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Category Archives: Research Your Building

Historic Preservation – Building Information

National Register

Historic Building Research

Historic Building Rehabilitation Information

Community Preservation

National Register Nominations | September 2014

In October 2014, the Board of State History, for the Utah Division of State History, will review five (5) nominations to the National Register. These nominations are:

John & Margaret Price House in Salt Lake City

Murray City Diesel Power Plant in Murray

Rawsel & Jane Bradford House in Murray

James & Mary Jane Miller House in Murray

John & Sarah Jane Wayman House in Centerville

The Board of State History meets on October 17, 2014. These meetings are public. To view or print the meeting agenda, please visit the Board of State History on this web site. Please note: agenda for October 2014 may be delayed due to the production of the sixty-second annual Utah State History conference.

Selected Glossary of Real Estate Terms

(Used in Property Records/Title Abstracts)

Bargain and Sale Deed (B&S Deed)     
Deed that conveys the land described therein, but without any warranties whatsoever.

An instrument in writing that, when executed by the grantor and delivered to the grantee, conveys the described real estate from the one to the other.  Generic “deeds” are not commonly used; “warranty deeds” are more common (see below).

The right, privilege, or interest that one party has in the land of another; an encumbrance or limitation on the property.  It is extinguished by release, abandonment, or when the necessity no longer exists (e.g., right-of-way for road, driveway, etc.).

A person to whom real estate is conveyed; a buyer.

A person who conveys real estate by deed; a seller.

A written legal document created to effect the rights and liabilities of the parties (e.g., deed, mortgage, lien, etc.).

A special encumbrance; a charge against property whereby property is made security for the payment of a debt or charges such as a judgment, a mortgage or taxes; a lien is an asset and therefore may be assigned.  Often used by suppliers and contractors who have not been paid.

Lis Pendens
Suit pending.  Usually recorded in order to give notice of pending litigation to potential buyers or lenders.

Mayor’s Deed (MD)
Deed given under the original dispersal of the property in a town by the mayor.

Mortgage (Mtge)
A written instrument recognized by law by which real property is pledged to secure a debt or obligation; a lien on real property.

Quitclaim Deed (QCD)
Deed given when the grantee already has, or claims, complete or partial title to the premises and grantor has a possible interest that otherwise would constitute a cloud upon the title. (Not used for conveyance purposes.)

A measure of length containing 16-1/2 feet.  A term often used in older legal descriptions of property.  Another archaic term is “chain,” which is 66 feet.

Sheriff’s Deed
A deed given when property is sold by court order to satisfy a judgment.

Tax Deed
A deed given by the tax collector to the county and which terminates all rights of redemption.

Tax Sale
Sale of property after a period of nonpayment of taxes.

Tax Title
The title by which one holds lands purchased at a tax sale.

Trust Deed (TD)
A conveyance of real estate to a third person to be held for the benefit of a beneficiary, which is ordinarily repayment of a loan made to the trustor; similar to a mortgage.

Warranty Deed (WD)
The most common type of deed used to transfer property.  It contains a covenant that the grantor will protect the grantee against any claimant; contains covenants of title against encumbrances and of quiet enjoyment.

Building Rehabilitation Information


Someone once lived in this house in Rush Valley, Utah….

Here are some links and tools to help you as you begin work on your historic building.

See also our resources for commercial buildings.

Utah Preservation Directory
The Utah Heritage Foundation maintains a list of companies and individuals who have experience working with historic buildings.

Rehab Dos and Don’ts
Some basics for sprucing up your historic home.

Rehab for Dummies (PDF)
Guidance for those who are new to the world of house rehabilitation. This article, by J. Scott Anderson and Craig Paulsen, is from Volume 5 of Utah Preservation magazine.

The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation

Inspection Checklist for Historic Buildings (PDF)
A worksheet approach for property owners evaluating the condition of buildings.

Weatherization and Improving the Energy Efficiency of Historic Buildings

Avoiding Costly Mistakes on Your Home Building Projects
Contractor and lien information from the Utah Department of Occupational & Professional Licensing.

Windows for Historic Buildings
Repair or replace? Answers to common questions.

Shingles Standards
Standards from the Secretary of Interior.

Bracing for the Big One
Information to help you plan and carry out a seismic upgrade while preserving the important features and character of your historic house.

Old House Journal
A magazine covering a wide arrange of preservation topics.

