Every May, the National Trust for Historic Preservation picks a new theme for their National Preservation Month.  This year, they’ve built it around: “See! Save! Celebrate!” to encourage us to see our historic places, save the threatened ones, and celebrate the vital role they play in our communities.

To support that goal, we’re going to do a three-part blog series with each post focusing on one aspect of the theme.  Last week we posted about seeing PA historical architecturewith an overview of the styles found in Pennsylvania and the time period they are associated with, and we gave you resources for saving historic buildings in another blog post.

Now we want to celebrate projects that saved historic buildings in Pennsylvania for future generations and give you a list of ways you can support and encourage historic preservation projects.

First I’m going to begin by tooting our own horn a little bit.  In November of 2011, we began working on a project that looked like this:

historic restoration


The Franklin Street Train Station in Reading, PA was originally built in the 1920’s.  In 1972 when Hurricane Agnes destroyed the building, it was abandoned and sat empty until 2011 when the Berks Area Regional Transit Authority began the massive undertaking of restoring the building to its original glory so they could use it as a bus terminal for their public busing system.

After sitting abandoned for 40 years, the building was in terrible shape.  Such terrible shape that in 1999 it was listed as being “At Risk” on the PA At Risk list of threatened historic buildings.  The flooding of Hurricane Agnes did the initial damage, but vagrants and vandals over the years, as well as several fires, decimated the building.

historic building preservation


historic building


historic preservation



Every May, the National Trust for Historic Preservation picks a new theme for their National Preservation Month.  This year, they’ve built it around: “See! Save! Celebrate!” to encourage us to see our historic places, save the threatened ones, and celebrate the vital role they play in our communities.

To support that goal, we’re going to do a three-part blog series with each post focusing on one aspect of the theme.  Last week we posted about seeing PA historical architecture with an overview of the styles found in Pennsylvania and the time period they are associated with.  With this post we’re focusing on “Save!” since Pennsylvania’s historical architecture is certainly worth saving.

If you’re reading our blog, you likely know why it’s important to save our historic buildings – they preserve our architectural heritage and character, they give us a window into the past, they save on energy consumption and invigorate local economies, etc.

But do you know what to do to save a threatened building?

Save Historic BuildingsSave Historic HomesSave Abandoned Buildings



Resources to Save Historic Buildings

I want to start by being brutally honest about a few things.  There is no guarantee a threatened historic building will be saved and not every historic building should be saved.

If you’re recovered from the shock of those truths, read on to learn about the preservation resources you can use to try and save the ones that are important to you and your community:



A HARB is a public advisory body created by state and local laws that oversees exterior alterations to any building in a federally designated historic district that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  HARB’s typically reviews changes such as alterations to roof lines, changes in openings, demolition of projections, additions to the building, changes in exterior treatments.  In creating their recommendations, HARB’s generally take into account the impact of the changes on the historic and architectural character of the district and its streetscapes, the cohesiveness of the changes with the building’s architectural style, and whether or not the materials and workmanship proposed are in keeping with the historic nature of the building.

If you are concerned about changes to a threatened historic building you would like to protect, your first step is to determine whether or not that building exists in a federally designated historic district overseen by a HARB.  If it is, you can find out more information about the changes from the HARB process.



Here in Lancaster, PA, the need to protect the overall character of our many historic buildings and streetscapes was recognized and in 1999 the Heritage Conservation District was created by City Council to protect those buildings not in the historic district overseen by the HARB review process.  The Lancaster Historical Commission oversees the Heritage Conservation District and must review all new construction and demolition on a building in the district.  Between the HARB and the Historical Commission, there are over 20,000 historic buildings protected by a review process in Lancaster.

If you are concerned about a threatened historic building in your community you can first investigate whether or not a review process has been created for buildings not in a designated district reviewed by HARB.  If there is no review process for those buildings, you can open a conversation in your community and with your local governing officials about creating one.



The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a private, nonprofit organization created in 1949 that provides leadership, education, advocacy and resources to save historic sites. The Trust can help donors with everything from obtaining additional funds and working with architects and contractors to enlisting community support, getting buildings listed on national and state registers of historic places, or even obtaining plaques for historic structures.

They also have a National Trust Preservation Fund provides financial assistance and direct investment to support preservation efforts in cities, towns, and rural areas. The Trust also has a Main Street Center, which promotes the revitalization of commercial districts and downtowns, combining historic preservation with economic development.



