There are many terms and acronyms that are used by people involved in historic preservation. This page has a glossary of terms with related website links. The glossary is an evolving resource. The core of this glossary is taken from a primer by Professor John C. Waters, University of Georgia. If you have additions or corrections to the list, please email the webmaster at:



acanthus — a genus of thistle-like plants whose leaves were imitated in the ornament of the Corinthian and Composite capitals. In the scroll form it appears on friezes, panels, etc.

acroterium — a pedestal for a statue or similar decorative feature at the apex, or at each of the lower corners, of a pediment.

adaptive use — changing an existing, often historic, building to accommodate a new function; may include extensive restoration and/or renovation of both the interior and exterior of the building and removal of some existing building elements. Also known as adaptive re-use. The Secretary of the Interior has developed standards to guide adaptive re-use. (from Dictionary of Building Preservation)

anta — a square pier terminating the end of a wall in Greek temple architecture. Columns are said to be “in antis” when they stand within a porch between antae.

anthemion — a Greek architectural ornament in the form of a stylized representation of the flower of the honeysuckle. Used singly on stella or antefixes, or as a running ornament on friezes, etc.

arcade — literally, a series of arches supported on columns or square or rectangular piers; or a covered passageway whose sides are open arcades; and, by extension, a covered way lined with shops even if no arches are used.

architrave — from Old French and Old Italian arch+trabs, “chief beam.” Specifically, the lowest element in the entablatures of the Ionic and Corinthian columnar orders, with two or three stepped-back faces, but by extension, the frame around windows, doors, and arches in Renaissance architecture.

archivolt — the group of moldings following the shape of an arched opening; a modified architrave, in curvilinear form rather than rectilinear.

arcuated — a term applied to a building structurally dependent on the use of arches, or the arch principle, in contrast to a trabeated building.

ashlar — a dressed or squared stone and the masonry built of such hewn stone. It may be coursed, with continuous horizontal joints or random, with discontinuous joints.

Return to the top of the page.


baluster — a turned or rectangular upright supporting a stair handrail or forming part of a balustrade.

balustrade — an entire railing system including a top rail and its balusters, and often a bottom rail.

bargeboard — a board, often ornately curved, attached to the projecting edges of a gabled roof; sometimes referred to as vergeboard. This feature was used throughout the Middle Ages as well as in the Gothic Revival of the 19th century.

Baroque — a European style of architecture and decoration which developed in the 17th century in Italy from late Renaissance and Mannerist forms, and culminated in the churches, monasteries, and palaces of southern Germany and Austria in the early 18th century. It is characterized by interpenetration of oval spaces, curved surfaces, and conspicuous used of decoration, sculpture, and color.

battered — of walls, having faces that slope inward toward the top.

bay — one unit of a building that consists of a series of similar units; commonly defined as the number of vertical divisions within a building’s facade (e.g. window and door openings or the areas between columns or piers).

belt course — a narrow horizontal band projecting from the exterior walls of a building, usually defining the location of interior floor levels.

belvedere — a tower or turret with an open porch, built either for the sake of the view or that of its appearance.

blind arch — an arch that does not contain an opening for a window or door but is set against or indented within a wall.

bond — the pattern in which bricks are laid for the sake of solidity as well as design.

brace — a diagonal stabilizing member of a building frame.

bracket — a projecting support used under cornices, eaves, balconies, or windows to provide structural or purely visual support. Also, a scroll at the end of a step on the string of a staircase.

building — as defined for eligibility in the National Register of Historic Places; a house, barn, church, hotel, or similar construction, created principally to shelter any form of human activity. The term may also be used to refer to a historically and functionally related unit, such as a courthouse and jail or a house and barn. Examples include: administration buildings, carriage houses, churches, city or town halls, courthouses, forts, garages, hotels, houses, libraries, mill buildings, office buildings, post offices, schools, sheds, social halls, stables, stores, theaters, and train stations. (from National Register Bulletin 15)

bungalow — an inexact term for a late 19th to mid 20th century type of small house characterized by materials that express their natural state, interconnected interior spaces, low, broad form, and lack of applied ornamentation; often has a low-pitched gable or hip roof and a porch with massive columns; common details include wide, overhanging eaves with exposed rafter tails, projecting beam ends, and triangular knee braces at gable eaves, attached pergolas and bungalow windows (from Dictionary of Building Preservation) There are many neighborhoods in Minneapolis that contain bungalows. The Twin Cities Bungalow Club provides information on local buildings.

