Amalia Leifeste and Barry Stiefel, authors of Sustainable Heritage: Merging Environmental Conservation and Historic Preservation, joined the Practical Preservation podcast to discuss their book and information about their work in historic preservation and sustainability. We covered a multitude of topics including:

  • Their respective backgrounds, as well as catalysts for their interest in the intersection of preservation and sustainability
  • How the timeless idea of looking to the past to prepare for the future also applies to sustainable heritage, referencing the establishment of National Parks as partial inspiration 
  • Their intention that sustainable design be taught and used to adapt to climate and cultural changes to improve current circumstances
  • Suggestions to reduce ecological footprints at a community and systemic level vs. relying completely on new technology and resources 
  • The fact that preservationists’ and conservationists’ value-sets often align and acknowledging this opens the door to more solutions to shared problems
  • How current world circumstances surrounding the pandemic afford the opportunity to expand on and adopt a “conserving attitude” in all aspects of life

 

Contact/Follow:

Email

Amalia Leifeste – [email protected]

Barry Stiefel – [email protected]

Other Professional Contact Information

Amalia Leifeste (here)

Barry Stiefel (here)

Buying Options:

Paperback, hardcopy, or eBook options

The authors are happy to provide consultation to sustainability preservation projects, and can be contacted for such requests at the information provided above. They are also open to organizations who might provide related internships to their students. 

Tuesday afternoon I sat in on a webinar focused on what traditional products teach us about durability and sustainability (essentially green building). I am going to pass some the information from the webinar along during this post – next week I will be back to sharing information from the Traditional Building Conference.

*In order to evaluate if a product is durable and therefore sustainable there needs to be a life-cycle assessment (LCA).
*Desirable green attributes:
-Durability
-Low Maintenance (but repairable)
-Fire Retardant
-Life cycle benefits – extending the service life
*2009 new LEED rating systems
-Point increases for urban living (density and alternative transportation)
-Life Cycle Assessment – focuses on structure/envelope assemblies
-Preservation of existing buildings adds points – traditional materials are preferable because of environmental impact
-Leed for Existing Buildings looks at accreditation without major renovations through changes in Operations and Maintenance

Traditional Materials are Sustainable:
-Masonry Walls both brick and stone
-Traditional Lime based mortar
-Roofing – slate, metal, clay tiles
-Old growth woods
-Anything that has stood the test of time and with care and attention can last another 100 plus years is a green solution

Tom Brennan, co-founder of The Green Garage and the El Moore, in Detroit, MI, joined the Practical Preservation Podcast to discuss these properties as innovative examples of sustainable working and living spaces. We covered multiple topics, including:

  • Background information about Tom and his wife and co-founder Peggy, and how they came to initiate and complete these sustainable adaptive reuse projects
  • How Tom’s retirement plans changed significantly after he and Peggy were inspired by a sustainability project in Monroe Michigan
  • How the Green Garage embodies working sustainably in action, functioning as a coworking space while also existing as an excellent example of combined adaptive reuse and sustainability
  • The rebirth of the El Moore – a true example of sustainable living – and how the current inception pays homage to its innovative 1898 roots
  • Details of each of the 2 projects’ novel approaches to making sure each building was as sustainable as possible
  • Information on how the Brennan’s plan on addressing the third part of sustainability – eating and playing – via the El Moore Gardens and the in-progress El Moore Seasons Market
  • The ways in which each project pays deference to Detroit’s history

 

Contact/Follow:

Websites – Green Garage and the El Moore

Facebook – here and here

Twitter – here and here

Instagram – here and here

Contact information – here and here

Tom believes that while pure preservation certainly has an important place in the landscape, projects like Green Garage and El Moore are just as essential to keep preservation vital and relevant. Read more about their story in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s feature article.

Tom also shared two pieces of advice to listeners who care about preservation, history, and sustainability: learn as much as you can from others by staying connected to a community of like-minded people, and take time to get a project right, as sustainability especially is a journey. Essentially, be practical.

As COVID restrictions lessen in the future, Tom encourages interested parties to come to the El Moore and take a tour and learn more about its fascinating history!

