This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania.  In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century.  This article focuses on an overview of the Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950

PA Architecture Early Revival Style: Roman Classical Revival 1790 – 1830, Greek Revival 1820- 1860

Identifiable Features

Early Classical Revival Style
1.  Full height entry porch (portico) with pediment and columns
2.  Lunette window in portico pediment
3.  Elliptical fanlight over paneled front door
4.  Symmetrically aligned windows and door (5 bay front facade most common)
5.  Side gabled or low pitched hipped roof
6.  Large windows and doors

Greek Revival Style
1.  Front gabled roof
2.  Front porch  with columns
3.  Front facade corner pilasters
4.  Broad cornice
5.  Attic or frieze level windows

The Early Classical Revival style developed at the end of the 18th century and reflected a desire to take architectural inspiration directly from the ancient buildings of Rome and Greece.  While earlier styles (the Georgian and Federal styles) were also inspired by these classical forms, they relied more on architectural details and did not attempt to recreate the look of those ancient buildings.  The Roman Classical Revival style (sometimes called Roman Classicism) and later the Greek Revival style emulated the form of classical Roman and Greek temples.  The Roman Classical Revival style was promoted and popularized by Thomas Jefferson, who found the impressively monumental architecture of ancient Rome a suitable model for the newly formed nation.   This style was thus a political symbol as well, likening the young United States to the once powerful and influential Roman Republic.  Jefferson designed his own home Monticello, the campus of the University of Virginia, and the Capitol of Virginia in this style, using ancient Roman temples as his guide.  The Roman Classical Revival style was rarely found north of Pennsylvania, with most examples occurring in southern states. The Bank of Pennsylvania, built in 1800 in Philadelphia, was an early important example of this style. early_classical_revival_greek_revivial_style
The emphasis turned from Rome to Greece as the Greek Revival style developed around 1820.  American interest in the culture of ancient Greece grew from sympathy for the Greek War of Independence (1821-1830) and emerging archaeological finds showing Greece as the earliest democracy. Also, Roman inspired architecture was associated with England, and after the War of 1812, there was a strong desire to shake off English influence and define a new national style.  The Greek Revival style has much in common with the Roman Classical Revival style in its reliance on the temple form, front pediment, and classical order columns.   There is considerable variation in the public and private buildings designed in this style.  Some buildings appear to be Greek temple replicas and others simply use the temple shape and form with distinctive details.  There are many more surviving examples of the Greek Revival style in Pennsylvania than the Roman Classical Revival style, because the later Greek Revival style was far more popular and wide spread.

A typical Roman Classical Revival style building in Pennsylvania would have a front facade dominated by a full height columned portico topped by a gabled pediment.  An elliptical shaped lunette window might be present at the center of the pediment, with a similarly shaped fanlight over the paneled front door.   A building of this style would also have symmetrical placement of windows and doors, usually in a five bay front façade pattern. Cornices are narrow, often with a narrow band of dentils or modillions.

A typical Greek Revival style house in our state has a front facing gable, sometimes with a return, a front entry with a flat entablature and pilasters, or perhaps a repeating pediment over the front door.  Most Greek Revival style buildings have broad cornices, some featuring small windows at the frieze or attic level. Some Greek Revival style buildings have true temple form with massive, bold columns across the entire front façade.   The columns may be rounded and topped with classical order capitals, or they may be square paneled posts.  This temple form is more common on high style mansions or public buildings like banks, schools or government offices.  Greek Revival style buildings can take several forms (even appearing occasionally as townhouses with strong columned front entries), but are most easily identifiable by the presence of a columned entry, a front facing gable or pediment, pilasters at the front façade corners, or a wide cornice with small windows.

 

This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania.  In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century.  This article focuses on an overview of the Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950

PA Architecture Federal Style 1780 -1820

Identifiable Features

1.  Symmetrical form and fenestration
2.  Elliptical fan light over paneled front door
3.  Side lights flanking front door
4.  Classical details, similar to the Georgian style, but more delicate in size and scale
5.  Flat lintels over windows, often with bull’s eye corners
6.  Cornice with decorative moldings, often dentils
7.  Low pitched side-gable or hipped roof
8.  Double hung windows with thin muntins separating the panes (6 panes over 6 most common)
9.  Decorative front door crown or entry porch
10.  Tripart or Palladian window
11.  Curving or polygonal projections

federal_style

The Federal style is also known as the Adam style, after the Adam brothers, British architects who developed this style in England. It is really a refinement of the Georgian style, which was popular in the years preceding the Federal style. Like the Georgian style, the Federal style is designed around center hall floor plan, or side hall for narrow row houses.  The Federal style has many of the same elements of the Georgian style—symmetry, classical details and a side gabled roof—yet it is different in its ornamentation and sophistication. Federal details are more delicate, slender and finely drawn than their Georgian counterparts and may feature swags, garlands and urns. Also, more formal elements were introduced in the Federal style, such as the front door fanlight window, sometimes with flanking sidelights, and more elaborate door surrounds and porticos. The Federal style is also known for dramatic windows, three-part or Palladian windows with curved arches. Another outstanding—yet less common—Federal feature is the use of curving or polygonal window projections.

