postcard image of holiday inn 

The economic boom and suburbanization of the post-World War II period in the United States led to an unprecedented rise in building upstarts. Numbers of scholarly works have identified the defining characteristics and significance of residential structures; however, an evident dearth of guidance documents and context statements regarding commercial properties currently exists. As millions of these potentially historic resources reach and surpass the National Park Service’s 50-year threshold to be considered ‘historic,’ these resources require thorough examination as to their potential significance to the nation’s architectural, social, and cultural heritage.

The utilitarian aesthetic, universal construction methodology and ubiquity of commercial structures of this period present a unique challenge for the interpretation and preservation of this resource group. The term, “commercial architecture,” serves as the moniker for unknown numbers of building sub-types, each with its own defining characteristics, integrity challenges, and significance. Nationwide, commercial buildings have undergone material replacement and major alterations in order to maintain and attract in-person clientele. A national discourse is needed to identify major challenges in developing typologies, integrity issues, construction methodology, and materials for millions of extant structures. This symposium will address the need for a structured, replicable methodology for identifying and determining the potential eligibility of postwar commercial architecture.

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