Offer for our listeners: 15% off any order from Bolling & Co over $100.00 CODE: PP21
Josh Coleman and Mike Eenigenburg of Lancaster County Timber Frames Inc. joined us this week to discuss their work in traditional building and timber framing, including hidden gems in historic work, and how to accurately restore or replace framing while adjusting to new codes and requirements.
You can find Lancaster Timber Frames on their website.
“Heavy Timber Structures: Creating Comfort in Public Spaces” by Tony Zaya and Tim Diener of Lancaster County Timber Frames is sold on Amazon.
A few weeks ago an article was posted to the Preservation Professionals group on Facebook. You can read the article here: https://www.rewire.org/how-discussions-of-neighborhood-character-reinforce-structural-racism/. The article is an interesting discussion of how redevelopment can impact the the neighborhood qualities and characteristics especially in relation to affordable housing. The example used in the article is from St. Paul, Minnesota and the proposed development of a Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant (closed for over a decade). A developer purchased the site and proposed an adaptive reuse with 3,800 housing units of those 20% would be affordable housing. Based on these facts (as I know them) I do not think this is inconsistent with the neighborhood, it is preserving the buildings, and affordable housing is a problem in America that needs a solution. There are studies that mixed income neighborhoods are mutually beneficial (https://www.useful-community-development.org/mixed-income-housing.html). The neighbors lived near an operating auto manufacturer for many years and it do not have a negative impact on the property values and I would assume housing would be less disruptive than manufacturing to the surrounding area.
Locally there is a proposed redevelopment of a former hospital site in North West Lancaster (near Franklin and Marshall College). Reading the numbers of units the developer is proposing (a total of 245 units projected on the low end. With 120 as low-and-moderate income units) will significantly alter this neighborhood. I understand that the developer needs have a certain number of units to make the financials work for the project. Here’s a link to the article from LancasterOnline:
I agree that redeveloping the existing building is positive for the community. The proposed number of units is concerning to me from a streetscape standpoint. They are proposing, “Building 25 to 30 row homes for sale along West End Avenue between West Walnut Street and Marietta Avenue, restoring how the block looked before it became hospital parking.” I am sure there were never 25 to 30 row houses in one city block. There are traditional row houses in this neighborhood (along with larger single family homes – it was part of the first push to the suburbs from Lancaster City). The Sanborn Map below shows the neighborhood with the original hospital building (replaced in the 1960’s):
Squeezing 25 to 30 row house on to a single block will change the look of the neighborhood. The Secretary of Interior Standard #9 states, “New additions, exterior alterations, or related new construction will not destroy historic materials, features, and spatial relationships that characterize the property. The new work shall be differentiated from the old and compatible with the historic materials, features, size, scale and proportion, and massing to protect the integrity of the property and its environment.” Any proposed new construction should be required to meet these standards.
There is not a one size fits all answer to development and preservation. I remind people that zoning and development decisions are made at the local level. If you want to help shape the development, demolition permission process, or the historic preservation protections you must get involved locally.
THIS IS A RE-POST OF A PODCAST INTERVIEW WE ORIGINALLY POSTED March 2019:
- How barn styles varied from region to region
- What makes barn construction unique
- The type of barn Danielle had never heard of
We also discussed the services Greg offers documenting barns and researching house histories, the barn tours and seminars, and the books he has written.
Greg Huber, Architectural Historian
Gregory Huber – of Past Perspectives and Eastern Barn Consultants
• Gregory D. Huber is an independent scholar, consultant and principal owner of both Past Perspectives and Eastern Barn Consultants, historic and cultural resources companies that are based in Macungie, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.
• His special focus is in House Histories and Barn Histories of historic homesteads in southeast Pennsylvania and beyond.
• A student of early vernacular architecture since 1971, Huber has specialized in pre-1850 barn and house architecture of Holland Dutch in New York State and northern New Jersey and Pennsylvania Swiss-German and certain English settled areas of the northeast.
• Huber’s latest book – out in August 2017 – The Historic Barns of Southeastern Pennsylvania – Architecture and Preservation – Built 1750 to 1900 has reached Number One Book on the Amazon Best Seller list in its specific category – Vernacular Architecture
• He is author of more than 270 articles on barn and house architecture and is co-author of two other books and editor of another book – Barns – A Close-up Look.
• He has lectured to more than 225 audiences and led dozens of barn and house tours in several states of the northeast.
• He is available for historic homestead consultation work on old houses and barns.
