Landscape Treatments—Restoration or Remodel


People often speak of “restoring” a building or garden when in fact they mean spruce it up or remodel it to capture a feeling of the past. In the United States, the Secretary of the Interior establishes professional standards for cultural resources (including gardens and landscapes) eligible for or listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

It is important to recognize which treatments are appropriate for significant gardens and cultural landscapes, even if they will not be listed. The four treatments recognized by the Secretary of the Interior are:

preservation—to sustain the existing form, integrity, and materials

rehabilitation—making possible a compatible use for a property through repair, alterations, and additions while preserving those portions or features which convey its historical or cultural values

restoration—accurately depicting the form, features, and character of a property as it appeared at a particular period of time

reconstruction—depicting, by means of new construction, the form, features, and detailing of a non-surviving site, landscape, building, structure, or object for the purpose of replicating its appearance at a specific period of time and in its historic location

More detail can be found in:

Preservation Briefs 36: Protecting Cultural Landscapes

The Secretary of the Interior’s … Guidelines for the Treatment of Cultural Landscapes

The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties

All are published by the U.S. Department of the Interior and are available from the Superintendent of Documents in Washington, DC. Online information is also available.

Cultural Landscapes Defined

UNESCO: “Cultural landscapes represent the combined works of nature and of man and are illustrative of the evolution of human society and settlement over time, under the influence of physical constraints and/or opportunities presented by their natural environment of successive social, economic and cultural forces, both external and internal.”

National Park Service (USA): “A geographic area, including both cultural and natural resources and the wildlife or domestic animals therein, associated with a historic event, activity, or person or exhibiting other cultural or aesthetic values.”

Four Types of Cultural Landscapes

There are four basic types of cultural landscapes:

historic designed landscapes

historic sites

historic vernacular landscapes

ethnographic landscapes

These landscape types are not mutually exclusive. For detailed, illustrated definitions of the above terms, visit The Cultural Landscape Foundation’s web site:







The famous gardens at Mission San Juan Capistrano were planted in the early 20th century. Still evolving, they are a West Coast example of the Colonial Revival Style, not a restoration of Spanish-era gardens.
Photo © Susan Chamberlin, 2002


Santa Cruz cglhs conference participants and California State Parks personnel had a lively discussion on the fate of the Thomas Church-designed rear courtyard garden at the Rancho San Andres Castro Adobe State Historic Park near Watsonville (not yet open to the public at the time of the conference.)  The Parks Department wants to return the garden to its "original" state (dirt), but this would not be authentic because the Rancho's original thousands of acres and unobstructed views to the ocean cannot be restored.  Other options discussed included: preserving the Church garden due to his importance in California landscape history; restoring the tiny remaining fragment of the front yard of the Castro Adobe to its original dirt state but preserving Church's rear courtyard; or choosing the Edna Kimbro occupancy time as the period of significance due to her importance in the adobe preservation movement.  Photo Susan Chamberlin © 2010


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