UNIQUE HISTORICAL FEATURES SERIES On this 4th Tuesday of the month, we focus on another historical feature designed for form and function. It provided light, air circulation, and sometimes identifying information for homeowners and businesses, while also maintaining security. This month’s feature is: TRANSOM WINDOWS. 

Transom window featuring “Bullseye” glass at the John Maddox Denn House.

 

What is a transom window?

According to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, a transom window is:

“A window above a door or other window built on and commonly hinged to a transom.”

 

These windows initially enjoyed popularity in the gothic period of the 14th century in Europe, and really became popular in the 18th century during the Georgian architectural period. Some authors suggest that the fanlight transom design that was so popular during the Georgian period came about as a natural aesthetic extension of Palladian designs, which tended toward arched windows. Stained glass was traditionally used in church transom windows and later used in private homes in the Victorian era and subsequent design periods. These windows provided more than visual enjoyment, as they also served practical purposes. Some buildings utilized transoms as the location of a painted or stained glass address number or location of the owner’s or building’s name. In buildings without electricity or fewer windows (like row homes), they provided extra light. Both exterior and interior transoms also allowed for increased air circulation. And because of their locations high above doors, these benefits were afforded without sacrificing privacy and security. Transoms were so ubiquitous in use that their open state in publishers’ offices theoretically allowed aspiring authors to pass on their unsolicited, amateur work directly to the publisher by throwing them through the opening. This led to an idiom used in analogous situations, as follows:

 

“It came in over the transom.”

 

Examples of Transom Windows:

 

A lovely stained glass transom window from St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Lowell, MA has an even lovelier message behind it – click here to learn more about its meaning and gain a stunning illuminated view of the window. The church was built in the Gothic Revival architectural style between 1824 and 1825.

 

 

Image source: EmwBear ye each others burdens, main entrance transom window; Saint Anne’s Episcopal Church; Lowell, MA; 2012-05-18CC BY-SA 3.0.

 

In striking juxtaposition to the purpose behind the previous image, here is a beautiful example of a personalized transom window from the former Storyville Madam Lulu White’s address, a vestige of the long-gone structure, Mahogany Hall; it was built sometime between 1897 and 1917 during Storyville’s heyday, and demolished in 1949.
 

 

Image source: Infrogmation of New Orleans, Storyville exhibit, Historic New Orleans Collection – Lulu White TransomCC BY 2.0.

 

Stained glass transom window (and sidelights) in foyer of the John L. Wisdom House, in Jackson, TN, built in the Queen Anne architectural style between 1880 and 1881

 

 

 

 

The image above was taken by staff of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), in 1933. Image source: Library of Congress

 

Transom fanlight window above door at the Chretien Point Plantation in Sunset, LA. Built in the Greek Revival architectural style in 1831
 

 

 

 

The image above was taken by staff of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), in 1947. Image source: Library of Congress

 

Transom Windows Today

Where to see them.

  • Scavenger hunt – Hit the pavement in a historical neighborhood and spot as many transom windows as you can. Also look at historic churches.
  • (Virtual) museum and other tours – Check out historical house museums in-person or virtually. Many Georgian style homes are guaranteed to have transoms in the form of fanlights. Victorian era and later homes may have stained glass transoms.
  • Photo gallery – View transom window images on flickr here and here.

Where to get them (i.e., how to design or create one). 

  • Antique/Salvage Business – If your home is missing a transom window, consult resources in this article to create one if you have the space. Try to find salvaged or antique materials to be most accurate (and sustainable) – here is some inspiration. 
  • Restoration and Design tips – Find inspiration to restore your existing transoms here, here, and here

For further resources and reading:

  • For thorough information on window restoration in general, check out NPS guidelines for windows, here
  • Read more about the history of transom windows here and here.

 

Stay tuned each month for a new installment in this UNIQUE HISTORICAL FEATURES SERIES! See last month’s post on “Haunted” Victorian Houses.

 

SHARE WITH US!

DO YOU HAVE AN ORIGINAL OR MODERN TRANSOM WINDOW IN YOUR HOME?

FEEL FREE TO SHARE BELOW!

