Historical masonry buildings are very different from modern buildings.  Historical bricks were fired at lower temperatures and are much softer and more permeable than modern bricks and buildings constructed with these softer bricks were designed to absorb moisture and then release it.  A key component of this design was the lime mortar historically used in masonry applications, a mortar that was also soft and readily allowed water or vapor to pass through it.

In the late 1800’s, a new mortar debuted in the United States at the height of the Industrial Revolution.  Favored for all the qualities a mass-production revolution could ask for (fast-curing, inexpensive, and less work for masons), Portland cement quickly gained popularity with masons and by the early 1900’s most buildings had some Portland mortar in their masonry surfaces – usually as an additive to traditional lime mortar.  By the mid-1900’s  Portland was no longer used as an additive and became the predominate ingredient in mortar mixes.  Historical buildings were not immune to the new technology and masonry repairs on historical buildings in the 1900’s were predominantly made with Portland mortar.

If your historic building has been re-pointed it likely was with Portland mortar.  A common mistake, Portland mortar applied to historical buildings doesn’t just erode the historic fabric of the building, it causes physical damage that is often permanent.  Traditional mortars worked with the softer historical masonry materials to expand and contract together as temperatures and moisture levels changed, creating a wall and masonry surface that “breathed” to expel excess moisture.  Applying a Portland mortar mix to historical masonry disrupts that relationship and traps moisture in the wall and historical bricks.  Moisture trapped within the walls will not easily pass through Portland cement mortar and will be forced through the soft brick instead, the path of least resistance.  When the water evaporates, salt deposits are left behind that crystallize and destroy the protective shell of the bricks.  Once this outer surface is damaged, the softer interior of the historical bricks rapidly disintegrates.

Portland mortar can cause problems that begin to decay masonry in a few years.  The historical bricks on masonry buildings are not the only things threatened by Portland cement mortar – structural elements, interior features, and occupant health are also compromised by the moisture issues associated with Portland mortar.

Remember, historical masonry materials and mortars were designed from a construction approach that created buildings that “breathed”, allowing moisture both in and out.  Modern masonry materials and mortars are designed from a watertight construction approach that aims to keep water from passing through.

Combining a material from the system designed to let a house “breathe” with a material from a system designed to prevent water from passing through is a recipe for disaster.

The truth is…historical mortar differs significantly at a molecular level from modern mortar.  This difference makes modern mortar incompatible with historical masonry materials, permanently damaging historical masonry materials, and structural elements of masonry buildings, and traps moisture in walls lowering energy efficiency and endangering air quality inside the building.

PRESERVATIONIST VS. REVISIONIST HISTORY, REVISITED. It’s been awhile since we specifically addressed this topic, but given current circumstances, it bears repeating, albeit updated to current events. 

“History, despite its wrenching pain cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage need not be lived again.”

-Maya Angelou

 

-Defaced Robert E. Lee Monument, Richmond, Virginia. Image Source: By Mk17b on Wikipedia’s entry on Robert E. Lee Monument (Richmond, VA).

 

Definition and History

Firstly, what is “revisionist history” or “revisionism”? Merriam-Webster’s second definition applies: “advocacy of revision (as of a doctrine or policy or in historical analysis).”  This does not provide much information for our purposes. It only indicates a revision – update, alteration, correction, or improvement – of what was there. Taken at face-value, this might be considered a neutral or even positive action, supposing that something is improved upon. However, we must also take into consideration the history of revisionism, and the fact that the term has become synonymous with reprehensible intentions.

Many historians and writers have contended that all history is revisionist, in the literal sense; once additional historical information is discovered, it is added to or replaces the originally-known history, revising the history that was previously accepted. The result is (hopefully) a more accurate and objective representation of the past. Positive examples include providing more accurate, comprehensive history in the educational system

When discussed in the context of current events and past atrocities, it often takes on a more pejorative meaning: namely, that some people will modify history to benefit themselves and their agenda, often in a way that harms others. Perhaps a more accurate distinction is between the technically neutral term “revisionism,” and terms with inherently negative connotations like “negationism” or “denialism.” These terms more specifically refer to a politically-motivated distortion of historic records and rejection of facts or reality to avoid one’s own discomfort, meanings that are not automatically part of the definition of “revisionism.”

Most history is revisionist, and revisionism is not inherently bad. Negationism or denialism are really what people mean when disparagingly referring to revisionism.

 

Revisionist History and the Built Environment

People typically discuss “revisionist history,” “negationism,” and “denialism” in terms of substantial pieces of cultural significance, such as public properties (owned by historical societies and the National Park Service), monuments, and world heritage sites. These terms may not come to mind when thinking about a privately-owned historic house or property. However, depending on an owner’s intention, the ideas may loosely apply or parallel decisions related to the four treatments of historic properties: preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, or reconstruction.

For example, certain regulatory (or financial) issues may be mitigating factors in which treatment process is chosen, including local and federal historic district designations, building codes, insurance, etc. Once these factors are addressed, depending on resulting latitude, a homeowner may choose to restore a home only to a single time-period. More often, “revisions” are made that include multiple eras, especially as historic homeowners who steward homes built prior to the advent of modern plumbing opt to restore other parts of the home to its original time period while retaining the modern plumbing retrofits to maintain a standard of modern-living. This could be considered revisionist in that the home ends up telling a more holistic story of the house’s history, rather than focusing on only one earlier iteration of the home. However, a full restoration to one specific time period could also be considered revisionist in that it eliminates certain parts of the house’s entire history, and chooses to only depict one era. Neither of these revisionist examples is necessarily wrong, or negative, depending on circumstances. However, many preservation-minded people would probably agree that someone making changes in a way that attempts to falsify the history of the home (e.g., changing features that might suggest it comes from an earlier time period) is a poor choice and a negative example of “revisionism.” But, any type of architectural revision to a private property may be more closely related to the intensity of an owner or steward’s preservation-mindedness and personal taste than to ethics, which is really what seems to separate pure “revisionism” from “negationism” or “denialism,” in our opinion.

What typically separates pure revisionism from negationism and denialism is ethics.

 

Relevance of Revisionism in the Year 2020

On first glance, it may seem odd that a historic preservation and restoration contracting company is writing about an ethical issue. But as stewards (and supporters of stewards) of our built history – which includes more than just the brick, mortar, wood and stone objects themselves – we know that the buildings are about the people

That being said, we must address the current issues. Although many of our clients, readers, and followers own private homes or buildings and generally do not deal with issues of revisionism and related terms directly, we also have worked with several organizations (historical societies and the National Park Service among them) that steward buildings for the general population, and who have a duty to represent an inclusive history. We believe it is important to support an inclusive narrative, including that of historically oppressed groups, and tell the entire story. Saving certain objects in a contextual way is an essential element of this cause. One example is the preservation (or attempted preservation) of some of the Holocaust’s concentration camps. These remain for the purpose of telling the full story of the horrors that humans can inflict on one another (despite what denialists say).