The Federal style became popular throughout the colonies after the American Revolution and was dominant until about 1820, when it was supplanted by the Greek or Classical Revival Style. The easiest way to identify a Federal style building from a Georgian one is to look for the elliptical fan light over the front door or the Palladian windows—not that those design features do not appear in later styles as well. The Federal house in Pennsylvania is usually a brick two or three story building.

colonial architecture, historic architectural woodwork, historic architecture, historic architecture restoration, historic cabinetry, historic flooring, historic paint color, historic restoration lancaster pa, historic restoration research, historic restorations, historic woodwork, john bachman cabinetry, mylin house, mylin house restoration, restoring historic plaster walls, victorian architecture, willow valley retirement community

The Mylin House project was a complete interior restoration project that we had been very much looking forward to doing.  The Willow Valley Retirement Community hired Historic Restorations to restore the first floor of both the original farmhouse and the addition to use as a community center in keeping with their preservation of the original farmhouses from all the farm properties they’ve purchased and expanded onto.

The original part of the Mylin House was built in the late 1700’s by Martin Mylin III and his wife Barbara Baer (granddaughter of Christian and Anna Herr, the 1710 immigrants who built the 1719 Hans Herr House).  Mylin III was the third generation to live on and work the farm his Grandfather, Martin Mylin I, established when he emigrated from Germany in the early 1700’s and became one of the first Mennonites to settle in Lancaster County.  Mylin I would also establish a gun shop on the original homestead where he would father the Pennsylvania Long Rifle as an accomplished gunsmith.

The Mylin house and its lands were passed down through generations of the family until 1926 when it was sold to Christian Herr and became home to the Herr family (some of whom would later found Herr Foods), who resided on the property until it was purchased by the retirement community.

The original portion of the house was built during the Colonial Period and was constructed in the Pennsylvania German Traditional style.  During the Pre-Civil war period in the 1800’s a Victorian style addition was added to the original house.  (We imagine the eight children Mylin III had were motivating factors in the decision to guilt the addition.)

Though many renovations, upgrades, and modernization projects had been performed over the years both the original house and the addition were almost wholly intact.  The interior woodwork and built-in cabinetry by the renowned Lancaster County cabinet-maker John Bachman, the three corner fireplaces, the balusters and the raised panels in the stairway are all original to the house.  While the windows are likely not original to the house, they are from the 1800’s.

While the house looked like it was in good shape, there were some really questionable repairs attempted over the years and we would need to go through and replace everything that wasn’t honestly part of the historical fabric of the original – for both the original Colonial house and the Victorian addition to original condition.

 

Historical Woodwork

colonial architecture, historic architectural woodwork, historic architecture, historic architecture restoration, historic cabinetry, historic flooring, historic paint color, historic restoration lancaster pa, historic restoration research, historic restorations, historic woodwork, john bachman cabinetry, mylin house, mylin house restoration, restoring historic plaster walls, victorian architecture, willow valley retirement community

Pretty much all of the woodwork on the first floor of the house was in good condition, but some spot repairs and everything needed restoration.  But before we could even start tackling that portion of the project, we needed to remove all five layers of paint that had accumulated over the last 200+ years – most of which involved lead remediation.  To restore the original interior woodwork we used epoxy and solid-wood Dutchmen for the spot repairs.

There were two built-in corner cabinets in two of the rooms of the Colonial portion of the house that were wonderful examples of traditional woodowork.

colonial architecture, historic architectural woodwork, historic architecture, historic architecture restoration, historic cabinetry, historic flooring, historic paint color, historic restoration lancaster pa, historic restoration research, historic restorations, historic woodwork, john bachman cabinetry, mylin house, mylin house restoration, restoring historic plaster walls, victorian architecture, willow valley retirement community

We also re-created a built-in cabinet area in the kitchen of the Victorian addition that had storage cabinetry that was incompatible with the Victorian architectural styles.  The existing cabinets had primitive wood shelves and raised panel doors so we removed them and fabricated cabinets that matched a style on an original built-in located close to that storage area.

The windows in both the Colonial and Victorian sides of the house were not original to the house, but were about 150 years old and mimicked the original window styles well.  To preserve the old growth wood in these windows and their contribution to the historic fabric of the house, we completely restored all the first floor windows and installed interior storm windows on all the first and second floor windows.