For this week’s blog feature we decided to focus on a story of monumental love and history, in honor of Valentine’s Day this Friday. If you’re a romantic, there’s a love story for you. If you’re not a romantic, never fear! We’ve included our usual focus on historical buildings and materials, and in this case, renovation and rehabilitation efforts at the site. This post includes something for everyone!
Boldt Castle. Photo courtesy of Laura K.
First, for the romantics among our readers:
Set on Heart Island (how apropos!) in Alexandria Bay in the Thousand Islands region of Upstate New York, Boldt Castle – a castle reminiscent of palaces scattered throughout the Rhineland-Palatinate state of Germany and built in the chateauesque architectural style – and its surrounding buildings originated from the love of a man for his wife. More specifically, that man was George C. Boldt, the proprietor of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, New York. His wife was Louise Boldt, a native of Pennsylvania, and the daughter of his former employer. Various accounts note they fell in love within a short time of meeting and that they were close companions in love, life, and business; Louise’s hostess and decorating skills were said to complement Boldt’s hotel business beautifully. They had two children and the family frequently vacationed to the Thousand Islands. Boldt decided to combine his love for his wife and the islands in an over-the-top show of affection, and no standard box of chocolates or bouquet of roses would do. He put his significant wealth to use creating a monument of his love for Louise on his newly-dubbed “Heart” Island (formally known as Hart Island after the previous owner); note the oft-repeated heart motif in the photos below.
As with many love stories, this one has a tragic twist. In January 1904, not long before Valentine’s Day, Boldt’s beloved wife Louise, the inspiration for this fairy tale island project, suddenly passed away still in her early 40’s. The grief-stricken Boldt immediately called a halt to construction on the project and never returned, reportedly unable to bear setting foot there without Louise. The magnificent work of countless artisans was left to deteriorate for most of the next century, a decaying representation echoing Boldt’s heart-break. Years later, the Boldts’ granddaughter even co-authored a book about the story.
Tile detail of heart motif. Photo courtesy of Laura K.
Heart motif in stained glass dome. Photo courtesy of Laura K.
Heart motif on castle exterior. Photo courtesy of Laura K.
Heart motif hidden in stone corner. Photo courtesy of Laura K.
Now, for the non-romantics:
For lovers of historical architecture, the years of deterioration and vandalism of the Boldt Castle property on Heart Island could have been a heart-breaking tragedy in and of itself. Luckily, in the late 1970’s the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property and agreed all net revenues from the castle operation would contribute to its rehabilitation and restoration. The full-size Rhineland castle and other structures on the island have slowly been rehabilitated over the years, and projects are ongoing.
Detail of unfinished and vandalized interior wall. Photo courtesy of Laura K.
Bedroom intended for Louise, fully restored. Photo courtesy of Laura K.
However, some concerns have been noted regarding the historical integrity of the site by astute preservation-minded people – including Thousand Islands author and architectural historian, the late Paul Malo – who have pointed out that as each room becomes renovated, little to no preservation is done on aspects of those rooms in their original state. Much of the rehabilitation efforts reportedly have been completed with entirely new plans and materials, with little reference to original plans and materials and ignoring replacement-in-kind, despite the proposed original intentions of the Bridge Authority. Further, little of the detailed historical context is presented on-site, and tours are self-guided with only small plaques with limited information throughout the property. Previous reports by those affiliated with the site and behind the rehabilitation acknowledge that compromises were made between restoration and preservation in some cases, in favor of economic sustainability and what would draw tourism to the site. Those same sources have asserted that, contrary to questions by preservationists, extensive research and expertise were involved in carefully assuming what the project might have originally looked like had it been completed as planned.
The treatment of Boldt Castle over the past 40-plus years serves as an example of important discussion points for historians, preservationists, history-buffs, and even private-home owners and the general public, including deciding when restoration or rehabilitation are more appropriate than preservation. What is the best way to marry such projects with modern needs such as tourism, education, and cost? More specifically, should we focus on what makes the general public happy and creates the most revenue (including romanticized stories that are possibly embellished and may even promote more deviation from the truth in the form of updates to a property driven by the legendary tales) at the cost of historical integrity? Should the love of love, or any questionable history or desire we have about how we wish things had been, be allowed to dictate how we care for or update a historic monument?
Regardless, no matter where one stands in terms of their romantic or preservation-mindedness, no one can deny the beauty of Boldt Castle. Its beautiful love story and aesthetic beauty remind us of all the ways we can show and feel love.
