Log in




Log in


Mission San Juan Capistrano - The Gardens are Colonial Revival Style, Not Original.


People often speak of “restoring” a building or garden when they actually 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 restoration of cultural resources including gardens and cultural landscapes eligible for or listed in the National Register of Historic Places.


The Secretary of the Interior’s professional standards for dealing with historic landscapes recognize four legitimate approaches or treatments.

  • 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 forms, 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.

It is important to determine which treatment (or combination) is appropriate for a significant garden or cultural landscape, even if it will not be listed in a local landmarks list or in the National Register of Historic Places. 

One issue in preservation is access. “Making Historic Landscapes Accessible” by the National Park Service contains valuable information:



This process includes multiple steps:

  1. Property identification
  2. Historical research and documentation
  3. Inventory and documentation of present conditions
  4. Evaluation of significance and integrity (and site analysis if there will be a treatment planning process).

Documentation of the cultural landscape can result in official recognition of the property by, for example, listing it in the National Register of Historic Places, or in a list of local landmarks or cultural monuments. Documentation can also bring inclusion in the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS).

Often, understanding and recognition of a cultural landscape’s importance leads us to want to retain or regain a property’s historic integrity by preparing a preservation treatment plan to guide its long-term physical management.


  1. Develop a Cultural Landscape Preservation Approach and Treatment, selecting one of the following: preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, reconstruction. (see Gardens & Landscapes);
  2. Prepare a Cultural Landscape Management Plan and Management Philosophy and, over time;
  3. Produce and implement a Record of Treatment and Future Research Recommendations.

An excellent overview of this entire cultural landscape preservation process is found in: NPS Brief #36 – Birnbaum, Charles A., Protecting of Cultural Landscapes: Planning, Treatment and Management: National Park Service, 1994.


Specific National Register Bulletins were created to assist you in the identification, documentation, evaluation and National Register listing of two special types of cultural landscapes: rural and designed historic landscapes.

See: National Register Bulletin 30: Guidelines for Evaluation and Documenting Rural Historic Landscapes, Linda Flint McClelland (NPS) and J. Timothy Keller, Genevieve P. Keller, and Robert Z. Melnick (Land and Community Associates). Washington, DC: Interagency Resources Division, National Park Service, (res. 1999).

National Register Bulletin 18: How to Evaluate and Nominate Designed Historic Landscapes, J. Timothy Keller and Genevieve Keller (Land and Community Associates) Washington, DC: Intergency Resources Division, National Park Service).

A comprehensive book: The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties with Guidelines for the Treatment of Cultural Landscapes, edited by Charles A. Birnbaum with Christing Capella Peters, was published in 1996. Revised in 2009, the Guidelines are now available on-line. They suggest “treatment” approaches for cultural landscapes because, due to the dynamics inherent in living systems, preserving landscapes is quite different from preserving buildings! In the context of “treatment,” “preservation” becomes one of the four approaches for protecting and managing historically-significant landscapes and their essential “character-defining” features such as spatial character, topography, views and vistas, circulation patterns, vegetation, and structures.

The “Guidelines” are on-line at:

About Us

CGLHS is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit membership organization





Sign up to join our FREE email list and get the latest news and events info.

Copyright © 2024 California Garden Landscape History Society. All rights reserved.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software