Inclusivity – telling the entire story – is an essential part of appropriate revisionism. 

In the U.S., the picture has become more complicated with recent events. Large movements have attempted to remove many symbols of racism and oppression, but often indiscriminately and impulsively. We agree that many of the confederate monuments that were erected many years after the Civil War, typically during the height of Jim Crow, and typically far away from battlefields or other relevant sites, are not appropriate – typically, the losing side does not get to write the history or build the monuments to remember their “glory.” In reality, the Confederate cause was treason and open rebellion against the United States, with the intention of continuing to enslave other people for their own economic gain. With that in mind, it seems strange that we have U.S. military bases named after Confederate Generals.

At the same time, it is important to carefully consider what should be removed and how. Confederate monuments on a battlefield, or even memorials in a graveyard, are contextually-appropriate, representing and educating about battles that occurred at the site, or memorializing the dead in their final resting place. Other objects or sites related to slavery (e.g., whipping posts or slave auction blocks) may warrant removal from the current locations, but likely would be appropriately placed in a sensitive museum display educating people about the heinous acts humans have committed against others, to prevent those things being repeated. Another consideration is that we separate our Founding Fathers and buildings or monuments in their name from the belated Confederate monuments; several historians have pointed to acknowledging that many of them enslaved people, but were essential to creating the U.S., unlike the Confederates who wanted to demolish it

We may be falling down a slippery slope of rewriting history – history can be inclusive and tell a more complete story without rewriting it (e.g., revisionism vs. negationism).  Seeing things like #cancelHamilton (which Danielle watched and thoroughly enjoyed) because of his ties to his wife’s family’s slave ownership, or private homeowners attempting to have their historic homes demolished because of an association with slavery, or renaming college and university buildings because of ties to enslavement, we worry about the indiscriminate calls for wiping away things because of their negative associations. We would hope we can look honestly to the Founders of our Country and tell the completeness of their story (messy, imperfect humans with a noble vision that was also economically motivated) without writing them out of our history.  We think it would be better (and more healing) to acknowledge the truth of their story, provide historical context, and commit to social justice.  This would do more to see the truth of history than remove all traces of the undesirable parts via negationism.  Acknowledging that a lot of prominent Northern families made their money from the slave trade (as shipping companies, supplying plantations in the Caribbean, and textiles) is one way we can come to terms with our collective history.

Regardless, we believe the answer is to take our time deciding what should be done with our vestiges of history before we lose all traces and risk repeating the same injustices.

 

Videos

Title: Designing a Sympathetic Addition to a Historic Home

Danielle Keperling talks about the importance of making sure your work is never something that can not be undone. Important tips included such as make sure your new addition is compatible and differentiated from the historical building, and best locations in a home to build sympathetic additions.

Title: Existing Building Code Impact on Current Projects

Danielle Keperling talks about Pennsylvania’s existing Building Code and Universal Building Code that was adopted in mid 2000’s. Existing building code is not often known by contractors and home owners, but it allows some variation and gives exemptions from modern code as long as the use of the building is not changed.

Title: Energy Efficiency of Older Homes vs. Newer Homes

Danielle Keperling talks about the energy efficiency between older and newer homes. If homes were built before 1950, the older homes are still as energy efficient as newer homes. The Federal Government has conducted studies of homes built between 1950 and 1970 and found they are the biggest energy users. You can improve energy efficiency by having an energy audit done by a historically sensitive energy auditor.

Title: Hiring The Right Contractor

Danielle Keperling talks about the importance and how to find the right contractor. Look for someone who specializes in historic homes. Any contractor should have license and registration, but for an historic contractor, check references and look at their portfolio work, compare size, and have a good relationship with them.

Title: How Do I Maintain My Older Home

Danielle Keperling talks about how to maintain an older home such as evaluation of all the systems of the home that can fail and then see what can be done by most pressing to aesthetic by preparing a semi-annually/annually maintenance plan. “Older homes” are considered homes built before WWII (mid 1940’s).

Title: Planning a Historical Building Project

Danielle Keperling talks about the best way to approach a historic building project such as creating a plan focused on your needs, know how space is being used, and create a wish list focused on the historic nature of the building. Next is project development which includes interviewing contractors, getting prints, investigating building codes, and having a budget.

Title: Advantages Of Using Lime Base Mortar

Danielle Keperling talks about the advantages of using Lime Based Mortar over Modern Portland Cement preventing irreversible damage to brick allowing water to escape during the freeze/thaw cycle.

Title: Maintaining My Non-Historic Older Home

Danielle Keperling talks about the stewardship of homes and preserving buildings such as removing extinct components, even though they are not officially historic and keeping historic fabric intact.

Title:Choosing Replacement Parts

Danielle Keperling talks about choosing replacement parts such as documenting deteriorating or missing pieces and replacement in kind (replacing with the same type of material, same/similar methods, same color, and same consistency.)

Title: Installing Synthetic Materials

Danielle Keperling talks about using synthetic materials for structural reinforcement (kept in a non-heavily trafficked area and non-visible.) When selecting a substitute material, make sure it has a proven track record and will not damage the historic fabric of the building.

Title: Vinyl Siding

Danielle Keperling talks about the damage of synthetic siding such as moisture causing deterioration that is unseen and the damage done during the installation process.

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PART 4 PRESERVATION MONTH 2020 SERIES

LAST WEEK WE PRESENTED PART 3 on the Economic Benefits of Preservation. Part 4 of this series focuses on substitute materials. “Substitute” may not be the first word that comes to mind when we think of preservation, and anyone who knows us knows that we try to preserve, maintain, and repair existing structures and features whenever possible. However, the use of substitute materials in building is not new (even George Washington used wood painted with sand to simulate stone). And, although one of the primary goals of preservation is the retention of original materials – preserve, maintain, repair, and replace is the “order of operations” according to the Secretary of the Interior – sometimes replacement is necessary when the preceding steps are no longer an option. Read on to find out more about deciding when and what substitute materials to use.

 


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

 

REPAIR OR REPLACE:

It is easy to think that if the look of a historical building is maintained and the appropriate types of materials are used, that the building has been successfully preserved. But preservation is not just about preserving how something looks, it is primarily focused on preserving how something is so that it remains as original as possible for future generations.

The National Park Service considers repair preferable to replacement, to save as much of the original material and historic fabric as possible. 

  • REPAIR. The following are some of their reasons for repair vs. replacement: 
    • Cost. It may be more costly in some cases to use substitute materials, depending on the situation, so using the original material (even if it is harder to find) may be more cost-effective in the long-term.
    • Durability. Substitute materials are typically less durable than original materials, rendering originals far superior. Do not fall for the “maintenance free” trap
  •  
    • Skill and knowledge. If you or the person doing the work on your building are not knowledgeable about original or substitute materials and their appropriate installation, you might run into several issues that make problems worse. A typical example of this is old brick and new mortar

 

If repair is not sufficient, the National Park Service reports that the purpose of replacing is to “match visually what was there and to cause no further deterioration.”

