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Ben White »

Historic Preservation, as it pertains to Main Street efforts, is a collective effort to protect and preserve the historic character and heritage of a downtown area. It involves the involvement of community members, local organizations, and government entities to protect historic buildings, landmarks, and cultural sites, as well as promote the overall revitalization and sustainability of the downtown area.


May is designated as Preservation Month by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a month of celebration and advocacy. As May comes to an end the advocacy, celebration, and hard work to preserve the historic character and heritage of our historic commercial districts and downtown areas does not stop, here are some strategies to implement for downtown historic preservation efforts throughout the year:

Local Historic District Designation: Identifying and designating specific areas as historic districts helps ensure that the unique architectural and cultural features are preserved through local policy and enforcement. Local governments often establish guidelines and regulations for the preservation, restoration, and renovation of buildings within these designated districts.

Public Education and Outreach: Educating the community about the value of historic preservation is crucial. Workshops, seminars, walking tours, and educational programs can help raise awareness about the significance of historic buildings and their contribution to the community's identity and sense of place. 

Pictured Above: Students in Clinton, Missouri.

Partnerships and Collaboration: Collaboration between local government agencies, historic preservation organizations, community groups, and property owners is essential for successful preservation efforts. By working together, they can share resources, expertise, and funding opportunities to support preservation initiatives.

Incentives and Funding: Providing financial incentives, grants, and tax credits can encourage property owners to invest in the preservation and restoration of historic buildings. These incentives can help offset the costs associated with maintaining and rehabilitating older structures.

Design Guidelines and Regulations: Establishing clear design guidelines and regulations ensures that any changes or renovations made to historic buildings are in line with their original architectural style and character. This helps maintain the historical integrity of the downtown area. 


Pictured Above: Fossil Forge before and after in Lee's Summit, MO.

Adaptive Reuse: Encouraging adaptive reuse of historic buildings promotes their continued use and revitalization. Converting old buildings into new functional spaces such as restaurants, galleries, offices, or residential units can breathe new life into the downtown area while preserving its historical fabric. 


Pictured Above: Washington Farmers Market before and after in Washington, MO. 

Heritage Tourism: Promoting your Main Street’s heritage to attract tourists who enjoy vacationing or visiting locations with rich heritages can help generate economic benefits for the community while raising awareness about the historical significance of downtown. Cultural events, festivals, and guided tours can attract visitors, support local businesses, and create a sense of pride among community members.

Maintenance and Restoration: Regular maintenance and timely restoration of historic buildings are essential to ensure their long-term preservation. Encouraging property owners to undertake necessary repairs and providing technical assistance and resources can help in this regard. Missouri Main Street Connection has resources on building material and maintenance best practices and recently completed a webinar on these resources which can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAAkfykBDA4

Documentation and Research: Conducting thorough documentation and research of historic buildings and sites contributes to a better understanding of the community's history and aids in preservation efforts. Archival records, oral histories, and archaeological studies help establish a comprehensive knowledge base for future preservation work. 


Pictured Above: Plaque next to a historic property in Warrensburg Main Street's district.


Advocacy and Planning: Active community involvement and advocacy play a vital role in preserving downtown's historic character. Engaging stakeholders, attending public hearings, and participating in urban planning processes can help influence policies and decisions that affect historic preservation.

By embracing these strategies, Main Street organizations can work towards the sustainable preservation of their downtown areas, protecting their heritage for future generations while fostering economic vitality and cultural pride.

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Ben White »

Historic preservation is at the heart of the Main Street movement. It’s what sets Main Street apart from other economic development initiatives in communities. Despite being the heart of the movement, what does historic preservation mean and how do Main Street organizations identify, advocate, and educate community members about the historic assets that make their community unique?

The National Park Service says, “Through historic preservation, we look at history in different ways, ask different questions of the past, and learn new things about our history and ourselves. Historic preservation is an important way for us to transmit our understanding of the past to future generations. Historic preservation helps tell our stories which involve celebrating events, people, places, and ideas that we are proud of.” But how do we bring this mentality to the local level and advocate and educate the community on local assets? The first question is, “What are your local assets?”