 

John Renne, Ph.D., AICP, professor in the department of Urban and Regional Planning at Florida Atlantic University, located in Boca Raton, FL, joined the Practical Preservation Podcast to discuss the ways in which urban planning, transit oriented development and historic preservation intersect. We covered multiple topics, including:

  • John’s academic background and how work with his mentor, David Listoken, Ph.D., inspired study of the connections between historic preservation and transit oriented development (TOD)
  • John’s current roles in TOD as a land use and transportation planner, looking at how land use and transportation systems interact with one another      
  • Defining aspects of TODs, being dense, walkable, pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use communities centered around functional rail systems 
  • Connections between historic preservation and transit oriented development (TOD) – including how most TODs are in historic locations but only 1/3 of active train stations are in TODs
  • Challenges and trends related to TOD, including its current correlation to gentrification and unaffordable housing prices, incentives that work against preservation when planning high-density development, as well as moving the 60-70 year trend of centering urban planning around the automobile back to being centered around people

 

Contact/Follow:

CUES Website

Youtube

Linkedin

General contact information

The Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions (CUES) at FAU includes periodic free programming, such as virtual webinars on relevant TOD, planning, climate change information, and historic preservation’s relationship to these topic areas – check the linked website above to stay up-to-date. 

Read John Renne and David Listoken’s Guide to Facilitate Historic Preservation through Transit-Oriented Development.

John reminds listeners that historic places tend to be more interesting, vibrant, and sustainable – something for prospective buyers as well as planners, developers, and officials to consider!

UNIQUE HISTORICAL FEATURES SERIES – On this 4th Tuesday of the month, we focus on a historical feature that is often a room unto itself, but can also be as small as a closet or cupboard. Its popularity has fluctuated, and its name has changed many times over the centuries. It was once the space for domestic servants, but now is regarded as both comforting and elegant by modern homeowners. This month’s feature is: THE BUTLER’S PANTRY. 

Silver sauce boat, as might be seen and prepared in a butler’s pantry. Photo by Deleece Cook on Unsplash.

 

What is a butler’s pantry?

According to the Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, a butler’s pantry is:

“A service room between kitchen and dining room.” 

 

Pantries have existed in some form for quite some time. Pantries and their predecessors have been labeled or referred to with terms indicative of what they housed – etymonline.com notes the Latin (Medieval Latin “panateria – office or room of a servant who has charge of food” and Latin panis – bread” and “pa – to feed”) and French (Anglo-French “panetrie or paneterie – bread room”) origins of the word. Catherine Seiberling Pond also wrote a book specifically devoted to pantries (The Pantry—Its History and Modern Uses), and provides a wonderful overview of their history on her website.  Notably, the butler’s pantry emerged in the 19th Century England and America and saw the greatest popularity in the latter half of the century. This special pantry acted as a food prep and storage area for silver and china. In wealthier homes, it was the domain of butlers or other staff, hence it’s name. A separate pantry enjoyed popularity in many wealthy and middle-class homes for most of the 19th century, although new ideas and kitchen evolution appeared throughout. Catharine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe were the first to suggest combining the pantry with the kitchen in their instructional guide The American Woman’s Home from 1869, and around 1900 the Indiana-born Hoosier cabinet was advertised as a kitchen and pantry all-in-one. But, it was not until the 1920s when breakfast nooks and other design changes replaced separate pantries in many homes. Pond also reports that increased innovation in kitchen technology including refrigeration and other things rendered separate pantry spaces unnecessary. Finally, in the 1990s a renewed nostalgia for classic living instigated more separate pantry designs, and many people still desire them today.

Butler’s pantries were typically used by butlers or other household staff as a transition space between the kitchen and the dining area. This allowed kitchen smells to be separate from the dining area. Some contained warming ovens and iceboxes to keep foods at the ideal temperature between preparation and serving. There were also cabinets to store china, glasses, silverware, and linens, and often included locked cabinets to protect the most valuable items. Some included desks and other materials for the butler to manage things, and in Europe some butlers even slept in the pantry to prevent theft. Very lavish homes had the most state-of-the-art technology in their butler’s pantries, including bell or call systems to order specific food from the butler, with a servant call bell system connecting their rooms to the pantry. Pond also wrote an article with more on the history of pantries, as well as pantry herms for Old House Online, here. Here is more information on the history of pantries, especially during the Victorian era, and here is a fine example of a high-end historic butler’s pantry. Pantries, no matter how lavish or simple, are the epitome of organization, as conveyed by this quote by Mrs. Elizabeth Ellet in her guidebook The Practical Housekeeper (1857):

“Let there be a place for every article, and when not in use let every article be in its place.”

