Thomas McDowell, PA; AIC  Architectural Conservator


Conditions Assessment Report - General
In order to identify and understand the actions that must be taken to ensure your structure or structures are not in jeopardy of losing fabric and historic integrity in the process, I suggest that a thorough inspection be completed before corrective actions are taken. A conditions assessment will usually require anywhere from a day for smaller vernacular structures to many days on site for larger institutional buildings. A corresponding amount of time should be allowed to compile and assemble the information collected on site into a coherent, cohesive and illustrated report identifying agents of decay, fabric in jeopardy, basic construction chronology (in order to inform future actions) and prioritized recommendations. A conditions assessment is the first step in understanding the needs of your historic structure or site.

Conditions Assessment Program (CAP) Report – Heritage Preservation
The CAP report is funded in part by Heritage Preservation and is a very beneficial way for House Museums or other small museums in Historic Buildings to have a professional collections assessor and an architectural assessor onsite at the same time to evaluate the physical conditions of both the collections and the architectural resources. Operations, procedures and staffing are also carefully considered in the CAP report. This program and report is further developed in section on CAP reports and Heritage Preservation.  

Historic Structure Reports
The HSR will frequently follow and be informed by the initial Conditions Assessment Report A much lengthier document than the conditions assessment, the HSR assembles historical, architectural, conservation, genealogical, archeological, materials research and corrective specifications “under one roof”.  The HSR should become the repository for all new information discovered after the initial publication of the first document.  An HSR should not become a “dead” file but a vital and emerging one continually enriched with new discoveries.  See example of Historical Background portion of an HSR above. 
For Example of Components of an HRS by Thomas McDowell go to:  <iframe src="" width="165" height="128" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe>     

Historic Property Maintenance Planning and Programming
I understand and appreciate the phrase “Preservation is Maintenance”. The best method to preserve historic properties is to develop and implement a comprehensive maintenance program for your property and site. This is easier said than done for the historic property manager, curator or private residence owner as it requires the skills of a conservator and craftsman to understand and mitigate the active agencies of deterioration. I can work with you and/or your building committee to develop a comprehensive maintenance plan and assist with regularly scheduled activities and inspections; or develop a plan for your forces to implement where we will assist with craftsman training, compliance with Federal and local Standards and sources of supply. The maintenance plan always begins with a conditions assessment.

Design Build – Project Management
I am ready to assist you with design and management of projects – large or small. I acknowledge that the success of any project begins in the planning phase. Many years of experience in all phases of preservation project management including pre-project planning allows me to anticipate difficulties before they are encountered during construction. During design I also consult with and champion your proposals for compliant alterations and additions to your historic buildings and sites from authorities having jurisdiction in your area such as the State Historic Preservation Offices or city and neighborhood boards of architectural appropriateness.

Section 106 Compliance for Federally Funded Projects
Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires that all Federal agencies consider the “effects” of their “undertakings” on historic properties and sites. Having completed two levels of training with the Advisory Council as a Federal Preservation Officer, has expedited the completion of many Section 106 submissions for Federal undertakings in the National Capital Region. If your project requires review, comments and concurrence from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and/or the local State Historic Preservation Office, I can ensure this requirement will not adversely affect your project timeline. Appropriate pre-project planning must accommodate this legally mandated process before all design decisions have been reached in order to remain compliant with the statute. Informal submission and discussions with the SHPO no later than the 60% design document phase is recommended.  

Processing and Filing for the 20% Investment Tax Credit on Certified Rehabilitations of Historic Properties
According to the provisions in the existing tax laws owners of commercial historic properties (those listed individually on the National Register or as contributing structures in a National Register Historic District) are eligible for a 20% investment tax credit on rehabilitation expenses. The rehabilitation expenses must be directed toward the “certified” project – meaning approved by the State Historic Preservation Office and the National Parks Service. The application process can be confusing and time consuming if one is not familiar with federal preservation standards and the requirements of the tax code. I have been successful in assisting clients in both Kentucky and Maryland qualify and have benefited from this tax credit. Many states also afford an opportunity for homeowners to benefit from state tax credits.

Presentations and Craftsman Training
I specialize and excel in informing audiences on subjects related to architectural preservation and conservation whether graduate, professional or amateur. My workshops normally include an opportunity for “hands on” experience, such as “Maintenance Programming for Historic Site Managers and Curators” or “Re-pointing Historic Brickwork Using Pure Lime Putty Mortars” and offer a series of courses that have been presented to audiences, like those mentioned above, in the past. I am also available to create presentations or design coursework to suite your circumstances and needs. My presentations and training qualify for Continuing Education Units (CEU’s) for registered architect members of the American Institute of Architects. I can also assist with craftsman training, competency review, mockup or submittal review and construction inspection during preservation projects.

           Preservation and maintenance in principle it can be as simple as the advice our friend Mr. Ruskin advises in 1847: 

               “The principle of modern to neglect buildings first and to restore them afterwards. Take proper care of your  
             monuments and you will not need to restore them. A few sheets of lead put in time upon the roof, a few dead leaves and  
             ticks swept in time out of a water course, will save both roof and wall from ruin. Watch an old building with an anxious 
             care; guard it as best you may, and at any cost, from every influence of dilapidation. Count its stones as you would    
             jewels of a crown; set watches about it as if at the gates of a besieged city; bind it together with iron where it loosens; 
            stay it with timber where it declines; do not care about the unsightliness of the aid.”       John Ruskin