  • REPLACE – The following are 4 circumstances described by NPS as warranting replacement: 
    • Availability of material. It can be difficult to find a good match for historic material, particularly masonry materials due to uniqueness of color and texture. Also, some material is unavailable or may take too long to arrive, in which case a good substitute should be considered.
    • Availability of craftspeople. There may not be as many skilled craftspeople as there were in the past. However, there are people available, and it is important to make every effort to find someone to make the replacement as accurate as possible.
    • Poor original material. Just because something is historic does not always mean it is of good quality. Some materials were poor, naturally incompatible with their building, or have inferior modern substitutes. Examples of such materials include historic soft sandstones that are prone to erosion, or poor quality modern tin coated steel roofing. These might be replaced by precast concrete and terne-coated stainless steel, respectively.
    • Code-related changes. One example is buildings in earthquake zones, which are now subject to laws requiring that heavy overhanging masonry and unsecured urns be re-anchored or removed. Appropriate replacements include lighter replicas (although this may interfere with National Register status and loss of Federal tax credits for rehabilitation).

 


REPLACEMENT TYPES

  1. Replacement in-kind. This is a gold-standard level of replacement, and the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for treatment of historic properties indicate this is the first choice when things are damaged beyond repair (e.g., replace “marble for marble, wood for wood”). We’ve discussed this in the past as well.

 

  1. Replace with substitute materials. The National Park Service outlines the Secretary of the Interior’s points on how to address this. They suggest that if replacement in-kind is not possible, substitute materials may be considered. Circumstances warranting substitute materials include:
    • Original materials have performed poorly
    • No source for original materials
    • Craftspersons are not available to replicate the historic element in its original material
    • Current code requirements do not permit the use of the historic material.

 

STEPS TO REPLACEMENT:

  1. Is replacement necessary? The Secretary of the Interior’s standards encourage assessing if replacement is necessary (see steps outlined above in this article, as well as the replacement types).
  2. Assess amount/location of replacement material. The standards state that the amount and location of replacement material must be evaluated in relation to the building’s historic character –  which NPS defines as a combination of its history, materials used, and degree of craftsmanship. The degree of contribution to character by the building feature in question may require a closer replacement match, compared to another building part that contributes less or is not as visible or distinctive. Excessive reliance on substitute materials is cautioned against.
  3. Consider appropriateness of substitute material. The standards state that the appropriateness of a particular substitute material must also be considered in regard to its appearance and other factors, such as the location of the application, and the known physical compatibility of the substitute material relative to the historic material. Substitute materials must closely match the original feature. They must also be physically and visually compatible in context of nearby features and the entire building (e.g., new mortar does not work with historic brick due to physical incompatibilities).

 

Although this is our final post in the PRESERVATION MONTH 2020 SERIES, we hope that you will continue to put preservation first every month hereafter. To get you started, you can find further, more in-depth information on substitute materials from the following resources: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preservation and sustainability. What does one have to do with the other? If we examine these terms more closely, we can see that older buildings are inherently “green” or sustainable because of “embodied energy” (all of the energy used to build the building that would need to be expended to build something else). In fact, the report from the National Trust for Historic Preservation “The greenest building” states:

“This study finds that it takes 10 to 80 years for a new building that is 30 percent more efficient than an average-performing existing building to overcome, through efficient operations, the negative climate change impacts related to the construction process.”

This statement about life cycle analysis indicates that the construction process is resource intensive (both in production and transportation of new materials and landfill debris – about 20%-25% of landfill waste is construction-related). Reusing an existing building is the ultimate recycling, so preservation and sustainability are often inextricably linked, and this link highlights the importance and value for sustainability inherent in preservation.  


Photo by Random Institute on Unsplash

 

PRESERVATION’S LINK TO SUSTAINABILITY

Not surprisingly, both the preservation and the “green”/sustainable initiatives have significant common ground and can work in concert with one another. This is particularly relevant in light of concerns regarding climate change and major environmental concerns. The National Trust for Historic Preservation formed the Preservation Green Lab in 2009 to strengthen the connection between preservation and sustainability, and updated the name to The Research and Policy Lab in recognition of expanded needs. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has increased focus on climate change impacts on our heritage. There is also an International Climate Heritage Network to address the intersection of climate change and other environmental disasters on arts, culture, and heritage.

However, at times in the recent past, green and preservation agendas have been at odds and there has been a bias in the sustainable building field to start over with new buildings and materials, as pointed out by Tristan Roberts, and The Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historical Preservation’s (DAHP) Sustainability and Historic Preservation Executive Summary from 2011. The Whole Building Design Guide’s Historic Preservation Subcommittee (WBDG) notes that there has also been a stigma attached to preservation and it has been (often inaccurately) labeled as inefficient and requiring overwhelming or costly procedures to retrofit energy efficient systems into old systems. Additionally, Roberts reports that certain sustainable products that are made of recycled content or other sustainable materials may not be approved by the National Park Service’s Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation simply because they disrupt a building’s character-defining appearance. However, preservation and sustainability are far from being mutually exclusive. As Roberts reports:

“Both the environment and cultural heritage suffer when buildings are treated as disposable.”

Below, we outline characteristics of preservation that lend themselves to sustainability:

  • Energy Efficiency. As noted earlier, it also takes less energy to maintain or rehabilitate an existing building than to demolish an existing building to construct a new building, even if that new building is “green.” Restoration involves less carbon emissions than new construction. Comparatively, DAHP noted in 2011 that new buildings accounted for 40% of all extracted energy sources and 68% of all consumed energy per year. DAHP also cited the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) who shared data indicating that “commercial buildings constructed before 1920 actually use less energy per square foot than buildings from any other decade up until 2000.” New buildings made of new materials means one must consume energy to both create and ship those materials, and this also contributes to carbon emissions. DAHP adds that many historical buildings were designed with “passive systems,” or systems that took advantage of things like natural light, ventilation, and solar orientation when electrically-powered options did not exist. These passive system characteristics are all inherently sustainable and meet the same “green” goals of the sustainability camp. You can read more of our articles on energy efficiency in our archives here

 

  • Durability and Waste. Preserving a historical building reduces consumption of materials, and retaining old material creates less construction landfill waste. Green buildings should have materials that are both durable and repairable, whether that green building is new or old. Many new green building products are durable, but not necessarily repairable (read our repair archives here). Additionally, to build a new building with new materials, you have to create and ship the resources (both of which take energy), and often they are placed on newly cleared land which takes energy but also may be removing resources such as forest or farmland. Rehabilitating an existing or historical building eliminates a lot of these issues. Even reusing durable, salvaged materials from buildings that are torn down keeps those materials out of landfills and provides green materials for another building. However, more wasteful decisions are perpetuated, as Roberts points out that the construction industry often falls prey to “short-term thinking,” focusing on what works in-the-moment and disregarding long-term outcomes. Despite these benefits of preserving or rehabilitating older buildings, there can be challenges related to durability and waste in older buildings. Roberts notes that not all older buildings were well-built with durable material or construction, so in some cases, building damage is not due to neglect or abuse, but the way the building was constructed (e.g., some buildings with structural steel that is corroded cost a lot to repair). Further, as more modern buildings age and qualify as “historic” each year, these sometimes less durably-built structures pose new challenges for both the preservation and sustainability movements.