 

Examples of American Butler’s Pantries:

 

Butler’s pantry in Homewood, on the property of The Johns Hopkins University in Batlimore, MD, built in the Federal period in the Palladian architectural style between 1801 and 1803

 

 

 

 

The image above was taken by staff of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), in 1933. Image source: Library of Congress

 

Palatial butler’s pantry in The Breakers, one of the grand “cottages” in Newport, RI, built in the Italian Renaissance Revival architectural style between 1893 and 1895

 

 

 


The image above was taken by staff of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), in 1933. Image source: Library of Congress.

 

Butler’s pantry in The Perry Belmont House in Washington, D.C., built in the Beaux Arts architectural style, completed in 1909

 

 

 

 

The image above was taken by staff of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), in 1933. Image source: Library of Congress.

 

Butler’s pantry in a Company Officers’ Quarters (Type A) in Novato, CA, built as a project under The New Deal at Hamilton Army Air Field, in the Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style, completed in the early 1930’s

 

 

 

The image above was taken by staff of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), in 1933. Image source: Library of Congress.

 

Butler’s Pantries Today

Where to see them. 

  • (Virtual) museum tours – Check out historical house museums – if you’re lucky enough to find an open museum right now, visit in-person. Otherwise, see if their website has a virtual tour. Check out some of the museums listed above with the historical photos to start. You should also visit the Pierce-duPont House at Longwood Gardens in-peron when able, or virtually view these magnificent butler’s pantries (here and here). 
  • Photo gallery – View butler’s pantry images on wikimedia commons and flickr

Where to get them (i.e., how to design or create one). 

  • Antique/Salvage Business – If your home is missing a butler’s pantry, consult resources in this article to create one if you have the space. Try to find salvaged or antique materials to be most accurate (and sustainable) – here is some inspiration. 
  • Design tips – If unsure of design, check out resources – especially historically-styled ones – here, here, and here.

 

For further resources and reading:

  • For the most thorough book about pantries in general – including butler’s pantries – check out Catherine Seiberling Pond’s book, here. Also connect with more of her pantry resources through her various blogs, here
  • Read more about the lives and roles of servants (and butler’s pantries) in great homes here, here, here, and here

 

Stay tuned each month for a new installment in this UNIQUE HISTORICAL FEATURES SERIES! See last month’s post on Boot Scrapers.

 

SHARE WITH US!

DO YOU HAVE AN ORIGINAL  OR MODERN BUTLER’S PANTRY IN YOUR HOME?

FEEL FREE TO SHARE BELOW!

 

 

Bill Morrow, president of Langhorne Carpet Company in Penndel, PA, joined the Practical Preservation Podcast to discuss the company’s history and current operations. We covered multiple topics, including:

  • Bill’s family’s background in the carpet-making business, founding Langhorne Carpet Company in 1930
  • Henry Ford’s connection to the mill
  • The company’s basis on heritage and tradition – traditional weaving processes, original mill, original looms, and continued ownership by the founding family – and the distinction of being the longest continually-operated Wilton carpet mill in the United States
  • The history of and mechanisms involved in Wilton carpet production 
  • Products and services, including modern and historic reproduction Wilton carpets, and specialty custom carpet designs
  • Notable reproduction and restoration historical projects – including Congress Hall in Philadelphia, among many others – and the artistry involved in recreating these carpets
  • Benefits of Langhorne’s carpet, including its durable, natural, sustainable, and safe qualities – their wool-based carpets even help filter indoor air!

 

Contact/Follow: 

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Instagram

YouTube

Linkedin

General contact information

Bill reminds us that Langhorne Carpets is one of only a handful of Wilton carpet mills in the world – this distinction combined with the noted benefits of their carpet make it the perfect option for modern and historical property owners alike!

Sign up for their newsletter – here – or follow on Instagram to stay on top of sales and other news!

KEEPING YOUR HISTORIC HOME COOL IN SUMMER is an essential part of living comfortably today. But, how was it done in the past, and what can we do now? We’ve outlined the history and applicable steps for you. 

