A number of years ago, we had the very fortunate luck to be given the opportunity to completely restore the Denn House in southern New Jersey.  Below is the story of how that restoration happened, excerpted from Lois Groshong’s book, “2001 Restoration of a Southern New Jersey Colonial”.

Be sure to check out the pictures at the end of the article that we took just this month of how the Denn House looks today, and the pictures of other Patterned Brick houses in Salem County, New Jersey.

 

INTRODUCTION

Built as a private home in 1725, (the John Maddox Denn house is) two stories with the front entrance facing Alloway Creek.

English Quakers founded in the town, known as Salem, in 1675 as their “New Paradise in the Providence of West Jersey” has much history.  The Dutch, under Captain Mey, explored the area, as wella s the English in the 1630’s, experimenting with growing tobacco.  Swedes and Finns began arriving in 1638, landing in the New World of what is now Wilmington, Delaware.  For twelve years, Salem was a military post of Sweden.

A Chandler form the parish of St. Sepulche in London, John Maddox and his family arrived in Salem aboard the ship “Surry” in 1578 and purchased one half of William Hancock’s allotment of ground.  The grandson, John Maddow Denn, born in 1693, built the home that we see today, a charming remembrance to England in the days of Cromwell and Charles the Second.  Surrounded by towering Spirea Plants, well-kept lawns, and beautiful shrubbery, the old John Maddox Denn house is without a doubt one of the show places of Fenwick’s old Colony.  It sits along the south bank of the Monmouth River on the road, which leads from Hancock’s Bridge.  Like its neighbors on the same road, the Denn property heard the thunder of Major John Graves Simcoe’s Rangers the morning of March 21, 1778.  William Hancock was a Loyalist to the King, yet the English Calvary had wounded him and massacred the Colonials who had sought shelter in the Hancock House.  The Denn house was put to use as a field hospital.  This house is registered in the library of Congress as a National Historic Site

 

Denn House Before Photos:
historic restoration colonial architecture historic architecture historic building restorations Denn House Historic Denn House Restoration of Denn House

 

Restoring the Windows

White Oak Denn HouseA load of White Oak was purchased from an antique wood dealer.  Raw material taken from an old building that had been demolished, 3’x8′ beams that ranged in length from three to sixteen feet.

January 13, 2001, Chuck and Lois take a Saturday trip to remove existing windows.  Halfway through the process the wind picks up and snow flurries begin.  “Press On” was the decision; all windows were disposed and openings boarded up before nightfall.

To begin the process of transformation the wood is run on the planer, making all the sides straight and smooth.  Sections are measured, cut and set aside.  Cracks and imperfections are filled “Bondo” and sanded smooth to the touch.  Next the ends are mortised or tendoned, depending on if it is a vertical or horizontal section of the window frame.  Side jambs are tendoned to fit the head and sill mortise.  The pieces are sized and glued together.  Historic Restorations also uses steel clamps to insure that the fit is square and tight as it can be.  Clamps are kept on for 24 hours; there will be no movement that can be detected in any unit.  After the window frames are all together, an oil base primer is applied to all surfaces to seal the wood; this is also an effective method to prepare for the finish coat to be applied on site.

Sash size varies because the window openings are all different.  There are five twelve-over-eight windows on the first floor, three eight-over-eight and three twelve-over-eight windows on the second floor.  Old glass is purchased for the “new” old windows.  Each pane is measured, cut, and glazed to fit each section of sash.  The effect is complete; newly made window frames and sash complement the 276-year-old house.

 

Working on the Walls and Ceilings

The walls are covered with paint, layers of wallpaper and plaster.  The ceilings are covered by plasterboard, resembling a seven and one-half foot modern flat ceiling.  Upon removing the added-on coverings, the walls revealed the original brick, badly deteriorated from years of settling and time had weakened portions of the interior structure.  A 12″x15″ Chestnut Summer Beam spans the length of each room, with the joist system for the second floor 5″x4.5″, at right angles.  Originally these exposed rafters were white washed; the lye used in the white wash prevented infection of insects as well as supplying a finished look for the wood.

Our next project was to strengthen the walls in the two rooms on the first floor.  Old brick was carefully taken out and relayed in an interlocked pattern, three deep, modeled from existing brickwork.  This was similar to putting a giant jigsaw puzzle together.  Concrete lintels have been installed above the doors and window.  Wire mesh is nailed to exposed brick to prepare for a new layer of fresh plaster.

Woodwork in Denn House antique pine in Denn House

Main Room Stairway

In the artisan woodworking shop of Historic Restorations a staircase made from Poplar for risers and antique Pine as treads is made ready.  The staircase that had been taken out was not original.  That stairway had narrow treads and curved away from the room.  The handrail system was square posts and a Bullnose on the bottom tread.  Chuck has determined that originally the stairs were a straight run between the fireplace and a door that opened into the room from the hallway.  Paneling made in the Historic Restorations shop from Poplar was stained and included in the delivery.  Jonathan has found evidence of paneling as being part of the earliest home decor.  Custom paneling will be used in the more formal first floor room.  A Colonial handrail is purchased to be taken apart and fit into the stair and rail system.

Main Room Stairway
ick Work and History
Historic RestorationsDenn House Restoration and Preservation

 

Br

The John Maddox Denn House is a splendid examples of the English homes of the Cromwell Period.  The east wall is covered with a diamond diaper of only three diamonds wide, but covering twenty-three courses from point-to-point.  The largest such figure of any known American or English house.  The date of 1725 begins several courses below the eaves level.  The 4-course brickwork in this wall is the first time that numerals of different sizes were used in a date.

