Roofs & Storefronts


Roofs are more than simply the structure protecting the interior of a building from the elements: they can be significant design features, notable for their shape, height, configuration and materials. Historic roofing materials are important characteristic elements of a building, defining overall style, and reflecting the age and design of the property. As with all historic materials, emphasis should be on retention and repair.

Many materials, such as slate or tile, if carefully maintained, can last for many years, and may need only careful attention and repair. However, since the roof is constantly exposed to the elements,, it may reach a point where partial or major replacement is necessary. If this is the case, the historic materials should be replaced in-kind, matching the existing in color, texture, size and other visual qualities.

The best course of action in maintaining a roof is periodic inspection and repair. Gutter and flashing failure plus lack of proper maintenance is often the culprit in a leaky roof. Owners should carefully examine gutters, leaders, valleys and flashing before determining that wholesale roof replacement is necessary. Any repairs at these areas should be made using materials and techniques meant to last long-term, not simply a short term fix. Other materials, such as roofing compounds, do not solve the real problem, are subject to early failure and can be unsightly.

Rooftop Additions

New rooftop construction is an extremely sensitive issue in a preservation project and is seldom approved. Rooftop additions are inappropriate at most historic properties because they can seriously change the height, profile, and overall exterior character of a building. Any proposed construction will be reviewed for its overall visibility from all viewpoints. The few successful rooftop additions are small in scale and footprint, held away from the building's perimeter, with few sight lines from nearby streets and other vantage points. The exceptions are elevator overruns and areas of fire refuge which involve minor changes and are therefore usually acceptable.


Storefronts ate highly visible features of historic commercial buildings and every effort should be made to preserve and rehabilitate intact historic examples. Since facades were often changed to suit stylistic changes, the current storefront may not be original to the building. However, many of these "later" storefronts are significant in their own right-for example, Art Deco features on a 19th century building. These important features are a record of changes made over time within a community or neighborhood.

General periodic inspection and maintenance is key to the long life of any storefront system. Appropriate painting, caulking and repair should be undertaken as soon as any problems are identified. A prompt response to minor problems can prevent major repairs later.

Historic storefront installations should be retained, even where no commercial use is proposed in the re-use. Where a storefront is missing, restoration of the original is appropriate provided it is based on conclusive physical or documentary evidence (not conjecture!). If both the storefront and the basis for restoration is missing, then the use of simple, generic and compatible storefront features is appropriate. These features typically include simple framing and panels, large glass areas and transom units, cornices, signboards and simple doors. Appropriate materials, configurations, and proportions will vary depending upon the style and significant features of the structure and the historic district.