Increasing energy efficiency in historic buildings is always a hot topic. Here are our Top Six Tips for improving the energy efficiency in historic buildings:


Number 1

Have a Maintenance Appraisal Performed to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

When not properly maintained, there are many ways energy efficiency in historic buildings suffers – one of which are air leaks into and out of the home.  A maintenance appraisal performed by a qualified contractor will locate any source of air leakage and provide you with a plan-of-attack to remedy the leakage without damaging the historic aspects of your home.


Number 2

Schedule an Energy Audit to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

This could really be tie for the #1 spot – both the maintenance appraisal and an energy audit are absolutely essential things that need to be done BEFORE you implement any energy-improvement measures.  The energy audit will evaluate current energy efficiency in your historic building and identify any deficiencies in both the envelope of your home and/or the mechanical systems.


Number 3

Implement a Maintenance Plan to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

After you have these two critical reports in your hand, set to work implementing them.  Hire a qualified contractor to eliminate any air infiltration, repair windows, and perform the other maintenance affecting your home’s energy efficiency.  Hire a qualified energy contractor to replace any mechanical systems they’ve found to be detrimental to your home’s energy efficiency.  Make sure both of these contractors have a proven track record of working with historic buildings in a way that does not damage the architecture and its features.  Maintenance is one of the most critical aspects of improving the energy efficiency of historic buildings.


Number 4

Change Your Habits to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

This can be the toughest one to do, but if we truly want to increase the energy efficiency of historic buildings then our habits have to change.  Some of these changes can be easy – install timers or motion detectors on lights, attach self-closing mechanisms on doors that might otherwise hag open, install fans and raise the thermostat temperature, use CFLs in your lights, unplug “vampire” devices that use electricity in standby mode or whenever they are plugged into an outlet (most chargers, DVD players, etc.).


Number 5

Install Insulation to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

Installing insulation in strategic places can be a cost-effective solution to energy loss – but make sure you are not installing the insulation in ineffective places and ways.  There is a lot of misinformation floating around out there of the best ways to insulate your house, and some of them can even permanently damage your home.  Have the historic contractor and energy consultant you hire work together to devise an insulation plan specifically tailored to increase the energy efficiency of your historic building that won’t compromise its architectural integrity.


Number 6

Use Shading Devices to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

There are several ways you can make use of shading devices in ways that are historically compatible to increase the energy efficiency of historic buildings.  Many historical homes made use of exterior awnings and if there is evidence your home may have originally had awnings you can consider installing them again.  Some homes may still have their awnings on them – if yours does, maintain it well for maximum benefit.  Trees, bushes, and other foliage are another good way to shade your home during the summer to increase energy efficiency if you have the space.  As is hanging drapes and curtains on any windows receiving direct sunlight  and keeping them closed during the sunlight hours.


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The Technical Preservation Service at the National Park Service offers Preservation Brief #3: Improving Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings that provides an in-depth look at this topic.  You can read the brief online at:






40 Years of Love

In a culture and generation that developed an “everything is disposable and easily replaced” attitude, Chuck and Lois bucked the trend and poured much blood, sweat, and tears into carefully tending and maintaining their love and they are reaping the rewards of all that hard work – as of last month they are celebrating 40 years of love.  This is the story of how that love began 40 years ago…

chuck and loi's 40 years love

What first attracted you to each other?

LOIS:   He was cute.  I was 23 and single.  I could date anybody I wanted.  And I wanted Chuck.  He was sweet, and I knew his family and upbringing was a good one – though he definitely turned out to be more than I expected.  I liked the way he was with his younger siblings, he was playful and kind and looked out for their best interests.

CHUCK:  She was very beautiful and exciting.  She represented all the freedom in that period of change and revolution I was experiencing after returning from Vietnam.  She was fierce and loyal and independent – she didn’t just expect respect and to be treated equally, she demanded it.  Plus, I thought we looked good together.  And she liked to ride my motorcycle.

How did you start dating?

LOIS: Our parents lived next door to each other and we had met through family activities – ball in the park, wine on Sunday evenings.  But he didn’t pay any attention to me for about the first six months we knew each other.  He did have a girlfriend so I suppose that was why, and I wasn’t going to push myself on him – he had to work out that I was the better choice by himself.  Though I wasn’t above a few female ploys here and there…like asking him to come over and open a bottle of wine for me.  Then, while I was staying with my Mother for a few weeks after a car accident, Chuck’s little sister and my little sister colluded and convinced him to take me for a ride on his motorcycle.  So he did, on February 15th of 1973 – I remember it well.  I was in my walking cast and I put my hands in his jacket pocket because I wasn’t wearing gloves and I held on….for 40 years now.

So how did marriage happen?

CHUCK: She took a little convincing to marry me.  She was living on her own and very independent and wasn’t looking to settle down, so she was reluctant to give that freedom up.  I
DocImage000000007 (1)LOIS:  I wasn’t looking to settle down, but when Chuck decides he wants something he gets very focused and pours all of his energy into getting it.  And that’s what he did when he decided he wanted me.  He was a force to be reckoned with in his pursuit of me.  He gave me tons of attention and who doesn’t love attention?think she was unsure of what I was bringing to the table.  Which was a valid concern, I used to brag that I could get everything I owned on the back of my motorcycle.