Return to the top of the page.


capital — the uppermost part, or head, of a column or pilaster.

cartouche — an ornamental panel in the form of a scroll, circle, or oval, often bearing an inscription.

casement — a hinged window frame that opens horizontally like a door.

castellated — having a battlemented or crenulated parapet or roof.

cast iron — iron, shaped in a mold, that is brittle, hard, and cannot be welded; in 19th-century American commercial architecture, cast-iron units were frequently used to form entire facades.

chevron — a v-shaped decoration generally used as a continuous frieze or molding. This treatment is typical of the Art Deco style.

Chicago window — an oblong window with a wide central light containing a fixed pane of plate glass flanked by narrower lights with sashes.

chimney pot — a pipe placed on top of a chimney, usually of earthenware, that functions as a continuation of the flue and improves draft.

chord — one of the principal members of a truss, typically one of a horizontal pair separated by diagonal or vertical web members; types include bottom chord, top chord. (from Dictionary of Building Preservation)

clapboard — a long, narrow board with one edge thicker than the other, overlapped to cover the outer walls of frame structures; also known as weatherboard.

classical — of, or pertaining to, the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome.

column — a vertical support of round section. In classical architecture the column consists of three parts: base (except in Doric), shaft, and capital.

console — from Latin, consolator, “one who consoles,” hence a support. A bracket of classic form, usually scrolled at the top and bottom and supporting a cornice, a door or window head, a piece of sculpture, etc.

Composite order — a classical order, derived by the Romans, in which the capitals are composed of the fusion of volutes of the Ionic and the acanthus foliage of the Corinthian.

coupled columns — columns set as close pairs with a wider intercolumnation (the clear space) between the pairs.

corbel — 1. in masonry, a projection or one of a series of projections, each stepped progressively farther forward with increasing height; anchored in a wall, story, column, or chimney. 2. a bracket or block projecting from the face of a wall that generally supports a cornice, beam, or arch.

Corinthian order — the slenderest and most ornate of the classical Greek orders of architecture, characterized by a slim fluted column with bell-shaped capital decorated with stylized acanthus leaves; variations of this order were used extensively by the Romans.

cornice — a molding at the edge of a roof; a molding that covers the angle formed by ceiling and wall; the uppermost section of an entablature.

course — a horizontal row of stones or bricks in a wall.

Craftsman style — a small house and furniture style popular in the U.S. in the early 20th century, popularized by Gustav Stickley’s magazine, The Craftsman.; an outgrowth of the Arts and Crafts movement, which concentrated more on interiors than exteriors, especially in the illustrations of architect Harvey Ellis (who worked for Minneapolis architect, Leroy Buffington). Exteriors could be any style, with typical features including irregular massing, low-slope gable roofs with wide eaves and exposed rafters, projecting beam ends or knee braces supporting bargeboards, porches with square-tapered columns or piers, and pergolas; common interior features included connected spaces separated by low-height walls, little or no applied ornament, straight lines, varnished wood, built-in benches and cabinets, box beams on the ceilings, and painted or prairie plaster walls; often used in conjunction with bungalow construction. (fromDictionary of Building Preservation)

cresting — an openwork ornament along a horizontal edge or ridge.

cultural landscape — the portion of the exterior environment that has been modified, influenced, or given special cultural meaning by people; includes large parks, a group of farms, countryside, and streetscapes (from Dictionary of Building Preservation)

cultural resource — 1. an object, document, or any part of the built environment that has significance in archaeology, architecture, art, or history. 2. a building, site, structure, object, or district evaluated by the National Register process as having significance in prehistory or history. (from Dictionary of Building Preservation)

Return to the top of the page.


dentil — from Latin, dens, “tooth.” A small rectangular block used in a series below the cornice in the Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite orders, and sometimes the Doric.

district — as defined for eligibility in the National Register of Historic Places; a district possesses a significant concentration, linkage, or continuity of sites, buildings, structures, or objects united historically or aesthetically by plan or physical development. Examples include: business districts, groups of habitation sites, college campuses, industrial complexes, residential areas, and transportation networks. (from National Register Bulletin 15)

dogleg staircase — two parallel flights of stairs with a half-landing between them.

