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Survey Levels

Fire Station No.1, Bremerton - 1937Architectural surveys fall into two general classifications: intensive and reconnaissance levels.  Both types have a place, depending on the amount of information to be collected, the time and budget available, and the geographic dispersion of the resources.  Reconnsissance level surveys are the most common and are typically used for Section 106 consultation, and initial survey work in a previously undocumented area. All survey forms must still be completed using the Wisaard system.

Reconnaissance Level

Reconnaissance surveys are visual or predictive surveys that identify the general distribution, location and nature of cultural resources within a given area. A reconnaissance survey of the built environment generally entails the field identification of resources that appear to meet broad survey requirements. Documentation at this level rarely exceeds property address, observational information on architectural style and features, and photographic information. However, it may be possible to discern if the property appears to be a unique resource based on the observations of the overall survey area and this information should be recorded in the “Statement of Significance” section of the database. Reconnaissance surveys are often conducted to establish the boundaries for intensive surveys to follow.

Reconnaissance surveys consist of walking around an area and noting the general distribution of buildings, structures, and neighborhoods representing different architectural styles, periods and modes of construction.   Because reconnaissance surveys record only observable information, they may not provide sufficient information with which to make determinations of eligibility beyond architectural significance.

A reconnaissance level survey should include the following:

  • Resource name - either the historic name, if known or a generic name that describes the resource, i.e. residence, commercial building, gas station, etc...
  • Property type
  • Location information sufficient to find the property if one were looking for it in person or on a map
  • Surveyor and survey name
  • Date recorded
  • Current use of the building should be noted since it is observable from the street
  • Historic use, if apparent from the building type
  • Historic Context
  • All observable architectural information (characteristics & styles)
  • Description of Physical Appearance section on the Narrative must be completed
  • Statement of Significance - based on the knowledge of the surveyor, briefly discuss the architectural qualities of the structure, and the overall broad patterns of history in which the resource might be associated with.
  • Determination of Eligibility opionon - Is the resource eligible for listing in the National Register either individually or part of a district?
  • Approximate date of construction
  • Digital image(s) of the resource

A reconnaissance level survey does not need to include the following:

  • National, State or Local Register status
  • The historic use of the property
  • The architect/engineer/builder
  • An in-depth Statement of Significance
  • A bibliography (unless sources were consulted by the surveyor)

Intensive Level

Intensive level survey and evaluation combines a reconnaissance survey with an evaluation by a trained professional. Intensive survey involves in-depth archival research and field-work to record properties in the survey area.  For all types of intensive survey and evaluation projects, the objective is to gather sufficient information to recommend proposed William P. Bruce House, Waitsburg - 1883significance or non-significance of the investigated properties and develop historic contexts in terms of National Register of Historic Places listing.  An intensive level survey should include the completion of all of the fields on the database and would consist of research on the property beyond what can be noted from the street.

A intensive level survey should include all of the information required for a reconnaissance level survey plus the following:

  • An accurate build date based on research
  • Historic images if found
  • The name of the architect or builder
  • A bibliography
  • A Determination of Eligibility by a trained professional which addresses directly the four NR criteria and how a property, meets or does not meet the criteria
  • The historic use of the property
  • Ownership information
  • Historic or common name of the property
  • A thorough, in-depth statement of significance section based on the history of the resource and its context.

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact Kim Gant at 360-586-3074 or at