 

Restoring Historical Plaster Walls

colonial architecture, historic architectural woodwork, historic architecture, historic architecture restoration, historic cabinetry, historic flooring, historic paint color, historic restoration lancaster pa, historic restoration research, historic restorations, historic woodwork, john bachman cabinetry, mylin house, mylin house restoration, restoring historic plaster walls, victorian architecture, willow valley retirement community

That wallpaper that had been applied over the original plaster walls at some point in time was falling off of the walls.  So we carefully removed the wallpaper to keep as much of the original horse-hair plaster intact as possible so we could preserve that plaster.  Some areas of the plaster walls were missing and had drywall installed when misguided attempts to match the original plaster were made.  For these areas, and other areas where moisture had affected the plaster bond we used a three-step application of re-wiring and applying a base coat, then applied a brown coat plaster, and finally a veneer plaster for the finish to create a historically accurate plaster wall.  The plaster ceilings were also restored – some of which was deteriorated to the point that it was about to collapse so we used large washers and screws to re-tighten and fasten the old plaster and then skim-coated over that.  We skim-coated the original plaster walls that could be saved.

 

Historical Paint Color Choices

There is quite the unusual combination of colors that were chosen for the interior walls in the Mylin House.  These colors may seem rather loud and obnoxious to our modern aesthetics, but they were actually colors on that had originally been on the walls that we discovered after removing wallpaper and layers of paint.  And the smaller sitting rooms at the back of the house that had contrasting colors that didn’t quite coordinate with each other in the manner that we think of today when we choose contrast colors.  Lime green, turquoise, a mustard yellow, a real orange (think The Big Home Improvement Store That Shall Not Be Named orange bucket color), and a dark red.

There was one original color we chose not to replicate – the mauvey rose in the foyer.  Despite Lois’ firm urgings that the color was period appropriate and should be used, Chuck just couldn’t bring himself to add that color back.  (Apparently he can tolerate color combinations like lime green and turquoise, but a mauvey rose along with a dark red is just not something he can accept.)  We chose to use a white color in the foyer that would also be period appropriate as the color of unpainted plaster.

The mopboards in the Colonial portion of the house were painted the black they had been originally.  According to tradition, the floorboards were painted black at that time to avoid having the dirty water marks from mops when cleaning the floors.  In the Victorian addition the baseboards had never been painted black, so we painted them a historical green in an attempt by Chuck to mellow out the red on the walls that his aesthetic sensibilities weren’t entirely comfortable with.

For the paint we used the Benjamin Moore Historical Colors line from Grauers Paint & Decorating in Lancaster.

 

Restoration of Historical Flooring

colonial architecture, historic architectural woodwork, historic architecture, historic architecture restoration, historic cabinetry, historic flooring, historic paint color, historic restoration lancaster pa, historic restoration research, historic restorations, historic woodwork, john bachman cabinetry, mylin house, mylin house restoration, restoring historic plaster walls, victorian architecture, willow valley retirement community

We also took up the oak floor on the first floor.  We completely re-tongue and grooved that flooring, cleaned it, and then brought it back and re-installed it.  The flooring was left unfinished in the Colonial part of the house, as it would have originally been when it was first constructed.  The restored wood flooring was waxed with Briwax.

For the kitchen floor, we chose a slightly different approach.  There had originally been a wood floor installed during the Victorian period that it was built that was then covered over with several layers of vinyl flooring over the years.  Beyond the difficulty of removing the layers of vinyl flooring to salvage the original floor, the wood used in the original floor was an inferior quality and it was questionable as to whether or not it was worth saving. 

colonial architecture, historic architectural woodwork, historic architecture, historic architecture restoration, historic cabinetry, historic flooring, historic paint color, historic restoration lancaster pa, historic restoration research, historic restorations, historic woodwork, john bachman cabinetry, mylin house, mylin house restoration, restoring historic plaster walls, victorian architecture, willow valley retirement communityWillow Valley Retirement Community eventually decided they wanted to install a brick floor in keeping with a style that seemed well-fitted for a farm kitchen floor and we installed a basket-weave brick pattern using a traditional mortar recipe.  We also chose bricks from Inglenook Tile Design since they reproduce a veneer brick that is such an incredible match to the soft historic bricks by mimicking all aspects of historic brick-making, even firing at the lower temperatures that they would have only been capable of historically.

But before we began floor installation we addressed very big problem with the house – a potentially catastrophic one – the house was sagging in the middle of the interior.  We spent several weeks raising the summer beam, the floor joists, and the load-bearing walls that made up the interior frame of the house to level it up and gain back the two inches it had sagged over the years.  It took about two weeks to get just that two inches back.  After raising the sagging interior frame, we installed ¾” plywood for sub-flooring in the kitchen and installed two metal posts in the floor to hold the summer beam since it was made of an inferior quality poplar wood.

 

1700’s & 1800’s Fireplace Restorations

colonial architecture, historic architectural woodwork, historic architecture, historic architecture restoration, historic cabinetry, historic flooring, historic paint color, historic restoration lancaster pa, historic restoration research, historic restorations, historic woodwork, john bachman cabinetry, mylin house, mylin house restoration, restoring historic plaster walls, victorian architecture, willow valley retirement community

The Mylin House project also involved restoration of multiple fireplaces in both the first floor and the basement.