The history of the unusual brick work found on the walls of some of Salem County’s old homes begins as far into the past as Boos Manor, Rouen, France with a small brick dove cote or pigeon house.  Built early in the fifteenth century, these dovecotes were decorated with the diaper or diamond designs seen today on Salem County houses.  Flemish-Norman artisans introduced the design into England in the fifteenth century.  Ornamental brickwork, on the overall pattern of the house and diaper design are two examples from France.  The English method of brick making yielded to the Flemish influence, so much that the Flemish ideas virtually replaced the English.

The John Maddox Denn HouseEnglish bond was very irregular and uneven.  The English style had become popular and persisted until the introduction of Flemish bond around the second half of the fifteenth century.  English bond there (across the pond) were alternate courses of headers and stretchers with the second brick of the heading course used as a closer.  Flemish bond had a stretcher and header in the same course.  IN this method, the artisans used vitrified or blue header brick.  This used with the red stretcher brick gives the checkerboard effect still seen in Salem today.  The diaper design was strictly ornamental.  Colors used to make the diapers were grays, yellows, purples, and blues.  Vitrified brick, originated by the Flemish, was made by applying continued heat until the color changed.  “These patterns, diamonds, diapers, etc., were produced by over-burnt header bricks vitrified for the purpose.”  Vitrified, dictionary definition: “changed into glass or a substance like glass, give or having a glassy or glazed surface.”  It had been thought that glass was mixed with the brick, this is erroneous.

The English preferred the soft gray diaper pattern because it is soothing to the eye.  Today in England many houses show the gray patterns, some approaching a vermillion shade.  Naturally being close to France the invasion of the Flemish builders sex hundred years ago left is mark.  What transpired to bring this artistry another three thousand miles and to locate in one county of one province, a Quaker settlement where ornamentation and display were frowned upon?  Bricklayers immigrating into America sought to continue their art in the New World, these artisans settled in Salem county from about 1720-1764.  Nowhere in all of America do we find the profusion and intricacy flowering to the heights of artistic genius as in Salem County, New Jersey.

 

Bringing the Fireplaces Back to Life

The Denn House was designed with a central chimney.  A popular style in the late 16th Century Europe, it supports the ventilation system for the four fireplaces in the original house.  The two fireplaces on the first floor sit back-to-back directly below the two fireplaces on the second floor.

Over the years the fireboxes on the first floor have been decreased in size.  One fireplace on the second floor was hidden behind a wall.  A gem uncovered when Jonathan demolished the bathroom that had been added in the early 20th Century.  This fireplace has an arched opening with a “keystone” center top.  Chuck loved the look of this discovery so much he wanted to duplicate it in one of the first floor fireplaces.

First floor first, both fireboxes are taken apart exposing the original dimensions for reconstruction.  A windfall is discovered down the road, a brick building being taken down provide hundreds of old brick.  The labor to pick through to find unbroken whole bricks, bring the brick back to the Denn House and clean them before the brick can be put back into service is a small price to pay for the quality and authentic appearance of the found brick.

Both fireplaces are taken apart creating an open look from either room.  The chimney is rebuilt a portion of the length up to reinforce the structural strength.  Hearths are remade; this is for adding stability as well as aesthetic purpose.

Bricks are placed on the hearth and and back in a Herringbone pattern.  The decision to do this was arrived at by searching local homes to observe the style of the tradesman when this area was first settled.  The Herringbone pattern is seen repeatedly in sidewalks, courtyards, and driveways, a definite eastern seaboard occurrence.

Herringbone pattern

 

 

 

The Denn House as it stands today:historic architecture
   historic building historic building Denn House historic building restoration historic building preservation Denn House the historic building historic restoration historic restoration

 

 

The Denn House 2013:

historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic architecture historic architecture historic architecture historic architecture historic architecture John Maddox Denn House John Maddox Denn House Restoration 

 

Other Patterned Brick Houses in Salem County, New Jersey

John Maddox Denn House Preservation Maddox Denn House Maddox Denn House historic property Denn House Denn House Restored historic building contractor historic building contractor

 

Patterned Brick Quaker Meeting House

historic building contractor historic building contractor historic building contractor building restorations building preservation preservation of Denn House preservation building preservation historic building preservation
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HOUSE HISTORY:

Built in 1725, this house had been remodeled and modernized several times over since it was originally constructed.  The goal of this project was to return it to its original time period, using the clues found within the house.  The restoration was done on a design/build basis through consultations with our client.

Listed on the Register of Historic Places in the Library of Congress, the house is rumored to have served as a field hospital for the wounded of the Hancock Bridge Massacre, March 21, 1778, which happened less than a mile down the road during the Revolutionary War.  Although the house had been remodeled several times throughout its 270 years, it has remained structurally very similar to the original design.  This could be due to the fact that direct descendants of John Maddox Denn, the builder, owned the house until 1899.

Read an excerpt from the book “2001 Restoration of a Colonial home” by Lois Groshong.

 

*Photos by Alan Holm Photography.

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PART 2 PRESERVATION MONTH 2020 SERIES

LAST WEEK WE PRESENTED PART 1 on Why Preservation Matters. Part 2 of this series focuses on preserving or saving a building. It’s one thing to read and learn about preservation, and it’s a whole other thing to actively do it. While there may be limitations as to what one can accomplish, there is also so much that grassroots efforts can achieve. As the often-repeated quote attributed to Margaret Mead goes:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Let’s assume you’ve noticed a building that needs an intervention, or someone has announced plans to develop land a historic farmhouse sits on … all is not lost. Read on to explore steps you can take to preserve a building.

Denn House, prior to restoration.

 

GUIDELINES FOR SAVING A BUILDING:

  • Manage your mindset. It’s important to note that saving a building is not easy and not always successful; therefore it is best to know this and the intensity of the process going into it so as not to set yourself up for disappointment if your attempts to save a building are ultimately unsuccessful. First, consider why the place matters to you and why it matters to others; The National Trust for Historic Preservation includes information on the philosophy of why old places matter, and tips on managing your expectations. Determining the practical reasons to save a building can strengthen your own resolve and provide practical arguments when presenting the plan to others.