What was your wedding like?

LOIS: Our wedding was on August 4th, 1973, in Bailey, Colorado.  It was a stormy day so our plans to be married outside had to be changed, which turned out to be a very good decision since lightening struck the lodge during our ceremony.  We had two priests, both family friends of the Groshongs, and the biggest snafu was when my Mother arrived without my wedding dress.  Chuck was sent racing down the mountain on his motorcycle to get it, and I often wonder what other drivers must have thought of this motorcycle speeding past them with a wedding dress on the back of it.

While we were married on the 4th, our marriage certificate was not officially registered until August 14th, 1973 because of an error with the required blood work.  So technically we have two anniversaries – should I have been getting two gifts all these years?

How has being married to each other for 40 years changed you?

LOIS: Chuck has taught me how to be very trusting, and how to be vulnerable.  I could be completely vulnerable with him and he meets that vulnerability with reassuring comfort.  I don’t know if I would have found that with anybody else and learned how to be okay with being vulnerable.

CHUCK: Lois taught me how to have a greater appreciation for all people and more of life because she explores more of life, without her I probably would have kept myself more in a bubble.  I learned how to judge people more on an individual basis instead of general ideas and stereotypes – she’s helped me question the status quo.

Final thoughts?

LOIS: I am very lucky to have been able to spend 40 years with someone I believe so fully in and who I share so many values with that we can work together towards.

CHUCK: I was really a diamond in the rough when we met and I’m very fortunate that she decided to embrace that and work on polishing me up – and stuck with it when it took so long.





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.

historic wood windows

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 Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Properties 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 needs to match the old both physically and visually, i.e., wood with wood, etc. Thus…substitute materials are not appropriate in…preservation.”

One example is the Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial on the corner of 3rd and Pine streets.  The Thaddeus Kosciuszko house is a part of Independence Park and in 2011 the National Park Service embarked on exterior restorations of the building to repair and restore wood windows, doors, and a cedar shake roof that were deteriorated.

historic windows tops

Our company, Historic Restorations, was given the honor of performing this restoration work and to accurately preserve the Kosciuszko house we needed to match not just the size, shape, and textures of the shingles themselves, but also the craftsmanship details added during manufacturing and installation that characterized the roof.  To do this we ordered hand-split cedar shakes and had our detail-oriented artisan craftsmen recreate the original installation of the cedar shakes.Kosciuszko house is a part of Independence Park and in 2011 the National Park Service embarked on exterior restorations of the building to repair and restore wood windows, doors, and a cedar shake roof that were deteriorated.

historic restorationWithout this attention to detail, the Kosciuszko house would not have been preserved as an accurate testimonial to our architectural heritage.  It would have been easier and more inexpensive to have replaced the shake roof with any number of other options, including some that are commonly considered “historically accurate”.  But they would not have been historically accurate to this house.  Even if they are considered “period appropriate”, when we choose a different treatment than what was there originally we are altering, not preserving the very things that make the building historic.

It also alters a 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.

[sws_grey_box box_size=”630″] Things to Ask Yourself About the Materials on Your Building

  • Do I have documentation of all former replacements, including documentation of the original features?
  • Have I had my building 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? [/sws_grey_box]


For the month of October, we’re going to feature Spooky, Creepy Preservation in honor of Halloween.  We’re kicking off the month with perhaps one of the creepiest buildings in our built history – Jeffrey Dahmer’s childhood home.  Not technically the historic building our posts normally feature, but this post by Guest Blogger Sarah is still something worth contemplating.


image from: (via Fox8 Cleveland)


Yes, it’s been all over the national news. And I had made a conscious decision NOT to cover it since it is already being over-exposed and the hideous crimes of JD are a little too recent for my comfort level.

But then I got a gently prodding email from a reader in Ohio (thanks Stacie!) so I said “okay, okay, I’ll do JD’s house on House Crazy“.


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But I can’t even bring myself to type the guy’s name (which I nonetheless had to type for the title of this post) so I’m just going to call him “JD”. He’s dead now anyhow – killed in prison in 1994 – but his crimes are some of the most heinous in recent memory.

The home where JD lived from 1968 to 1982 is up for sale near Akron, Ohio. This is also the home where JD murdered his first human victim in 1978, and um, cut-up and spread the remains throughout the wooded property. I’m sorry, I don’t know how else to say it – it’s just so horrible. JD moved to Wisconsin in 1982 and committed 16 more murders before he was caught in 1991.


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This dreadful crime scene languished on the market for a very long time but eventually sold for a reduced price in 2005. The new owner, a musician, was at first hesitant when he learned of the home’s gory past. “I didn’t stop shaking for another 24 hours,” the owner told the Akron Beacon Journal. But he was in love with the mid-century architecture so he bought the home anyway. Now the house is up for sale again because the owner is relocating.


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There’s been a lot of photos of the exterior of the house posted in newspapers during the last week, but nobody had posted interior photos. Until now…


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I tracked down the actual listing after some minimal sleuthing.


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This 1952 home on West Bath Road is listed at $329,000.