If the building you are trying to save is a religious building, monument, or institution you can turn to Partners for Sacred Places, a national, nonsectarian, nonprofit organization that provides training and resources to congregations that focuses on preserving religious sites.



Held each fall, the National Preservation Conference is the the single best source for information, ideas, inspiration, and contacts for professionals in preservation and allied fields, dedicated volunteers, and serious supporters.  For more information, visit the conference website or call 202-588-6100.



The National Trust offers booklets on preservation issues, including topics such as Appraising Historic Properties, Buyer’s Guide to Older and Historic Houses, Design Review in Historic Districts, Rescuing Historic Resources: How to Respond to a Preservation Emergency, Coping with Contamination: A Primer for Preservationists, and Protecting America’s Historic Neighborhoods: Taming the Teardown Trend.



There are a multitude of national and local preservation organizations with a wealth of information and resources you can use to identify threatened historic properties and organize community efforts to save them.  You can find these organization by Googling key search terms like “preservation organization”, “preservation society”, “historical society”, etc. – adding in the locality you are trying to find them in.  Don’t discount national organizations, though, they are valuable too!




Preservation Pennsylvania has released their “Pennsylvania At-Risk: Twenty-Year Retrospective of Pennsylvania’s Endangered Historic Properties, Where Are They Now” edition.  It’s a fascinating look at preservation in action and we’ll be posting a look at each property in a series of posts over the next several months.

First up…

Preservation Pennsylvania established the annual Pennsylvania At Risk list in 1992, making us the first statewide preservation organization in the United States to have an annual roster of endangered historic properties. Since 1992, we have listed and worked to
preserve more than 200 endangered  historic resources, including individual buildings, historic districts and thematic resources statewide. For 2012, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of our organization, we are presenting a 20-year retrospective edition of Pennsylvania At Risk. In this issue, we revisit some of the amazing historic places across the Commonwealth, some of which have been rescued from extinction through preservation and rehabilitation efforts, and others that still need our help.

Approximately 18% of Pennsylvania’s At Risk properties have been lost,  having been demolished or substantially altered. Another 32% have been saved or are in a condition or situation where the identified threat no longer poses a problem for the historic property. Approximately 50% of the 201 At Risk resources remain in danger, or we have not been able to confirm their current status as either saved or lost.

By monitoring these properties over the past 20 years and working with individuals and organizations trying to preserve them, we have learned many valuable lessons. Those lessons are called out throughout this publication.


1992 — Carrie Furnaces, Allegheny County


In 1900, Andrew Carnegie built a physical link across the Monongahela River between the
Carrie Furnaces and the Homestead Steel Works, creating one of the largest steel plants in the country. Built in 1906-1907, Carrie Furnaces 6 and 7 are the only remaining pre-World War II era blast furnaces in Pittsburgh. The furnaces are exceptionally significant, rare examples of a once common type of American iron production system. They also reflect advances in iron-making technology during the first half of the 20th century, which was critical to the development of mass-production in the highly mechanized American steel industry. The region’s steel industry collapsed in the 1970s, and many facilities, including U.S. Steel’s Homestead Works, closed. Subsequently, much of the facility was demolished.

The surviving tall, cylindrical blast furnace stacks represent a small but important component of the modern, integrated blast furnace plant. Recognizing the significance of these surviving industrial elements, individuals, organizations and municipalities have been working hard for 20 years to preserve the Carrie Furnaces. In 2005, Allegheny County acquired the Carrie Furnace property, and in 2006, the site was designated as a National Historic Landmark.

After extensive planning, the property is undergoing a program of selective demolition
and restoration to make the site safe and suitable for public visitation, as well as a $78 million stabilization and renovation that will allow visitors to climb a series of walkways around these huge industrial furnaces and see them up close. This effort is central to a $500 million brownfield restoration project being led by Allegheny County. Project partners, including the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area (Rivers of Steel) and the Steel Industry Heritage Council, among others, hope to preserve the remaining industrial structures as one of the focal points of the proposed Homestead Works National Park; multi-use light commercial, office and residential development will occur around
the historic landmark. In the meantime, Rivers of Steel is offering tours of the Carrie Furnaces property from April through October.

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Produced by Restore Media: Clem Labine’s Traditional BuildingClem Labine’s Period Homes, and the Traditional Building Exhibition and Conference, the following free webinar is being offered on September 19th:

Click here to register for this webinar.