 

“GREENING” YOUR HISTORICAL COMMUNITY, BUILDING, OR HOME

Several efforts at the international and national level have been highlighted here for increasing connections between preservation and sustainability. WBDG’s Historic Preservation Subcommittee adds several guidelines that marry LEED guidelines for “greening” existing buildings with processes that incorporate specialization for historical buildings (here). However, there are several things individuals in and building and homeowners can do as well. On a community scale, The National Trust for Historic Preservation includes information on helping preserve your community and designating a historic place. Below are tips for owners of older buildings and homes. These are based primarily on the framework provided by the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Meghan White in “8 Ways to Green Your Historic House“, listed below, as well as information from other articles and our own expertise:

  1. Conduct an energy audit. Know where energy may be leaking. White states “A popular example is the blower door test. This test involves using a high-powered fan to take the air out of the building, which depressurizes the interior. The difference in air pressure is then measured with an air pressure gauge.” The pressure difference allows outside air to come into the building via openings, which reveals areas you’ll need to seal.  
  2. Don’t replace windows (or doors, or siding, etc.). As we’ve noted several times, a big misconception is that historical windows are to blame for the drafts in homes. White reports “As the National Trust’s Research & Policy Lab (formerly known as the Preservation Green Lab) notes in their study Saving Windows, Saving Money, historic windows rarely deserve to be completely replaced. Instead, weatherstrip them or install minimally invasive storm windows so that they keep the drafts out and lower your energy bills. The study found that retrofitting windows are the most cost-efficient way to decrease a historic house’s carbon footprint. As a bonus, old growth wood found in historic windows lasts longer than modern day wood, so preserving your historic windows will keep you from having to replace them more often.” Similar points can be made for doors, siding, and many exterior home parts that separate the outside from the inside. DAHP adds that more energy is lost from plumbing openings and uninsulated ducts than windows. The key is to repair, restore, and maintain these protections from the outside elements.
  3. Insulate the attic and basement. White notes that energy escapes through uninsulated spots such as basements, crawl spaces, and attics. Insulating them can help to prevent air from escaping. They say “Cellulose is a great option because, unlike spray foam, it’s reversible.” They also caution “You should refrain from insulating walls because you’re removing the permeable vapor barrier inherent in historic structures. The walls of historic houses are made to breathe, but inhibiting movement of air and heat through and around the wall can lead to issues like trapped moisture.” This issue is closely related to our points about differences in modern mortar and historical mortar, and the inherent breathability of old wall materials. 
  4. Take advantage of your house’s natural passive heating and cooling. White says “Artificial cooling and heating methods can be some of the highest energy consumers in a historic house.” They suggest using your historical home’s shutters to cool your house naturally: open your windows and latch the shutters to allow natural air flow. The added bonus is it will shade your interior from the sun. Window awnings that are historically appropriate can also provide similar benefits. In cases where you want or need additional electric components, consider finding a preservation and sustainability-minded HVAC professional who can retrofit systems with little disturbance to your home’s historic fabric, as we discussed here
  5. Consider installing renewable energy sources. Installing solar, wind, or geothermal renewable energy sources on your historic property are also options to consider. White says “Solar panels produce electricity naturally and will help lower your bills. When connected to a utility power grid, modern wind turbines can also help create electricity using renewable resources and in a more cost-efficient manner. Read more about installing solar panels on historic properties here.” Tesla has also developed solar panels that are extremely sympathetic to the historical aesthetics of an older home, though it may be cost-prohibitive for many.
  6. Pay attention to your landscaping. Trees may help to conserve energy in your house,with deciduous trees providing shade in the summer and fallen leaves allowing sunlight to warm your house in late fall and winter. Another issue we acknowledge is environmental damage due to combined sewer systems in many cities. When it rains too much the system becomes overwhelmed and this causes untreated sewage to be dumped into streams and rivers and contaminates waterways. The EPA fines communities every time this happens. As an individual homeowner, you can prevent some of your own contribution to this problem by: creating a rain garden to divert the water away from the storm drain and also away from the foundation; installing permeable pavers laid in the traditional manner (with sand underneath instead of mortar); and you can build a drywell. Check with your local municipality to see if they have a grant to help defray the costs of to property owners who make these changes. 
  7. Change your Lightbulbs. White points out “According to the General Services Administration, High Efficiency Incandescent (HEI) lamps reduce energy by 50 to 75% and use only 25% of the energy that regular incandescent bulbs use. They also don’t alter the appearance of historic light fixtures where the bulbs are visible, like LEDs do. Otherwise, LEDs are a good option when the bulb is obscured by opaque shades or lenses.”
  8. Reuse old materials or salvage. White encourages readers renovating historical buildings to replace missing pieces with materials from salvage companies before resorting to all-new material. This helps preserve historical pieces and prevents some landfill waste. 
     

IN SUMMARY:

Preservation and sustainability have much in common, and destroying or demolishing old buildings is more wasteful than helpful, even when replacing it with a new “green building.” It is best to preserve what we do have, by repairing, restoring, and maintaining these buildings. 

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. 

 

Andy deGruchy joined the Practical Preservation podcast to discuss his Craftwork Training Center, the historic masonry contracting and supply business and his philosophy of the body, mind, and spirit working together to create art.  His 35 years of experience as a mason was highlighted as he explained his dive into the material science world and now working to help train the future craftsperson.  

Contact:

Limeworks or Craftwork Training Center: 215-536-1776 Or email Andy at [email protected]

Bio:

Andy deGruchy is a brick and stone mason and historic masonry restoration contractor for 35 years based in Quakertown, Pennsylvania.  Andy does all his work using specialty mortars and plasters that he has imported from France for the last 20 years.  In 1999 he started LimeWorks.us, a specialty supply company that ships custom formulated replacement mortars for historic masonry structures throughout the United States.  LimeWorks.us and deGruchy Masonry Restoration employs approximately 21 people.  Andy also, operates a Craftwork Training Center, based in Telford, Pennsylvania, that teaches participants how to use LimeWorks.us mortar, plaster, and stone patching material called Lithomex. Andy is married to Audrey and they have four children.