 

1880’s photo of a British home in India. Image source: Wikipedia’s entry on Punkahs

 

Historic Cooling and Passive Cooling

Older buildings (primarily those built prior to the mid-twentieth century) were built to be energy efficient and are the quintessence of passive cooling. Fuel was not easy to obtain or manage and it was not cheap. Many people today are surprised to learn that the biggest energy usage has been attributed to buildings built between the 1950’s-1970’s, according to GSA. Below are several features and methods used in the past that you can still successfully use today:

Homes built between the 1950’s-1970’s have been proven to use more energy than buildings before that time.

 

Cross Ventilation. Cross ventilation was frequently used. Cross ventilation refers to a passive way of supplying air to, and removing air from, an interior as a result of pressure differences from natural forces. This requires one opening for air to come in, and another for air to go out. Windows – particularly double -hung – are one way of accessing these natural forces. Open a lower window on the cooler side of the home, and an upper window on the warmer side of the home to be most effective. Tall, single-hung windows are also appropriate for allowing more air into the home. Opening as many windows (and doors and hallways) as possible will multiply the benefits. Other features that aid this natural cooling process include door and window transoms, undercut doors, window and door screens, louvered shutters, and shotgun and dogtrot/center hall-style architecture (both of which have windows or hallways front to back or side-to-side to allow for natural airflow).

The image above is of the John Looney House, a classic dogtrot-style home, attributed to photographer Chris (last name not listed), as found on the Wikipedia page on Natural Ventilation

 

Thermal Mass. Thermal mass – a building materials’ ability to store heat – can also play a significant role in passive cooling. A house with thick (especially stone-based) walls can act as a conduit for passive cooling via thermal mass, if nighttime temperature is cool enough. Ideally, the building/wall material will cool overnight, allowing for cooler daytime temperatures because it will only slowly warm over the course of the day (and release that warmth at night). 

 

The image above of a stone mason is by flickr user diamondmountain, as found on the Wikipedia page on Masonry

 

Shutters. Louvered shutters (those that are constructed with overlapping uniform slats of wood set into a frame) allowed air circulation and privacy. They allow for air flow while blocking direct sunlight and heat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The image above is of a louvered shutter we built for the Hampton National Historic Site

 

Porches and Awnings. Porches and awnings both act as blocks from solar radiation, resulting in cooler internal temperature. “Sleeping” porches to sleep outside during warmer summer months (popular in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods) were another way to enjoy a cooler experience. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The image above is of the porch at the historic Harris-Cameron Mansion following Keperling Preservation Service’s porch restoration

 

Shade Landscaping. Shade trees are an obvious aid for a cooler home. Shrubs, bushes, and groundcover are also beneficial; they can provide shade as well as absorb heat radiation and cool the air prior to it reaching your home (unlike a paved yard-space which is more likely to reflect heat). These plants can also shade existing pavement to decrease heat.               

 

The image above is by Arno Senoner on Unsplash.

 

Other Methods. Homeowners of the past also employed other practical ways to cool their homes. According to an article from New Orleans Architecture Tours, homeowners modified interior design and decoration by exchanging heavier draperies for light linens and lace (which could double as window screens). Thick rugs could be replaced with grass mats. Furniture was covered by linen or cotton. They also adjusted food preparation and meal location; preparing foods with minimal cooking to avoid heating the home unnecessarily, and having more picnic meals outdoors. 

 

 

 

Image of the painting “Ready for the Ball” by artist Sophie Anderson, from the Wikipedia entry on Hand fan

 

How to Cool Your Historic Home Today

There may be no need to reinvent the wheel. If you are lucky enough to own a historic home, particularly one whose old features are intact, a practical preservation method would be to use one or all of the time-tested passive cooling methods noted above. This will not only honor your home’s heritage and historic fabric, it will also save you money over the long-term, and benefit the environment. However, we acknowledge that practically-speaking, sometimes passive cooling alone is not sufficient. Below are several modern options that can effectively cool your home and simultaneously have minimal impact on the integrity of your home’s historic fabric: 

Time-tested passive cooling methods can save modern homeowners money and be energy efficient.

