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Definition of Historic Preservation

Historic preservation is a subjective science that avoids clear definition. Is it an ancient temple, left untouched for posterity? An antebellum mansion, renovated in the 1920s with indoor plumbing, electricity and subtle exterior alterations? A log cabin, built new for an outdoor museum? Or a modern office tower sprouting from a Beaux Arts façade? Generally, some would consider each a form of preservation. But more often, historic significance – and the means to preserve it – is a relative matter that stems from the social context and aesthetic sensibilities of the beholder. In this report, "landmark" is defined as any structure, site, or district that is legally designated historic – and "preservation" refers to the administrative process to determine and designate landmarks. This definition refers to all forms of legal designation, from restrictive local landmarks to the more symbolic listings on the National Register of Historic Places. The nuances and requirements of each distinction will be covered in further sections of this report. These definitions are not exhaustive, and they oversimplify the semantics of "preservation" and "historic." However, they are necessary to concisely cover a topic this broad and digressive. Alternative definitions are encouraged.

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