On the first floor, we took a cast-iron wood stove out of one of the fireplaces and removed the hearth on both first floor fireplaces restoring the brick in one fireplace and plastering the other fireplace – both traditional treatments for fireplaces.

For the walk-in fireplaces in the basement we applied stucco to encased the loose stone with a natural surface.

 

Restoration in the Basement

In the basement stairway we discovered tread shadow lines on the wall that indicated  the current stairway configuration was not how the stairs were originally configured.  So we rebuilt the stairs, returning them to the original configuration.

To create a cleaner storage environment for Willow Valley Retirement Community, we parged the stone walls in the basement to waterproof them and eliminated a lot of loose mortar since it was a very early mortar with bits of shell and really wasn’t much more than dirt.  We also poured a concrete floor instead of leaving the existing dirt floor to help with moisture control and keep the storage cleaner.

When we started work there were no windows in the basement window openings – the openings just served as free passage of air.  With our moisture control efforts, we decided to fabricate new windows for those openings – each requiring individualized fabrication since each opening was a different size (a quite common occurrence in historic buildings).

 

What challenges did we run into with the project?  

The biggest challenge was digging out the basement since we did not have wide open access to it and had to dig it out by hand taking the dirt out bucket by bucket.  We filled the trailer with loads of dirt, which then got stuck several times in our unusually rainy Spring.  In fact, not tearing up that yard was probably a challenge that might give hand-digging out the basement a good run for its “biggest challenge” status.

 

This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania.  In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century.  This article focuses on an overview of the Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950

PA Architecture Late Victorian Period 1850 – 1910

The Late Victorian Period covers the later half of the 19th century, for a portion of the true reign of Britain’s Queen Victoria (1837-1901) for which this era is named. This was the time period in American architecture known for intricate and highly decorative styles such as the Second Empire, Romanesque Revival, Victorian Gothic, Queen Anne, Stick/Eastlake, Shingle, Renaissance Revival and Chateauesque. All of these style are often described as “Victorian” and indeed may buildings of this era borrowed stylistic elements from several styles, and were not pure examples of any.

The Late Victorian Period was a time of growth and change in America. Advances in building technology such as the development of balloon framing and factory-built architectural components made it easier to build larger, more complex and more decorative structures. The expanding railroad system allowed these products to be transported across the country at a more reasonable cost. Heretofore luxury elements could be employed in a wide variety of more modest buildings. It was an expansive time in American culture and the buildings of this period reflect this. Most Victorian styles look to historic precedents for inspiration, but the architectural designs of the era were not exact replicas of those earlier buildings. The tall, steeply roofed, asymmetrical form of Victorian era buildings is based on a Medieval prototype, with a variety of stylistic details applied. Elements of the Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, and Italianate styles continued to appear, but often in a more complex form, in combination with one another. New stylistic trends like the Second Empire style, Queen Anne style, Stick/Eastlake style, Romanesque Revival, Renaissance Revival and Chateauesque style, borrowed from those previous styles, but offered new shapes, forms and combinations of decorative features.

 

This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the historic architecture found in Pennsylvania.  In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century.  This article focuses on an overview of the log building style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1880.

 

Post Medieval English House in Pennsylvania, 1682 – 1740

Common Building Types: Houses

Identifiable Features

1.  Steeply pitched, side gable roof
2.  Narrow overhanging eaves with no cornice detail
3.  Massive chimney, central or end location
4.  Small multi-paned casement or fixed windows
5.  Timber frame and/or brick walls
6.  Batten (vertical board) door
7.  Overhanging second story with decorative pendants
8.  One room deep floor plan, sometimes a lean-to added

Click on a photo below to enlarge.

1704 - William Brinton House, Delaware County William Harvey House, Chester County Golden Plough Tavern, York County
Letitia Street House, Philadelphia County Morton House, Delaware County

The Post Medieval English form is not a true architectural style, but is a traditional type of building brought to the colonies by the early English colonists.   In shape, form, materials and appearance these buildings resemble those built in England in the late medieval period.  Initially, all of the early colonists looked to their country of origin for building techniques and practices.  Here in Pennsylvania, established as a colony by Englishman William Penn, buildings reflecting English tradition appeared at settlement.  True Post Medieval buildings are quite rare because as the earliest type of construction, few have survived. Additionally, Post Medieval English buildings were only constructed in the first settled area of the state, the south east corner near Philadelphia.  Any examples of the Post Medieval English form found outside that settlement area are almost certainly a revival form of the style, built many years later to replicate that traditional appearance. Also confusing the identification of true Post Medieval English buildings are the enthusiastically undertaken preservation efforts that have occurred since 1900 to celebrate our nation’s colonial heritage.  While distinctive common features allow the identification of Post Medieval English form buildings, research is needed to confirm the construction date and possible changes over time.