 

Window and Portable Units. These are a classic, generally economical option, though there are cautions for historical homes. Window units may not easily fit into old windows due to size differences and inconsistency in some older windows. They also put significant pressure on sills and walls due to their weight. The water drips often created by the cooling system can also cause damage to the window and surrounding walls. Portable units can also sometimes leak, causing damage to historic floors. 

Targeted Cooling. Mini-split systems are a ductless, targeted form of heating and cooling. The indoor unit is mounted to the ceiling or wall and the cooled refrigerant is pumped in via refrigerant lines that run to the outdoor unit. These may be ideal for difficult-to-cool areas of the home, particularly additions or enclosed rooms that do not have ductowork. However, beware that they require drilling through the wall of your home for installation; once this is done, it is hard to undo. Further, these are not low profile, so visually, they disrupt the flow of a historic interior and exterior. 

High-Velocity Cooling. SpacePak and the UNICO system are high-velocity/low impact systems. They work similarly to central air, but are about 1/10 the size of a traditional central air system. Both require ducts, but they are small and the vents are minimally-intrusive. They are generally installed in attics/upper floors to allow cooler air to drop down. These are less disruptive, more visually-seamless options than the aforementioned cooling systems so they are better at maintaining the integrity of a home’s historic fabric, and frequently recommended by preservation contractors. Listen to our podcast with UNICO here.

 

IN SUMMARY:

There are several passive and active options for cooling your historic home. Arm yourself with knowledge before you decide what options are best for your home and your budget. 

 

For further resources and reading:

  • The EPA provides a detailed resource on energy efficiency in old homes here, and we also discuss energy efficiency here and here
  • Read about a historical landmark’s retrofitted HVAC here.
  • Learn more ways people stayed cool before air conditioning here and here.
  • Learn about the advent and evolution of air conditioning here.

PART 3 PRESERVATION MONTH 2020 SERIES

LAST WEEK WE PRESENTED PART 2 on How to Preserve a Building. Part 3 of this series focuses on the economic benefits of preservation. If you’re reading this, you likely already know the qualitative benefits of preservation for communities – aesthetic appeal, educational opportunities, sustainability, and revitalization – but there are also proven quantitative benefits, including economic ones. Although Jane Jacobs – the innovative urbanist and activist – made statements that were not initially supported by factual data, many of her observations have since been corroborated since she first made them in the mid-twentieth century. Specifically, in her ground-breaking book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs stated regarding old houses: 

“Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings.”

Most writers who’ve analyzed her work and this quote agree that her point was that we rely on the past to build the future, and must refine what worked before in order to meet new needs. In another way, this idea also refers to the reality that businesses (especially newly-launching start-ups) or homeowners need older buildings for their often lower price-points and economic benefits, compared to newer (often more expensive) construction. So, the benefits of old buildings for “new ideas” is both conceptual and practical. Read on to learn more about the economic benefits of preservation.


Photo by Brandon Jean on Unsplash

 

QUANTITATIVE BENEFITS OF PRESERVATION:

The following categories are small a selection of some of the most commonly examined areas of benefit, although many other representative areas of value have been studied and described, including those listed here.

  • Real estate value. Historic designation is a ubiquitous component of preservation in cities and neighborhoods, and one of the most common means of preserving multiple dwellings or buildings. However, common negative assumptions about formally-designated historic districts abound; fear of restriction and violation of property owners’ rights – including untenable regulations and decreased property value – are concerns typically voiced by those opposed to preservation and historic designation. While many preservationist and urban experts agree that more rigorous study must continually be done to examine these concerns, valuable information has been gleaned from existing data analyses that reveals the economic benefits of preservation, and some of the findings do contradict these negative assumptions and arguments against preservation/designation. Community historic preservation has been shown to increase real estate value. Place Economics noted that repeated studies over the past 30 years refute the aforementioned arguments against historic designation and preservation in terms of impact on property value.  While they agree it is often true that increased property value equates in increased property taxes (which can be challenging for some homeowners), simultaneously, they found that the “cash flow problem is offset 40 to 67 times by the increased wealth.” Based on a 2012 study in Pennsylvania specifically, an analysis of 3 separate Pennsylvania historic districts revealed significant property value increases. Homes in designated historic districts realized greater value than homes in non-designated areas, had immediate 2% value increases compared to other homes, and appreciated at an annual rate of 1% higher than other homes. This positive effect spread to homes near the designated district, with those prices increasing 1.6% with each mile closer to the district. 

