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Overview of Architectural Survey Program

Maine's architectural survey program began in 1972. Since then, the effort to catalogue and document the historic human-made environment has continued to be a central goal of the Commission's mandate with more than 21,700 properties surveyed to date. The survey component of the overall preservation planning program is a vital one. Surveys document at a variety of levels the historic human-made environment of our communities. This in turn enables us to identify those properties which merit nomination to the National Register of Historic Places and to thereby extend protection to those resources.


Introducing CARMA

Looking for guidelines for survey activities in Maine?

If you are a consultant working on MDOT architectural surveys please go to:
MDOT Above Ground cultural Resource Survey Manual Revised 2013 PDF :: Word
If you are a consultant working on a Federally funded, licensed or permitted, survey (other than MDOT) please go to:
Review and Compliance Above Ground Cultural Resource Survey Manual Revised 2013 PDF :: Word
If you are working on a MHPC Grant funded survey, or a non-funded volunteer survey please go to:
Grant and Volunteer Above Ground Survey Manual (Revised 2013) PDF :: Word: Project Submission Requirements Grant Funded and Volunteer Sponsored Surveys.

In addition to geographic based surveys, the Commission has also undertaken theme based survey projects to identify specific property types on a state-wide or regional basis. In the past, theme-based projects have included an inventory of designed landscapes, railroad related buildings, shoe-industry related buildings, sporting camps, textile mills, motor courts, and historic highway bridges, the latter undertaken by the Maine Department of Transportation. Future areas of study will focus on Grange Halls, post World War II commercial and residential architecture, automobile-related resources, and boys and girls summer camps.

One of MHPC's focuses in recent years has been the recordation of agricultural outbuildings and historic farmsteads. These resources are rapidly disappearing from Maine's landscape, and the survey of these properties have resulted in a greater understanding of the state's specialized agricultural buildings and landscapes. This effort will aid in the development of agricultural and rural historic district listings in the National Register.

What is an architectural survey?

  • A systematic record of the built environment within a specified geographic area and time frame;
  • A method to understand trends in building and design;
  • A process that documents the life cycle of a town.

Why undertake an architectural survey?

  • To document the built environment of a town at a particular point in time;
  • To identify the built environment from previous time periods;
  • To identify properties and landscapes that contribute to the character of the town;
  • To identify properties or areas worth of preservation, either through owner encouragement, town ordinances, or financial support;
  • To identify properties or districts eligible for listing in the National Register;
  • To help prioritize and plan for town growth and development.

Who can undertake a survey?

  • Towns, Historical Societies, Community Groups, MHPC;
  • volunteers and professionals;
  • CRM companies and MDOT prior to Federally funded projects, such as gas lines or road widening.

What is recorded in a survey?

Properties over 50 years old, including, houses, barns and farms, churches, public buildings, schools, commercial structures, industrial structures, cemeteries, landscapes. Also cultural features, including tree lines, stone walls, and town pounds.

How is survey linked to the National Register?

The information collected during an architectural survey forms the basis for determining the eligibility of a National Register of Historic Places historic district. They provide visual, structural, and historical information that can be evaluated against the National Register criteria; they help to identify trends in style and design; chart neighborhood evolution; and illuminate structures or residences of significant historical importance.

Steps for Starting an Architectural Survey

  1. Identify a region, neighborhood, or subject to study;
  2. Read the National Park Service Bulletin 'Guidelines for Local Surveys: A Basis for Preservation Planning';
  3. Become familiar with the MHPC survey manual;
  4. Contact the MHPC survey coordinator at (207) 287-1453, or by email. to:
    • discuss previous or ongoing survey activities in the area;
    • learn whether survey grants are available;
    • obtain a list of Architectural Historians who conduct surveys;
    • order survey forms and training materials (if necessary).

Sample Survey Forms