Credits Where Credits Are Due: Tax Credits for Historic Preservation Projects 

September 18, 2012, 2:00 p.m., 90 minutes, 1.5 AIA HSW LUs

For more than 30 years, generous federal tax credits have been the driving economic force behind the rehabilitation of historic structures in the United States. Through case studies of successful projects, learn how to earn tax credits while navigating a sometimes exacting process. This is a must-attend event for architects, contractors, building owners, and developers.

Learning Objectives

After the session, participants will be able to do the following:

  • Discuss in detail the federal tax credit program for the rehabilitation of historic buildings.
  • Identify essential characteristics – both in design and construction – sucessful projects share.
  • Apply the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation to individual projects.
  • Cite lessons from the tax credit-worthy projects presented during the Webinar.


Staff from the National Park Service, Washington, D.C.


Judy L. Hayward, education director, Traditional Building Exhibition and Conference and Traditional Building Conference Series, Restore Media, LLC, Washington, D.C.

Exciting news just in….from Preservation Pennsylvania:

Historic Tax Credit Established in Pennsylvania
On Saturday, June 30, Pennsylvania became the 30th state in the country to have a state historic tax credit when Governor Tom Corbett signed the FY 2013 Commonwealth Budget and established the Historic Preservation Incentive Act. (Click on the link to read an overview of the act.) This tax credit will be a companion to the very successful federal tax credit program.
Preservation Pennsylvania thanks the General Assembly for the establishment of this program that will offer a 25% state tax credit for the rehabilitation of qualified income-producing buildings that are also using the federal tax credit. By leveraging the existing 20% federal tax credit with an additional 25% state credit, the program will help lure investment into Pennsylvania. Data show that states with state credits tend to have an advantage over states that do not have tax credits in attracting investment in historic rehabilitation.
“We are thrilled with the passage of this legislation,” said Mindy Crawford, Executive Director of Preservation Pennsylvania. “This program is not just about historic preservation – it is about local jobs, economic development, neighborhood revitalization and vibrant strong communities. Pennsylvania has historically been one of the strongest users of the federal tax credit and the creation of a state tax credit will result in more projects that return abandoned buildings to useful life and place them back on the tax rolls.”
Credit for moving this effort forward goes to Senator Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, who introduced the legislation and continued championing for it throughout budget negotiations. Representative Robert Freeman, D-Northampton, who advocated for this legislation in the House and helped move it to the finish line. In the end, this program was established as part of the Commonwealth Budget in the Tax Reform Code.
Efforts to establish this credit in Pennsylvania began in 1996 under the leadership of former State Representative Tom Tangretti, D-Westmoreland, who worked for the passage of this program until his retirement in 2008. Many groups and individuals worked to advocate for the passage of this program during the last 16 years. We thank each and every one of you for your efforts.
What’s Next? The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the Department of Economic and Community Development will develop the program guidelines. The credit goes into effect July 1, 2012 but the first tax credits will not be issued until after July 1, 2013. Just like the federal program, this credit is issued after the project is completed. To start, the program is limited to $3 million annually with an individual project cap of $500,000. Please check the Preservation Pennsylvania website for the latest information.

On Tuesday A. Tamasin Sterner from Pure Energy Coach spoke on the topic of indoor air quality at the monthly breakfast meeting for the Central Pennsylvania Preservation Society (CPPS).  
A single hour in Tamasin’s presence, is easily one of the most informative hours you’ll ever experience in your life and Tuesday was no exception.  The Historic Restorations family and other attendees at the meeting learned what the single most important aspect of energy efficiency and healthy air in a home is:
Balancing the air that goes out with fresh air coming in to achieve a neutral pressure field. 

Energy expert Tamasin Sterner shares her knowledge of Indoor Air Quality

It turns out, balance and moderation are not just good for your waistline and stress levels, it’s good for the air in your buildings too. Tamasin taught us how to evaluate and balance the air flow in buildings and the kinds of things that impact air flow patterns.  Not only does balanced air flow maximize energy efficiency, it protects the health of the building’s occupants and users, and preserves the materials and structure of the building.  
We were particularly interested to learn about the many ways air flow balance in a home is disturbed with all the seemingly innocuous improvements and changes we make to buildings that aren’t things we would have connected to impacting energy efficiency.  
Did you know that recessed lights placed near an air return can make you sick?  That sealing off the roof in your house can create moisture issues?  That even the appliances in your kitchen can create an imbalance in the health of the air of your house?  Did you know that many times asthma and allergy issues are directly related to the health of the air at home?  Did you know that sealing a house is really only half of the picture of energy efficiency?  Do you know what the other half is?  
It’s ventilation.  Without proper ventilation, insulating a house well is actually a bad thing.  It will decrease your energy efficiency, lower the quality of the air you breathe, and set up prime conditions for developing moisture issues.
Tamasin gave us those tidbits and tons of other information in her presentation, but perhaps the most surprising information from the presentation was