P.S. If you would like to experience Boldt Castle for yourself, visit the website to learn more. If the Boldt Castle project has inspired you to learn more about maintenance and preservation, visit our post on maintaining your historical house and other resources on our blog. If you’re looking for a gift for yourself or a loved one for Valentine’s Day, consider sharing a free copy of our “Maintenance is Preservation” Booklet report – just send us a request via our contact page.
Cory Van Brookhoven and Lowell Wenger of Lititz Historical Foundation joined the Practical Preservation podcast to discuss information about the museum and general Lititz history. We covered a multitude of topics including:
- The Moravian origins of the town, including town regulations about who could live in the town proper and rules against taverns or dancing in the streets!
- History of the museum and the homes it is housed in
- Unique artifacts owned by the museum, including a recent acquisition relevant to early postal service and ongoing preservation efforts
- The large geographical area accounted for by tourists to the museum
- Diverse events the museum hosts, including weddings
- Ways the public can learn, participate, or contribute to the museum – note that this year, their season begins in April, a month earlier than usual!
Scott T. Hanson of Your Historic House joined the Practical Preservation podcast to discuss his book, Restoring Your Historic House, the result of 4 years of hard work and dedication to present a practical and comprehensive guide for historic homeowners. We covered a multitude of topics including:
- How the present-day Conway Scenic Railroad and train station served as a catalyst for Scott’s passion for preservation
- Scott’s observation that a dearth of information on preservation for homeowners necessitated filling that gap, and inspired him to write his book
- Lessons, challenges, and resources for aspiring preservationists and homeowners
- Advice for homeowners interested in preservation, restoration, or rehabilitation, including practical examples of ways to offset costs
- The book’s detailed inspiring stories of homeowners’ projects, including a description a local Central PA project featured in (and on the front cover!) of the book
- Information on book-purchasing options and opportunities to meet Scott
Scott T. Hanson
Amazon.com for a discounted price
Scott’s website for signed and personalized signed copies, as well as other books for sale
Age is not the only thing that makes a building historical. The traditional materials and craftsmanship in the original construction of your historical building are an essential part of its historical fabric. Preserving its architectural integrity can only be done by using the same traditional materials and craftsmanship that made your building what it is today – a picture of the past. Original or historically-accurate siding on a historic home or building is an overt example of a building’s era and unique characteristics.
Synthetic vs. Wood Siding: Life-span
- Synthetic siding has a potential life of at least 50-60 years
- Wood siding has a potential life of at least 200+ years
Wood was abundant in Early America (and continued to be so throughout our history), and thousands of historical buildings in the Northeast are adorned with wood siding. Often, owners of these buildings look to alternative siding methods to replace wood siding deteriorated beyond repair. Their rationale for such practices is that they want to reduce the cost and effort of its maintenance, or to save on energy costs; conventional building wisdom maintains that vinyl and other synthetic siding lasts longer, requires less maintenance, and wastes less energy. The truth is this: in almost every instance, installation of synthetic siding will not save energy and maintenance costs. It will last a very long time; there are buildings that still retain their original synthetic siding applications from when they first appeared 50-to-60 years ago. And while that sounds significantly durable, it rather pales in comparison to the fact that there are historical buildings from 200+ years ago that still retain their original wood siding (siding that doesn’t sit many, many years in landfills when it needs to be removed). Synthetic siding won’t only add to landfills, it will also compromise the building’s historical integrity, and can cause irreversible damage to the building.
Synthetic vs. Wood Siding: Energy efficiency
- Since walls are not a significant source of energy loss, synthetic siding proves, at best, a nominal energy savings
The myth that synthetic siding is more energy efficient than wood siding is pervasive and persistent – perhaps because it is easy to fall into the habit of assuming newer is always better. Newer is not always better, and even newer-with-an-insulated-backing is only nominally, if at all, better. The National Park Service’s Preservation Brief No. 3 highlights the fallacy regarding the weight placed on siding for energy efficiency, noting that walls aren’t even where the most heating and cooling energy is lost in historical buildings – the roofing system is. Spending money to replace wood siding with synthetic siding will not usually return the investment in energy savings for this reason. A much more cost-effective focus for energy savings are the windows, doors, and roofs of historical buildings.
