What Not to Do: Bad Things Can Happen to Good Buildings

Somewhere on Queen Anne / Photo: Historic Seattle

We’ve all seen those home improvement and design shows on cable tv that depict transformations of drab, boring houses or apartments into fabulous newly redesigned spaces. Instead of showing you what to do, we’re going to show you what not to do. In preservation, there’s something called “integrity,” which refers to the measure of authenticity of a property’s historic character. A building with no or few alterations has high integrity. A building that has been altered significantly has little integrity. Talk of integrity comes into play when evaluating a building for local, state, or national register listing. But in everyday life, we’re looking at curb appeal (or lack thereof) and gut reactions.

Our first “What Not to Do” shows an unfortunate facade on a 1915 house in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood. A peek at the side or rear facades reveals some of the original house. Everything has been altered on this residence—windows, doors, cladding, roof, and form. The original house is essentially unrecognizable now. Don’t try this at home.