic resources.

    The Historic Surplus Property Program ,managed by GSA and the National Park Service, is another source of assistance in dealing with surplus facilities that are eligible for listing in the National Register. This program allows State, county and local governments to obtain surplus federal properties at no cost. Refer to the Excess Sites Tools for additional information on surplus properties.

    Related Questions:

  • In recent years, the Nevada Division of Forestry used the Gold Creek Guard Station, listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

    Forest: Humboldt-Toiyabe
    District: Mountain City
    Region: 4

    There are several factors to consider if your Facilities Master Plan shows that you don't need a facility now but expect to use it later.

    Determine whether it is advantageous to let somebody else occupy the building until you need it. Whether vacant or occupied, the facility will be assessed under the Cost Pool 09. Occupied buildings normally receive better care than empty buildings. Occupancy options include leasing the building to another agency or an organization, allowing another unit to use it (and thus pay the WCF), or making it available to the public as a rental cabin. Some forests designate facilities as rental cabins for part of the year, and use them for administrative purposes the rest of the year.

    If you decide to leave the building vacant, it should be "mothballed" to protect it from deterioration, vandalism, or other damage. Specific guidance can be found in the publication titled Mothballing Historic Buildings by the National Park Service and in the publication titled Buying Time: Mothballing Forest Service Facilities. Common measures include proper ventilation (particularly in humid climates), roof protection (for instance, covering the roof with corrugated metal sheets that can be reused elsewhere), pest control, and protecting windows.

    A mothballed building may give the appearance of abandonment or neglect. Some units have found it beneficial to install a sign explaining that the building is mothballed and will be used in the future. Experience shows that this reduces vandalism and encourages volunteers to contact the unit to help restore or rehabilitate the building.

  • Remember that historically significant facilities require special treatment and, as a Federal agency, we must comply with laws and regulations to protect them. Demolition can often be avoided by identifying a sensible re-use for the facility or by properly following the Section 110 and Section 106 processes , including public involvement. If, after investigating all avenues to retain the facility, you determine that demolition is the solution, work closely with the appropriate SHPO to develop mitigation measures.

    Mitigation often includes documentation, which varies in scope and cost. Documentation may be as simple as taking archival-quality photographs or as extensive as a detailed set of drawings accompanied by a historical report. Documentation should follow the standards of the Historic American Buildings Survey and Historic American Engineering Record (HABS/HAER Standards ).

    HABS/HAER drawing of the Hat Point Fire Lookout Tower.

    Forest: Wallowa-Whitman NF
    District: Hells Canyon NRA
    Region: 6

  • The following Web sites provide valuable information for historic buildings, including specifications, standards, product literature, and technical guidance.

    The National Park Service Technical Preservation Services for Historic Buildings provides tools and information to protect and preserve historic buildings, ranging from historic masonry and window repairs to lead paint abatement and accessibility. These include Preservation Briefs and Tech Notes that address topics such as repointing mortar, roofing, repairing wooden windows, heating and cooling systems, mothballing, paint problems, and seismic retrofit.

    The Historic Preservation site of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Center of Expertise (CX) for Preservation of Historic Structures and Buildings includes technical guides for topics such as wood windows, concrete, masonry, and paint. The CX also offers services that include compliance assistance, documentation, maintenance plans, preservation studies, and training.

    The General Services Administration Historic Buildings Preservation Technical Resources Website provides information on preventive maintenance, repair procedures, and standards. They are organized in the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) format.

    The Whole Building Design Guide's section on Sustainable Historic Preservation contains comprehensive information on sustainable use and treatment of historic structures and their surrounding landscapes.

    The Technology and Development Program's historic buildings publications.

    You may also wish to explore these commercial Web sites that contain general information on old buildings:

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