Commemorative Plaques & Markers
Loudoun Preservation Society manages the historic plaque program for the town of Leesburg. Owners of historic properties may apply for a historic plaque under one of two categories:
- architectural significance or
- historic significance
In addition to meeting the criteria of one of the above categories, the building must possess historic integrity, as evidenced by the survival of physical characteristics that existed during the building’s period of significance.
Criteria for evaluating applications for plaques designating old and historic structures in the town of Leesburg
The Leesburg Town council designated the Loudoun Preservation Society (LPS) as sole agent for issuing plaques designating old and historic structures within the Town. To evaluate applications for these plaques, LPS has adapted the criteria used by the National Park Service to evaluate structures for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
Structure is defined to be a building created to shelter human activity. The building should include all its basic structural elements. Parts of buildings like facades, or wings, will not be considered independently of the rest of the building. A structure generally will not be considered for old and historic designation unless it is at least 50 years old. Exceptions may be made if the building is the site of an historic event; these cases will be considered individually by LPS.
LPS gives special recognition to those structures that appear on Gray’s Map of Leesburg dated 1878 if those buildings have maintained the integrity of the original architecture and design. Gray’s Map was used by the Town to establish the Old and Historic District. Special recognition will be given to these structures by a distinctively designed plaque for these buildings.
To qualify for a plaque, in addition to the requirement that the building be at least 50 years old, the following criteria must also be met:
- Embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or represent the work of a master, or possess high artistic values; or
- associated with a specific historic event or the life of a person significant in our past; and
- possess integrity. Integrity is the authenticity of a building’s historic identity, evidenced by the survival of physical characteristics that existed during the building’s historic period.
Note that a building must meet criterion A or B, but in either case, must also meet criterion C. Details on how these criteria will be evaluated is below.
The criteria for the historic plaque program was approved by the Leesburg Board of Architectural Review on April 2, 1990, as required by Leesburg Ordinance 89-0-31, adopted by the Town Council on November 14, 1989.
Criterion A: ARCHITECTURAL STYLE
Structures must embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or represent the work of a master, or possess high artistic values. Embodying the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction means illustrating the way in which a building was conceived, designed, or fabricated by a people in past periods of history. Representing the work of a master refers to illustrating the technical and/or aesthetic achievements by a craftsman. Possessing high artistic values concerns the expression of aesthetic ideals or preferences and applies to aesthetic achievement.
The features or traits of design or construction that tended to recur in particular types, periods, or methods of construction can be said to characterize those kinds of properties or construction practices in the past. To “embody distinctive characteristics” a building must clearly represent the type, period, or method of construction. Characteristics may be expressed in terms such as form, structure, plan, style, or materials. They may be general, referring more to ideas of design and construction, such as basic plan or form, or they may be specific, referring to precise ways of combining particular kinds of materials.
A building would be eligible, for instance, which is identified under the theme of Gothic Revival architecture, if it possess the distinctive characteristics that make up the vertical and picturesque quality of the style, such as: pointed gables, steep roof pitch, board and batten siding, and ornamental bargeboard and veranda trim. A building that has some characteristics of the Romanesque Revival Style and some characteristics of the Commercial style can qualify as an illustration of the transition of architectural design. Such a property is eligible if it is a significant representation of that transition.
A building is not eligible if it possesses some characteristics but not in such a way that the property is a clear example of its type. For example, ineligible properties might include a residence dating to the 1890s that cannot be evaluated within an important theme such as a significant architectural style or practice; or a commercial building with some Art Deco detailing that would not be recognized as a clear expression of the Art Deco style or of the transition between that style and another style. The phrase “type, period, or method of construction: refers to properties related by cultural tradition, or function; by date of construction or style; or by choice or availability of materials and technology. High artistic values may be expressed in many ways, including areas as diverse as design, planning, engineering, and sculpture.