Every historic downtown is unique by nature. The buildings, people, and businesses are all unique and have a different story to tell that has shaped what downtown is today and will be in the future. First, there is a history behind why your community was made and many times understanding your downtown, the original development in a community, helps to shape that story and narrative. This is where Main Street organizations can start to showcase the historic assets in their downtown; look back at how the downtown was developed and tell those stories to the community. This fosters an appreciation of those historic assets and educates the community on why your downtown’s story is unique starting at its conception.

There are also other stories to tell that may not have to do with that original development. Did you know that what we consider history is not just 100+ years old; history is made every day. The invention of pre-sliced and packaged sliced bread in Chillicothe in 1928 created a new historic asset that added to the fabric of the community.



Chillicothe is a great example of a big event happening, but not every story or event has to be so dramatic in nature. There are many unidentified assets that are waiting to be identified. After identifying your historic assets, Main Street organizations can craft their downtown’s story to be told through educational materials to the community, such as Route 66 coming through downtown, a building that has housed or is currently housing a significant business, or an historic courthouse; these are all historic assets that make a downtown unique.



For instance, Carthage celebrates its unique history using art, by creating a mural that celebrates the important artists and people from the community.


In Laclede’s Landing in St. Louis, they celebrate the story of Ester, an emancipated slave and one of--if not the--first black, female landowner in St Louis, with the renaming and activation of an alley.


Main Street organizations, while primarily an economic development organization, have the responsibility to identify and share those unique historic assets in their downtown. Historic preservation is layered into how Main Street organizations can distinguish themselves as being different from other economic development entities. In addition, heritage travelers, who, according to Global Urban Development, spend 2.5 times more money in a community, are looking for historic assets that set your downtown apart. Every downtown is different; that story needs to be identified and told to the community and to potential visitors.  

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Ben White »

Missouri Main Street Connection’s Historic Preservation committee continues to provide Missouri Main Street organizations, building owners, and business owners with an innovative consultation service, the “Doctor Is In.” This service offers participants a great opportunity to get expert advice from a diverse group of professionals from MMSC’s Board and Advisory Board who volunteer their time to address preservation-related issues in Missouri’s communities. The “Doctor Is In” consultation provided information about historic tax credits to Abi Almandinger, the Executive Director of Vision Carthage in Carthage, Missouri. 


Vision Carthage, the Main Street organization in Carthage, MO, used this consultation service to learn more about historic tax credits. During the consultation, the Historic Preservation Committee reviewed eligibility qualifications for building owners to use historic tax credits, including having the building on the National Register of Historic Places and eligible renovation costs. Vision Carthage received recommendations on they type of professionals needed for a historic tax credit project, including an architect and accountant. Additionally, the committee provided specific professionals and companies that could assist Vision Carthage and its business and property owners with an historic tax credit project.  

Historic tax credits are one historic preservation topic available during a consultation with Missouri Main Street Connection’s Historic Preservation Committee. To learn more about how to start the conversation and book your “Doctor Is In” consultation, visit our “Dr Is In” page. The fillable pdf submission should state the reason for the consultation visit with the Historic Preservation Committee. We ask that you send any relevant photos or attachments with the submission. After submission, Ben White, Senior Program Specialist, will work with you on scheduling a Zoom meeting that works for you and the Historic Preservation Committee. If you have any questions, please reach out to Ben at ben@momainstreet.org.

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Ben White »

May is Preservation Month, which is a time to celebrate a community’s unique cultural and historic assets. According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation ”Preservation Month began as National Preservation Week in 1973. [Then] in 2005, [they] extended the celebration to the entire month of May and declared it Preservation Month to provide an even greater opportunity to celebrate the diverse and unique heritage of our country’s cities and states.” Preservation Month celebrations present both an opportunity to create events that tell the history and heritage in the historic district as well as advocate for preservation efforts. If Main Street doesn’t advocate for itself and its historic district, it will end up just like so many of the forgotten historic buildings that were demolished by neglect.

Main Street organizations can start planning early on how to implement historic educational programming and preservation advocacy efforts. These efforts should have the goal to bring awareness to the historic assets in their district and provide information on how vital preservation-based economic development is to their local economy.