 

  • Local business promotion/New jobs. Place Economics discussed not only how small businesses are a boon to cities, but also focused on the advantages of small and local businesses housed in historic districts and historic buildings. Among those old-building benefits they point to attractive, small spaces, and competitive rent prices. They cite various cities where a large percentage of small or local businesses are located in historic districts. In some cases, those same districts account for a larger percentage of female and minority ownership. Many of these historically-located businesses are start-ups, which in and of themselves typically account for a significant percentage of new job creation in many cities. David J. Brown of the National Trust for Historic Preservation also noted the power of preservation itself for creating new jobs, including those that cannot be outsourced.

 

  • Neighborhood diversity/Affordable housing. While many still assume historically-designated neighborhoods are made up of upper-class, mostly Caucasian people – and while that is still the case in some places –  there are increasing exceptions. Place Economics shared several illustrative cases of diverse historic neighborhoods, in terms of racial, ethnic, and economic heterogeneity. A related point is that this diversity allows for more affordability in some of these districts, another contradiction to the stereotypical view of over-priced historic homes, and are credited with being part of the solution to lack of affordable housing in cities. Donovan Rypkema discusses old buildings and affordable housing in-depth.

 

  • Sustainability. We’ve discussed the sustainability benefits of preservation numerous times over the years, and recently were fortunate to discuss these things more directly during a podcast interview with Amalia Leifeste and Barry Stiefel, authors of Sustainable Heritage: Merging Environmental Conservation and Historic Preservation. Place Economics also cited several pieces of literature on the topic, in addition to Leifeste and Stiefel’s book. A summation of their cited findings indicates that compared to new construction and development (even when new construction uses allegedly “Green” or sustainable new products), historic buildings not only contribute less to pollution, waste, and use of resources including energy, they have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

 

  • Heritage tourism. Place Economics reports that “Consistent findings in both the US and internationally indicate that heritage visitors stay longer, visit more places, and spend more per day than do tourists with no interest in historic resources.” Heritage tourism as an industry contributes significantly to jobs for locals as well as revenue for the local economy, as the services these tourists consume extend beyond the heritage tourism services alone. These other services include local lodging, food and beverages, local transportation, retail purchases, and entertainment. PHMC’s economic report for Pennsylvania also examined heritage tourism, and included a review of 3 sets of locations which collectively accounted for 32 million visitors annually, as of 2011. An estimation of local expenditures from heritage tourism visitors in 2010 indicated visitor spending accounted for $1 billion annually for Pennsylvania, in the previously-mentioned service categories. 

 

This is by no means an exhaustive guide, but we hope this general overview will give you a sense of some of the most pertinent economic benefits of preservation, historic designation and adaptive reuse. We also hope it will encourage you to explore the topic further on your own. For more in-depth study, you may refer to some of the following resources:

 

Next week: PART 4 OF THIS SERIES focuses on the Substitute Materials.

Rabbit Goody, owner, designer, and master weaver of Thistle Hill Weavers, joined the Practical Preservation podcast to discuss information about her background in weaving, and museum curation and consultation. We covered a multitude of topics including:

  • Rabbit’s interwoven skill-sets and background, starting with her intuitive skills as a teen-aged weaver, and her academic backgrounds in anthropology and museum curation and consultation
  • The inception of Thistle Hill Weavers, including saving discarded weaving machines from old mills
  • Products and services, ranging from interior fabrics for architectural firms to clothing fabric for sustainable clothing designers, as well as personal projects for private homeowners
  • The process involved in commissioning fabrics from Thistle Hill Weavers
  • Notable projects, from interior fabrics in the homes of deceased presidents to historically-accurate fabric in movies 
  • Tips for homeowners to follow their own style with interior design

 

Contact/Follow:

Phone – toll free (866) 384-2729

Emailwebsite contact form 

Website

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From the online shop, Rabbit recommends: Window treatment book, on sale (here), or the fabric sample pack, which includes 3 samples of every type of fabric (here).