Synthetic vs. Wood Siding: Maintenance
- Synthetic siding materials require much maintenance and can even create additional maintenance for other parts of the building
Synthetic siding materials are not maintenance-free. Aluminum will dent, and if painted, requires the same amount of paint maintenance as wood siding. To properly maintain and preserve aluminum siding, it must be cleaned regularly. Vinyl is a plastic and vinyl siding is subject to the same pitfalls as any other plastic: it cracks and shatters if impacted, it deteriorates with exposure to the extreme temperature changes of summer-to-winter and back again, and it simply cannot be installed to maintain a tight fit in both summer and winter because of the amount of expansion and contraction those extreme temperature changes cause. Vinyl siding will even interfere with a building’s ability to “breathe” and result in excess moisture retention and airflow problems causing unhealthy air quality for the building’s occupants, actually creating additional maintenance needs for other materials, systems and areas of the building.
Synthetic vs. Wood Siding: Historical integrity
- Synthetic siding does not preserve the many features of wood siding applications that contribute to the very fabric of a building that makes it historical
Synthetic siding will compromise the building’s historical integrity. The National Park Service’s Preservation Brief No. 8 explains that the materials of a historical building contribute to its historical fabric, noting that “Preservation of a building or district and its historical character is based on the assumption that the retention of historical materials and features and their craftsmanship are of primary importance.” There are many features that make wood siding of primary historical importance to your building. The tools used, geographically-specific craftsmanship techniques, types of clapboards and how they are manufactured and installed, the profiles, decorative edging, and patterns of application that make historical wood siding worthy of preservation are all lost when synthetic siding is used. For example, wood siding on Mid-Atlantic buildings from the early 1800’s to the early 1900’s had distinctly different looks, features, and craftsmanship techniques than those in New England during the same time frame. The stock synthetic siding options available today simply cannot achieve that same level of variation between historically significant architecture styles.
Synthetic vs. Wood Siding: Serious health problems
- Synthetic siding not only masks the health of a historical building, it deteriorates it, endangering both the building and the people who live or work in it
Synthetic siding causes more serious problems. Wood siding on a historical building is also one of the most easily read indicators of the general health of the building. Paint peeling from wood siding can be an early warning signal that there are moisture problems threatening the building, and can sometimes even indicate where those problems are rooted (e.g., gutters or downspouts that aren’t working, improper flashing/weatherproofing, etc.). If wood siding is replaced by or covered with synthetic siding, it often masks any early signs or symptoms of moisture issues and results in more extensive moisture damage. Not only does synthetic siding mask the health of a building, it deteriorates that health. Since synthetic sidings to not allow a house to breathe the way wood siding does, it exacerbates any moisture problems that are present or develop in the future by essentially locking the moisture in the building. In doing so, synthetic siding encourages the growth of molds that turn the building’s air quality into a toxic environment that endangers the health of its occupants. Vinyl siding specifically also carries other health and safety concerns like the toxic fumes it emits when heated, and the cancer risks currently thought to be connected to the polyvinyl chloride plastic resin vinyl siding is made out of.
Synthetic vs. Wood Siding: Damage
- Synthetic siding can result in permanent damage to the character-defining features of a historical building
Synthetic siding can cause irreversible damage to the building. An uneducated, and often heard argument claims that when need be, vinyl siding can simply be removed if it is applied over top of the original wooden siding. This is in part true, but it is in part reflective of a naïve understanding of what contributes to the historical fabric of a building, and how even seemingly simple changes can result in permanent damage to that fabric. Once again, Preservation Brief No. 8 from the National Park Service sets the record straight. It states, “there is frequently irreversible damage to historic building materials if decorative features or trim are permitted to be cut down or destroyed, or removed by applicators and discarded.” During the installation process of synthetic siding, even if it is only being applied over existing wood siding, the original wood siding can be permanently damaged by furring strips nailed onto the walls to create a flat surface to install the new siding on. Windows, door trim, cornice, decorative trim and molding, and other projecting details are sometimes permanently altered because the cost of custom-fitting the new synthetic siding to retain their character is too much.
Evaluate your building’s siding:
- Do any areas of my historical building have synthetic siding materials applied over wood siding?
- If yes, do I have a plan for restoring the original wood siding?
- Are there areas of my wood siding that have already been replaced because of deterioration?
- Were they replaced with comparable wood materials and craftsmanship features?
- Do they blend in with the original siding?
- Is my wood siding evaluated regularly and properly maintained? Is it re-painted every 5-10 years?
- Do I have a maintenance plan and agreement with a qualified and competent historical restoration company to ensure proper maintenance of my wood siding?
PART 3, THE FINAL PIECE IN THIS 3-PART SERIES of working on your old home explores using a good design. Using a good design refers to integrating additions, renovations, or even new construction into your historical building, not necessarily “copying” historical architecture contemporaneous to your building’s era. It simply needs to integrate with the historical representation of your building and the surrounding neighborhood.
