Steven Bohnet of Bohnet Electric Co. joined the Practical Preservation podcast to discuss his 113 year old family business of electric contracting and a lighting showroom that also features light fixture restoration and lamp repair.  We covered a multitude of topics including:

  • The pros and cons of the Corporate (commerical) versus Non-Profit restoration/preservation projects
  • Why it makes sense that an electrician would also have a lighting showroom
  • The challenges faced with short sighted decision making during a restoration/preservation project

Contact

Steven Bohnet – [email protected]

Website

Phone: 517-327-9999

Offers

$10 off Tuesday Lamp Repair

Website virtual coupon – mention ‘virtual’ for $5.00/off

Showroom: Vintage lamp fixtures 35% off, shades 25% off

 

 

Choosing 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. 

Any project done 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. 


Photo by Theme Photos on Unsplash

CHOOSE A CONTRACTOR WHO IS WELL-VERSED IN HISTORICAL 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 facade treatments focus on moisture-proofing, while historical buildings functioned as “Breathing” buildings that expelled excess moisture – if you combine a new facade material (even one that looks exactly like the original) with an old facade material, you can set the stage for dangerous moisture issues that threaten your building’s foundation and air quality. 

Sometimes the same (or similar) materials are used to produce a replicate product, and are “merely” fabricated in an entirely different manner than the original products were, 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 replication and does not truly preserve 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 involving lower firing temperatures resulted in softer bricks than the modern, mass-production process.

CHOOSE A CONTRACTOR THAT CAN 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.

CHOOSE A CONTRACTOR WHO KNOWS THE REVIEW, PERMITTING, AND APPROVAL PROCESS

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 simpler: 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. 

Choosing 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. 

CHOOSE A CONTRACTOR WHO VALUES PRESERVATION 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. 

Quick and easy ways to assess whether or not your contractor values preservation as much as you do:

  • Do their website and blogs offer non-sales content related to preservation and/or the traditional trades: how much is self-promotion and how much is preservation-promotion?
  • Does their social media activity include more than just what they’re doing, such as sharing general preservation information?
  • What organizations do they support, participate in, or have they helped found? 
  • Do they practice a traditional trade and do they understand the historical methods of the traditional trades?
  • Can they explain to me what the appropriate materials and methods for my project are and why, or do they know of acceptable substitutes if exact replication isn’t feasible?
  • What references do they have and do they have a record of historical restoration projects?
  • Do previous customers feel that the contractor’s priority was preservation or the bottom line?
  • Do they freely share their credentials and are they properly insured and licensed as applicable?
  • Do they understand the permitting, review, and approval process for the project, and have they worked through this process in my area for previous projects?
  • ABOVE ALL ELSE, your contractor should be someone you are comfortable with, who listens to your needs and wants, and who understands historical restorations and has a proven and specialized track record of work on historical buildings.

 

When most people think about the post-World War II era of the 1950’s, among the things they think about are iconic TV shows like “Howdy Doody” and “The Ed Sullivan Show,” presidents Truman and Eisenhower, Rock-n-Roll, the emergence of teen culture, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe movies, and the Cold War. But historical preservationists equate the ’50’s with Mid-Century Modern architecture.

taylor-simpson-ljhszooqvTI-unsplash.jpgPhoto by Taylor Simpson on Unsplash

WHAT INFLUENCED MID-CENTURY MODERN DESIGN PHILOSOPHIES?

Escaping Nazi oppression, founders of the 1920’s Bauhaus movement, such as Mies van der Roche and Walter Gropius, brought their concepts of clean lines, angular compositions, and simple forms with them to America. The basic tenets of the Bauhaus movement blended with American architectural traditions, particularly Arts and Crafts and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie School designs, and evolved into what is called Mid-Century Modern Architecture, which extends beyond the contraction of houses to furniture and interior design and is characterized by the use of modern materials, horizontal composition, large expanses of plate glass (including sliding glass doors), open floor plans, and are typically one-story residential buildings. Often there are changes in elevation within the home design that make it distinctly different from ranch-style homes, creating a fresh new architecture that didn’t harken back to the past. 

MID-CENTURY MODERN DEFINING CHARACTERISTICS

GENERAL PROPORTIONS
Classic modern houses are one story, spread out, and horizontal

ROOF TYPES 
Flat, sometimes slight single pitch, often asymmetrical

FENESTRATION
Floor to ceiling glass in living sections, horizontal strips in less public areas of the house

STRUCTURAL & FACEWORK MATERIALS
No character defining material … stone, brick, wood siding (both vertical and horizontal clapboard) were all used … possible decoration: larger chimney made of brick or stone

SPATIAL DESIGNATION & FLOOR PLAN 
Very open plans, usually with kitchen, dining area, and living room as one continuous space … carports are common with the roofline acting as an extension of the main horizontal roof … basements and attics are rare

