Surveying Historic Properties

What are the hidden stories behind the buildings in your community? How can you determine which ones should be preserved as part of your community’s heritage?  One of the tools that historic preservationists use to answer these questions is the historic survey.  Surveying historic properties can mean anything from what is known as the “windshield survey” — a quick drive or walk down the street to visually identify architecturally significant historic properties — to a detailed survey involving research into the the history of individual properties on a street or in a neighborhood or town.

History Colorado’s Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (OAHP) has published a number of helpful guides on how preservationists can conduct historic surveys.  To learn about the benefits of conducting a historic survey, see OAHP’s brochure Why Survey?  Two OAHP publications are mentioned in this brochure as important tools for communities using the survey process to identify historic resources: the Colorado Cultural Resource Survey Manual and the Field Guide to Colorado’s Historic Architecture & Engineering. Both of these publications can be accessed from our library. If your survey includes in-depth research on historic properties, another helpful resource is OAHP’s Researching the History of Your House, which provides helpful information and a checklist of what, and where, to search. For more resources, see our library’s Historic Preservation in Colorado subject resource guide, or visit OAHP’s website.

Historic surveys can be helpful tools for both large and small communities.  The City of Denver is currently engaged in a city-wide historic building survey, Discover Denver, which is supported in part by a grant from OAHP’s State Historical Fund.

Photo courtesy Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department.