When your historical home 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 simple: you hired someone to do the work.

Today the process is a bit more complex. Work of any kind on a historical home can involve multiple government agencies who grant and oversee construction and occupancy permits and sometimes even a historical board or commission who guides the restoration process and approves any changes, the materials, and methods used to make those changes.

(Not to mention the various building codes your project is subject to and the exceptions and regulations that govern construction projects involving historical buildings!)

 

 

Of course, there are plenty of horror stories about the HYSTERICAL Review/Commission/Boards. Knowing how to navigate the process helps to eliminate the potential aggravations (having a preservation contractor or design professional does not hurt either).

Typically, any property within a historic district or conservation area must be reviewed by a Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB) or historic commission (there are over 439 historic districts just in Pennsylvania).

Usually the work the historic review boards are concerned with is the exterior (visible from the street) (included but not limited to):

• Replacement of doors and windows;
• Removal, enclosure or repair of porch;
• Replacement of roof;
• Cleaning and pointing of masonry;
• Addition of a roof deck; and
• Addition to the property.

The board also reviews demolition and any new infill construction within the historic district. Contact your local municipality to see if your property is in a historic district.

Usually you need the historic commission approval before a building permit can be granted.

If you are proposing a radical change that would alter the building significantly it is recommended to consult with the Historical Commission staff before you get to far into the design process.

Simple projects (requiring repairs and replacement in kind) using the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards as guidance and usually be approved at the staff level (without the necessity to go before the entire board for an approval hearing).

More complex projects that require building plans (blueprints, specifications – usually prepared by a design professional) can also be submitted for approval at the staff level provided the proposed changes use the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards as guidance.

Projects that are less sensitive to the historic nature of the property are reviewed by the entire board (with recommendations by the staff using the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards to explain their reasoning). The entire board then debates, hears input from the community, and then votes to approve or deny the proposed changes.

If the plans are denied they can be revised based on the input from the board (and then resubmitted for approval) or the decision can be appealed to a higher level (in Lancaster City, it is the City Council).

Hopefully this demystifies the historic commission review process.

Preservation and sustainability. What does one have to do with the other? If we examine these terms more closely, we can see that older buildings are inherently “green” or sustainable because of “embodied energy” (all of the energy used to build the building that would need to be expended to build something else). In fact, the report from the National Trust for Historic Preservation “The greenest building” states:

“This study finds that it takes 10 to 80 years for a new building that is 30 percent more efficient than an average-performing existing building to overcome, through efficient operations, the negative climate change impacts related to the construction process.”

This statement about life cycle analysis indicates that the construction process is resource intensive (both in production and transportation of new materials and landfill debris – about 20%-25% of landfill waste is construction-related). Reusing an existing building is the ultimate recycling, so preservation and sustainability are often inextricably linked, and this link highlights the importance and value for sustainability inherent in preservation.  


Photo by Random Institute on Unsplash

 

PRESERVATION’S LINK TO SUSTAINABILITY

Not surprisingly, both the preservation and the “green”/sustainable initiatives have significant common ground and can work in concert with one another. This is particularly relevant in light of concerns regarding climate change and major environmental concerns. The National Trust for Historic Preservation formed the Preservation Green Lab in 2009 to strengthen the connection between preservation and sustainability, and updated the name to The Research and Policy Lab in recognition of expanded needs. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has increased focus on climate change impacts on our heritage. There is also an International Climate Heritage Network to address the intersection of climate change and other environmental disasters on arts, culture, and heritage.

However, at times in the recent past, green and preservation agendas have been at odds and there has been a bias in the sustainable building field to start over with new buildings and materials, as pointed out by Tristan Roberts, and The Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historical Preservation’s (DAHP) Sustainability and Historic Preservation Executive Summary from 2011. The Whole Building Design Guide’s Historic Preservation Subcommittee (WBDG) notes that there has also been a stigma attached to preservation and it has been (often inaccurately) labeled as inefficient and requiring overwhelming or costly procedures to retrofit energy efficient systems into old systems. Additionally, Roberts reports that certain sustainable products that are made of recycled content or other sustainable materials may not be approved by the National Park Service’s Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation simply because they disrupt a building’s character-defining appearance. However, preservation and sustainability are far from being mutually exclusive. As Roberts reports:

“Both the environment and cultural heritage suffer when buildings are treated as disposable.”