There is one single, simple, FREE, thing that all HVAC installers should be doing (but aren’t!) to check for proper drafting and ventilation when a new system is installed in a house and how to ask for it to make sure it gets done.  

When 30% of houses have high levels of carbon monoxide, 80% of houses have gas leaks, and the most common cause of older and historic building deterioration is uncontrolled moisture, this is critical information to have.  

Balancing the air in our buildings can not only contribute to energy conservation, it will keep our buildings healthy so the humans that use them stay healthy in order to continue expanding our healthy and living historical preservation.  
Healthy buildings.  Healthy Humans.  Healthy Histories.

If you haven’t yet attended a monthly breakfast meeting for CPPS, or you don’t make it a habit to attend regularly, you should.  Meetings are only $15, include a continental breakfast spread (with The Cork Factory Hotel’s homemade pastries), and expert presenters that cover a variety of topics.  You can see their upcoming schedule and register to attend one of their monthly breakfast meetings at: centralpennsylvaniapreservationsociety.org/events.

Columbia Market House

Work on the Columbia Market commenced on October 12, 2009 with a 120 day project schedule, since this is a “working” market with stand holders open for business on Thursdays and Fridays, work is to be done in 10 hour days, Monday through Wednesday with Saturday and Sunday optional work days. Historic Restorations is restoring the fourteen original windows. On site the entire windows are removed and the openings are secured with plywood, in the shop the old glass is gently removed, cleaned and labeled for re-installation at the end of the process. The wood mullions, rails and stiles are stripped of their old paint and sanded in preparation for a fresh coat of paint. Any rot or damaged wood is repaired or replaced, if necessary. After one coat of primer the windows are reunited with their original glass and any extra glass that may have been purchased to replace broken panes . Meanwhile, on site in Columbia, the exterior and interior window trim is being prepared to receive the refurbished windows, wood filler, sanding and missing pieces are used to create an exceptionable frame and architectural detail for form and function. Today Historic Restorations is about half way through our portion of this project, we are thrilled with the transformation and honored to be a part of this historic buildings story. If you ever get to this little river town, on a Thursday or Friday, stop by the Market, the oldest in the United States or have a virtual visit, www.columbiahistoricmarkethouse.com

Last weekend Chuck, Lois, Jonathan, and Danielle traveled to Boston for the Traditional Building Show. The Traditional Building Exhibition and Conference is sponsored by Restore Media and features a trade show with traditional building products and seminars featuring traditional building topics (both theory and practical). The focus of most of this spring’s seminars where the green building movement within preservation – more posts about that later.
Chuck and Danielle presented ‘Traditional Building Methods vs. Modern Approaches’ on Saturday, March 14th. We have many seminars we have developed for various preservation groups – soon we will have a listing with description posted on our web site.
These pictures (above) where taken at the Boston Commons on our only adventure outside of the convention center (who ever designed the convention center, which is a combination of a mall, offices, restaurants, hotels, and the actual convention space, knew how to keep people entertained within the confines of the area). We did not realize celebrating for St. Patrick’s Day was beginning over the the weekend – we had a hard time finding a restaurant with room. We did walk the Freedom Trail to Paul Revere’s house and found a little Italian restaurant to eat in.
Once we have time to digest the various seminars we attended we will post summaries on our blog to share the knowledge we have acquired.

On Sunday, October 19, Chuck, Lois, Jonathan, Danielle, and Josh attended the Architectural History Tour of the Northeast Lancaster Township Historic District. The tour was appropriately called “Mansions on Marietta” and highlighted buildings built as the first suburban development in Lancaster County.

The oldest house on the tour was built in 1828 and is Wheatland home of 15th President James Buchanan. The other six homes on the tour (private residences) where built between 1920 and 1939. These houses reminded us of the “old” (at least 100 years old) building on the West Coast.