 

  • Be a history detective and know the threats. It is also essential to know the history of the building, its significance, and anything that poses a threat to its preservation. That National Trust discusses steps to researching, and Wolfe House and Building Movers Guide for Saving a Historic Building also provides suggestions to determine a building’s significance and discern types of threats.

 

  • Determine the building’s future/ongoing purpose. If you have the power to help decide a building’s future or ongoing purpose, or simply want to share reasons the building could benefit the community so that others can see why it’s worth saving, Wolfe House and Building Movers’ Guide recommends determining its possible uses and proposing a plan. The previously-mentioned guide from the National Trust can assist here as well. It is likely much easier to determine the building’s purpose if you are the owner, but even if you do not own it, you can help provide suggestions. It’s also important to decide how to save the building. Wolfe’s Guide also includes information on methods for saving a building.

 

  • Be an advocate and find help. The National Trust first recommends seeking help and support and getting the word out at the grassroots level before taking it to community and government leaders. They also share other ways to spread the word, including the This Place Matters campaign. Gathering community support strengthens the stance that the building is worth something to the community, and therefore carries more weight when you finally do present the project to leadership. Once grassroots support is established, the National Trust and Wolfe’s Guide both share information on sources of assistance, including agencies and governmental organizations at the local, state, and federal levels. The National Trust also includes a list of resources for preservation. Finally, sharing past successes, such as sharing videos of other successful preservation projects, as offered here by the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office, is another way to support your stance on preserving a building.

 

  • Secure funding. The National Trust and Wolfe’s Guide also both include information on how to secure funding or raise money to finance a preservation project. 

 

  • Apply for historic designation AND/OR seek to establish a preservation easement. If you determine that historic designation is an option in the case of your building, the National Trust provides information on many benefits of historic designation at local, state, and federal levels such as protection, funding, and tax credits, as well as suggestions on how to go through the process. If you have the power to do so – usually if you are the owner of the building – seek establishment of a preservation easement as well. The National Park Service discusses easements in detail, and the National Trust indicates that these can be in place in addition/act as a supplement to designations, as they use private legal rights of property owners unlike designations that act at the level of government. Easements – if designated as perpetual – are the only guarantee that the building cannot be demolished or altered significantly in the future. These terms go beyond the protections that a designation can provide. 

 

  • Amplify your reach. Preservation is local. It is also best done as part of a group of like-minded individuals, in a way that works with systems that are already in place.  If you want to ensure that buildings are saved, getting involved with your local preservation group and/or local government is the best way to make certain there is a review process before demolition is allowed to proceed.  You can check your local municipality’s zoning ordinances to  see if historic structures are addressed.

 

 

 

Next week: PART 3 OF THIS SERIES focuses on the Economic Benefits of Preservation.

How often have we heard the phrase “It’s what’s on the inside that counts?” When it comes to historical homes and buildings, I’m sure those of us who are preservation-inclined would say it’s what’s on the outside and the inside that counts. And we’ve discussed the outside before: last week we shared our piece on façades/exteriors. In fact, exteriors have been a huge focus for preservation groups for quite some time. However, how often have we seen façades or entire exteriors saved, while interiors are rendered unrecognizable, completely removed, or destroyed? The reasons for this are varied, as we will discuss later in this post, but the results are similar. Losing elements or entire parts of interiors can be just as detrimental to the historic fabric as losing an exterior or façade. So, we must emphasize: when it comes to historical buildings, the inside counts, too.

 


Restored interior room of the Mylin house, from one of our restoration projects

 

IMPORTANCE OF INTERIORS

Some might say: We save a lot of façades and exteriors; what does it matter if the interior is changed or updated? The National Park Service’s Preservation Brief No. 18 on Rehabilitating Interiors in Historic Buildings: Identifying and Preserving Character-Defining Elements states:

A floor plan, the arrangement of spaces, and features and applied finishes may be individually or collectively important in defining the historic character of the building and the purpose for which it was constructed. Thus, their identification, retention, protection, and repair should be given prime consideration in every preservation project.”

The brief underscores that caution should be used when approaching interiors of historical buildings. The brief adds that interiors may have even more relevance and specifically-defining characteristics of the building than the exterior does. Judith Gura, a professor of design history and theory at the New York School of Interior Design and the the coauthor of “Interior Landmarks: Treasures of New York,” stated in her piece for Architectural Digest

“Although building exteriors are more visible, interiors are where we spend most of our daily lives: working, learning, dining, shopping, being entertained, and interacting with other people. Even more than the structures that house them, they document the culture and the history of the city, and it makes good sense to preserve the most noteworthy among them.”

If those statements are not enough to drive home the benefits of saving interiors of homes, Jess Phelps’ piece for Period Homes highlights that in addition to interiors functioning as visual records of a building’s history, they have embodied energy (energy already expended to manufacture and build the materials), which is an argument for the energy-saving aspect of interior preservation. He adds that for the market-minded owner or buyer, renovation “can have unintended market consequences”, as a historical interior’s worth will often outlast building fads. Clearly, interiors have just as much (if not more) inherent worth as visual historical records and form and function as exteriors (as noted in our last blog post).

 

ISSUES AND CONTROVERSIES:

Although preservation has made significant headway over the past 50 years, most of the strides have been on exterior or façade preservation.While Patricia Cove offers some hope in terms of pointing out how attitudes have already evolved regarding interiors (past “preservation” more often meant allowing interiors to be destroyed in favor of “Saving the building” which really just meant the exterior), and people are becoming more open to saving aspects of or even whole interiors, interiors are still extremely vulnerable to being damaged or destroyed entirely.