Doric order — a classical order most readily distinguished by its simple, unornamented capitals and the tablets with vertical grooving, called triglyphs, set at regular intervals in the frieze. This order represents architecture of the “Golden Age” of Greece (4th and 5th centuries, B.C.) and was readily adapted in the American Greek Revival.

dormer window — an upright window lighting the space in a roof. When it is in the same plane as the wall, it is called a wall dormer; when it rises from the slope of the roof, a roof dormer.

double-hung sash window — a window with two sash, one above the other, arranged to slide vertically past each other.

Return to the top of the page


Egyptian Revival style — an architectural style using Egyptian motifs, such as massive papyrus or lotus columns, bas-relief symbols (e.g., a feroher), and, sometimes, statuary (e.g., a sphinx); typically has battered walls; primarily used in public buildings and monuments during the 19th century. (from Dictionary of Building Preservation) A Minneapolis example is the Marquette National Bank facade at 517 Marquette Avenue, now part of a parking garage.

engaged column — a column partially built into a wall, not freestanding. It may be purely decorative or it may serve as a buttress-like thickening of the wall.

entablature — the horizontal part of an architectural order, supported on columns, composed of architrave, frieze, and cornice.

entasis — the very slight convex curve used on Greek and later columns to correct the optical illusion of concavity which would result if the sides were straight. Also used on spires and other structures for the same reason.

Return to the top of the page.


facade — the exterior face of a building that is the architectural front, sometimes distinguished from the other faces by elaboration of architectural or ornamental details.

fanlight — a window, often semi-circular, over a door, with radiating muntins suggestive of a fan. Used widely in several periods of architecture, including Georgian, Federal, and Colonial Revival.

feroher — an Egyptian symoblic decoration in the form of a disk with a pair of long, horizontal wings; used in Egyptian Revival style architecture. (from Dictionary of Building Preservation)

foursquare — a 20th century house form characterized by one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half stories, a square plan with a room in each corner and a center stair, and a hipped roof. (from Dictionary of Building Preservation)

frieze — the middle horizontal member of a classical entablature, above the architrave and below the cornice. It may contain relief carving.

Return to the top of the page.


gable — the vertical triangular shape at the end of a building formed by a double sloping roof.

gablet — a small gable, for example, over a dormer window.

garland — a curved hanging festoon of leaves or flowers. Frequently used in combination with the swag as an applied ornamental device.

graining — painted treatment on wood panels simulating patterns of wood grain sometimes to the point of exotic abstraction. Sometimes referred to as faux bois.

Return to the top of the page.


header — the end of a brick, sometimes glazed. Usually bricks are laid end out in order to tie two or more adjacent widths of brick together; a bondstone; a bonder.

Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) — serves as a citizen advisory body to the Minneapolis City Council. It was formed in 1972 and is part of a nation-wide network of groups dedicated to the preservation and celebration of architectural heritage. The HPC supports the preservation of historically and architecturally significant buildings and districts while regulating modifications of such buildings for contemporary use. Visit the Minneapolis HPC website.

Return to the top of the page.


impost — the top part of a pier or wall upon which rests the springer or lowest voussoir of an arch. It serves to receive and distribute the thrust or load at each end of an arch.

in antis — columns are “in antis” when they stand between square piers called anta. Generally used to describe the composition of a portico’s elements.

Ionic order — a classical order distinguished by a capital with spiral scrolls, called volutes and generally dentil courses. This order is more elaborate than the Doric but less so than the Corinthian.