Post Medieval English buildings are rather easy to identify since their appearance is notablely different from the more common building forms.  They have steep roofs, with very little overhang and plain undecorated cornices.  The wall surface is often timber framed, sometimes with brick and stucco infill. Some buildings have a brick or even stone first floor with a timber framed and plaster upper story.   Diagonal wooden bracing is an another distinictive characteristic. Windows are small fixed or casement types with much small diamond–shape panes. (Surviving original windows would be exceedingly rare, and if present most would be restorations).  Doors are of batten or vertical board construction.  Chimneys are large, sometimes with decorative tops and placed often in the center of the building, but sometimes at the ends.  Some Post Medieval English buildings have a second floor or attic front overhang with decorative pendants.  Originally the roof would have been thatched or of wooden shakes.  These building truly have an old World appearance—the difficult part is determining if they truly date from the colonial era or are masterful reconstructions or revival efforts.  Surviving examples of this style are far more common in New England than in Pennsylvania.

 

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.

INTRODUCTION
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.

1999 – Thomas Kent, Jr. Farm, Green County

historic preservation in pennsylvania, preserving pennsylvania's architecture, architectural preservation, historic preservation
Photo from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

 

• SAVED! (Sort of…)•

The 1851 brick farmhouse and the associated outbuildings and fields that comprise the 102-acre Thomas Kent, Jr. Farm reflect the agricultural heritage of southwestern Pennsylvania from the mid 19th century until the onset of the Great Depression. In 1999, the structural integrity of the farmhouse was threatened by longwall mining, an underground coal mining technique that removes whole panels from a coal seam without leaving columns of earth in place to support the mine ceiling. As the land above the extracted coal seam drops between four and six feet, an event known as subsidence, the surrounding land slumps and shifts. This movement results in damage to land and buildings, often disrupting or eliminating the natural water supply.

In an attempt to protect their historic farm from longwall coal mining impacts, the property owners engaged in an expensive, all-consuming multi-year legal battle. They opposed the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which issued a permit for longwall mining under their property despite the clear potential for adverse effects to this historic property. Rather than choosing an alternative that would avoid or minimize harmful impacts to the historic farm, the DEP allowed the mine operators to proceed as long as they agreed to repair the damage or compensate the property owner for their loss.

Recognizing that the DEP’s standard subsidence control and mitigation plan was insufficient, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the federal Office of Surface Mining, the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, and the DEP in 2001, allowing longwall mining to proceed under the farm, provided that appropriate repairs be carried out afterward.

Despite bands and cables wrapped around the house in an attempt to hold the structure together during mining and the subsidence that followed, cracks more than 1 3⁄4 inches wide formed in the exterior walls of the 1851 brick house. Upon completion of the longwall mining, an entire corner of the house (more than 15,000 bricks) had to be reconstructed.

Large crews spent months working to repair the damage. It is fortunate that the MOA was in place because the level of work required to repair the house was well beyond what the DEP’s standard subsidence control and mitigation plan would have repaired.  Despite a monumental legal battle to prevent damage to the farm, longwall mining was still allowed to occur. While the Thomas Kent, Jr. Farm was technically “saved” from destruction by longwall mining and has been cosmetically restored, the integrity of the building has been compromised. The owners still hear subsidence cracking more than 10 years later and worry that the house remains in danger.

While the Thomas Kent, Jr. Farm was technically saved from destruction by longwall mining and has been cosmetically restored, the integrity of the building has been compromised.

[sws_grey_box box_size=”630″]Longwall Mining:

Today, longwall mining still threatens historic resources in Pennsylvania.  Plantation Plenty (the Isaac Manchester Farm) was listed in Pennsylvania At Risk in 2010 and was included in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places as a result of proposed longwall mining.  Preservation Pennsylvania continues to work with our partners to protect this historic farm and other properties from damage by longwall mining.

historic preservation in pennsylvania, preserving pennsylvania's architecture, architectural preservation, historic preservation
Photo from Act 54 Reform

[/sws_grey_box]

 

Historic restorations contractors, qualified historic restorations contractors, how to pick a contractor for historic buildings

Picking a contractor with adequate skills and experience to complete a job is always important, but it is particularly important for restorations and renovations of a historical building.  To avoid permanently damaging the historical fabric of your building, you need a contractor who is well-versed in historical products and materials, can identify and replicate the traditional trade approaches and techniques that created your building’s unique characteristics, understands the modern review, permitting, and approval process for historical buildings with applicable government agencies, historical boards, and commissions, and values preservation of our built history as much as you do.

A Qualified Contractor for Historic Restorations has Thorough Knowledge of Historical Products and Materials

Historical construction products and materials are drastically different from modern building products and materials. Some differ in the materials used to produce a particular product. Even when these materials look the same, they can be dangerously incompatible with your historical building – mixing modern and historical materials can not only be detrimental to your building’s aesthetic value, it can destabilize your building’s structural foundation. 

Many new façade treatments focus on moisture-proofing, while historical buildings functioned as “breathing” buildings that expelled excess moisture – if you combine a new façade material (even one that looks exactly like the original) with an old façade material you can set the stage for dangerous moisture issues that threaten your building’s foundation and air quality.