Historic Educational Programming

There are so many ways that Missouri Main Streets have utilized historic educational programming to celebrate Preservation Month. Local Main Street organizations should first look at their own history and district to see what opportunities they can promote and then look other communities for examples. One effective event that many communities plan for is a walking tour of the historic assets in a downtown and community.

  • In Marceline, the Downtown Marceline Foundation held a self-guided walking tour with guides in historic buildings. These guides were able to tell the story of each of their district’s important downtown buildings, citing the history of the buildings, and the businesses that have called it home over the years.


  • In Chillicothe, Main Street Chillicothe held a walking tour with 4th graders. This event provided an opportunity to educate the youth on the history and importance of downtown. In addition, the organization gave the school kids an architectural scavenger hunt to help emphasize important architectural features. This activity kept the children engaged and excited about history.

  • In Washington, Downtown Washington, Inc. put a unique twist on the historic tour model through a Haunted History Ride. This horse-drawn wagon tour of downtown Washington featured some of its most well-known historic sites and the hauntings surrounding them.  The guide told of the bizarre accidents and strange murders of the past, as well as more recent paranormal activity. This tour also included Washington's everyday history and how downtown has changed over the years.



Preservation Advocacy Efforts

Each example of the historic educational programming above presents an opportunity to also advocate for preservation. During each educational program there is an opportunity to share with a captivated audience at the fun event as to how they can join in advocating the preservation of the history. These two are interconnected while also standing alone as Main Street organizations can put together advocacy campaigns to demonstrate the importance of their preservation-based economic development efforts in their local economy.


  • The Main Street Chillicothe Walking Tour, mentioned above, provided an opportunity for a tour guide to advocate for the historic resources in the downtown district. While telling the history of downtown Chillicothe, the tour guide tried to instill a sense of pride and ownership in downtown Chillicothe throughout the tour.

  • In 2018, Old Town Cape, Inc. in Cape Girardeau used Preservation Month as an opportunity to expose the community to one of their prominent buildings in downtown, the H&H Building. This presentation advocated for saving and adaptively reusing the building to become an asset again.

There are many ways to celebrate Preservation Month in your community. Education and advocacy efforts can come in different forms, but it’s vitally important to tell the history and significance of downtown so that the community and heritage travelers gain a better understanding and appreciation for what is unique to your community.

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Ben White »

Regular building maintenance is a crucial, yet easily forgotten, task for building owners. However, deferred maintenance can lead to more expensive, time-consuming measures in the future. It is better to head off any problems in the present than to deal with a larger headache in the future that could greatly impact not only the property owner, but also possibly even affect the business paying rent in the building.


Strategically budgeting for repairs is the first step a property owner should take to maintain their property. Repairs, whether planned for or not, will always happen. Building owners should consider developing a replacement schedule for items such as roof replacement, paint touch-up, window caulking, and more. Knowing when certain projects will need to be addressed helps to budget and get ahead of the problem before it even begins. For instance, a new roof is rated for 15 years. Building owners should budget to replace that roof in about 15 years to avoid issues like water damage that will harm the building further and cause additional, costly fixes. Other projects can include foundation repairs, leaking windows/replacement, and pest damage.


Building owners also benefit from emphasizing quality building maintenance and repairs and avoiding cheap fixes cutting corners. Cheap fixes generally equate to a Band-Aid being on the problem that may or may not actually solve the underlying issue. For example, repointing brick with mortar that will actually hurt the integrity of the brick can cause expensive, unforeseen problems. Building owners should take the time to either look at the problem or have a trained professional with historic building experience identify the issue so that a plan of action can be set into motion for the longevity of the building.


Deferred maintenance or repairs can also negatively affect the business owner that is paying rent in the building. Main Street America studies and findings published in, “An Analysis of the Economic Impact of Physical Improvements on Retail Sales” by Brenda Spencer show that customers are more willing to step foot in and pay money to a business located in a building that is more visually appealing than a building that appears to be rundown and neglected. For the business to make money and pay rent, they need to be located in a building that is maintained and inviting to the public.  


Be on the lookout for the next One-Pager from the Historic Preservation Committee on building maintenance best practices. To see the other completed one-pagers on “Shading Downtown: Awnings and Canopies”, “Masonry 101”, and “Painting 101: Historic Buildings”, please visit the Main Street blog and Main Street Resource Library.

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Ben White »

Regular maintenance allows building owners to protect their building investment and to prevent larger, more expensive problems in the future. Summer brings excessive heat, storms, and vegetation growth that can compromise the structural integrity of unprotected buildings if not dealt with in a timely manner. Here are some steps that building owners can take for these summer months:


Summer Heat & HVAC Systems

Check and service HVAC systems to prevent failures (30 min).



Summer Storms & Water Damage

Check the grading around the foundation to make sure water will drain away from building and not pool (15 min).

Inspect the interior of the building for leaks during first heavy rain of season (30 min).

Inspect basements or crawl spaces for excessive water during wet weather (30 min).

Examine roof slope to make sure water is not pooling in any areas on the roof (15 min).

Make sure water can flow freely through the gutters and downspouts. Clean out if they are clogged (30 min).

Sweep debris from flat or low sloping roofs (30 min).



Vegetation Growth & Property Inspections:

Remove plants growing on or close to walls and foundation (30 min).

Visually check for moss or lichen, especially around parapets, sills, and downspouts (30 min).

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Ben White »

Cleaning exterior masonry walls not only improves the overall appearance of your building, but also helps maintain the wall's structural integrity. Embedded dirt keeps in moisture and hosts harmful microorganisms, both of which damage a building's surface over time. However, inappropriate masonry cleaning can also cause irreparable damage to the masonry, so the decision to clean the masonry comes with these considerations: 

1. Mortar | The mortar between masonry units may need to be repointed before any cleaning method is undertaken. Otherwise, water will seep through deteriorated mortar, damaging exterior surface, inner metal support, and wall finishes. Infiltrating water can additionally cause salt deposits on or below a wall's surface upon evaporation, known as subflorescence and efflorescence, respectively.  Water itself can contain minerals which discolor or stain masonry, as can dissolved de-icing salts from adjacent sidewalks. An expert can help you determine if such salt deposits on your building are indicative of a need to repoint.

2. Masonry Type | The term "masonry" encompasses a multitude of building materials (i.e., brick, limestone, granite, cast concrete, glazed terra cotta, etc.), each with their own respective cleaning methods. Knowing the type of masonry is important because certain cleaning agents are incompatible with certain types of masonry. Ideally, multiple methods should be patch-tested to assess compatibility with your building's geological composition.

3. Building condition | Do you know what has changed since your building's construction, or prior treatments? What exactly needs to be removed, and where did it come from? These answers affect the type of cleaning agent is the best fit for your building and preventing future deterioration depends on the nature of the building's damage. Other potential cleaning prerequisites include replacing damaged masonry units, sealing doors and windows, investigating your building's architectural history and assessing environmental conditions.

4. Paint | As a rule, unpainted brick should remain unpainted. Paint is notoriously difficult to remove from bricks to the point where it is generally more practical to leave it on. Reasons for having painted a building range from design choice to protective coating; in some cases, buildings were painted later on to cover repairs and alterations. More information can be found in our one-pager, "Painting Your Building".



The importance of identifying your building's history, environment, and materials cannot be overstated, along with doing test patches. Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that some stains remain impossible to remove, and environmental conditions can impact the effectiveness of many cleaning methods. Resources exist to help you determine appropriate cleaning methods. The Technical Preservation Services (National Park Service) website, local historic commission, independent preservation consultants, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Main Street Center are among many that can provide guidance. 

Ultimately, the goal is to clean as gently as possible, and that means different things for different materials. As a rule, abrasion is an inappropriate cleaning method for historic materials because of the irreparable damage it will cause to the surface of the masonry; sources of abrasion include metal bristle brushes, high pressure washing, and sand blasting (as well as blasting with other mediums, such as pecan shells, dry ice, crushed glass, etc). Seek verification from reputable resources before attempting anything more than a simple low-pressure water cleaning to ensure masonry surfaces remain intact and pollutants stay out of the environment.  


How To Clean Masonry Buildings 

1. Make sure all openings are watertight prior to cleaning, caulking around windows and doors. If using chemicals, protect the surrounding flora with a water-resistant material and line up appropriate receptacles to collect chemical runoff, also known as cleaning effluent. Also make sure all automobiles are removed well away from the building to avoid etching their paint finishes since these chemicals can be carried by even a light breeze!