Offer: 

Veterans Discounts (call for details) and 50% off Craftwork Training Center courses for Buck’s County Community College students plus 1.5 prior learning units toward program requirements (offer extended to all other students)

 

 

 

Wes Swanson joined the Practical Preservation podcast to discuss historic brick making, lime based mortar, and his journey to preservation through his love of history. We discussed a variety of topics related to historic masonry including:

  • The difference between modern and historic bricks, how they get their color, and what they are made of
  • His research of Lancaster City brickmaking 1700’s through the modern era (he has presented the History of Brickmaking and worked with Rockford Plantation to plan STEM lessons based on historic masonry and the masonry trade)
  • The Chicago fire and it’s effect on the Lancaster City building code (no more frame buildings)

Resources discussed:

Mortar analysis: LimeWorks or Lancaster Lime Works 

Tools to remove mortar: Trow & Holden

Bio:

Wes Swanson is an American History teacher at Hempfield school district and also a mason. He has been working in the masonry trade since he was 16. He is currently the owner of Wes Swanson Masonry. After earning a graduate degree in American studies from Penn State he began researching the history of brick making in Lancaster county and has given several lectures on the topic. He has also consulted with Rockford Plantation to plan STEM lessons involving historic brick making and the masonry trade. Syncing his passion for history and masonry he focuses a lot of his masonry work in the summer on brick and stone preservation.

Contact Info:

email: [email protected]

phone: 717-419-5706

Presentation: Brick Making in Lancaster County, July 15th, 7PM at the Mount Joy Historical Society 

 

This week on the Practical Preservation podcast Jonathan and Danielle answer the older home maintenance questions posed by our listeners.

  • Water infiltration through masonry walls – how it is getting in to the building and damaging the mortar, options to stop storm water, and why is your plaster crumbing
  • Paint – preparation is key, lead paint precautions, traditional paint options: mineral silicate paints, lime washes, milk paint, and oil-based paints
  • Wood repair and preservation – solid wood Dutchman repairs and consolidant/epoxy systems

We enjoyed helping our listeners with their burning questions. Let us know if you have any questions you would like answered on a future Practical Preservation podcast.

Chad Martin from Partners for Sacred Places met with me to discuss the work he does helping to preserve religious buildings from demolition through adaptive reuse and the creation of community resources.

Some of the topics we discussed include:

  • The economic impact of preservation.
  • How the work Partners for Sacred Places allows congregations and parishes to continue their mission as a community resource without selling their valuable real estate to developers.
  • The National Fund providing capital grants for preservation needs.  As Chad explains, when a church is choosing between giving money to programs that care for basic human needs and repairing the stained glass the restoration project goes to the bottom of the list.  The National Fund helps to insure both needs are met.

Contact information for Chad Martin plus additional resources:

Partners for Sacred Spaces
215-567-3234 x19

Facebook page Danielle referenced: https://www.facebook.com/abandonedamerica.us/

Bio: Chad Martin, Director, National Fund for Sacred Places
Prior to his role at Partners, Chad was a pastor at Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster (PA). During his pastoral tenure the congregation developed an in-house art gallery, redeveloped an award-winning parking lot in accordance with the city’s green infrastructure plan, and substantially increased building use by community partners. Prior to this, Chad was the Ceramics Studio Coordinator at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (Pittsburgh, PA). He has served on several boards of directors in Pittsburgh and Lancaster, including as a founding board members of the Union Project – an example of best practice for adaptive reuse of a historic religious property – and as Assistant Moderator of Atlantic Coast Conference (MC USA). He has written articles on art and/or theology and spirituality for several publications, including Ceramics Monthly, Worship, and Conrad Grebel Review. His ordained for pastoral ministry in Mennonite Church USA. Chad is a graduate of Goshen College (BA), Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (MA), and Leadership Lancaster.

Transcript:

Announcer: Thank you for tuning into The Practical Preservation Podcast. Please take a moment to visit our website: practicalpreservationservices.com for additional information and tips to help you restore your historical home. If you’ve not yet done so, please subscribe to us on iTunes, Stitcher, and SoundCloud. And also like us on Facebook. Welcome to The Practical Preservation Podcast, hosted by Danielle Keperling. Keperling Preservation Services is a family owned business based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, dedicated to the preservation of our built architectural history for today’s use, as well as future generations. Our weekly podcast provides you with expert advice specific to the unique needs of renovating a historic home, educating by sharing our from the trenches preservation knowledge and our guest’s expertise, balancing modern needs while maintaining the historical significance, character, and beauty of your period home.

Danielle: Thank you for coming into The Practical Preservation Podcast. We’re actually doing this interview in person. And today we have Chad Martin with us, the director of The National Fund for Sacred Places. Prior to his role at partners Chad was the pastor at Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. During his pastoral tenure the congregation developed an in-house art gallery, redeveloped an award winning parking lot in accordance with the city’s green infrastructure plan, and substantially increased building use by community partners. Prior to this, Chad was a ceramics studio coordinator at The Manchester Craftsman’s Guild in Pittsburgh. He has served on several boards of directors in Pittsburgh and Lancaster, including as a founding board member of The Union Project, an example of best practice for adaptive reuse in the historic religious property. As an assistant moderator of The Atlantic Coast Conference MCUSA, he has written articles on art and/or theology and spirituality for several publications, including Ceramics Monthly, Worship, and Conrad Grebel Review. He is ordained for pastoral ministry in The Mennonite Church, USA.

Danielle: Chad is a graduate of Goshen College, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and Leadership Lancaster. Chad, thank you for joining us for The Practical Preservation Podcast.

Chad: Absolutely. It’s a delight to be with you.l

Danielle: Thank you again. How did you get started in preservation? I know you kind of came about it in a round about way.

Chad: Yeah, that’s a great question. So as I was saying kind of coming into this, I do not come at this work from a preservation background. Although I should say, I can maybe start that by saying what we do with The National Fund [crosstalk 00:02:55] for Sacred Places. So Partners for Sacred Places was formed as a nonprofit. We’re a national nonprofit organization based in Philadelphia, formed in the late 1980’s. So almost 30 years ago. At that time in the preservation world there was this kind of brewing conflict, and definitely a robust conversation going on in urban centers like New York, Boston, and Chicago where there was this tension between communities of faith, congregations and parishes, and the preservation community. It was the first time in this country where you saw development pressures for property kind of wooing congregations to consider selling their buildings, or selling heir rights, or those kinds of dynamics-

Danielle: For the real estate?

Chad: For real estate development. Congregations that may have been struggling saw this as an opportunity to endow their programs for years into the future by selling valuable property, which was of course in direct tension with historic preservationists in those very same communities saying, “Even as development pressures increase, we want to be preserving buildings that matter to the community.” So those came [crosstalk 00:04:18].

Danielle: … have stood there for how long [crosstalk 00:04:20] so much a part of the community’s history.

Chad: Exactly. So in places like New York and Boston churches that have been there for 300 years or more, in some cases. So, out of that tension, and like a lot of urban development things, New York was leading the way with some of these conversations. Out of that, Partners was formed as a nonprofit that tried to bridge that gap, and some of that tension, between the preservation community and the interests of congregations. So that’s a kind of long backstory to say that’s the backdrop of the work we do at Partners. Over the years we have had a vested interest in how preservation can enable congregations and parishes to follow their mission of serving their communities, rather than losing their buildings, or selling buildings as a way to [crosstalk 00:05:19].

Danielle: … continue their mission.

Chad: Yeah.