Return to the top of the page.


joist — one of a series of closely spaced, parallel beams that supports a floor or ceiling; typically 2x in wood frame construction by the late 19th century. (from Dictionary of Building Preservation)

Return to the top of the page.


keystone — the central voussoir of an arch, shaped in a wedge form. Until the keystone is in place, no true arch action is incurred.

knee brace — a non-structural diagonal member used as exterior ornamentation, extending from the facade to the eave of a building. This element is characteristic of the Craftsman style in American architecture.

Return to the top of the page.


light — a section of a window, the pane or glass.

lintel — a horizontal structural or ornamental member over an opening which generally carries the weight of the wall above it, often of stone or wood.

lozenge — a diamond-shaped decorative motif; usually one of a series.

lunette — a half-moon window, or wall space beneath an arch or vault.

Return to the top of the page.


modillion — from French and Italian, modiglione, from Latin, mutulus, from an Etruscan root meaning “to stand out.” A small curved and ornamented bracket used to support the upper part of the cornice in Corinthian, Composite, and, less frequently, Roman Ionic orders; any such small curved ornamental bracket used in series.

monochrome — related to, or made with a single color or hue.

mortise and tenon joint — a woodworking joint which is made by one member having its end cut in a projecting piece (tenon) which fits exactly into a groove or hole (mortise) in the other member. Once joined, the pieces are held together by a peg which passes through the tenon.

mullion — a vertical member separating (and often supporting) windows, doors, or panels set in a series.

muntin — a secondary framing member to hold panes within a window, window wall, or glazed door; an intermediate vertical member that divides the panels of a door.

Return to the top of the page.


National Historic Landmark (NHL) — nationally significant historic places designated by the Secretary of the Interior because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. There are fewer than 2,500 National Historic Landmarks across the country. Minnesota has twenty-two National Historic Landmarks—two are located in Minneapolis. Learn more about NHLs.

National Heritage Area — places designated by Congress where natural, cultural, historic, and recreational resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally distinctive landscape arising from patterns of human activity shaped by geography. These patterns make National Heritage Areas representative of the national experience through the physical features that remain and the traditions that have evolved in the areas. There are no National Heritage Areas in Minnesota. Learn more about National Heritage Areas.

National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) — originally passed in 1966 by Congress, the act created the National Register of Historic Places, National Historic Landmarks, and State Historic Preservation Officers. The act is one of the foundations of historic preservation in the United States. Read the act.

National Park Service (NPS) — a federal agency in the Department of the Interior that oversees the National Parks System. NPS also oversees the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks, and provides grants and assistance to register, record and save historic places across the country. Learn more about the NPS.

National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) — the nation’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. It was authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. Properties listed in the Register include districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that are significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. Learn more about the NRHP program. Search for Minnesota properties on the register.

National Scenic Byway Program — part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. The program is a grass-roots collaborative effort established to help recognize, preserve, and enhance selected roads throughout the United States. There are seven Scenic Byways in Minnesota, including the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway in Minneapolis. Learn more about the Byways Program.

newel post — a tall and more or less ornamental post at the head or foot of a stair, supporting the handrail.

Return to the top of the page.


object — as defined for eligibility in the National Register of Historic Places; the term is used to distinguish from buildings and structures those constructions that are primarily artistic in nature or are relatively small in scale and simply constructed. Although it may be, by nature or design, movable, an object is associated with a specific setting or environment. Examples include: boundary markers, fountains, mileposts, monuments, sculpture, and statuary. (from National Register Bulletin 15)

order — a definite arrangement of column, capital, and entablature, each having its own set of rules and ornamental features. The five classical orders, in chronological sequence, are as follows: Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite.

oriel window — a bay window, especially one projecting from an upper story; in medieval European structures and derivatives, a subsidiary bay, or a corbeled, enclosed feature, exterior or interior.

Return to the top of the page.