Others materials use the same (or similar) materials to produce a replicate product and are “merely” fabricated in an entirely different manner producing a finished product that may look the same as the original (or may not, look close – does it really?), but isn’t an accurate preservation of the historical fabric of your building because of the manner in which it was fabricated.

For example, historical bricks are not soft because people preferred softer bricks 150 years ago. They are softer because of the process used to fabricate them – the historical, hand-crafted process resulted in lower firing temperatures than the modern, mass-production process.

Any projects on your historical building changes it, and most projects result in some irreversible changes. Change can be a good thing…if your contractor knows which materials are appropriate to use. But when you pick the wrong contractor, incompatible materials and installation methods can result in permanent damage to your building.

A Qualified Contractor for Historic Restorations is Able to Identify and Replicate Traditional Trade Techniques

Maintaining the historical fabric of your building is about more than replacing worn materials with the same kind of materials and products or making sure the paint colors match what was originally used.

Craftsmen styles, approaches, and techniques were as diverse as the architectural styles they created that make up our built history. When your historical building was originally built, these craftsmen all influenced the final look of your building. Geographic region also influenced the way craftsmen completed their work on a building. Even today contractors may have differing methodologies to complete the same work and work is completed slightly differently from region to region.

When working on your building, you need a contractor who will not only know the appropriate materials to use, but the appropriate method to install them – a contractor who preserves the kinds of materials that are original to your building and the traditional trade approaches that created it as well.

A Qualified Contractor for Historic Restorations Knows the Review, Permitting, & Approval Process for Historic Buildings

When your historical building was originally built, the process was simple. You bought some land, hired some contractors, and raised the building that met your budget and design needs. Work on an existing building was even more simple: you hired someone to do the
work.

Today the process is a bit more complex. Work of any kind on a historical building can involve multiple government agencies who grant and oversee construction and occupancy permits and a historical board or commission who guides the restoration process and approves any changes and the materials and methods used to make those changes. Not to mention the various building codes your project is subject to and the exemptions and regulations that govern construction projects involving historical buildings.

Picking a contractor who isn’t familiar with the unique demands of meeting the needs, requirements, and timelines of several different building codes, government agencies, historical boards and commissions can result in serious delay of your project, outright denial of your project, and skyrocketing costs to redo, backtrack, and resubmit.

A Qualified Contractor for Historic Restorations Values Preservation of Your Historic Architecture as Much as You Do

You haven’t spent the time, money, and energy on your historical building because its history and unique contribution to our cultural and built heritage isn’t important to you. Why choose a contractor who doesn’t value your building and its historical fabric as much as
you do?

Look for a contractor who not only works on historical restoration projects, but who practices a traditional trade themselves and supports organizations and guilds that promote the traditional trades. Find out which contractors do this because preservation is their priority, and which contractors do this merely to make money.

Ways to assess whether or not your contractor values preservation as much as you do:

Peruse their website to see if they offer non-sales content related to preservationand/or the traditional trades.

Read through their blog and decide how much they post as self-promotion and how much is preservation-promotion.

Browse through their activity on social media and see if their posts and updates are about more than just what they’re doing.

Ask for credentials and find out what organizations they support, participate in have help found, etc.

Ask their previous customers what they felt the contractor’s priority was – preservation or the bottom line.  

But perhaps above all else, your contractor needs to be someone who you are comfortable with and who listens to your needs and wants for your historical building – you are building a team for the work on your building together, choose wisely.

Skilled craftsmen and knowledgeable contractors are critical to preventing permanent damage to your historical building during a project. More importantly, you need a qualified contractor for historic restorations and has a proven and specialized track record of work on historical buildings.

[sws_grey_box box_size=”630″] How to Evaluate a Qualified Contractor for Historic Restorations:
• Is my contractor properly insured and licensed, as applicable?

• Can my contractor explain to me what the appropriate materials and methods for my project are and why? Does my contractor know acceptable substitutes if exact replication isn’t feasible?

• Does my contractor practice a traditional trade? Does my contractor understand the historical methods of the traditional trades?

• Does my contractor have a record of historical restoration projects? Are any of them similar to mine? Have I asked for references?

• Why does my contractor work in historical restoration?

• Does my contractor understand the permitting, review, and approval process for my project? Have they worked through this process in my area for previous projects?

• Do I have good communication with my contractor? Does my contractor listen and respond to my questions, concerns, needs?[/sws_grey_box]

 

Even if you decide I’m too long-winded, or that I’m preaching to the choir, to read this entire post – MAKE SURE YOU SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM to get your free copy of a report on how to make wood windows last for generations we recently wrote.

 

Why Save Historic Wood Windows?

Did you know that historical wood windows are one of the most vulnerable and “at-risk” elements of our architectural heritage?