  • Modern barriers to preservation. Ruth Gura points out that society’s evolving needs and changing tastes drive change to interiors. She notes how ATMs have contributed to no longer needing “large banking floors,” and trains and planes require different updates to their facilities which might leave historical features vulnerable. Security concerns or modern code regulations require barriers, signs, or other elements that disrupt the original design. Gura adds that depending on what is not preserved, it may be lost entirely/be impossible to restore or replicate in the future, simply because nothing like that will be made again; this point regarding loss of skilled craftsman was echoed in our previous post on labor shortages.

 

  • Use increases interior vulnerability. Ruth Gura notes that interiors face heavy use and wear, requiring cleaning, updates, replacements, and maintenance, which adds to the cost of their care. Exteriors also face wear (particularly from weather) but not as much direct-human use as interiors do, and therefore may need less frequent updates or treatment. Owners may be more focused on cost and therefore be resistant to restrictions on how they care for their interiors.

 

  • Few legal protections for interiors. Compared to exteriors and façades, interiors have comparatively little legal protection. Even local historic districts – which have done a great deal for saving the exterior of buildings – only focus on the public benefit that historic areas provide. As most of the public does not use or access the interior of many historical buildings, particularly private homes, this by default excludes interiors (with an exception being the Landmark Interiors Law in New York State). These historic districts do not have power or jurisdiction over private living spaces, which allows owners significant flexibility on the inside of their buildings. Easements are the only protective legal tool that includes interiors in every state. Jess Phelps describes easements as “a legal tool that relies on property owners to take individual initiative to protect their own historic properties.” Relying on individual property owners’ initiative means potentially-threatened interiors are given inconsistent treatment based on who owns them. 

 

  • Deciding what period to preserve. There is a spectrum of preservation-related choices an owner faces. One may choose to preserve an interior as is. One may also choose to restore an interior completely to how it was during a certain time period, but the question is: what time period do you choose? Most people are not willing to give up plumbing even if attempting to restore most features to a time before indoor plumbing existed. However, they may consider restoring certain elements to a time period while modernizing necessities. The conundrum in a particularly old home may be deciding which time period is most relevant for restoration? In lieu of specific historic relevance, the interior’s care may be entirely at the discretion or personal preference of the building’s owner. This may make rehabilitation (making it useful for contemporary living while preserving important historic and architectural features) a more-desirable goal. Regardless, limited knowledge, limited resources, or even decision-fatigue can lead to less than sympathetic choices.

 

  • Interiors removed from original context. There have also been examples of interiors being “Saved” or preserved in a unique way. Regionally, in Pennsylvania’s Lebanon and Berks counties, respectively, in the twentieth century, entire room interiors were dismantled and removed from their original homes to museums. Interestingly, members of the Du Pont family played roles in both of these instances. First, interior rooms from the House of Miller at Millbach (Lebanon County, PA) were sold by the home’s owner in the 1920s to The Philadelphia Museum of Art for some of their colonial architecture displays, and became what are now known as the Millbach Rooms. This was made possible by endowment by Pierre S. Du Pont (whose former residence sits within today’s Longwood Gardens) and his parents. The house still stands in Lebanon County. In Berks County, in the late 1950’s, Henry Frances Du Pont was made aware of the Kershner home, which was deteriorating, and acquired parts of the house for his early American interiors display at the Winterthur museum. Today, the 2 Kershner rooms can be seen at the museum. The last known report of the Kershner house itself indicates that it stands in ruins today, unfortunately. On the one hand, especially in the case of the unprotected Kershner home, these interiors were guaranteed protection in their new museum homes. However, the question remains if this was ultimately the best choice, given that the houses lost important pieces of their historic fabric, and one of the houses is being lost to neglect and was not saved along with its interiors. Also, one must question: have the interiors themselves lost some relevance or important pieces since they’ve been removed from their original contexts? These situations may not necessarily be equal to known instances involving museums inappropriately taking art and antiquities – especially when those other instances involve taking treasures as a part of colonialism – but to a lesser-degree, these local instances may beg similar questions.

 

INTERIOR PRESERVATION TIPS

Assuming you’re a regular reader of our blog, you’re probably open to protecting at least some of your interior. In that case, there are a number of approaches you can take when it comes to caring for your historical interior. In addition to our general overview below and other information on our website, you can find detailed information from the National Park Service’s Four Approaches to the Treatment of Historic Properties

  • Choose your Process. Your main means of honoring your interior’s historic fabric may involve actual construction.
    • Preservation. If feasible, you can maintain the interior exactly as it is. A local example of this includes the untouched room on the second floor of Rockford Plantation, which you can see on a tour. 
    • Restoration. You can choose to restore it to a certain period of time based on significance or personal preference, by restoring elements, replacing parts, repairing damage, undoing inappropriate “updates,” etc. If you’re unsure of how to go about this, Patricia Cove, the principal of Architectural Interiors and Design in Chestnut Hill suggests researching the building, or even bringing in “dating” specialists.  If you’re interested in what a total restoration entails, head to our posts on 2 of our past total restoration projects (Denn House and Mylin House) and see what we could do for your project.
    • Rehabilitation. This option is helpful for those who want to adapt a space to contemporary needs while maintaining and retaining as much of the property’s historic fabric as possible. A local example of this includes the Amtrak train station at Elizabethtown, PA
    • Reconstruction. This treatment allows one the option to re-create missing pieces – sometimes entire buildings – that are relevant to the historic fabric. Examples include William Penn’s Pennsbury Manor and buildings at Colonial Williamsburg.
    • Adaptive Reuse. This option is essentially a half-step away from – but still falls within – the category of rehabilitation, the main difference being that a typical rehabilitation is more likely to utilize the building for the same or similar purposes it was originally intended to be used for. Meanwhile, adaptive reuse continues to respect important historical features while also adapting the building for a different use than the one for which it was originally intended. Our recent podcast interview featured one of the architects involved in the Wilbur Chocolate Factory adaptive reuse project locally. 
  • Choose your interior design. Once the construction process is completed, you may also consider enhancing the historic fabric and elements with more cosmetic layers of impermanent interior design.
    • Patricia Cove suggests consulting someone knowledgeable about antiques and decorative arts in order to increase authenticity of the time period you are highlighting. The National Trust for Historic Preservation also includes tips for period-appropriate design
  • Protect and preserve. Consider implementing an easement. This is generally the only legal option to protect a building’s interior. You can make it perpetual, which prevents future owner’s from making destructive changes. It also affords one flexibility in terms of picking and choosing which parts of the house fall under the easement. 