CHIMNEY PLACEMENT
Substantial and made of stone … often appears at the peak of the roof

ENTRANCEWAY
Somewhat formal main entrance with decoration limited to a floor to ceiling glass sidelight … often enters directly into the kitchen or utility room from the carport

COLOR
White initially, with warmer and natural colors introduced later in the period

PRESERVATION CHALLENGES: MID-CENTURY MODERN ARCHITECTURE

Mid-Century Modern Architecture is characterized by its progressive designs and minimalist aesthetics that became popular in the post-World War II era, and contrast with their ranch-style counterparts, due to the fact that the designs make no reference to earlier building styles, like the Colonial Revival. The goal of Mid-Century Modern designers was to create a look that broke with the past, which often lent itself to outlandish details and futuristic elements that might appear more at home in science fiction. 

The way things were built, including houses, changed after WWII. There was a demand for new construction for returning GI’s who needed housing for their families. Prior to the war, during the Great Depression (1929-1939), there wasn’t much new construction outside of public works projects that were created as part of the New Deal, and in the early 1940’s all resources were devoted to the war effort. Due to the housing demand, a system was developed to create housing fast and economically, as expansion into the suburbs, a phenomenon that began in early 1900’s, continued.

GI’s not only needed housing, but also jobs, which increased the existing labor force. Materials were made to be installed by less skilled labor. Manufacturers began making building materials that were meant to be replaced rather than repaired, which created a workforce of product installers rather than skilled craftsman (a trend that continues today). 

The modern construction techniques allowed architects to experiment with forms and materials. Steel framing, first used in Chicago skyscrapers at the turn of the century, was used in Mid-Century Modern buildings, and enabled architects to create the walls of glass and open floor plans that characterize the style. Open floor plans were designed to promote more casual and integrated living spaces that could accommodate a variety of uses. Large expanses of glass framed by thin structural elements allowed for more contact with nature.

So, you own a Mid-Century Modern house, how can you tell if it’s considered an historic structure?
A building older than 50 years (or newer building if a historically significant event took place there), is eligible for the National Historic Register. Of course, there are other criteria, which you can find by visiting the “Eligibility” page at: 

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nationalhistoriclandmarks/eligibility.htm

and the “How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation” page at:

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nationalregister/upload/NRB-15_web508.pdf

 

 

Matt Barley joined the Practical Preservation podcast to discuss the work of  Lancaster County Preservation Trust and his preservation philosophy.

Some of the highlights of our discussion were:

Contact:

website: https://hptrust.org/

email: [email protected]

https://www.facebook.com/historicpreservationtrust/

https://www.instagram.com/hptrust/

Bio:

Matt Barley grew up working on the farms of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. When he was 16, he spent three months in Kenya building a library from the foundation to the roof with local resources and hand tools. Having this experience early in life radically influenced his perspective on the world and specifically inspired him to become a designer and maker.
For his undergraduate degree Matt studied Industrial Arts, which allowed him to explore traditional means of construction and antique furniture reproduction. After undergraduate studies, he ran a small construction company making and designing bespoke residential and commercial installations and structures. As the years progressed, he was continually approached by creative customers because of his outside the box design solutions. Seeing customers delight in his creative solutions inspired him to have some formal design training.
Matt Barley was accepted to Rhode Island School of Design’s (RISD) Interior Architecture program. It was during this time that he began to leave the world of antique reproduction and began to design his own structures and furniture.
He currently works full-time as an Interior Designer at RLPS Architects in Lancaster. Matt designs and fabricates furniture and art on nights and weekends. Additionally He is a board member of The Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County.

Dr. Lori joined the Practical Preservation podcast to discuss her passion for helping people discover the treasures within their families. Jonathan and I meet her at a LNP (the Lancaster Newspaper) antique appraisal (you can watch that video here).  When I reached out to Dr. Lori about an interview on the podcast she was so enthusiastic – I can tell she really loves to educate people about antiques and how to care for them.  

Contact:

Website: https://www.drloriv.com/

You Tube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/DrLoriV

Bio:

Dr. Lori is the star antiques appraiser on the History channel’s #1 rated TV show The Curse of Oak Island, Discovery channel’s Auction Kings and appears on FOX Business Network’s Strange Inheritance.

Dr. Lori has shared her expertise with Business Insider, NBC TV’s TODAY show, Anderson LIVE, Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, NBC TV’s The Tonight Show, Inside Edition, and Lifetime Television. Dr. Lori is an award-winning TV personality and TV talk show host with the Ph.D. in art history.

Ph.D. antiques appraiser, Dr. Lori Verderame is an internationally syndicated columnist and an author with 30 books to her credit. She has contributed a blog to Lifetime Television and has been an editor of several lifestyle magazines. Dr. Lori is the director of www.DrLoriV.com.