Danielle: I don’t know if this is something that you directly work with, but the churches that get closed in those communities, do you work with those buildings then to find a suitable reuse?

Chad: Yeah, absolutely. The program I direct is The National Fund, which is a new grant making program funded by the [00:05:43] endowment in order to make large capital grants with congregations that are thriving, that have preservation needs in their buildings.

Danielle: Okay, so you’re more that other end of the spectrum where there’s people still attending, but they just don’t have the money to upkeep necessarily that building?

Chad: Exactly. And you know, there’s a wide range of capacity in there. But, virtually every leader of a historic congregation will tell you no matter how well endowed they are there’s always a need for more. Preservation of buildings is expensive, and often for churches falls to the bottom of the list. If they’re choosing between giving money to programs that take care of basic human needs like food, clothing, shelter, if they’re choosing between that and repairing the stained glass windows, usually they’re going to do the program stuff and hope that some day they get to the windows.

Danielle: I know one thing that really opened my eyes to the role of churches and preservation, and promoting art and all of that, was St James just underwent a big restoration project where they worked on safety. I went through a presentation where they talked about all the different things they did to make it for future use, but also respecting that historic. And one of the things that Father David said … I went on a field trip where they were making the clay tiles by hand still at The Mercer Tile Works. He said churches have always promoted that kind of work, and he felt like it was his duty to be a patron and keep that skill and that craft going. And I thought, “That’s really the type work we do, too.” And it opened my eyes to the role of the church. And then I thought back of my history, of the Renaissance, and all those painters, and all of that whole thing. It kind of tied it together in my mind.

Chad: Yeah, absolutely. Historically, churches have been literally the temples at the center of civic life. The story of the 20th century, and now into the 21st century, as you kind of alluded to, is that church participation has been declining. The role of the Christian church, at least, in civic life is very different than it was 100 years ago, or 200 years ago. And yet we still have these vestiges to that era in the physical buildings. Our work is really to step into that gap and say, even as the religious landscape of the country changes, how can we continue to preserve these facilities as a community resource? And usually now it takes more than just the members of the congregation to make that happen. It takes really a full community saying, “This is a resource that matters to us.”

Danielle: And it’s important.

Chad: Yeah. Which really I’m sure puts it in line with many other preservation efforts. No preservation effort happens without a broad [crosstalk 00:08:43] coalitions.

Danielle: And there’s often a discussion of the economic impact of preservation. And I know, prepping for this, reading the economic, you even have things on the website talking about the economic impact of churches in communities, and I had never thought about that. But that really is something that is valuable and should be highlighted so that people aren’t just saying, “Oh, that’s a building that doesn’t pay taxes.” All of those things that go into those community discussions.

Chad: Yeah, absolutely. You’re hitting at the heart of a piece that has been really important at Partners. Very quickly, in it’s early days at Partners in the late 80’s and early 90’s, these conversations started emerging about, “Why should we save these buildings?” Which pushed our staff back to articulating a narrative about why these places matter. And when you’re talking about things like a tax base, and increasing revenue for cash strapped cities looking for revenue wherever they can, that quickly turned to an economic conversation. Church folks aren’t really used to speaking in economic terms about the value of what they do, but I think that’s one of the really important contributions our organization has made over the years. Going back to the mid 90’s, late 90’s, our organization helped sponsor a major research project looking at the economic value of what churches provide. I say churches, but really communities of faith of any religious tradition. So they’re a community. Really aside from everything they do that is the focus of their worship or religious life, looking at the economic impact of employing people in a community.

Chad: The effects of providing services that are often appreciated by the community but under the radar in terms of a dollar amount in the sense of what’s the true value of this? And then we did a major update to that research just in the last couple of years. And we’ve dubbed that the economic halo effect, meaning it radiates out. It’s not just what happens in the doors of the church. You know I, just a couple months ago, visited one of our awardees, which is a Catholic basilica in Milwaukee. It’s an amazing facility. This is not very typical for religious buildings. It was the most visited tourist site in Milwaukee, like the highest rated by Trip Advisor for a couple of years. So they’re definitely a major asset to that community. And we did a halos study of the economic impact of the basilica and the community. They’re a destination wedding venue because it’s such a grand space, so people will come from out of town to have a wedding there. What’s the economic impact of all the guests who come and spend the night there, buy meals there?

Danielle: Right, everything that goes into a wedding.

Chad: Yeah. All the baptisms that happen there, the extended family that come in maybe from the broader region, maybe from even hours away. And we worked to have conservative estimates of that, so this isn’t guesswork. But honestly saying, “What’s the economic activity going on around that place?” And in their case it was in the millions of dollars annually that ripple out from what they do as a basilica that’s not about the dollars spent on a baptism, or the dollars spent on a wedding, or a worship service, but it’s all the dollars spent in the community.

Danielle: The people employed and all the things that go into making the celebrations.

Chad: Yeah. So that’s become an important part of our work, to help congregations tell their story well about why they matter to the [inaudible 00:12:42]. And in some of the cases where churches close frankly they don’t matter a whole lot. They haven’t figured out how to transcend all the changes around them to stay relevant to that community. And we try to be honest with communities when they’re in that place too. But there are many historic congregations that continue to serve their communities in meaningful ways that are often under the radar, and not seen by the broader community as fully as they could be.

Danielle: It’s very interesting to me to look at it because that’s often the way that they look at restoration because restoration is so much more labor intensive than new construction. You’re going in and repairing things rather than buying new materials. You’re not just installing things. Looking at it through that lens I can definitely see how a church, I had never looked at it that way, but how a church does impact the community and all the people around it.

Chad: Yeah, absolutely. Even if folks aren’t always fully aware of what happens inside the doors of a religious space they become symbols to the community. So fi they’re lost to a community how do you quantify what the loss is? And you know, that transcends churches. That’s a historic preservation-

Danielle: Oh, yeah. And that landmark building.

Chad: Yeah, what happens when we lose these landmark buildings? And of course we can’t save all of them. The preservation community is well aware of that, we can’t save all of them.

Danielle: But there are some that are worth definitely saving and preserving so that we have them into the future.

Chad: If I could I wanted to circle back to your question about how we [crosstalk 00:14:26] churches.

Danielle: Sure, definitely.

Chad: … that are not thriving, and what happens with those buildings. Because that is really one of the emerging questions for an organization like ours. In the changing religious landscape we live in right now, increasingly I think this is probably in every community across the country, that’s definitively in every urban community across the country. There are grand historic church buildings that are in disrepair, or facing challenges because either the congregation is dwindling and dying, and ends up closing its doors. Maybe a church sees the writing on the wall and they sell the building, then another congregation steps in. These in some ways are some of the real fun success stories of the work. In some cases there’s no longer a viable congregation that makes sense for a property, but it is still seen as a community asset. So the community rallies to say, “How can we take ownership of this?” That’s really what I was part of with The Union Project in Pittsburgh 10 or 15 years ago.

Danielle: So the building, what did you transform it into? Or how did you reuse it?