Historic Wood Window Restoration, Save Historic Wood Windows, Wood Windows vs. Replacement Windows

Preservation Virginia has proclaimed historical windows endangered, saying, “Historic wooden windows are destroyed daily in lieu of new, inferior windows. Salesmen convince owners and architectural review board members that replacement windows are superior to historic wooden windows when the truth is these historic windows can last longer than any new wooden window or vinyl clad window.”

Despite this, windows don’t often have a high priority on the list of things we should preserve in our built history. Yet they should. If eyes are windows into the soul, as the old adage goes, then surely windows are how we see into the soul of a historical building.

The windows in your historical building are an important contribution to how your historical building looks. Not only are they one of only a few parts of a building that serve as both and interior and exterior architectural feature, they usually make up about a quarter of the surface area of a historical building.

Many aspects of windows contribute to your building’s architectural style and historical fabric – height, width, and thickness of frames and sills, the visual design of sash components, the materials and color treatments used, and even the way light reflects off of the glass.

Muntins, historical glass, putty beading, moulding profiles, glazed opening widths, and regionally-distinct patterns and features are more distinct characteristics of original wood windows that contribute to your historical building’s façade.  And all of these varied between architectural styles and periods and from region to region, making wood windows living artifacts from history – an archeological goldmine that helps us understand and document our historical building practices and craftsmanship.

 

[sws_grey_box box_size=”630″] Beyond their importance in contributing to how your building looks, your building’s windows play an important role in how your building functions. Perhaps one of the most important of those functions is how windows serve as an integral part of a historical building’s design to “breathe” moisture. Historical buildings function as a cohesive, whole system to handle moisture infiltration and the original design, installation, and materials used – including, and especially, the windows – were all picked for your building’s specific system. Changing your windows can significantly impact how your home handles moisture – a road no homeowner wants to travel down. [/sws_grey_box]

 

Historic Wood Windows Vs. Replacement Windows

Historic Wood Window Restoration, Save Historic Wood Windows, Wood Windows vs. Replacement WindowsThese features and variances can be difficult to duplicate with modern technology. Our manufacturing and installation process is significantly different than the process used hundreds of years ago and the characteristics modern machinery and installation techniques impart create an entirely different window than the traditional building methods created when your building was originally constructed. Such a loss of historical elements is a permanent scar on your historical building.

Replacing original wood windows also often requires changing the window’s rough opening to install a window manufactured on national standards in to the non-standard opening of a building constructed during a time when there were no building standards – another mistake that permanently damages your building.

 

The Importance of Historic Wood Window Restoration

Historic Wood Window Restoration, Save Historic Wood Windows, Wood Windows vs. Replacement Windows

Just as we shouldn’t replace our historical art with modern replicas, we shouldn’t replace our historical wood windows with modern replacement windows.

Throwing out the artifacts from our built history that stand testament to how our buildings were constructed over the last several hundred years prevents future generations from a deep understanding of a piece of our history that’s just as important as all the other artifacts we work so hard to preserve.

Because once they are gone, they are gone for good.

[sws_toggle1 title=”Which Windows are Historically Significant?“]The National Park Service’s Preservation Brief #9: The Repair of Historic Wood Windows notes that windows should be considered significant to a building if they:

1) are original,

2) reflect the original design intent for the building,

3) reflect period or regional styles or building practices,

4) reflect changes to the building resulting from major periods or events, or

5) are examples of exceptional craftsmanship or design [/sws_toggle1]

[sws_toggle1 title=”What is Recommended for Historic Wood Windows?“]

The National Park Service’s Standards and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historical Windows recommend the following:

• Identify, Retain, and Preserve

• Protect and Maintain

• Repair • Accurate Restoration

• Sympathetic New Windows in Additions

• Preserving Decoration and Function

• Replacement In-Kind

• Compatible Materials

[/sws_toggle1]

[sws_toggle1 title=”What is NOT Recommended for Historic Wood Windows?“]

The National Park Service’s Standards and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historical Windows do NOT recommend the following:

• Removing Windows Important to Historical Character

• Changing Location or Size of Windows

• Inappropriate Designs, Materials, and Finishes

• Destroying Historical Materials

• Replacing Windows that Can be Repaired

• Failing to Maintain

• Replacing instead of Maintaining

• Inaccurate Historical Appearance

[/sws_toggle1]

 

How to Save Historic Wood Windows

Now that you know how important your historic wood windows, we want you to have the knowledge you need to save them.

Get your free copy of our recent report “Put Replacement Windows to Shame: 10 Tools to Make Your Historic Wood Windows Last for Generations”

 

 

 

 

 

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.  First we’re going to focus on “See!” since Pennsylvania’s historical architecture is certainly worth seeing.