IN SUMMARY:

Interiors have so much to offer regarding information about a building’s historic fabric, and sometimes can share even more information than a façade. If you would like help preserving or restoring your home’s interior beyond the resources presented throughout this article, feel free to contact us to discuss your options. 

A façade. What is it? Most of us know that its most basic definition is “face.” In the case of architecture, this refers to the exterior side of the building, usually the front. Façades on buildings are often the first defining features we see. As times change, so do architectural design styles, and this is reflected in façades on old and new buildings. Façades can provide varying amounts of information about the building’s past and current functioning, or they can simply be really nice to look at. Regardless, they are often the one aspect of architecture that almost anyone has access to simply by being in front of us. Read on to learn why historical façades are more than aesthetics.


Exterior shot of the Kosciuszko House, from our archives.

 

IMPORTANCE OF FACADES

You may be thinking to yourself: Why is a façade important? Isn’t it just for aesthetic-purposes? The answer is: Yes, it is partially focused on aesthetics. And one person’s visually-pleasing cup-of-tea is not someone else’s, so not every façade is attractive to every eye. However, a façade serves many more purposes and provides many other benefits than simply fulfilling an aesthetic goal.

  • Historical Streetscape and Cultural Landscape. The front façade of your home is an important focal point not only for curb appeal, but for the entire community. The rhythm of the entire streetscape is set by the street-facing façade. A well-preserved façade helps to maintain the historic fabric and cultural landscape of the building and the area around it, further contributing to the identity of its environment and community. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and Mainstreet America provide further information on the impetus to save and preserve façades in keeping with these community and cultural concepts.

 

  • Visual Historical Records. Even things that were considered merely decorative at the time of their construction may currently serve a function as a visual replacement for a historic plaque, by virtue of their historically-defining characteristics. Essentially, period-appropriate façades that are preserved are visual clues to the time period of the building, enabling us to visually “read” some aspects of a building’s history.  We can discern the time period of the building based on the style, as well as time periods of later additions. Style also indicates the socioeconomic status of the builder/original owner.

 

  • Form and Function. A preserved or period-appropriate façade also may include functional aspects. Although the nature of design has clearly evolved, we know that form and function often go hand-in-hand in older buildings and this often rings true even on a façade. The ingenious marriage of form and function in their designs often lend to the “charm” that modern people associate with them, and that is typically missing from newer buildings. For instance, historical shutters most-definitely served a function as much as they added to the decoration of a home. Their functions included protecting occupants from prying eyes or intrusion,  weather protection, as well as UV protection of items inside the home, including wooden furniture. They might also provide a breeze to come through without having the window gaping open, and in some cases were substitutes for glass windows. Porches also served dual functions, providing a grand decorative entrance to the home, while also allowing for outdoor socialization (as well as alternative sleeping accommodations in the case of sleeping porches). Other façade design elements can also be functional in many ways. 

 

ISSUES AND CONTROVERSIES

Contractors, building owners, city planning committees, and the public do not always agree on how façades or their buildings should be built, preserved, or maintained, leading to a variety of outcomes and controversies.

  • Façade lost or destroyed. In some cases, an old home or building’s façade is modified, rendering it unrecognizable from its original configuration, and important historical elements are forgotten or lost. Some of the aspects most-threatened by these facelifts include original windows and doors, due to homeowners’ concerns about energy efficiency, cost, and maintenance, and the highly-advertised “maintenance-free” trap

 

  • Façade preserved but interior lost or destroyed. In other cases and as is more common, the façade is preserved while the interior is not. The Secretary of the Interiors’ guidelines for Historic Preservation focuses on the preservation of exterior features (the façade) by allowing historic commissions/HARB districts to regulate changes to buildings within the designated districts to what is visible from the public street (“streetscape” is the term that is used).  The interior is not regulated even in historic districts – leading to gutting of interiors while the exteriors are preserved.  I think this is because the historic preservation policy is based off of community preservation (“rhythms and patterns” is the term that is used) balanced with property owners’ rights – which is still a tension in regulated neighborhoods.  Easements are the only preservation tool that can preserve the interior (if stipulated in the agreement). We will discuss more of this in an upcoming blog post on interiors.

 

  • Façadism. This term refers to an even more extreme example than the one above. Simply put, façadism is when the façade is preserved but the building behind is completely lost or destroyed, and replaced by a completely new building. This is often seen in the case of adaptive reuse. This obviously is a controversial topic in the field of preservation, and some believe it should not be associated with true historic preservation. Locally here in Lancaster, the preservation victory of preserving the Watt and Shand Department Store façade in downtown Lancaster for the Marriott Hotel and Convention Center has been controversial, but I’d rather see the façade preserved than lost.

 

  • Façade and interior restored or preserved. In some cases, façades and interiors are beautifully restored and saved. See this post on an example of one of our complete exterior and interior restorations from several years ago. Another unique local example is also part of the Marriott complex. The Montgomery house’s exterior was preserved as the convention center was built around and incorporated the home into it, and the interior of the house was renovated to meet modern needs, making this a more thorough example of restoration incorporated into adaptive reuse. 