Traditional Building
Information on suppliers of traditionally styled products and related services.

NPS Preservation Briefs
Technical publications covering a wide variety of preservation topics.

NPS Technical Preservation Online Education website
A source of extensive information on technical issues.

Restoration Reports
Inexpensive and very thorough guides to various rehab topics.

Commerical/Public Buildings

Signs and Awnings for Downtowns (PDF)
A workbook for business and property owners.

Restoring an Historic Commercial Building (PDF)
A workbook for business and property owners.

Adapting for Access: ADA Compliance in Historic Structures (PDF)
A brochure that dispels myths and shows that it is possible and reasonable to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) while remaining in your historic structure and retaining its historic significance.

Measuring Guidelines — Floor Plans

Model Floor Plan

model floor plan

Recommended Tools

  •  25-foot metal tape: A standard tape measure–rigid, retractable, lockable. This is especially useful for measuring room interiors.
  • 50 or 100-foot cloth or vinyl tape: This is the best tape for measuring exteriors and other spaces that have a corner on which you can hook the end of the tape. Unlike the metal tape, this one will not automatically retract; you have to wind it in.
  • Clipboard: A standard 8-1/2″ x 11″ clipboard is sufficient for most projects.
  • Graph paper: The grid makes it much easier to sketch an accurate plan. Paper with faint lines is preferred because penciled lines stand out better on it.
  • Drafting tools: Pencils with erasers, architect’s scale, T-square, and triangles.

Measuring techniques

Having a partner who can hold the end of the tape is helpful, but most buildings can be measured solo.

Sketch the basic floor plan—wall, window, and door placements—before measuring.

Sketch the exterior first, then the interior. Don’t worry too much about it being proportional at this point.

Measure the outside first
, filling in dimensions on your sketch for the key features–window and door openings, projections (chimneys, porches, bay windows, etc.), joints between the original building and additions, etc. Do not worry about minor features such as wood trim and moldings, changes in materials (unless it reflects an addition), etc.

Measure in running dimensions whenever possible
. Fix the tape at one corner and run the tape along the side of the building, reading the measurement at each measurable feature. This will greatly reduce the accumulation of errors caused by measuring each feature separately. Vegetation and other factors may force you to take individual measurements on occasion.

Keep the tape level for more accurate measurements.
 Be sure to start at a level that allows you to get measurements for the key features. For example, don’t start so low on the wall that your tape runs below the level of the windows.

On the interior
, measure each room’s overall dimensions in addition to placing interior doorways, closets, etc. This will help resolve discrepancies that may arise when drawing up the plan. Interior measurements do not need to include windows and doors along the exterior walls that have already been measured from the outside.

Measure wall thickness,
 since it will have to be drawn.

Make additional measurements and notes
 on the drawing as you see fit. These might include the ceiling height, trim width, flooring or wall materials, etc. You will probably be photographing the building as well, so let the camera do as much of this “descriptive” work as possible.

Label the field drawing
 with the name and/or address of the building, the names of those who measured it, and the date. The field drawing with all of your dimensions should be kept along with your finished drawing.

The October 1984 issue of Old-House Journal has an excellent article entitled “Measuring Up” that focuses primarily on measuring building interiors.

Drawing techniques

Use 8-1/2″ x 11″ drawing paper whenever possible (so it fits in a standard file). Any type of paper will suffice; choose a quality commensurate with your purpose (simple documentation, presentation, publication, etc.). You may wish to trace the final drawing using ink on mylar.

A scale of 1/4″ = 1 foot will accommodate most residential size buildings. Larger buildings may need to be reduced even further in order to fit them on the paper, so a 1/8″ scale would be appropriate.

Differentiate additions by shading the walls differently
. The recommended shading patterns are as follows:

  • Original building–blacked-in walls
  •  Oldest addition–diagonal lines
  • Next oldest addition– speckle shading
  • Most recent addition–unshaded

Labels and legend: The building name and address should be on the drawing, as well as a North arrow, a graphic scale bar, and a legend of the shading used to distinguish additions along with the corresponding dates. Dimensions and room names are not required, though they can be helpful.