 

Traditional/Vernacular Architecture 1638 – 1950

Traditional/Vernacular Architecture 1638 – 1950

Photo by PA Historical & Museum Commission

–  Form and design derived from commonly shared construction tradition
–  Not architect or pattern book design
–  Reflect the ethnic or regional heritage and cultural traditions of the builders
–  Usually strictly utilitarian built from affordable, readily available materials

 

 

Georgian Architecture 1640 – 1800

–  Symmetrical form and fenestration
–  Multi-pane windows (6-20 panes in each sash)
–  Side-gabled or hipped roof
–  Stone or brick walls
–  Transom window over paneled front door
–  Pediment or crown and pilasters at front entry
–  Cornice with dentils
–  Water table or belt course
–  Corner quoins

More information about the Georgian Style is available in this section of the Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide.

 

Federal Style 1780 – 1820

–  Symmetrical form and fenestration
–  Elliptical fan light over paneled front door
–  Classical details, delicate in size and scale
–  Flat lintels, often with bull’s eye corners
–  Cornice with decorative moldings, often dentils
–  Low pitched side-gable or hipped roof
–  Double hung 6-over-6 windows with thin muntins
–  Decorative front door crown or entry porch
–  Tripart or Palladian window
–  Curving or polygonal projections

More information about the Federal Style is available in this section of the Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide.

Greek Revival 1820 – 1860

 
–  
Front gabled roof
–  
Front porch  with columns
–  
Front facade corner pilasters
–  
Broad cornice
–  Attic or frieze level windows

 

 

More information about the Greek Revival Style is available in this section of the Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide.

 

Gothic Revival Style 1830 – 1860

historic building preservation

Photo by PA Historical & Museum Commission

–  Pointed arches as decorative element and as window shape
–  Front facing gables with decorative incised trim
–  Porches with turned posts or columns
–  Steeply pitched roof
–  Gables often topped with finials or crossbracing
–  Decorative crowns over windows and doors
–  Castle-like towers with parapets on some buildings
–  Carpenter Gothic buildings have distinctive board and batten vertical siding

 

More information about the Gothic Revival Style is available in this section of the Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide.

 

Exotic Revival Style 1830 – 1850

victorian architecture

Synagogue in Philadelphia

 

Egyptian Revival Style
–  
Massive columns resembling bundles of sticks
–  
Vulture & sun disk symbol
–  
Rolled (cavetto) cornice
–  Window enframements that narrow upward

Moorish or Oriental Revival Style
–  
Ogee (pointed) arch
–  
Complex and intricate details with a Middle Eastern or Oriental theme
–  
Recessed porches
–  
Onion dome or minaret
–  Mosaic tile trim

Swiss Chalet Revival Style
–  
Front facing projecting gable with wooden cut out trim
–  
Second floor porch with cut out balustrade and trim
–  
Patterned stickwork on exterior walls
–  Low pitched roof with wide overhanging eaves

More information about these styles is available in this section of the Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide.

Italianate Villa/Italianate Style 1840 – 1885

architectural preservation

Photo by PA Historical & Museum Commission

 –  Cornice with decorative brackets
–  Widely overhanging eaves
–  
Two or three stories in height
–  
Tall, narrow windows
–  
Curved (segmental) arches over windows or doors
–  
Elaborate window crowns
–  
Single story porches, full width or entry porticos
–  
Low pitched roof
–  
Cupola or square tower with bracketed cornice
–  Quoins

More information about the Italianate Style is available in this section of the Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide.

 

Romanesque Revival Style 1840 – 1900

historic wood windows

Photo by PA Historical & Museum Commission

 

–  Masonry construction
–  Round arches at entrance windows
–  Heavy and massive appearance
–  Polychromatic stonework on details
–  Round tower
–  Squat columns
–  Decorative plaques

 

More information about the Romanesque Revival Style is available in this section of the Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide.

 

Queen Anne Style 1880 – 1910

–  Abundance of decorative elements
–  Steeply pitched roof with irregular shape
–  Cross gables
–  Asymmetrical facade
–  Large partial or full width porch
–  Round or polygonal corner tower
–  Decorative spindlework on porches and gable trim
–  Projecting bay windows
–  Patterned masonry or textured wall surfaces
–  Columns or turned post porch supports
–  Patterned shingles
–  Single pane windows, some with small decorative panes or stained glass

More information about the Queen Anne Style is available in this section of the Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide.

 

Tudor Revival Style 1890 – 1920

Tudor Revival Style 1890 – 1920

Photo by PA Historical & Museum Commission

–  Steeply pitched roof
–  Cross gables
–  Decorative half-timbering
–  Prominent chimneys
–  Narrow multi-pane windows
–  Entry porches or gabled entry
–  Patterned stonework or brickwork
–  Overhanging gables or second stories
–  Parapeted or Flemish gable

 

More information about the Tudor Revival Style is available in this section of the Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide.

 

Bungalow/Craftsman Style 1900 – 1930

–  One or two stories high
–  Overhanging eaves with exposed rafters or braces
–  Front-facing gables
–  Multi-pane windows
–  Low-pitched gable or hipped roof
–  Full or partial front porch with columns
–  Prominent gabled or shed roofed dormers

 

 

More information about the Bungalow/Craftsman Style is available in this section of the Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide.