Nerd Word of the Week

Welcome lovely PP people.

So here’s what is up. In this blog there are many phrases and terms that are used for many reasons. Some are used so I sound smart, but others are used because in the methodological scope that is historic preservation they are necessitated by the paradigmatic rhetorical structures in place. They carry specific meanings for the forms they are most often used in. Significance, association, integrity, determination of eligibility are just a few. Yes, they may be words we already know but in this world they may carry a different meaning.

But it’s not the same kind of “I don’t know those words you are using” like I feel with my teenage step-sister and many other cool younger people with their hip phrases.


Rather, I think it will be fun to start breaking down these words and phrases and explain them a bit more.

Thus begins the first of (hopefully) many smaller Pedaling Preservation posts that have a tighter focus.  Many of the things I will write about in this new segment are defined in my Say What? terminology page, but this is more fun.

Each post, we’ll pick a word or phrase and just explain it in a way that is (hopefully) not boring but will certainly include unrelated funny gifs.  How does that sound?  I think it sounds pretty great but I also still play Magic the Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons.

The same colloquial approach from the larger posts will remain.  These words are as unnecessarily convoluted as they come as is so just like with our other posts we’re going to aim to break them down in ways that are not too jargon-y.

So without further delay, this week’s post is on: Criteria

Here at PP we use this all the time, especially when we talk about buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. As defined on the Say What? page and from NPS Bulletin 16:

Criteria—general standards by which the significance of a historic property is judged; see National Register criteria. You have read them many times before: A, B, C, D.  Like from the Elgin Watch Factory Observatory post:

312 Watch Street was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994, given a local designation of significance and listed under Criterion A (out of Criterion A, B, C and D) for its association with events that have made significant contributions to the broad patterns of history for its ties to commerce and science between the years of 1910 and 1944.

That’s all I gave you!

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So I explained a little bit about the letters but each one A through D has a specific corresponding explanation and evaluation.  Whatever letters may be attributed to a building (or archaeological site) help establish context for subsequent arguments made through research about the structure or site.

Here’s what they mean:

A: they have ties to broader,significant themes in history

B: they are tied to a specific important person(s) in history (think the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway)

C: they showcase distinctive architectural characteristics regarding type, style, period, or if they are the work of a master

D: they have, or likely will, yield important information regarding history or prehistory.

These Criterion mostly live to evaluate buildings for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) applications, but I like including them in PP posts to help give a bit more of context for why buildings I pick for posts are important.

Now, you can have building be more than one.  In fact, for instance, you see many NRHP places listed under both A and C.  In the world of this blog, those are also the most popular either together or apart. In PP posts, we will probably never run into Criterion D because it is most often associated with archaeological sites or cultural landscapes.  Criterion B is not that common because unless the person is a nationally prominent figure, like the example above.  For an application that is called the National Register, the person given must have greater significant than someone even with great local standing — in the case of Elgin, think someone like W.H. Wing whose name is on the popular Wing Park and his home in locally significant. So while many homes or buildings could be designated under one of these Criterion, they still might not meet other evaluative criteria on a national scale or perhaps they have lost too many aspects of integrity.

That is all for this first installment of Nerd Word of the Week! Let us know what you think in the comments or on our Facebook page!