Palladian window — a window of large size, characteristic of neoclassical styles, divided by columns or piers, resembling pilasters, into three lights, the middle one of which is wider and taller than the others, and is roundheaded.

parapet — a wall section rising above the roofline; a low wall, sometimes battlemented, placed to protect any spot where there is a sudden drop, for example, at the edge of a bridge or house-top.

pavilion — a wing or central unit which projects from a larger architectural unit and is usually accented by special decorative treatment.

pediment — in classical architecture, the triangular gable end of the roof above the horizontal cornice, often filled with sculpture; in later work, a surface use ornamentally over doors or windows, usually rectangular but may be curved.

pilaster — a flat-faced representation of a column, projecting from a wall.

post and lintel — a structural system in which the main support is provided by vertical members, or posts, carrying horizontal members called lintels. This system of construction demonstrates the very essence of classical architecture.

polychromy — the use of many colors, materials, or textures in decoration, especially in architecture and statuary.

porte cochere — a large covered entrance porch through which vehicles can pass. A feature used extensively in American architecture after 1875.

Prairie School or Prairie Style — an architectural style centered in Chicago, ca. 1900-1920s; most notable practitioners were Frank Lloyd Wright and his followers; consciously rejected historical styles and based the overall form of houses on the rolling prairies of the Midwest; characterized by low-pitched hip roofs with wide eaves, casement ribbon windows, and spaces that flow into one another at right angles, typically without any curved forms; applied ornamentations is usually linear and never classical (fromDictionary of Building Preservation) Several Minneapolis architects and contractors designed Prairie Style buildings. One of the most notable local firms was Purcell and ElmsliePurcell’s papers are housed in the Northwest Architectural Archives.

Preservation — the act or process of applying measures necessary to sustain the existing form, integrity, and materials of an historic property. Learn more about the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards

pressed metal — thin sheets of metal molded into decorative designs and used to cover interior walls and ceilings. Also used on exteriors, especially in early 20th century commercial structures.

Return to the top of the page.


quoins — heavy blocks, generally of stone or of wood, cut in emulation of stone and used at the corners of the buildings to reinforce and ornament masonry walls, or in wood as a decorative feature only.

Return to the top of the page.


Reconstruction — the act or process of depicting, by means of new construction, the form, features, and detailing of a non-surviving site, landscape, building, structure, or object for the purpose of replicating its appearance at a specific period of time and in its historic location. Many parts of the Forth Snelling Historic Site have been reconstructed.Learn more about the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards.

Rehabilitation — the act or process of making possible a compatible use for a property through repair, alterations, and additions while preserving those portions or features which convey its historical, cultural, or architectural values. There are several examples of rehabilitation in Minneapolis. Please see the Historic Properties Saved page for these properties. Learn more about the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards.

Restoration — the act or process of accurately depicting the form, features, and character of a property as it appeared at a particular period of time by means of the removal of features from other periods in its history and reconstruction of missing features from the restoration period. The Hexagonal and Round Towers at Fort Snelling have been restored.Learn more about the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards.

Richarsonian Romanesque — masonry buildings in the architectural style of Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-1886) that are largely based on the Romanesque style of southeast France; typical elements include asymmetrical massing, round towers with conical roofs, massive walls with deep arched openings, hipped roofs with eyebrow dormers, pitch face rusticated stonework, and large double-hung windows with a single pane in each sash. A prominent Minneapolis example is the Municipal Building (aka City Hall).

riser — the vertical part of a step or stair.

Rococo — a style of architecture and decoration, primarily French in origin, which represents the final phase of the Baroque around the middle of the 18th century; characterized by profuse, often semiabstract ornamentation and lightness of color and weight.

rustification — from Latin, rusticus “of the country, rude, coarse.” The treatment of stone masonry which deeply cuts back the joints between the blocks. The surfaces of the blocks may be smoothly dressed, textured, or extremely rough or quarry-faced.

Return to the top of the page.


sash — a window frame that opens by sliding, up-and-down, or side-to-side.