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This is the actual listing blurb:

Amazing 50′s Ranch! Lush and beautiful flowers and trees decorate the landscape, which you can view from the oversized windows in the formal living room. Inside you will find plenty of space to create your own personal feel! Granite counters in the kitchen. Wood burning fireplaces! New central air unit was installed 6/2011

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The realtor is doing the best he can, but it’s a hard sell knowing the history of the house (and grounds).


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According to the Acron Beacon Journal Online,

The ranch house was built in 1952 by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Arens. It was featured in the Beacon Journal’s Roto section a year later for its modern style, open layout and floor-to-ceiling windows that provided views of the wooded hillside.

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This 2,170 square foot home has 3 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms.


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The stone and wood mid-century modern home is located on 1.55 private wooded acres.


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My stomach is turning just writing this post. Normally I like to embrace a house (as this house’s current owner has) for it’s own historic and architectural merritts, rather than any gory history that took place there.

And I truly commend the current owner for being able to look past the house’s unfortunate past and appreciate and love the house for what it truly is: a beautiful mid-century home.


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But… I don’t know… I’d seriously get the willies every time I was carving ham in the kitchen. *shudder*


How about you? Could you live in a home that has a terrible history like this house?

On Thursday, April 22nd, any contractor working on a building with lead-based paint will have to be a lead-safe certified firm. The EPA is has written guidelines to help protect homeowners from lead dust and contractors have to complete a 8 hour training course. Helping to protect homeowners is important – the downside is the increased cost to each project (we will have to see what that is once we have set up a few projects with the new protective barriers).

For more information on lead and how to protect your family visit the EPA website:

Some thoughts about Sympathetic Additions from the Traditional Building Show:
-The Secretary of Interiors Standards advise against any addition to a historic building
-Protect the historic integrity of the building by making any changes reversible
-Avoid construction in front of building
-Minimize the loss of historic material
-Make a definite separation between new and old construction
-Avoid radical change in form (size, scale, massing, and proportions)
-Preserve the facade line by using set backs

We are presenting How to Build a Sympathetic Addition to a Historic Building on June 6, 2009 at the Ephrata Cloister – more information is posted on our Events page on the web site.

Wrecker or Builder
I watched them tearing a building down
A gang of men in a busy town.
With a ho-heave-ho and a lusty yell,
They swung a beam and a sidewall fell.
I asked the foreman, ” are these men skilled,
As the men you’d hire if you had to build?”
He gave a laugh and said, “No, indeed;
Just common labor is all I need.
I can easily wreck in a day or two
What builder have taken a year to do.”
And I thought to myself as I went my way,
Which of these two roles have I tried to play?
Am I a builder who works with care
Measuring life by the rule and square?
Am I shaping my deeds by a well-made plan,
Patiently doing the best I can?
Or am I a wrecker who walks the town
Content with the labor of tearing down?

Clarence E. Allerton, Local Union 439, Orange, N.J.

Rainy Days…

What to do when a wet Nor’Eastener settles over Staten Island on a work day? Take the ferry to the Big Apple! Lois and Chuck went on an adventure in Manhattan last Friday. We arrived at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal at noon and mingled with the local fokes waiting to board the ferry to the City. Hearing serveral different languages spoken by excited young adults making their way around the deck. As we all braved the wind and the rain to watch the tug boats, tankers, and ships glide along the Hudson River. Lady Liberty appeared out of the fog to greet us, a beacon of hope and welcome for the past 100 plus years. The ride was actually fast, about 15 minutes. Landing in the Battery Section of lower Manhattan.. Of course Chuck and I walked around, looking up, pointing out the architectual details on the buildings to each other, like a couple of tourist. We even walked to Wall Street, there were a lot of people in the bars….

Catching the ferry to return to Staten Island at the end of the day was another eye opening event. Dare I say thousands of people gathered and boarded the ferry. This system of transporttion works and its free. Historic Restorations will have a field trip to the city again, we will make sure that the kids experince this too.

Last Saturday, June 7, Chuck, Lois, and Danielle drove to Bellefonte, Pennsylvania (right above State College) to conduct a seminar for the Borough of Bellefonte as part of their wood window seminar day in the park. There where various other exhibitors (replacement windows, storm windows, and stained glass window experts with booths) as part of the window fair.

It was a hot day with high humidity on top of the heat – I would describe it was oppressive. We made due with the weather (which impacted the turn out) and moved our presentation into the park gazebo were there was shade and benches for the attendees.

Despite the small crowd we had a good time discussing the importance of wood windows to a historic building, the replacement cycle (caused by inferior new growth wood and modern construction practices) (the replacement window salesman was not happy with this aspect of the discussion), storm window options (interior and exterior), the energy efficiency of wood windows (with support from the University of Vermont Wood Window Report – showing the energy savings is less than a dollar a year when wood windows are replaced with modern replacement windows – a copy is available under the Services section of our website), how to make wood windows more energy efficient, and a demonstration of the steps to repair wood windows.

We enjoyed sharing our knowledge with the few concerned homeowners and the Borough of Bellefonte’s available HARB members. We look forward to visiting this Victorian city again in the near future.