2. Spray building with water using a low-pressure nozzle at least 18 inches from the surface. Pressure should be below 600psi – not much more than a garden hose jet spray nozzle. Research the mineral composition of your city's water supply to understand how it will affect your building, as some minerals have been known to stain.

3. Water is one of the gentlest cleaning agents, often paired with a non-ionic detergent and natural or synthetic bristle brush. This method is often the most economical. For particularly acid-sensitive masonry, steam cleaning is an effective, yet expensive option, but constant misting is a more affordable alternative.

4. Alternatively, use water to soften dirt before applying an appropriate chemical solution, using either a low-pressure sprayer, roller, or paintbrush. 
Leave cleaner on masonry for the time recommended by the manufacturer.

5. Start cleaning at the bottom of the wall and work your way up. Periodically check surface for signs of abrasion - pock marks, rough surface texture, rounded edges, or disintegration.

6. Graffiti removal often requires a cleaning agent separate from traditional paint and tar removal methods. The best product will depend on the type of masonry and graffiti, as well as the surface dimensions. The methods range from paste of inert clays to cellulose products mixed with water or other appropriate solvent. If applying paste, cover with plastic sheet to prevent evaporation.

7. Thoroughly rinse off any chemical treatment with water. Residue left behind can cause efflorescence. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for capturing the run-off to prevent polluting local waterways.

8. Make sure that all cleaning effluent is safely and legally disposed of after rinsing. Masonry walls can take several weeks to dry completely, at which point paint can be applied.


Safety First 

While we’ve highlighted the hazards cleaning chemicals pose to the environment, they can also be dangerous to your health. Airborne particles can enter surrounding buildings and cars, affecting nearby individuals and can badly burn the skin or eyes. It may be necessary to clean during non-business hours, nights, or weekends. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be provided and worn at all times, especially when removing graffiti; cleaning agents of this level must be disposed of professionally. Always check manufacturer's guidelines before cleaning. 


You can download this article as a PDF by clicking this link: Masonry 101: Historic Building & Cleaning Masonry.

This "Masonry 101: Historic Building & Cleaning Masonry" is brought to you by:



You can download this article as a PDF by clicking this link: Shading Downtown: Awnings and Canopies

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Ben White »

Painting can be one of the most dramatic improvements you make to your building. However, only paint a building that has been previously painted to maintain the historic look of the building. Measures should be taken to remove old paint from brick to restore the original brick, if applicable. In addition, if repointing must be done to prep the façade, before painting, consult with a mason experienced with using the type of mortar for the age of your building. If the building is metal or has metal components, we recommend consulting with a  professional company for cleaning and preparatory work. The following steps will help smooth the way for a successful paint job on your historic building:


1. Evaluation. Determine what you need to prepare for painting. Check all the wood. Is it sound or rotting? Does it have insect damage? Repair or replace any damaged areas that you find. If you need to repaint your masonry building, first check the mortar. Make sure the surface is prepped correctly before proceeding, including looking for moisture damage or possible areas where moisture could come in. If the building needs repointing, do that before painting.

2. Timing. Plan a painting schedule. Some times of the year are better than others for painting. Good weather usually ensures a better paint job. Ask your local paint dealer for assistance.

3. Windows. Check the condition of your windows. Glaze and repair windows as necessary. Replace any deteriorated putty with a glazing compound; be sure to put it all around the window. Wait two or three days for the compound to dry before painting.

4. Old Paint. Prepare the surface adequately. Be sure to remove all peeling and loose paint. A variety of tools can be used: a wire brush, a scraper, a blow torch, or an electric heat gun. Use these last two devices carefully; employ only enough heat to soften the paint so that it can be easily removed. Do not blast masonry as this can ruin the old brick; instead, use a chemical application to help remove the old paint.

5. Primer. A primer should be used for all bare wood surfaces as it helps the final coat adhere. Mix a little of the finish coat paint with the primer to achieve a richer color. If working with metal, primers need to be chemically compatible with the type of metal material before painting; be sure to choose a paint that is rust-inhibiting as well.