The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties— developed by NPS, these guidelines address four treatments of buildings: preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, and reconstruction. The standards regulate only projects receiving federal grant-in-aid funds. For all other purposes, the standards serve as guidelines. Please visit the NPS website for the specific guidelines.

sidelights — a vertical line of small glass panes flanking a doorway. Used throughout American architecture beginning with the Greek Revival.

site — as defined for eligibility in the National Register of Historic Places; the location of a significant event, a prehistoric or historic occupation or activity, or a building or structure, whether standing, ruined, or vanished, where the location itself possesses historic, cultural, or archeological value regardless of the value of any existing structure. Examples include: battlefields, campsites, ceremonial sites, designed landscapes, habitation sites, petroglyphs, rock carvings, ruins of a building or structure, shipwrecks, trails, and village sites. (from National Register Bulletin 15)

sphinx — any one of several mythical Egyptian creatures with various combinations of heads on the body of a lion; used as ornamentation, or sculpture, on some Classical Revival buildings, especially those used by the Masonic Orders. (from Dictionary of Building Preservation)

State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) — oversees programs to identify, evaluate, register, and protect Minnesota’s important historic and archaeological resources. The Field Services and Grants sections of the department provide technical and grant assistance to encourage historic preservation and the development of local history organizations and activities throughout the state. Visit the SHPO’s website for more information.

stretcher — a brick laid with its long face to the weather.

stringcourse — a projecting course of bricks, or some other material, forming a narrow horizontal strip (usually narrower than other courses in the facade) across the wall of a building.

strings — the two sloping members which carry the ends of the threads and risers of a staircase.

structure — as defined for eligibility in the National Register of Historic Places; the term is used to distinguish from buildings those functional constructions made usually for purposes other than creating human shelter. Examples include: aircrafts, automobiles, bandstands, boats and ships, bridges, canals, corncribs, dams, fences, grain elevators, highways, railroad grades, silos, trolley cars, and tunnels. (from National Register Bulletin 15)

strut — a compression member of a truss, or similar fram; typically diagonal; also known as brace, stretching piece, strutting piece. (from Dictionary of Building Preservation)
swag — a suspended festoon of drapery, frequently used in combination with the garland as an applied ornamental device.

Syrian arch — a type of semicircular arch that has very low supports, with the result being that the distance from the impost to the level of the crown of the arch is greater than the height of the impost from the ground. It is so called because it was used in the early Christian churches of Syria, in the fifth and sixth centuries. In American architecture, frequently used in Richardsonian Romanesque buildings. Minneapolis examples include the Municipal Building (aka City Hall) and several buildings in the Warehouse Historic District.

Return to the top of the page.


tabernacle frame — a style of door surround composed of columns or pilasters surmounted by an entablature.

terra cotta — a fine-grained, brown-red clay used for roof and floor tiles and decoration; literally, cooked earth. Terra cotta was used extensively in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the U.S., primarily in ornamentation. Some Minneapolis examples include: the Soo Line Building, the Grain Exchange, and Thresher Square.

tie — a tension member of a truss, or other structure; often used for structural retrofit; types include diagonal tie, land tie, tie chain, tie beam, tie rod. (from Dictionary of Building Preservation)

trompe l’oeil — something which gives the appearance of reality by means of paint, architecture, etc; literally “something that deceives the eye.”

truss — a bridge or roof framing member composed of rigid diaongal, vertical, and horizontal members in the same plan, joined only at their ends and primarily either in compression or tension; composed of chord and web members that may be a strut or tie;there are several different forms. (from Dictionary of Building Preservation)

turret — a small slender tower usually at the corner of a building, often containing a circular stair. The Queen Anne style employs the turret as one of its primary characteristics and is derived from medieval castle construction.

trabeated — descriptive of construction using beams or lintels, following the principle of post and lintel construction, as distinguished from construction using arches and vaults.

transom — a light or window over a door or entryway.

triglyph — the characteristic ornament of the Doric frieze, consisting of slightly rasied blocks of three vertical bands separated by V-shaped grooves. The tryglyphs alternate with plain or sculptured panels called metopes.

Tuscan order — the simplest order of the classical styles, developed by the Romans from the Doric.

Return to the top of the page.

Return to the top of the page.