Presenting more than 150 events every year, conducting in-home appraisal visits and appraisals online, Dr. Lori reviews approximately 20,000 items a year.

Offer:

Events

 

Andy deGruchy joined the Practical Preservation podcast to discuss his Craftwork Training Center, the historic masonry contracting and supply business and his philosophy of the body, mind, and spirit working together to create art.  His 35 years of experience as a mason was highlighted as he explained his dive into the material science world and now working to help train the future craftsperson.  

Contact:

Limeworks or Craftwork Training Center: 215-536-1776 Or email Andy at [email protected]

Bio:

Andy deGruchy is a brick and stone mason and historic masonry restoration contractor for 35 years based in Quakertown, Pennsylvania.  Andy does all his work using specialty mortars and plasters that he has imported from France for the last 20 years.  In 1999 he started LimeWorks.us, a specialty supply company that ships custom formulated replacement mortars for historic masonry structures throughout the United States.  LimeWorks.us and deGruchy Masonry Restoration employs approximately 21 people.  Andy also, operates a Craftwork Training Center, based in Telford, Pennsylvania, that teaches participants how to use LimeWorks.us mortar, plaster, and stone patching material called Lithomex. Andy is married to Audrey and they have four children.

Offer: 

Veterans Discounts (call for details) and 50% off Craftwork Training Center courses for Buck’s County Community College students plus 1.5 prior learning units toward program requirements (offer extended to all other students)

 

 

 

William Woys Weaver joined the Practical Preservation podcast to discuss his research into food history and how it lead him back to his grandparents garden and forgotten heirloom seeds.  This episode combines my love of food and history.  The intersection of the two tells our collective stories and reflects the values of the time period (it is interesting to me that during the time we began eating lots of processed, easy foods that our building methods also changed to a more assembly line mentality).  

Contact:

Website  email or call with any heirloom seed questions you might have.  

Event: The National Heirloom Seed Expo – with book signing and lectures

Bio:

Described as the “Merlin of American regional cookery,” William Woys Weaver is an internationally known food historian and the author of 17 books. He is a rare four-time winner of the prestigious IACP/Julia Child Cookbook Awards, his most recent gold medal going to Culinary Ephemera, a beautifully illustrated survey of old food advertising materials. His 1993 award winning cookbook Pennsylvania Dutch Country Cooking has been included in the anthology: 100 Great American Cookbooks of the 20th Century. Weaver’s Dutch Treats: Heirloom Recipes from Farmhouse Kitchens was published by St. Lynn’s Press of Pittsburgh in September 2016 and a new edition of his classic Heirloom Vegetable Gardening has been published by the Quarto Press with new photos and expanded text. In May he received the 2019 Award of Excellence from the American Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries. Dr. Weaver received his PhD in food ethnography from University College, Dublin (Ireland) – the first degree of its kind to be awarded by that university — and is now Curator Emeritus of the Roughwood Seed Collection of heirloom food plants at the historic Lamb Tavern in Devon, Pennsylvania. Called “the Waldon Pond of heirloom seeds,” the Roughwood Seed Collection provides rare limited edition seeds online at www.TheRoughwoodTable.org and through the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company at www.Rareseeds.com Dr. Weaver is presently working on a two-volume study of the medieval foods of Cyprus. His book on pickling with heirloom vegetables called The Roughwood Book of Pickling will be published by Rizzoli this coming September 24th. It is now available for preorders online at Amazon.com.

For further information:
www.WilliamWoysWeaver.com
www.FaceBook.com/ William Woys Weaver: Epicure with Hoe

 

 

Sharon Hanby-Robie joined the Practical Preservation podcast to discuss her interior design philosophy, her new brand of home furnishings “Home by SHR“, how color influences our emotions (it is the second strongest emotional trigger with scent being the first).

Throughout her over forty year career in interior design Sharon has ‘reinvented’ herself many times (successfully) from resident home décor expert for QVC, Inc, wallpaper industry spokesperson, and best-selling author Sharon has found ways to serve her audience and empower people to feel confident in their own decorating skills.

Contact Info:

Website 

Offers:

Christmas in July on QVC

Mention you heard the Practical Preservation podcast for a discounted Color Consulation

Bio:

Sharon has been an interior designer and member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) for more than forty years. She works on projects in many fields including residential, hospitality, and health care, and is a regular speaker for business and women’s organizations. She also continues to write for many magazines and web publications as well as a regular interviewee on radio.
Since 2003, Sharon has been the resident home décor expert for QVC Inc., showcasing the latest in interior design and home fashion to millions of television viewers.
In March 2019 Sharon launched her own brand of home furnishings, “Home by SHR,” on the QVC Television Network. It was very well received and will be expanding in 2020 with accessory and lighting in addition to bedding and area rugs.