For additional information, contact:

Cory Jensen at 801-245-7242
State Historic Preservation Office
Utah Division of State History
300 S. Rio Grande Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
Fax: 801-533-3503

Photography Guidelines for Historic Buildings

Lobby of the Eccles Building in Ogden

Lobby of the Eccles Building in Ogden

Recommended equipment

  •  35mm camera: A good-quality, name-brand camera with through-the-lens viewing and detachable lenses is preferred.
  • Standard Lens: 50mm; good for general photography but somewhat limited.
  • Wide Angle Lenses: 20mm, 28mm, or 35mm. These are very useful for interior photographs, exterior photos where you have to stand closer to the building (because of trees, for example), or exterior photos of large buildings or sites.
  • Zoom Lens: Approximately 35mm–80mm. This can be a good all-purpose lens. Larger zoom lenses, approx. 80mm-200mm, can be useful at times, but are usually not necessary for most occasions.
  • Macro Lens: This is for copying older photographs. Some zoom lenses have a macro feature, though the images they produce will not be as sharp as with a true macro lens. Another option for copying photographs is to use extension tubes on a standard lens.
  • Filters: A standard “skylight” filter helps reduce atmospheric glare and protects the lens. Other filters, which can enhance the image, are not recommended for the average photographer.

Recommended media

Digital Photos: Digital photographs are preferred and should be printed on photographic paper at 300 ppi (pixels per inch) in 4”x 6” prints or larger. These should be printed out on glossy, high-quality photo paper in color or black and white. A gold archival CD-R with all the images (in color) should be submitted along with the photo prints. For the purposes of the State Historic Preservation Office, the size of each image must be 3000 x 2000 pixels or larger, at 300 ppi. It is recommended that digital images be saved in 8-bit (or larger) color format, which provides maximum detail even when printed in black-and-white. TIF images are preferable as they are higher quality, but JPEG images are acceptable. For more information on digital photo standards, contact us.

Slides: Digital images on a CD are preferred; however, slides are still acceptable. Kodak has stopped making slide film, as have most other manufacturers. One of the more available films is Fujichrome Velvia 100, which is a good all-purpose film; films with a lower ASA number produce a better image.

Black-and-White Prints: Black and white prints are more archival and fade less than color prints. Like all films, there are fewer options now for black and white, however Kodak, Fuji, Agfa and Ilford all make this film in a range of speeds. Higher-speed versions of the film can be used in reduced lighting situations or when a larger lens is being used. The higher-speed films will not produce as sharp a print, however.

Recommended photographic techniques

Lighting: As a general rule, shoot with the sun at your back so the sunlight is on the face of the subject building. Avoid shooting toward the sun. Buildings that face north should be photographed earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid shooting directly into the sun.

One problem with sunlight is that it can cause shadows that obscure some of the architectural details; dappled shadows from nearby trees are especially distracting. Shadows can be avoided by photographing on a lightly overcast day. However, if the sky is heavily overcast the photograph will be too gray and murky.

Interior lighting: A flash unit is necessary for many interior photographs. Natural and room lighting can be used successfully if you are using a high-speed film and a tripod.

Composition: The subject should dominate the photograph, but its surroundings should also be included to some extent. If the setting is particularly important or unique, a more panoramic photograph may be in order. In general, however, avoid extensive foreground and sky in your photographs.

Artistic techniques can be employed to create more interesting and dramatic photographs. These include the use of unusual angles, stark lighting, depth-of-field adjustments, and creative framing (a tree bough across the top of the image, for example).

Remember, however, that the primary purpose of the photograph is to document the building, so don’t get carried away with artistic embellishments.


For additional information, contact:

Cory Jensen at 801-245-7242
State Historic Preservation Office
Utah Division of State History
300 S. Rio Grande Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84101

How to Research Your House

Family sitting down to tea

Family sitting down to tea

Meet the people who have lived in your house –

and learn much more, by doing some sleuthing.

The First Step

First, check to see whether your house has already been documented. The Preservation Office at State History has files on hundreds of buildings throughout the state, including those listed in the State and National registers. Copies are available for a nominal cost. Contact the Historic Preservation staff.

If your house has not been documented previously, then you should check the following sources for information:

Title Abstracts

At the County Recorder’s Office, research all the transactions involving your property, noting the date, names of buyers and sellers, and the dollar amounts and types of transactions (warranty deed, quit claim deed, mortgage, etc.).

Indications of a construction date are the first relatively large mortgage or the dramatic increase in the selling price of the property.

Note: you will need the legal description of the property to do this research, not simply the address.

