MS in Historic Preservation


College of Architecture & the Built Environment


Master of Science


East Falls


On Campus



Enrollment Options

Full Time, Part Time

Meet the Challenges of Tomorrow — Preserve the Past to Shape the Future

Today, Historic Preservation is a major force in maintaining our cultural heritage and in shaping the neighborhoods and cities of tomorrow.

Jefferson’s MS in Historic Preservation (MSHP) prepares graduates to preserve historic buildings and sites, re-envisioning and repurposing the past to serve present and future needs. Preserving the past is the template for a sustainable future.

Adaptive Reuse, Sustainability & Climate Change

A perspective view into student Christopher Gartley’s design for a coffee shop/library adaptive reuse of the Sanctuary of the former St. Michael’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. Course: Adaptive Reuse & Urban Regeneration, Fall 2024.

Historic Preservationists are fond of saying that “the greenest building is the one already built.” Studies have shown that the demolition of buildings accounts for 48% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Reusing and retrofitting existing buildings constitutes “recycling” on a grand scale, reducing these emissions dramatically.

In studio-based courses, for real clients, using real sites, students gain hands-on experience developing research, documentation, and conservation skills needed to lead in the revitalization of buildings, conserving the embodied energy in historic materials and preserving community character. Heritage buildings serve as potent historical documents and invaluable design opportunities for future use.

A section through student Stephanie Sosa’s adaptive reuse design to transform a vacant historic Philadelphia church, the former St. Michael’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, into co-working space. Course: Adaptive Reuse & Urban Regeneration, Fall 2024.

Students in the Adaptive Reuse & Urban Regeneration course addressed the loss of historic religious properties in Philadelphia by exploring the adaptive reuse potential of the former Saint Michael’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. The goal of the course is to provide conceptual design ideas to the current owner, a developer sensitive to the site’s historic significance and importance to the community. 

Video: Take a Closer Look at Our Program

Hear first-hand from our students about what it’s like to be in the 4+2 BS in Architectural Studies and MS in Historic Preservation program at Jefferson.

Visit our YouTube channel to view a playlist of program videos.

“Jefferson’s MSHP program makes a concerted effort to provide its students with opportunities to engage with the Philadelphia built environment and preservation community, which is something I greatly value as a student.”

Emma Connolly, MS in Historic Preservation Class of 2025

Urban Regeneration

Rendering of the reimagined landscape and buildings of an industrial site, "Bartram's Yard" on Bartram Avenue in Philadelphia, adjacent to Bartram's Garden, a National Historic Landmark. Bruce Brumbaugh, Julie Carbone and Shannon McClain for Design 10: Adaptive Reuse Studio, Spring 2019.

A vital preservation issue is the development of frameworks that order the urban fabric into viable neighborhoods and facilitate “place-making” through the incorporation of historic structures as part of sustainable development and healthy communities.

Social Justice

The program embraces inclusivity in its definition of heritage. Students explore preservation’s role in acknowledging and interpreting the unique contributions of underrepresented communities. Heritage architecture is valued as the embodiment of both tangible and intangible cultural values.

Canoe and wigwam.
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Student Nika Faulkner's The Ojibwe Wigwam of Lake Superior: Defining Significance and Addressing Historic Preservation in Indigenous Contexts, Master’s Thesis, 2023.

“While working with the city, I  learned that working as a public servant in the realm of preservation means that your duty is first and foremost to the community and to facilitate productive discussions concerning the cultural resources that belong to them.”

Nika Faulkner, MS in Historic Preservation Class of 2023

New & Emerging Technologies

Learn to apply new digital technologies that are part of the 21st-century Historic Preservation toolkit. Today Light Detection & Ranging (LiDAR), Photogrammetry/Drone Surveys, Augmented Reality, and Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) are increasingly used for managing, documenting,      conserving, and interpreting culturally significant structures and places.

Students created a laser scan of the upper floor ballroom of the Aces Veterans Museum. The scan was rendered into a 3D model using Blender. Above, the class is experiencing their 3D model in a virtual environment at Jefferson’s MechDyne cave installation in Gutman Library.

Working with community partners, students apply both analog and digital documentation methods to real-world projects at multiple scales, from the micro of individual buildings to the macro level of community planning.

David Zaveloff, Photogrammetry, Weber Hall, East Falls Campus. Course: Documentation & Forensics, Fall 2022.

Philadelphia — A Living Laboratory

As the first UNESCO World Heritage City in the United States, Philadelphia is a textbook of architectural styles and periods, offering a wealth of projects and internship opportunities, utilizing buildings and technologies, dating from 18th century Georgian through mid-20th century Modern.

Horace Trumbauer, Julian Abele & Lewis Shay, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1928
Frank Furnace & George Hewitt, PA Academy of the Fine Arts, 1876
Elfreth's Alley, 1703 (founded); 1728–1836 (houses built)
Richard Neutra, Hassrick House, East Falls, 1957-61

At Jefferson’s Center for the Preservation of Modernism, students develop preservation protocols tailored to the unique character of early and mid-century modern architecture, the next preservation frontier as these buildings age. 

A key feature of the program is an optional Study Away component. Students will have the opportunity to spend a semester studying the preservation of modern architecture at the iconic Bauhaus Building (1926) in Dessau, Germany, designed by Walter Gropius, as part of the curriculum of the Hochschule Anhalt (Anhalt University of Applied Sciences) Master’s degree in Cultural Heritage Preservation. Other opportunities include summer options to research the preservation of modernism at the Terragni Archive in Como, Italy. 

Students may also choose to study the preservation of 18th and 19th century vernacular architecture at the Preservation Institute in Nantucket, MA, or study international preservation methods at the University of Arkansas Rome Center (UARC), which is housed in a Medieval palazzo in Rome’s historic center.

Customize Your Education & Launch Your Career

Because Historic Preservation is a multi-disciplinary field, students from diverse backgrounds and disciplines are encouraged to apply. Students select one of two tracks: Research & Documentation or Preservation Design, and may choose to specialize in a field compatible with their track drawn from the College of Architecture and the Built Environment’s graduate offerings, including Sustainable Design, Geographic Information Systems, Architectural History, Real Estate Development, and Urban Design, among others. The curriculum affords students the freedom to explore topics that suit their interests and further their professional goals                                                                                    

A master’s degree in Historic Preservation offers many career opportunities. Jefferson graduates hold positions such as preservation architect, architectural conservator, architectural historian and preservation planner, working in private firms, non-profit organizations and government agencies.  

Graduates of the MS in Historic Preservation program who are interested in subsequently pursuing further studies receive advanced placement of up to 18 credits in Jefferson’s PhD in Architecture & Design Research program, which allows students to complete their PhD studies in three academic years instead of the typical four-year timeframe.

The MS in Historic Preservation is a STEM designated program (CIP Code 04.0902).