6. Building Material. Determine the type of paint best suited for your building. Stone, brick, wood, concrete block, and metal all require different paints and primers.

7. Oil vs. Latex. Which kind of paint should you use, oil or latex? That can depend on the material!
We recommend reading more about this from Preservation Brief 11 from the National Park Service. There are advantages and disadvantages to each:

8. Shine. Be aware that there are three degrees of shine for paint: gloss, semi-gloss, and flat/matte.

9. Quality. Remember that quality paint will last longer than a cheap brand. It will not fade or peel as quickly and usually gives better coverage.


A Note on Lead Paint

If your building is more than 50 years old, it may contain lead-based paint. If you are removing the existing paint as part of the repainting process, have a sample tested. It is imperative that the testing be done by a reputable company or by a state testing lab. If there is a problem, contact your state environmental department for information on options for removing or encasing the lead-based paint.



An important reminder: Once you use latex, you must continue to use it. It is difficult to switch back to oil. If you have been using an oil-based paint, it is best to continue with oil.

The color you paint your building, window trim, or door is, to some extent, a personal decision. It is an expression of yourself and your commercial establishment. However, there are other people and things to think about. The following procedures can help you decide what colors to use on your building.



1. Look Around! Be a good neighbor and look at your building in the context of the entire block or downtown. The color of your building can affect the overall character of Main Street.

2. Investigate. Decide whether you'd like to return your building to its original paint colors. If you are seeking historical accuracy, carefully scrape a small area to reveal different layers of paint. Please note that over time, the original color may have faded. To get a better idea of the true color, wet the original surface. The base color will appear more accurately when moist.

3. Research. Color schemes for commercial buildings differ by region of the country. They also differ according to the period when the building was constructed. Scrape a small area of the building to determine its historic color. Sherwin Williams also has a line of historically-used colors to choose from. Choose a swatch that fits with the era of your building and what it was historically painted.

4. Sunlight. Think about how the sun strikes your building. The amount of sunlight can change the hue of paint color. Hold a paint splotch against your building on cloudy and sunny days. To be certain about your color choice, invest in a quart of paint and apply it. There is a great difference between a small color spot and an entire wall.

5. White Paint. It is important to remember that white paint was not used as widely during the Victorian period as it is today. White is a glaring color that does not blend in readily with most downtown environments. Historic downtown buildings traditionally used dark colors, especially on the window’s trim and architectural features.

6. Trim. Traditionally, building trim was painted as decoration, often in a contrasting shade lighter or darker than the primary building color. This paint treatment defined the trim, but it was not so overpowering that the trim colors dominated the buildings.

7. Aluminum Frames. Today, aluminum frames have frequently replaced traditional wood doors and windows. The shine and metallic color of the aluminum do not complement historic buildings. Paint them a more neutral color or choose darker, anodized frames if the original window has to be replaced or the original window has previously been replaced.

8. Accent. Paint color should be used to tie together all building elements, including the cornice, upper facade, windows, storefront, and doors. Use at most 4 colors to accent the features of your building that bring character.

9. Express Yourself! With these procedures in mind, express the identity of your business through paint color. It adds to the richness and variety of Main Street.


 You can download this article as a PDF by clicking this link: Painting 101: Historic Buildings & Paint Color.

This "Painting 101: Historic Buildings & Paint Color" is brought to you by: 



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Ben White »

Awnings are fabric structures on a metal frame or roller system that are bolted to the front wall. Canopies are usually flat projections that are suspended over the sidewalk entry usually built with beams extending into the interior of the structure, usually at the ceiling joists, to support the canopy and often with chains or rods tied back to the second-floor wall for additional bracing. Canopies would not be a good choice for new storefront improvements if they didn’t exist already as they can cause a major structural stress load on the front wall of the building.


An awning or canopy can be both a decorative and functional addition to your storefront. It serves as an energy saver by regulating the amount of sunlight that enters your window. Shaded by an awning or canopy, shoppers are enticed to stop, look, and step inside. Awnings contribute color and variety to the building design and can soften the transition between the lower and upper portions of the façade. Original awnings or canopies found on buildings should be maintained, be structurally sound, and should not be removed from the building. There are a variety of new awnings and canopies that could be appropriate to use, depending on the building’s time period of construction. 