Below, we outline characteristics of preservation that lend themselves to sustainability:

  • Energy Efficiency. As noted earlier, it also takes less energy to maintain or rehabilitate an existing building than to demolish an existing building to construct a new building, even if that new building is “green.” Restoration involves less carbon emissions than new construction. Comparatively, DAHP noted in 2011 that new buildings accounted for 40% of all extracted energy sources and 68% of all consumed energy per year. DAHP also cited the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) who shared data indicating that “commercial buildings constructed before 1920 actually use less energy per square foot than buildings from any other decade up until 2000.” New buildings made of new materials means one must consume energy to both create and ship those materials, and this also contributes to carbon emissions. DAHP adds that many historical buildings were designed with “passive systems,” or systems that took advantage of things like natural light, ventilation, and solar orientation when electrically-powered options did not exist. These passive system characteristics are all inherently sustainable and meet the same “green” goals of the sustainability camp. You can read more of our articles on energy efficiency in our archives here

 

  • Durability and Waste. Preserving a historical building reduces consumption of materials, and retaining old material creates less construction landfill waste. Green buildings should have materials that are both durable and repairable, whether that green building is new or old. Many new green building products are durable, but not necessarily repairable (read our repair archives here). Additionally, to build a new building with new materials, you have to create and ship the resources (both of which take energy), and often they are placed on newly cleared land which takes energy but also may be removing resources such as forest or farmland. Rehabilitating an existing or historical building eliminates a lot of these issues. Even reusing durable, salvaged materials from buildings that are torn down keeps those materials out of landfills and provides green materials for another building. However, more wasteful decisions are perpetuated, as Roberts points out that the construction industry often falls prey to “short-term thinking,” focusing on what works in-the-moment and disregarding long-term outcomes. Despite these benefits of preserving or rehabilitating older buildings, there can be challenges related to durability and waste in older buildings. Roberts notes that not all older buildings were well-built with durable material or construction, so in some cases, building damage is not due to neglect or abuse, but the way the building was constructed (e.g., some buildings with structural steel that is corroded cost a lot to repair). Further, as more modern buildings age and qualify as “historic” each year, these sometimes less durably-built structures pose new challenges for both the preservation and sustainability movements.

 

“GREENING” YOUR HISTORICAL COMMUNITY, BUILDING, OR HOME

Several efforts at the international and national level have been highlighted here for increasing connections between preservation and sustainability. WBDG’s Historic Preservation Subcommittee adds several guidelines that marry LEED guidelines for “greening” existing buildings with processes that incorporate specialization for historical buildings (here). However, there are several things individuals in and building and homeowners can do as well. On a community scale, The National Trust for Historic Preservation includes information on helping preserve your community and designating a historic place. Below are tips for owners of older buildings and homes. These are based primarily on the framework provided by the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Meghan White in “8 Ways to Green Your Historic House“, listed below, as well as information from other articles and our own expertise:

  1. Conduct an energy audit. Know where energy may be leaking. White states “A popular example is the blower door test. This test involves using a high-powered fan to take the air out of the building, which depressurizes the interior. The difference in air pressure is then measured with an air pressure gauge.” The pressure difference allows outside air to come into the building via openings, which reveals areas you’ll need to seal.  
  2. Don’t replace windows (or doors, or siding, etc.). As we’ve noted several times, a big misconception is that historical windows are to blame for the drafts in homes. White reports “As the National Trust’s Research & Policy Lab (formerly known as the Preservation Green Lab) notes in their study Saving Windows, Saving Money, historic windows rarely deserve to be completely replaced. Instead, weatherstrip them or install minimally invasive storm windows so that they keep the drafts out and lower your energy bills. The study found that retrofitting windows are the most cost-efficient way to decrease a historic house’s carbon footprint. As a bonus, old growth wood found in historic windows lasts longer than modern day wood, so preserving your historic windows will keep you from having to replace them more often.” Similar points can be made for doors, siding, and many exterior home parts that separate the outside from the inside. DAHP adds that more energy is lost from plumbing openings and uninsulated ducts than windows. The key is to repair, restore, and maintain these protections from the outside elements.
  3. Insulate the attic and basement. White notes that energy escapes through uninsulated spots such as basements, crawl spaces, and attics. Insulating them can help to prevent air from escaping. They say “Cellulose is a great option because, unlike spray foam, it’s reversible.” They also caution “You should refrain from insulating walls because you’re removing the permeable vapor barrier inherent in historic structures. The walls of historic houses are made to breathe, but inhibiting movement of air and heat through and around the wall can lead to issues like trapped moisture.” This issue is closely related to our points about differences in modern mortar and historical mortar, and the inherent breathability of old wall materials. 
  4. Take advantage of your house’s natural passive heating and cooling. White says “Artificial cooling and heating methods can be some of the highest energy consumers in a historic house.” They suggest using your historical home’s shutters to cool your house naturally: open your windows and latch the shutters to allow natural air flow. The added bonus is it will shade your interior from the sun. Window awnings that are historically appropriate can also provide similar benefits. In cases where you want or need additional electric components, consider finding a preservation and sustainability-minded HVAC professional who can retrofit systems with little disturbance to your home’s historic fabric, as we discussed here
  5. Consider installing renewable energy sources. Installing solar, wind, or geothermal renewable energy sources on your historic property are also options to consider. White says “Solar panels produce electricity naturally and will help lower your bills. When connected to a utility power grid, modern wind turbines can also help create electricity using renewable resources and in a more cost-efficient manner. Read more about installing solar panels on historic properties here.” Tesla has also developed solar panels that are extremely sympathetic to the historical aesthetics of an older home, though it may be cost-prohibitive for many.
  6. Pay attention to your landscaping. Trees may help to conserve energy in your house,with deciduous trees providing shade in the summer and fallen leaves allowing sunlight to warm your house in late fall and winter. Another issue we acknowledge is environmental damage due to combined sewer systems in many cities. When it rains too much the system becomes overwhelmed and this causes untreated sewage to be dumped into streams and rivers and contaminates waterways. The EPA fines communities every time this happens. As an individual homeowner, you can prevent some of your own contribution to this problem by: creating a rain garden to divert the water away from the storm drain and also away from the foundation; installing permeable pavers laid in the traditional manner (with sand underneath instead of mortar); and you can build a drywell. Check with your local municipality to see if they have a grant to help defray the costs of to property owners who make these changes. 
  7. Change your Lightbulbs. White points out “According to the General Services Administration, High Efficiency Incandescent (HEI) lamps reduce energy by 50 to 75% and use only 25% of the energy that regular incandescent bulbs use. They also don’t alter the appearance of historic light fixtures where the bulbs are visible, like LEDs do. Otherwise, LEDs are a good option when the bulb is obscured by opaque shades or lenses.”
  8. Reuse old materials or salvage. White encourages readers renovating historical buildings to replace missing pieces with materials from salvage companies before resorting to all-new material. This helps preserve historical pieces and prevents some landfill waste. 
     

IN SUMMARY:

Preservation and sustainability have much in common, and destroying or demolishing old buildings is more wasteful than helpful, even when replacing it with a new “green building.” It is best to preserve what we do have, by repairing, restoring, and maintaining these buildings. 

A façade. What is it? Most of us know that its most basic definition is “face.” In the case of architecture, this refers to the exterior side of the building, usually the front. Façades on buildings are often the first defining features we see. As times change, so do architectural design styles, and this is reflected in façades on old and new buildings. Façades can provide varying amounts of information about the building’s past and current functioning, or they can simply be really nice to look at. Regardless, they are often the one aspect of architecture that almost anyone has access to simply by being in front of us. Read on to learn why historical façades are more than aesthetics.


Exterior shot of the Kosciuszko House, from our archives.

 

IMPORTANCE OF FACADES

You may be thinking to yourself: Why is a façade important? Isn’t it just for aesthetic-purposes? The answer is: Yes, it is partially focused on aesthetics. And one person’s visually-pleasing cup-of-tea is not someone else’s, so not every façade is attractive to every eye. However, a façade serves many more purposes and provides many other benefits than simply fulfilling an aesthetic goal.

  • Historical Streetscape and Cultural Landscape. The front façade of your home is an important focal point not only for curb appeal, but for the entire community. The rhythm of the entire streetscape is set by the street-facing façade. A well-preserved façade helps to maintain the historic fabric and cultural landscape of the building and the area around it, further contributing to the identity of its environment and community. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and Mainstreet America provide further information on the impetus to save and preserve façades in keeping with these community and cultural concepts.

 

  • Visual Historical Records. Even things that were considered merely decorative at the time of their construction may currently serve a function as a visual replacement for a historic plaque, by virtue of their historically-defining characteristics. