University of Vermont


HP 203 Conservation Techniques for Historic Structures

Graduate section 1998

  • Laboratory Section: Wednesdays 1:25-4:25 PM 101 Wheeler
  • Evening Lecture: Thursdays 5-8 PM A206 Old Mill Annex
  • Instructor: Thomas Visser, 213 Wheeler House, 656-0577
  • Email:
  • Office hours: Generally Tuesdays 11-12 and Thursdays 2-3 or by appointment or by chance when my office door is open
  • HP lab: 656-4006
  • Course web site:

  • Course Format

    This course is divided into two sections. Historic preservation program graduate students attend both the Wednesday labs and the Thursday evening lectures that are also attended by undergraduate and Continuing Education students.

    Course Objectives

    The goal of this introductory graduate course in architectural conservation is to explore the history, philosophy and science of building conservation through lectures, laboratory exercises, site visits and seminar discussions. It recognizes that the professional preservationist must have a broad understanding of basic analytical and research skills including a knowledge of the history of construction techniques, the ability to date components of historic structures and to assess their significance and condition, and the ability to collect, present, and critically review findings and recommendations for conservation treatments. While the purpose of the architectural conservation courses is not to teach building conservation trades per se, HP 203 and HP 307 are designed to provide preparation for preservationists to work with architects, engineers, trades people, contractors, conservators, property owners, and other preservation professionals, while reviewing conservation treatment proposals, architectural designs, grant applications, and the quality of preservation work.

    Since we have a very large amount of information to cover, the reading assignments are a very important part of the course. Please read these thoroughly and critically before class.

    The lectures are intended to provide an overview of the topics and visual examples, but a significant amount of the material for this course is in the readings. Each student will be expected to develop professional level skills on the computer as part of this course. All assignments should be produced on a word processor. This course also requires that you use the Internet. The WWW site for this course is

    Some handouts and forms will only be accessible from this source. You are welcome to use the computers in the HP lab (Room 103) or the computers in the library or in the basement of the Waterman Building. Some questions on the quizzes may be based solely on the readings and information obtainable through the WWW site.

    The texts are available at the UVM bookstore. All students are expected to start building a reference library on architectural conservation topics. Some of the basic references are listed in the suggested reading list. These may be very useful when preparing the assignments. You are also encouraged to assemble files on various conservation topics with photocopies of articles from such publications as the Association for Preservation Technology (APT) Bulletin and other sources.

    Access and safety

    Each student is responsible for gaining permission to access to their project building. Each student also is solely responsible for their safety while at their project building and when in the laboratory. As a courtesy, please provide a copy of your work to the owner of the building.

    Assignments HP 203 graduate HP section

    The written assignments use the format of an Architectural Conservation Assessment as a vehicle to integrate the material covered in this course into an analysis of a historic building. All assignments are due at the beginning of class on the date specified in the class schedule. Late assignments will be down graded unless excused for reasons beyond the student's control. Please call ahead if you encounter such difficulties. All written submissions shall be prepared on a word processor. These should reflect a professional level of standards, being well organized, spell-checked, and proof-read.

    Assignment 1 Building description (due Jan. 22)

    Assignment 2 History (due Feb. 5)

    Assignment 3 Elements (due Feb. 12)

    Assignment 4 Mortar analysis (due Feb. 26)

    Assignment 5 Elements Descriptions (due March 5)

    Assignment 6 Paint analysis (due April 2)

    Assignment 7 Condition (due April 9)

    Assignment 8 Treatments (due April 16)

    Oral Presentation (April 22 & April 23)

    In a 10 minute slide presentation (10 to 15, 35mm slides only) summarize the conservation treatment recommendations for your project building. Important: Don't postpone this assignment until the last week. Allow time to review your slides and to retake some if necessary.


    Examinations will be in the form of five quizzes. Questions will typically be of the short answer type. Identifications of building materials and conditions may be based on architectural fragments and slides.

    Grades will be weighed as follows:

    Written assignments 1-7 50%

    Written assignment 8 15%

    Quizzes 25%

    Class participation & oral presentation 10%

    Field Kits

    Each graduate student should acquire (or borrow) the following equipment:

    Texts (Available at UVM Bookstore)

    Preservation Briefs #1-40. Washington: National Park Service

    Fram, Mark. Well-preserved, Erin, Ontario: Boston Post Mills, 1988.

    Poore, Patricia, ed. The Old-House Journal Guide to Restoration, Dutton, 1992.

    Primary References

    (Available at UVM Library or "on reserve" from Prof. Visser or in Wheeler 103)


    Bulletin, Association for Preservation Technology (At UVM Library, v 1 - v. 8 in Microforms, v. 9 - current issues in Periodicals)

    Traditional Building

    Old House Journal


    A Guide to Vermont Architecture. Montpelier: Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, 1991.

    Ashurst, John & Nicola. Practical Building Conservation. New York: Halsted Press, 1988. Vol. 1-5.

    Feilden, Bernard. Conservation of Historic Buildings. London: Butterworth, 1982.

    Harris, Cyril, Ed. Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. New York: McGraw Hill, 1975.

    Hoadley, Bruce. Understanding Wood. Newtown, Conn.: Tauton Press, 1980.

    McAlester, V. & L. A Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Knopf 1988.

    McKee, Harley. Introduction to Early American Masonry. Washington: National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1973.

    Mitchell, Eleanor. Emergency Repairs for Historic Buildings. London: English Heritage, 1988.

    Nylander, Richard C. et al. Wallpaper in New England. Boston: SPNEA, 1986.

    Phillips, M. W. & Selwyn, J. E. Epoxies for Wood Repairs in Historic Buildings. Washington: US Dept. of Interior, 1978.

    Preservation & Conservation. Washington: National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1976.

    Recording Historic Structures. Washington: AIA Press, 1988.

    Repairing Old and Historic Windows. Washington, DC: Preservation Press, 1992.

    Residential Building Systems Inspection. Washington: APT Foundation, 1986.

    Respectful Rehabilitation. Washington: National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1982.

    Slate Roofs. National Slate Assn., 1925. (Reprints from Vermont Structural Slate, Fairhaven, VT)

    Structural Assessment. Washington: APT Foundation, 1986.

    Technology of Historic American Buildings. Washington: APT Foundation, 1983.

    Weaver, Martin. Conserving Buildings. New York: John Wiley, 1993.

    Wilson, Forrest. Building Materials Evaluation Handbook . New York: Van Nostrand, 1984.

    Other references

    A Guide to Vermont Architecture is available through the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation in Montpelier (802-828-3226) for $3.00 on request.

    ©1998 UVM Historic Preservation Program
    Revised 1/98