From January 2000 – 2005 The Wallpaper Council selected Sharon as the wallpaper industry spokesperson. She used her professional expertise and knowledge as an interior designer and decorating expert to deliver important messages about wallpaper to consumers nationwide.

Sharon was the host of Scripps DIY Network’s Ask DIY show and has been featured on The Today Show; Later Today; QVC, Inc., shopping network; PBS’s Handy Ma’am, HGTV’s Mission Organization, Decorating with Style, Interiors by Design, Smart Solutions; Discovery Channel’s Home Matters, Interior Motives; as well as The Maurey Povich Show, and The Gale King Show.

Sharon is also a best-selling author. The My Name Isn’t Martha series of books include My Name Isn’t Martha But I Can Decorate My Home, and My Name Isn’t Martha, But I can Renovate My Home: The Real Person’s Guide to Home Improvement and Beautiful Places, Spiritual Spaces. Her latest books, titles in The Spirit of Simple LivingTM series, are from Guideposts Books. The Simple Home was released in October 2006. A Simple Wedding was released in the spring of 2007. Sharon’s most recent book is Decorating Without Fear, from Rutledge Hill Press.

Specialties: Media Spokesperson for all areas of the home industry, Media Satellite Tours, Speaking for Business and Women’s groups, Interior Designer, Author.

Wes Swanson joined the Practical Preservation podcast to discuss historic brick making, lime based mortar, and his journey to preservation through his love of history. We discussed a variety of topics related to historic masonry including:

  • The difference between modern and historic bricks, how they get their color, and what they are made of
  • His research of Lancaster City brickmaking 1700’s through the modern era (he has presented the History of Brickmaking and worked with Rockford Plantation to plan STEM lessons based on historic masonry and the masonry trade)
  • The Chicago fire and it’s effect on the Lancaster City building code (no more frame buildings)

Resources discussed:

Mortar analysis: LimeWorks or Lancaster Lime Works 

Tools to remove mortar: Trow & Holden

Bio:

Wes Swanson is an American History teacher at Hempfield school district and also a mason. He has been working in the masonry trade since he was 16. He is currently the owner of Wes Swanson Masonry. After earning a graduate degree in American studies from Penn State he began researching the history of brick making in Lancaster county and has given several lectures on the topic. He has also consulted with Rockford Plantation to plan STEM lessons involving historic brick making and the masonry trade. Syncing his passion for history and masonry he focuses a lot of his masonry work in the summer on brick and stone preservation.

Contact Info:

email: [email protected]

phone: 717-419-5706

Presentation: Brick Making in Lancaster County, July 15th, 7PM at the Mount Joy Historical Society 

 

A solid plan is critical for any construction project. Solid planning will ensure more efficient implementation of your project, limit schedule disturbances and project problems, and control your project’s budget. Proper planning will also reduce the chances of causing irreparable damage to your building.

A good plan for any project on your historical building should begin with research, investigation, and implementation of an appropriate treatment that meets both your building’s needs and your budget. This will ensure that the historical fabric and integrity of your building is not permanently damaged by inappropriate treatments.

Once an appropriate treatment plan has been determined, a plan for execution of the project must be developed. The different systems in your historical building must work together symbiotically to function as a healthy building. Proceeding with a project without considering how it fits into and impacts the entire house can cause serious problems. For example, changes to your HVAC systems impact the airflow in your house and can set the stage for moisture issues. Exterior finishes and landscaping improvements can easily mask foundation concerns that need to be addressed. Both interior and exterior finishes can hide structural issues that threaten your building’s structural stability.

A good plan for execution of any project on your historic building should be developed that includes the following elements:

  • Safety: An important first step to any project is to ensure that the structure is safe for occupants and that any treatments in the project will not jeopardize that safety.
  • Structural: The structural systems of your building should be evaluated to verify that they are stable and can support the building’s usage and any planned treatments.
  • Exterior Envelope: The next step is to access the exterior envelope of your building to determine if it is properly serving the function in was originally designed to serve (keeping the water out) and it is not deteriorating or experiencing problems that will lead to deterioration.
  • Mechanicals: All work on a building can affect how the mechanical systems work (even if the work seems completely unrelated), so an important step in any project planning is an evaluation of your building’s HVAC, electric, and plumbing systems.  It is important to do this work before the interior finishes to minimize impact and expense.
  • Interior Finishes: Even when they look just as they should and have the colors and textures that meet your aesthetic preferences, the walls, trim work, and floors of your building should be evaluated for hidden problems that raise your risk decay.
  • Landscaping: The landscaping design on the outside of your building isn’t just pretty flowers and greenery that enhances the historical significance of your home – it can also significantly threaten your home if it allows invasive plant and insect species to penetrate your exterior envelope or encourages moisture issues in your foundation. 

Proceeding with projects without taking into consideration all of these elements and any specific problems to address or a prioritized list of projects to complete can set the ground for deterioration that can destroy the historical architectural features of your building.