A building can be significant under this criterion either for the way it was originally constructed or crafted; or for the way it was adapted at a later point in time; or for the way it illustrates changing tastes, attitudes, and uses over a period of time in the past. A building may be significant because it represents either an unusual or a widely practices type or method of construction. It may have been innovative or influential, or it may have been traditional or vernacular; the significance of the building is determined by considering the building within its context.
Criterion B: ASSOCIATION WITH HISTORIC EVENTS OR PERSONS
To be considered under this criterion, a building must be associated with an event or person that has made a significant contribution to our history. If related to an historic event, it must be documented through accepted means of historical research that the property under consideration did exist at the time of the event and that the property was directly associated with the event.
For consideration of a building through its associations with a person who has made contribution to our history, the individual(s) must be specifically identified. A property’s association with an individual must be documented by accepted methods of historical research that can include written or oral history. The length of association should be identified and may be an important factor when considering an application.
Criterion C: INTEGRITY
A building must possess integrity. Integrity is the authenticity of a property’s historic identity, evidenced by the survival of physical characteristics that existed during the property’s historic period. If a property retains the physical characteristics it possessed in the past, then it has the capacity to convey association with historical patters or persons, architectural or engineering design and technology, or information about a culture or people. Documentation to support the authenticity of structure is critical to establishing the structure’s historic value.
Integrity is a quality that applies to historic buildings in five ways: location, design, materials, workmanship, and feeling. Integrity of location, design, and so on, depend on the retention of various physical characteristics that make up a property. Location is the place where the building was constructed or placed. Often the original function of the building dictated the location; the relationship between function and location provides insight to the development of the commercial and residential areas of Leesburg. Design is the composition of elements that comprise the form, plan, space, structure, and style of a property. It is based upon the needs, technologies, aesthetic preferences, attitudes, and assumptions of a people or culture in each period of history. Design results from conscious decisions in the conception and planning of a property and may apply to areas of endeavor or creativity as diverse as community planning, engineering, and architecture. Principal aspects of design include organization of space, proportion, scale, technology, and ornament.
The design of a building reflects historical functions and technologies as well as aesthetics, and includes considerations such as structural system; massing; arrangement of space; fenestration pattern; textures and colors of surface materials; and type, amount, and style of ornamental detailing. Materials are the physical elements that were combined in a particular pattern or configuration for a building. The integrity of materials determines whether or not an authentic historic resource still exists. Workmanship is the physical evidence of the crafts of a particular culture or people during any given period in history. It is the evidence of craftsmen’s labor and skill in constructing a building, or altering, adapting, or embellishing a building. Workmanship may be expressed in vernacular methods of construction and plain finishes or in highly sophisticated configurations and ornamental detailing. It may be based on common traditions or innovative period techniques. Workmanship is important because it can furnish evidence of the technology of the craft, illustrate the aesthetic principles of a historic or prehistoric period, and reveal individual or local applications of both technological practices and aesthetic principles. Feeling is the quality of a building has in evoking the aesthetic or historic sense of a past period of time. Although it is itself intangible, feeling depends upon the presence of physical characteristics to convey the historic qualities that evoke feeling.
A building will meet the criteria for integrity if it exists today essentially as it did during its period of significance. It must be an actual historic resource, not a recreation; the majority of the building must be intact or undisturbed; and if recent work on the building has occurred (such as rehabilitation), the work must have been done according to professional standards that ensure preservation of the historic materials and the significant features of the building.
A building changes over time. The retention of integrity depends upon the nature and degree of alterations or changes. It is not necessary for a building to retain all the physical features or characteristics that it had during its period of significance. However, the building must retain the essential physical features that enable it to convey its past identity or character and therefore its significance.
To be eligible for a plaque, a moved building significant or architectural value must retain sufficient historic features to retain integrity of design, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association, and therefore to convey its architectural significance. The building, in its new site, must retain the essential physical features or characteristics that make it a good example of the particular architectural style.