Glossary of Real Estate Terms (Used in Property Records/Title Abstracts)  

Sanborn Maps

The Utah History Research Center and the University of Utah Marriott Library have many of these maps. Many older Sanborn maps can be found online at the University of Utah Marriott Library.

These fire insurance maps were drawn for more than 75 communities in the state, many as early as the late 1880s, and were updated periodically as late as 1969. The maps show each building on the principal residential and commercial blocks in the community and they are color coded to indicate the various construction materials.

By comparing the maps from different years, you can establish an approximate date of construction and can determine when and what types of changes have been made to the building and surrounding property.

Tax File

Find this at the county assessor’s office or the county archives for Salt Lake County. This file usually provides an estimated date of construction (but don’t trust it completely). It may also contain an older photograph of your house and perhaps other structural information.

Building Permit Registers

At the Utah History Research Center, find building permit registers for Salt Lake City, 1889-1954, and Provo, 1922-25 and 1928. These provide the date the permit was issued, the address of the property, the estimated cost of construction, a brief description of the building, the name of the owner, and sometimes the names of the architect and builder.


Utah History Research Center and university libraries have newspapers for many Utah communities on microfilm. Many are also available online in the Utah Digital Newspapers Archive.

  • Small town newspapers are generally weekly. Information about the construction of major buildings in the community–schools, churches, public buildings, commercial buildings–usually appears on the front page. References to the construction of houses are often found in the “local” column.
  • Large city newspapers such as the Deseret News and The Salt Lake Tribune usually have a real estate section in which most of the important construction news appears. Information about the construction of individual houses is also given, though not on a consistent basis. Advertisements in this section by builders and real estate firms are also useful sources of information, often highlighting recently completed buildings.
  • Annual “List of Buildings” for Salt Lake City–These appear in the January 1st issue of the Salt Lake Tribune from 1889 until 1899. The lists give the location, cost, brief description, and name of the owner of each building built during the previous year.
  • “List of Buildings” for Ogden–This list contains the same kind of information as the one above. However, it appears only one time—in the Salt Lake Tribune, January 1, 1892, p. 39 (for buildings constructed in 1891).

Architects File

Historic Preservation Office, State History—We have information about many of the architects and builders in Utah in this file, along with lists of some of the buildings they designed or constructed. Architectural drawings of historic buildings are extremely rare since most houses were not individually designed by formally schooled architects. Even the works of many of Utah’s prominent architects are unavailable.

The best collection of historic architectural drawings is at the U of U Marriott Library Special Collections. These are organized under each architect’s name, so you must determine who the architect of your house is before you begin searching for specific drawings. The Utah History Research Center also has a few architectural drawings (check with Research Center staff).

Biographical Information on Owners

Try the following sources:

  • City directories (larger cities only)—These annual listings provide the names, addresses and occupations of everyone in the city. They are arranged in alphabetical order by name in the earlier years, but from 1924 on properties are listed by both occupant name and address. Directories are useful in verifying when a house was built and whether the owners lived in it themselves or rented it out (Utah History Research Center and other libraries).
  • State gazetteers—These annual volumes include virtually every community in the state, but unlike city directories they usually list only those who are involved with business enterprises and they do not give addresses.
  • Biographical index—Arranged alphabetically by name, this card catalog at the Utah History Research Center gives specific references for names found in publications at Research Center.
  • “Mormons and Their Neighbors”—a two-volume reference set that provides names and where to find biographical/historical references information for them.
  • Biographical encyclopedias such as “Pioneers and Prominent Men,” “Utah’s Distinguished Personalities,” etc.
  • Genealogical records (LDS Church Family History Library)—also available online at websites such as, or
  • Here is an excellent, concise website on genealogical research that steps you through the process:
  • Census schedules (available on microfilm at our Research Center and university and genealogical libraries)—These list the members of each household, their ages, occupations, places of birth etc. In some later census schedules the address of each household may also be given. Census schedules are arranged by county and city and are available for each decade from 1850 to 1930 (1890 excluded).
  • Family histories—Written histories, journals, letters, photographs, etc. are sometimes available from family members. Verbal accounts from the family and others associated with the property are also often useful.
  • Obituary Index (available on microfilm at our Research Center and university and genealogical libraries)—This list indexes obituaries in The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News from 1850 to 1970. The Salt Lake Tribune is also indexed separately from 1941 to 1991.
  • Local histories—Community and LDS ward histories may contain information about early settlers or prominent community members.