This Preservation Tools section is written to be a direct reference for any historic property owner in Dallas.  It will cover common terms, the property tier system, include important city tax information regarding a historic property, and give information on the following topics related to preservation and restoration: Windows, Paint Color, Landscaping, Historic Signage, Structural Siding, Additions to a Property, and Going Green.

Image Courtesy of Preservation Dallas

Image Courtesy of Preservation Dallas


Preservation: focuses on the maintenance and repair of existing historic materials and retention of a property’s form as it has evolved over time

Restoration: depicts a property at a particular period of time in its history, while removing evidence of other periods

Rehabilitation: acknowledges the need to alter or add to a historic property to meet continuing or changing uses while retaining the property’s historic character

Reconstruction: re-creates vanished or non-surviving portions of a property for interpretive purposes

From “Four Approaches to the Treatment of Historic Properties” NPS 


Tier One: Property is “an exceptional example of its type or style.”  Considered eligible for the US Department of the Interior’s National Register of Historic Places

Tier Two: This property is also eligible for the listing on the US Department of the Interior’s National Register of Historic Places.  It is a good example of its style.  However, over the years, it might have been added to or altered.

Tier Three: The changes and alterations applied to this type of property have also altered its integrity.  They are no longer eligible for listing on the registry.

Tier Four: This type of property is neither historically or architecturally significant. It might be in the vicinity of a property that is however.  Tier Four properties are usually within a historic district adjacent to a Tier One, Two, or Three.  It is important to still maintain the public space (street, property trees, sidewalks) in scale and keeping with the district. 


If you are unsure of the style of your home, the best place to start is by knowing when it was built.  Housing styles have obviously changed over the years, and by knowing when your home was originally constructed it will help you narrow down the style.  A great reference book on the topic is A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia Savage McAlester and Lee McAlester.  It is available in the resource library at the Wilson House.  There are countless other books on the topic too, so never hesitate to stop by and do some research!

General building research information can be found here.


The Historic Preservation Section on the City of Dallas website provides specific information regarding city ordinances, historic districts, landmark designations, tax incentives, and certificates of appropriateness.  The City of Dallas Historic Preservation Ordinance provide specific information on changing, restoring, or preserving a historic structure and should always be referred to before beginning a project.  Below are a list of helpful support documents.

City Historic Support Documents List:

Certificate of Appropriateness

Historic Preservation Ordinance

City Tax Support Documents List:

Tax Incentive Ordinance

Tax Incentive Information Packet

Tax Incentive Step 1

Tax Incentive Step 1 Partial

Tax Incentive Step 2


The most common types of windows are double hung, single hung, awning, casement and sliding, decorative, storefront, and leaded/stained glass.  Contrary to popular belief, old and historic windows are generally more energy efficient than one might believe.  It is important to look at how much energy is consumed in the making of the window as well as the lifespan.  Generally speaking, historic windows used less energy to be manufactured and were built as though they would always be a part of the home.  Modern windows use far more energy and produce much more waste during production.  They also have life spans of only 10-20 years.  Remember that historic windows were built to be naturally energy efficient and help circulate the air within in a home.  Before you buy new windows, look at all of your options.  Historic windows can be retrofitted to fit today’s energy specifications and small repairs on an existing window will save you both time and money in the long run! MORE>


Paint color on any home is never meant to last forever.  In fact, it should be redone every 5-8 years depending on the location of the home and the type of paint used.  In the case of historic homes when it comes to paint, we are generally referring to wood cladding or wooden exteriors of a building.  The provided documents from the National Parks Service included in this section provide an excellent resource for how to properly and safely deal with exterior paint application on a historic building. MORE>


Landscape preservation is becoming just as important as building preservation  in the United States.  Identifying, retaining, and preserving the existing spatial organization and land patterns of the landscape as they have evolved over time is very important in landscape preservation.  Start your project by documenting the features of your property that make it special and define the previously mentioned relationships.  Pay close attention to the size, proportions, configuration, and relationships in your landscape and the components that comprise it. MORE>


Signs are important because they help provide way finding to a building as well as a location marker. In many cases, the sign becomes as important and sometimes more so than the actual building.  Preserving historic signage is preserving the social and cultural link that is often associated with the property it stands on. MORE>


According to the National Park Service “a historic building is a product of the cultural heritage of its region, the technology of its period, the skill of its builders, and the materials used for its construction.” MORE>


According to the National Parks Service “a new exterior addition to a historic building should be considered in a rehabilitation project only after determining that requirements for the new or adaptive use cannot be successfully met by altering non-significant interior spaces.”  There are many schools of thought regarding additions to a historic property.  The National Parks Service guidance has three guidelines for an addition.  They are: “preserve significant historic materials, features and form; be compatible; and be differentiated from the historic building.” MORE>


On a global scale, people are becoming more concerned with the state of the physical world.  In his book Conservation and Sustainability in Historic Cities, Dennis Rodwell explains that the historic city and historic structures play a large role in achieving better environmental health.  He discusses that when historic buildings were constructed, they were done so with vernacular materials, cutting down on environmental impact. Buildings were also constructed by hand, cutting down on pollution.  People are again returning to the cities and the historic buildings that were erected during the area’s peak.  Historic buildings are the key to environmental health in the future.  The United States Green Building Council has launched a “regreen” program aimed at residential restoration and renovation projects.  The guidelines are an excellent resource for research as well as lay out some important facts about sustainable remodeling and restoration.  Part of the USGBC’s LEED program encompasses Neighborhood Development and Historic Preservation.  This program is geared more at large scale residential and commercial projects, however the resources and tips it provides are great even if you’re a do-it-yourself type of person! MORE>


Additional Articles and Resources that Might be Helpful:


Interior Rehabilitation


National Center for Preservation Technology and Training