Photo by J. Remus on Unsplash
The development and evolution of historical neighborhoods over time follow their own rhythm and pattern, unique to each individual neighborhood. Often, the architecture is as well. Sympathetic or compatible additions and renovations that are right for one property might not be for another, and your project should start with an appreciation of the unique architectural character of the neighborhood of which your building is a part. This understanding should influence and shape the design of your project. A good design is not just about a solid understanding of the architectural character of a building, it should also address the marriage of old and new – styles, materials, and workmanship. If it does not, your project could ruin your building’s architectural character instead of augment it.
For example, many historical buildings have been carefully designed to address water and moisture issues by “breathing” the moisture out, as well as shed it carefully down the exterior of a house in a way that avoids water permeation as it moves down the house. If your project does not use a design that works in the same manner, water will begin to penetrate your building and lead to fungal deterioration, which in turn will lead to major expenditures and repairs, if not complete loss of some of your building’s features. Another common bad design seen during restoration on historical buildings is the use of non-sloping window sills that do not shed water, and can lead to maintenance nightmares. Having a design for your project that not only embodies the architectural character of your building, but also addresses critical compatibility issues (such as water-shedding) is key to preventing corrosive damage to your building.
- Has my design been created, or reviewed, by a qualified contractor who understands historical buildings and how their designs function?
- Do I see any existing areas in my building where the design appears to be incompatible with historical integrity and/or physical functioning of the building?
- Am I familiar with my neighborhood’s sense of place and how the local architecture contributes to that character?
- Does my design include modern materials? If so, are they compatible with the historical materials existing on my building?
- Do all of the materials, workmanship, or functional elements of my design work together in the same way?
- Does my design take into consideration important aspects like scale, building form, setback and site coverage, orientation, architectural elements and projects, facade proportions and patterns, trim and details, etc.?
PART 2 OF THIS SERIES of working on your old home explores replacement in-kind. Replacement in-kind refers to replicating the original in all respects except improved condition, when absolute preservation is not possible. This is a follow-up to Part 1’s general information about maintaining your home’s historical relevance and period style. Regarding replacement, it is easy to think that if the look of a historical building is maintained, as well as the types of materials used, then 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.
Photo of Keperling Preservation Services’ completed work on the Harris Mansion porch in 2014, which necessitated some replacement in-kind.
As important as it is to preserve how our historical buildings actually are, inevitably replacements will need to be made when features are so deteriorated that stabilization, conservation, or restoration are simply not viable options. In these instances, the National Park Service’s Standards for Preservation and Guidelines for Preserving Historic Buildings allow for “replacement in-kind” (replicating the original feature in all respects, except improved condition) if there are surviving features that can be used as prototypes. The Standards & Guidelines also notes that, “The replacement materials need to match the old both physically and visually, i.e., wood with wood, etc. Thus… substitute materials are not appropriate in … preservation.”
Using similarly styled or patterned ceramic tile to replace a terracotta tile, using a different wood when replacing cabinetry, removing wallpaper in favor of uncovering the plaster walls, using shingles that are of a different dimension, are all changes that can easily be made in ways that are in keeping with your building’s period of significance. Yet doing so can be confusing to anyone researching historical architecture by suggesting these features (or aspects of them) were there during the building’s period of significance when, in reality, they weren’t.
Further, removing these features permanently alters your building’s historical fabric, sometimes irretrievably. Original wallpaper that is often destroyed during the removal process can’t usually be replaced with in-kind period wallpaper. Replacing one species of wood with another sometimes can’t be undone if the original species of wood is not readily available, or is priced so exorbitantly that it is not financially feasible for your project. In order to avoid significant, and sometimes irreparable, damage to your building, consider replacing only the deteriorated or missing parts of your building’s features, use materials that match the old in design, color, and texture (both physically and visually), and document the original material and the replacement process and materials used extensively for future reference and research.
- Do I have documentation of all former replacements, including documentation of the original features?
- Have I had my buildings evaluated by a qualified contractor to identify any inappropriate replacement materials or approaches?
- Do I document all replacements I do, including written and photographic documentation, noting the materials, details, and tooling on both the original and the replacement?
- Are there any parts of my building’s original features that are deteriorated or missing and need replacement?
- Is it possible to just replace the deteriorated parts instead of replacing the whole feature?
- Have I checked with a qualified contractor to see if remediation is needed for any not-in-kind replacements previously performed on my building?
Next week: PART 3 OF THIS SERIES focuses on using a good design.