Identifying Rural Heritage Assets

Before you can protect the historic character of a rural place, you have to know what historic assets you have. Conducting a survey is a great way to start. Surveys can be elaborate and detailed, or they can be as simple as a ‘windshield’ survey to get an initial overview of what types of buildings, structures, landscapes, or landscape features make up the character of a rural landscape, neighborhood or town. Completed surveys can form the foundation for National Register nominations, contribute to the development of a town-wide preservation plan, help inform planning decisions, and identify historic places that may warrant additional investigation and documentation.

Surveys might be conducted by a non-profit organization, preservation consultants, a preservation organization, volunteers, or staff from your state's State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). Most SHPO offices have standard, state-approved survey forms that can be used.  More specialized survey forms, tailored to agricultural properties for example, are also available from a variety of organizations. Click here to see the National Barn Alliance survey form that can be used to identify historic barns and farmsteads.

A good survey will typically include photos (taken from the public right of way unless owner permission is granted to enter property), a sketch map, location information (street address as well as GPS data), and a narrative. Depending on time and purpose, additional research can reveal oral histories, historic images, historic maps, census data, and other information that can help round out the stories.

For a list of sample surveys click here.