Canopies were generally not used on downtown storefronts until about the 1920s or 1930s. If there is currently a canopy, then one may consider taking it off and using a canvas awning, which might be acceptable if it is not the original treatment on the building. However, owners may also focus on repairing or refinishing an existing canopy. Some canopies historically served as the ledge for signage with lettering resting on top of the edge of the canopy or by placing lettering on the edge/face of the canopy. The following points will help determine the best solution when selecting an awning or canopy for your historic building: 

1. Atmosphere: An awning or canopy creates a pleasant space in front of your building. It provides shade, shelter, and a resting place where pedestrians can pause and get out of the flow of traffic.

2. Temperature Control: Awnings and canopies regulate the amount of sunlight that comes in your windows. Buildings facing north probably don’t need an awning or canopy but for a south facing building, awnings and canopies can be excellent climate control devices.

3. Type: Operable or fixed? An operable, roll-out awning shades your window during the hot, sunny days. It also lets sunlight into your building on cold days, allowing the heat into the interior. Granted, operable awnings are more expensive; however, the reduced energy consumption utilizing one could offset the extra cost.

4. Visual Appeal: As a visual element, an awning or canopy can add character and interest to your storefront. Be sure to look at the neighboring buildings and imagine what impact the addition of an awning or canopy will have on the character of the streetscape. Generally, flat awnings are more appropriate to match the style of the building.

5. Materials: Awnings can be constructed from a variety of materials. The choices are endless with canvas, vinyl, metal, and acrylic. A vinyl awning can be very attractive but be sure to consider the look with the rest of your building. Vinyl is also shiny most of the time and tends to be inappropriate for buildings on Main Street.

6. Fastening: Canopies are usually constructed of metal and wood. They should be securely fastened to the façade typically with steel beams and rods or chains angled back to the wall for added support. Be sure to position these rods or chains so that they blend into the design of the upper façade.


Before choosing a color for your awning or canopy, look at the entire building. If your building has minimal architectural details, then a bright colored awning or canopy may be appropriate. However, if your building is more decorative, then a subtler colored awning or canopy would be more appropriate.  


• Select an awning or canopy color that enhances the existing building features and colors.


• The choice of pattern would depend on the character of the façade.

• Awnings and canopies have long been used to display the names of businesses. Keep the message simple and direct. Signs are best located on the sides and flaps of the awnings to be visible to pedestrians and be sure that they are attached at the fascia of the canopies.

• Make sure the material that you choose is guaranteed weather resistant. Most woods and metals used in canopies should be painted to resist weathering. Sun bleaching is another aspect of weathering that needs to be fully considered.

• Awnings or canopies are not appropriate solutions for every storefront design. However, when they are well-designed and properly placed, awnings or canopies can save money, protect window display merchandise, spruce up the storefront, and create a pleasant sidewalk space for shoppers.

• Ensure proper placement for awnings by placing them at the edge of display window and entry openings. They may not need to extend to the outer edge of the façade.



*Please refer to Preservation Brief 44 for additional information*


You can download this article as a PDF by clicking this link: Shading Downtown: Awnings and Canopies

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Ben White »

Is the weather finally getting warmer!? With the warmth and change in season, now is the time for building owners to address potential needs that may have come up from the cold temperatures and the natural freeze and thaw cycle of winter. This is also the time to check for plants and weeds that may be growing near the foundation of a building that can cause major damage. Be intentional as these small maintenance measures can prevent future building problems.


Check masonry for loose bricks and mortar. (15 min)

Examine windows for broken glass or putty failure. (15 min)

Remove any temporary caulk (from winter), and permanently fix the wood gaps with an epoxy or wood consolidant. (1 hour plus set time)

Inspect any metal or cast iron for components of rust; scrape and paint with rust inhibiting paint. (1 hour)

Examine any painted surface for paint failure. For example the cornice, windows, trim, and storefront. (30 min) Repaint if needed. (2-3 hours)

Remove plants growing on or close to walls or foundations. (30 min)d storefront) (30 min) Repaint if needed. (2-3 hours)

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