Chad: That’s a great adaptive reuse story. That was a crumbling church building. The actual bricks and mortar stories of like hauling trash? That could be a whole podcast itself, just the horror stories of bringing back to life a building that’s been neglected for decades. Numbers of dead pigeons and things like that.

Danielle: Oh yeah, I’ve been there.

Chad: I’m sure you have. Probably everyone interested in this kind of conversation has been there. First of all, the group who bought it was just a group of community members who came together and had a vision for like, ‘We literally walked by this church building every day to get to the bus stop and go to work. It was a symbol of our community and yet it was just falling apart in front of our eyes.”

Danielle: Was it not being used?

Chad: Yeah, there was technically a congregation of like five people meeting around a space heater in a backroom. It clearly had become overwhelmed years ago, and it just was in total disrepair. This was years of sweat equity, but we built a nonprofit organization that was a non sectarian, non faith based, nonprofit organization. Although many of us came from a perspective of communities of faith being important to our formation. Came together to form a nonprofit organization and cast a vision of really developing it as a kind of multipurpose community center. They still exist as an organization, and they still have been taking good care of that building. The uses have kind of shifted a little bit over time as they’ve moved into their own vision, and the founders stepped away. The original vision was around arts, community and faith. So early on we did actually find a congregation that was looking for a home that was brought in as a tenant, and they’re still there. But they’re there as a tenant, they’re an equal partner at the table with all sorts of other nonprofits, community groups. So now it’s used for an event space, a wedding venue.

Chad: There are art studios in the basement, there are nonprofit offices in what would’ve been Sunday school rooms back in the day. And it really came back to life as a community resource.

Danielle: And now the building is being used, and it’s used often. It’s not just sitting there and just used one day a week. And that’s what the building is meant to do.

Chad: Yeah. So in many ways it is serving the kinds of purposes it was built to do in the first place. 150 years ago congregations had a prominence in the community where they could do that tall under their own umbrella. You know, people’s lives revolved around around the life of the church. That’s just simply not true in many cases now. So many of the same kind of services and activities happen there, but they’re under an array of organizations that all are there to serve the community. Some are faith based and some aren’t and they’ve got to find ways to work alongside each other.

Danielle: That made me think of even the parochial schools and the building sitting empty now. There is space there that could be used, and I know that probably falls outside of what you do. Do you focus just on the-

Chad: Yeah, although very closely aligned.

Danielle: I know just in Lancaster there are several buildings that are sitting empty that could have some kind of community center or support kind of thing.

Chad: Well, yeah. And I think truly Lancaster is seeing this go on in every community across the country. It is certainly happening in Lancaster. I’ve lived here 10 years, been here longer. If I think of just the 10 years I’ve been here I have seen historic churches sold by their founding congregation to another congregation. I’ve seen that happen three or four times just in the 10 years I’ve been here. I see churches that I know there are only a handful of people showing up on Sunday morning. Some day really soon that church is going to be on the market and we’re all going to wonder, “How are we going to deal with that hugs, landmark building?” And we’ve seen others. This is one of the interesting things. This certainly happens in other urban centers too. There have been at least two, and maybe three, just in Lancaster that have been converted to high end residences. So Partners vision is, it is best that these are restored as community assets of the community. But there are cases where we kind of walk alongside churches that end up being abandoned.

Chad: You know the saddest stories are wend then are demolished. But it certainly happens, and I think increasingly there’s a very real earnest reality that we have to be strategic. We, meaning everyone involved in this work, about which places can be saved with integrity, and which ones probably can’t. Because there are just too many in flux right now

Danielle: There are. I went through the parochial school in Lancaster. If you look at the number of Catholic churches that are in close proximity to each other, and because they were built for different ethnicities, or different congregations, different nationalities. That’s very hard to sustain, and those are very hard conversations to have because if you don’t have enough people attending to sustain it then you get to that point where the building’s worth preserving, but can it stay in this form or does it need to transform? I think if you go through the criteria for a national landmark I’m sure most of them would be on the register. But then you have to think, you know how Christ Church is one of the ones that you funded. That is definitely tied to our national history. But then you have the other ones that are still very important because they’re tied to people’s history, but maybe they’re not as noteworthy and they didn’t have the famous people. And that is a balance, and I think that would be really hard because the buildings are mostly all beautiful, and even in disrepair are beautiful.

Danielle: I don’t know if you’re familiar, there’s a book that’s like abandoned places. I can’t think of the author’s name, but he went into these places and there’s one church in Philadelphia that he went to every day as it was being demolished. Even those pictures are beautiful, as have the building’s gone.

Chad: Yeah, the photography can be beautiful, but the place is heartbreaking.

Danielle: Yeah, it is. So I don’t envy the position you’re in. We usually get involved when people are ready to save something. We don’t have to make those hard decisions.

Chad: Help decide. Well, and we don’t really either. Although with the grant making program we’re often in the same boat where we come alongside whenever we can. Although with the grant making program we do face these hard choices. So with the national fund, this was created to speak into all the things we’re describing, and actually get some financial resources to these congregations. But even still we’re funding like 12 across the country this year that really [crosstalk 00:23:24].

Danielle: How many applications do you get?

Chad: We’re in our second year of the program. The first years was an invitation only round. So we have about two weeks to go until our due date for the first fully open application round where we marketed this across the country. So it’s still a little bit yet to be seen, but it’s looking like we will have something like 100 plus applications for about 12 slots.

Danielle: Those are hard choices.

Chad: And behind those 100 there’s probably another 1000 that would technically qualify for our program, but do they rise to the top is the most important right now. I should tell a couple stories though.

Danielle: Oh, sure. Definitely.

Chad: [crosstalk 00:24:08]. It reminds me of the range of places we do find because you’re exactly right. We have to be strategic. We look at a couple factors. We’re going for a building that’s really significant maybe in a couple of different ways. It might be architecturally significant. The history of the congregation might be significant. So in the case of Christ Church in Philadelphia It hits both of those. But, however you want to rank that they’re in the top of both of those. Ben Franklin is buried in their burial ground, the building is this amazing Colonial era building. But the other piece that’s really important to us, and this goes back to the kind of research we were talking about earlier. I think really the whole preservation community is moving this way too, where the line I’ve even heard. Stephanie Meeks, the director of The National Trust for Historic Preservation, uses this line frequently that this is not just about bricks and mortar, and preserving these places completely outside of their context. It’s about taking care of spaces that still matter to their community.

Danielle: And I think, at least in the preservation community in Lancaster, in the organizations there’s an organization just devoted to saving places, and then one that’s devoted to the people’s stories. And I think to marry those two would really make more people realize that preservation is about all of our history, it’s collective.

Chad: So Christ Church is a great example because, for all their noteworthiness architecturally and historically, there are other churches that rise to that level in the country, but one of the real stand out features of Christ Church is they have really worked hard over the last couple decades to be completely relevant as a community resource for Philadelphia.

Danielle: I wasn’t aware of that. That’s great.