 

FAÇADE PRESERVATION TIPS

There are several things you can do to preserve or restore your historical façade, and we’ve included a breakdown of each of the most common elements of your home’s façade, as well as comprehensive information on overall maintenance and aesthetic/architectural style elements.

  • Entrances (porches and doors). The entrance to a home is one of the most attention-grabbing aspects of a façade. Visit our previous post on porches and doors for more information on restoring or updating your entrance. You can also visit our porch archives.

 

  • Windows and Shutters. Windows are another key component of a façade, and we’ve discussed many times the importance of maintenance or restoration of old windows vs. falling for the “maintenance-free” new window trap that is heavily touted by modern manufacturing companies and many contractors. Visit the National Park Service’s (NPS) site on windows, and NPS’s National Center for Preservation Technology and Training’s website on windows, and our window archives for more information on approaching your historical windows.

 

  • Siding and Paint. Siding can be just as vulnerable as windows are to replacement with inappropriate modern materials. Paint poses its own challenges in terms of safety (lead in old paint) but also benefits of historically-accurate (minus the lead) paints and paint colors. Visit NPS’s briefs on exterior paint issues and substitute materials, as well as our articles on siding and painting your historical home

 

  • Roofs and Chimneys. Roofs and chimneys can be essential elements of a home’s design and are distinctively different across architectural styles. Visit the NPS’s preservation briefs on roofing and mortar, as well as The Trust for Architectural Easement’s piece on historic masonry chimneys. The Wisconsin Historical Society also has a piece on Preserving Original Roof Features of your Historic Building

 

  • Gutters. Although these utilitarian features are often overlooked when one thinks of more common aesthetic and functional features of a building’s façade, they are no less essential. The Trust for Architectural Easements discusses preservation of gutters and downspouts, and we’ve discussed gutters in our archives

 

  • Additions. Additions to homes, especially ones visible from the front of the home, are another important thing to consider when attempting to preserve most historical aspects of a façade. Visit NPS’s brief on exterior additions and Sheldon Richard Kostelecky’s article regarding sympathetic additions. 

 

  • Architectural character. Character is a major aspect of streetscapes and the cultural landscape, as well as period-appropriate architectural design style. Visit NPS’s brief on architectural character and our archives on architectural design.  

 

  • Overall maintenance. Visit our maintenance archives, including many recent and up-to-date articles on maintaining your home’s exterior. 

IN SUMMARY:

There’s more to a façade than meets the eye. If you would like help preserving or restoring your home’s  façade beyond the resources presented throughout this article, feel free to contact us to discuss your options. 

 

Welcome To
Keperling Preservation Services:

Services:

Keperling Preservation Services offers traditional solutions for your period style home.  Not modern solutions, but solutions as unique as your home rather than the planned obsolescence of today, we believe in permanence.

Our Services include:

  • Restoration of 18th, 19th, and early 20th Century Structures
  • Sympathetic Additions
  • Custom Cabinetry
  • Architectural Millwork
  • Project Development
  • Consultative Preservation and Maintenance

Architectural Millwork

Testimonials

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Our recent blog post from Ken Roginski about the mistakes and and “no-no’s” that are so often made by well-meaning historic building owners as they attempt to preserve a house through the years reminded us very much about a project we did a few years ago.  The John Maddox Denn House project was built in 1725 and over the years it had been remodeled several times, with mistake piling on top of mistake.  By the time we were hired, a complete restoration was required to return the historic home to its original period of significance. (You can also read an excerpt of the book our own Lois Groshong wrote about the restoration of the Denn House “2001 Restoration of a Colonial Home“.)

Given how commonly restoration and renovation mistakes are made when working on historic buildings, we’re also in the process of launching our very first Preservation Primer that addresses this very subject.  Look for the announcement of that release soon, but in the meantime, the following books (taken straight from our very own bookshelves) may help you learn more about how to work on a historic building without compromising its historic fabric.

 

Collins Period House: How to Repair, Restore, & Care for Your Home by Albert Jackson and David Day

books

Collins Period House is intended for home-owners of period property who appreciate the beauty, tradition, and fine craftsmanship of their older homes and who wish to maintain and restore them in a way that is true to their individual histories.

A step-by-step guide, Collins Period House puts sympathetic restoration firmly within the grasp of all period-home owners.  Detailed instructions and nearly a thousand informative photographs and drawings explain exactly what can be done, using authentic techniques and materials.  The book also indicates what should be left well alone and when it may be necessary to call in a specialist.

The authors concentrate on the restorations of those elements that give buildings their special charm and character.  They explain how to renovate existing period fixtures and fittings, and suggest sources of authentic designs to replace those discarded or beyond repair.  And when there is little possibility of obtaining the genuine article, suitable reproductions are proposed.

Whether it is simply refinishing an antique banister or installing a period mantelpiece, Collins Period House will give readers the confidence to tackle restoration projects on their own by painstakingly guiding them through every stage in the process, until they achieve the home of their dreams beautifully restored for posterity.”

 

Building Codes for Existing and Historic Buildings by Melvyn Green, S.E.

images“Learn to apply the International Building Code and International Existing Building Code to historic buildings.  Written for architects, engineers, preservation, and code enforcement professionals, this is the only comprehensive book that examines how the International Building Code (IBC) and the International Existing Building Code (IEBC) can be applied to historic and existing buildings.  For ease of use, the book is organized to parallel the structure of the IEBC itself, and the approach is cumulative, with the objective of promoting an understanding of the art of applying building regulations to the environment of existing buildings.

Building Codes for Existing and Historic Buildings begins with a discussion of the history of building regulations in the United States and the events and conditions that created them.  Next, it provides thorough coverage of:

-The rational behind code provisions and historic preservation principles

-Major building code requirements: occupancy and use, types of construction, and heights and areas

-Building performance characteristics: fire and life safety, structural safety, health and hygiene, accident prevention, accessibility, and energy conservation

-Case study projects that reinforce the material covered

Additionally, the book includes building analysis worksheets – both blank and filled-in versions with examples – that illustrate how to develop a code approach for an individual building.  If you are a professional at any level who is working on creating a plan that meets the intent of the code for historic or existing buildings, Building Codes for Existing and Historic Buildings gives you everything that you need to succeed.”

 

Restoring Old Houses by Nigel Hutchins

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“The many professional disciplines and trades required to restore a house would take lifetimes to master.  This book is not meant to teach those skills, but to aid the layman and preservationist in the process, pitfalls, and delights of this endeavor.

Evolving one’s lifestyle to suit a lifestyle of another decade or century is a challenge technically, socially, and visually.  “Preservation,” “recycle,” and “reuse” are terms we use in our day-to-day conversation.  When looking at the resource of four hundred years of domestic architecture, these axioms seem easy to follow.  Unfortunately, the process of preservation has given way first to neglect and patchwork solutions, and second to a wholesale popularizing of preservation, which in turn creates its own set of problems.

The process of neglect, while its very meaning is negative, has in many cases meant that change has not occurred.  This lack of change means details are undisturbed.  The layout of the rooms remains the same.  In fact, the vestiges of the original structure are often untouched.  The preservationist can then discern how and why restorations should take place, marrying past and contemporary.

Therefore, while neglect is bad, it is not as grave as the second problem.  The popularizing of period homes has in many cases destroyed the very elements that preservationists should be saving.  For instance, in an effort to glamorize a structure, neoclassical features may be stuck on neogothic facades, or windows may be transformed into T.V. colonial.  Often elements are replaced rather than refurbished.

The further evolution of this process is the setting apart from the general neighborhood of the “heritage” house or district.  The labeling of structures and areas as “heritage” may save them in the immediate; however, this approach also sets them apart from the general community, depriving them of their role as a working part of that particular neighborhood.  Heritage preservation should be part of the housing building process today.  The very term preserve means “to keep”.  Old does not have to be new again, but functional, both visually and technically.

It is important that we, as temporary tenants in a period house, make changes and maintain it for future generations.”

 

Restoring Houses of Brick and Stone by Nigel Hutchins

images (1)“In Restoring Houses of Brick & Stone, Nigel Hutchins has created a worthy successor to Restoring Old Houses.

This splendidly thorough work is at once a comprehensive history and a practical manual.  Its starting point is an exhortation to the well-intentioned old-home preservationist to know first and foremost the meaning of the term “restore.”  For the restorer, historical accuracy is the watchword, even if the results shatters our preferred fancies.  For the renovator, there are more options.  We may very well wish to rebuild a historic home according to our wishes for what history should have been, or we may take the earnest path and seek to return a structure to what it once was in actual fact – the important thing is that we are aware that we are making a choice.

A great wealth of pleasure accrues from a slow and sensitive reading of each chapter.  The historical introductory comments are a special treat, valuable if for no reason than to spare us the exasperation of repeating the mistakes of those who have gone before.  The historical erudition of these pages is matched by a wealth of sensible day-to-day insights regarding selection and repair of building materials, techniques of construction and reconstruction, methods of cleaning, principles of renovation and additions and invaluable discussions of things best not done at all.

For the professional and amateur alike, here is a clear-headed, wise and even witty account of a thousand useful topics.”

 

 

Practical Restorations Reports by John Leeke, American Preservationeer

Practical Restoration ReportsPractical Restoration Reports are a detailed technical series on preservation topics packed with practical methods you can use now.

The reports contain complete descriptions of useful techniques with drawings and photos that reflect the latest developments in the field of architectural preservation.  Information in each report is updated as new developments in preservation are actually used on projects around the country.  These reports are based on real projects and the author’s thirty years experience as a preservation tradesman and contractor.  He brings that experience to work for the readers of these reports.  He developed these reports in response to the needs of professionals, contractors, and homeowners for detailed and accurate information about their old and historic buildings.

Homeowners & Do-It-Yourselfers:
Use Practical Restoration Reports as do-it-yourself guides.  They give you all the information you need to talk with trades people confidently

Trades People & Contractors:
Bring your crews up-to-speed quickly on new preservation techniques with Practical Restoration Reports.  With their help, you can move into productive work with less time and hassle.

Architects & Professionals:
Refer to Practical Restoration Reports in your specifications, then just include a copy of the report.  The reports provide a hands-on approach contractors will appreciate.

 

 

 

 

Projects & Services

HISTORIC PROPERTIES WE HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN RESTORING
(To see more pictures of a particular project, please click on the thumbnail.)

For a printable version of this list, please click here.

Public Projects


Petersen House
Perhaps our most famous project, the Petersen House is the 19th Century house across from Ford’s Theater that President Lincoln died in.  We also repaired and replicated the interior and exterior woodwork, including structural repairs, in our 2011 rehabilitation and repair project for the National Park Service.

 

 

National Institute of Health Building #3
For this project in Bethesda, Maryland, we repaired and replaced a seven-piece cornice.

 


Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial
The Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Independence National Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, owned and managed by the National Park Service.  For this project we made exterior woodwork repairs using solid wood and epoxy systems including: window frames and sash, doors, and shutters.  The project also included: exterior painting, masonry repairs, and replacement of a hand-split, cedar shake roof.

 


Columbia Market House
This building was built in 1869, and we restored the double hung windows, frames, and sills, and installed invisible exterior storm windows to increase energy efficiency.

 

 

Iron Horse Inn/Strasburg Hotel
This project involved rebuilding a Victorian wrap-around porch to match a picture provided showing a previous porch from the 1900’s.

 

 

Hancock House
Built in 1737 in Salem County, New Jersey, this house was owned by the State of New Jersey, Department of Environmental Protection.  For this project, we fabricated and installed a replica 18th Century door using existing hardware.

 



Victorian Store-Front for Nine West
For this project in Soho, New York City, we manufactured and delivered an assembled and ready-to-install set of nine-foot doors (made of Spanish Cedar with riot glass) and Victorian store-front.

 

 

Elizabethtown Train Station
The Pennsylvania Railroad built the Elizabethtown Train Station in 1915 to serve the Masonic Home and the citizens of Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.  Our project involved restoring twenty-nine sash frames for the original leaded glass.

 

 

Old Main, Franklin & Marshall College
Old Main is a Gothic Revival style building built in 1856 at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  We restored thirty-one windows, rebuilt the four level stair tower, replaced the bell tower louvers, and removed a modern replacement door to install a door we fabricated to match the original doors in the two flanking buildings.

 


Franklin Street Train Station
Built in 1929, the Franklin Street Train Station is located in Reading, Pennsylvania.  It has been abandoned and damaged by weather, vandals, and vagrants since 1972.  Our project includes: rebuilding the interior and exterior doors, jambs, sidelights and transoms, restoration of wood windows, and rebuilding a coffered ceiling.

 

 

Great Conewago Presbyterian Church
Built in 1787, and remodeled in 1870, the church was used as a field hospital during the Battle of Gettysburg.  For this project, we lovingly restored the antique heart pine flooring during the restoration in 2002.

 

 

St. John’s Episcopal Church
Located in Havre de Grace, Maryland, this church was built in 1809.  We restored double doors and surround – stripping the paint, repairing the mouldings, and repainting.  We also coordinated restoration of 1840’s antique hardware.

 

 

Schmucker Hall, Seminary Ridge, Gettysbur
Schmucker Hall is a Civil War Era building located on Seminary Ridge in Gettysburg, PA.  For this project we restored 92 wood windows and replicated 24 interior rail and stile doors with fire rating.  We rebuilt Peace Portico and Rear porch using new rails and balusters to match exissting.  Removal, storage, and re-installation of existing millwork.

 

 

 

Private Projects

 

1910 Tobacco Warehouse
Converted into a single-family residence, this project was featured in Lancaster County Magazine and on Lynette Jennings Design on the Discovery Channel.  This project won the 2000 C. Emlen Urban Aware for building preservation from the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County.

 

 

Log Home
Located in Elizabethtown, PA, this project involved removing the 1950’s asbestos siding to reveal the logs, making the second floor livable space, and converting the front room into an art gallery.

 

 

Victorian Farmhouse
For this project, located in eastern Lancaster County, we built a sympathetic addition to match the original house.  We also fabricated a custom kitchen to match the Victorian style of the house.

 

 

John Maddox Denn House
Built in 1725, this monogrammed house in New Jersey needed a complete historic restoration transforming the house back to 1725, correcting alterations from previous remodels.  This project also involved extensive research into the appropriate materials, applications, craftsmanship, and styles to ensure a period-appropriate restoration.

 

 

Circa 1850 Stone Bank Barn
This project converted the 150-year-old bank barn into a single-family residence, with new timber frame addition on the original tobacco barn foundation.

 

 

 

George William Curtis House
For this project in Staten Island, New York, we fabricated 19th Century porch architectural details, installed columns, built stairs, replaced ears on window sills, replaced brackets under the eave, fabricated true divided light windows to replace modern replacement windows, and fabricated solid wood louvered shutters.

 

 

Second Empire Revival House
For this Circa 1860 house in Pennsauken, New Jersey, we replaced the cornice to match original, rebuilt the internal gutter system, flashing and roofing, repaired the wood siding (replaced rotten pieces), and reinforced water-damaged framing.

 

Log Restoration
For this project in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, we repaired insect and water-damaged logs with consolidant and epoxy system.  Daubing was replaced with a historically accurate lime-based daubing.

 

 

 

 

 

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HISTORIC PROPERTIES WE HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN RESTORING

For a printable version of the complete list of projects we have been involved in, please click here.

 

Private Projects

(To see more pictures of a particular project, please click on the thumbnail.)

 

1910 Tobacco Warehouse
Converted into a single-family residence, this project was featured in Lancaster County Magazine and on Lynette Jennings Design on the Discovery Channel.  This project won the 2000 C. Emlen Urban Aware for building preservation from the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County.

 

 

Log Home
Located in Elizabethtown, PA, this project involved removing the 1950’s asbestos siding to reveal the logs, making the second floor livable space, and converting the front room into an art gallery.

 

 

Victorian Farmhouse
For this project, located in eastern Lancaster County, we built a sympathetic addition to match the original house.  We also fabricated a custom kitchen to match the Victorian style of the house.

 

 

John Maddox Denn House
Built in 1725, this monogrammed house in New Jersey needed a complete historic restoration transforming the house back to 1725, correcting alterations from previous remodels.  This project also involved extensive research into the appropriate materials, applications, craftsmanship, and styles to ensure a period-appropriate restoration.

 

 

Circa 1850 Stone Bank Barn
This project converted the 150-year-old bank barn into a single-family residence, with new timber frame addition on the original tobacco barn foundation.

 

 

 

George William Curtis House
For this project in Staten Island, New York, we fabricated 19th Century porch architectural details, installed columns, built stairs, replaced ears on window sills, replaced brackets under the eave, fabricated true divided light windows to replace modern replacement windows, and fabricated solid wood louvered shutters.

 

 

Second Empire Revival House
For this Circa 1860 house in Pennsauken, New Jersey, we replaced the cornice to match original, rebuilt the internal gutter system, flashing and roofing, repaired the wood siding (replaced rotten pieces), and reinforced water-damaged framing.

 

 

Log Restoration
For this project in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, we repaired insect and water-damaged logs with consolidant and epoxy system.  Daubing was replaced with a historically accurate lime-based daubing.

 

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