Chad: Yeah. Oh, it’s a fantastic story. One of the ways they have done that is opened their, it’s called Neighborhood House, but it would be kind of a parish house that’s adjacent to the church building, which is historic in its own right, but it’s like 155 years old or something like that. They have fully restored and updated that facility to be used as a multipurpose venue, mostly as a theater [inaudible 00:26:32].
Danielle: Oh, that’s interesting.

Chad: These numbers aren’t exact because it’s off the top of my head, but it’s something on the order of like 150 plus arts organizations have used their facility as a venue in the last year.

Danielle: Oh, that’s great. So that’s like every other day.

Chad: Yeah, it’s almost every day there is a theater group in their building either rehearsing or performing. So that’s amazing.

Danielle: Yeah, it is.

Chad: This 300 plus year old congregation that has this weight of history, that on its own it would be reasons to put [inaudible 00:27:10] into saving it. What really puts it over the top is the way they have worked. And as a former pastor this is what matters to me more than just a place that mattered in history.

Danielle: Yeah, and I was going to ask about that. Do you feel like that brings you a different perspective in [crosstalk 00:27:24]?

Chad: Yeah, totally. We have other staff who come from much more traditional preservation background. And I really respect and, as a newcomer to this work, I learn a lot from what they teach me. But that being said, my perspective is often driven by what’s the impact of these congregations now? And not just in traditional social service ways, but are they finding innovative, dynamic ways to engage with the community?

Danielle: Yeah. I think that is an interesting perspective, and I think that in this type of work, in preservation, and having the different perspectives helps everybody see that it’s not just a static place in history, it’s an evolution. And the impact now is just as important if we can balance both, and honor both.

Chad: Yeah. So that’s a real important piece for our program, we’re constantly looking for both of those pieces. And we end up saying no to some projects who don’t understand why we said no to them. [inaudible 00:28:34] like, “But don’t you understand how important this building is?” “Yes, and you’re not doing anything with it right now.” So it’s really important to us that it’s continuing to serve its community. That being said, there are also these other situations. Christ Church, that I was just describing, they’re a great example. They have lots of resources and there’s always a need for more. So we’re [crosstalk 00:28:58] but really they have access to a lot of resources. We work with some others that are in really tenuous situations. So I think of a really wonderful little African Methodist Episcopal Zion congregation in North Carolina that we’re funding this year. They got on our radar because they’ve been out of their building for 10 years because it suffered hurricane damage. They got on our radar because they were listed as one of the most endangered places by The National Trust a few years ago.

Chad: So the National Trust brought them to the table. They have capital needs beyond what they can muster themselves. Even though they have continued to thrive, they’ve been meeting off location for 10 plus years.

Danielle: And they’re still-

Chad: Yeah, they continue to thrive, continue to serve their community in lots of important ways. This is a church built by a prominent African American freedman soon after The Civil War. The congregation was formed in the Reconstruction Era after The Civil War, the church was built in the 1890’s by one of the most prominent African American families in that community in North Carolina.

Danielle: So it’s a lot of history too?

Chad: There’s a lot of history there. And it’s a more simple looking, kind of country, North Carolina church, but what an important place historically.

Danielle: And from a historical perspective, because I’m sure at that time it was the education center, and the community center, and everything else that, that Reconstruction era required.

Chad: Exactly. It’s a classic Reconstruction era story. White folks from the north came down and started the school next door, and eventually the same African American builder built he school next door. And what an amazing legacy of a community that probably was severely lacking in resources and had every obstacle, still built a beautiful little church.

Danielle: And that was probably their safe place, too?

Chad: Yeah.

Danielle: Within the community. It’s not as prominent, but it’s definitely an important piece of our history.

Chad: Yeah, and in that case the goal is to get them back in that building so that they can reestablish that sense of home.

Danielle: How do you work with the congregations? Do you do a matching funds? Or how does that process work?

Chad: Yeah, that’s a great question. Our grant making program has a couple different pieces to it. One, and this is kind of the hook for everyone, is the big capital grant. Of course, they would all love to get $250,000 from us. And anyone who’s awarded in the program, the goal is sincerely to get them that money. But along the way we do a lot of capacity building, and assistance with their project. So we have small planning grants that help pay for things like architectural fees or-

Danielle: Project development?

Chad: Yeah, project development. All those things that add up for any project along the way. And those are modest sized planning grants, but the goal is to have at least enough in the planning grants so encourage them to do all that good professional project work. And then each congregation is expected to participate in a group training. We do a couple different levels of that, but the basic on is simply like, “How do you run a good capital campaign as a church?” Many of these congregations have not done a capital campaign in a generation, or maybe ever. And you know that North Carolina church, they’re doing great. They’re a hardworking church, but they don’t have a big budget, and they’re looking at like a million dollars to be able to get back in the building.

Danielle: Right. And for a smaller congregation that’s very daunting.

Chad: That’s a big deal. So just getting the some basic tools for how do you set up an effective campaign. All the while encouraging them to get professional help with that too.

Danielle: That was what I was thinking was, could they even plan stages so that they’re protecting the building, and that’s how we [inaudible 00:33:21]. So you stop all the water and elements from getting it. And then you’re stabilized. And then you can move forward from that, and that gives people encouragement too that they’re actually making progress. 

Chad: Exactly. Some projects are a once and done thing, and some are phased. And then we also wrap in some kind of customized consulting services that are often either in the realm of capacity building or using a set of skills and expertise that our staff have to help them get a step down the road with something related to their building and their mission. That could be really wide ranging. Our staff bring a wide variety of experiences. Everything from very traditional preservation considerations, to capital campaign expertise, to expertise in training up the congregation on, “If you want to share your space more for community life, how do you do that?” Do you make that part of who you are? So we’ll step in and offer a few days of free consulting work [crosstalk 00:34:29].

Danielle: I think that’s probably very important too. Do you do that for the grant recipients?

Chad: Yeah. We were talking earlier about 12 slots out of this 100 plus or whatever. So they apply for the program and we award a cohort into the program, this year it’ll probably be 12, and then each of those 12 get everything I just described.

Danielle: That’s very, very cool. Well that’s very interesting. Did you have anything else that you wanted to share? I feel like we’ve covered a lot of things.

Chad: Great question. I don’t think so, I think that’s an okay place. We could follow lots of other trails with this, but-

Danielle: I think we’ve covered what you do, and why you do it, and why it’s so important to not just the congregation, but to the greater community. How can our audience get a hold of you?

Chad: Great question. Partners for Sacred Places is the organization I work for, and we have a website, which is sacredplaces.org. You can visit that website and learn about the array of things we do from training to consulting, to grant making. The program that I direct is The National Fund, and it has its own stand-alone website. I should say that program is in partnership with The National Trust for Historical Preservation, which is the largest national preservation organization. The website for The National Fund is fundforsacredplaces.org. My phone number is on the Partners website, my email is on both websites. I’m always glad to talk to people more about this program.

Danielle: Yes, thank you for coming in and speaking with me. I enjoyed it.

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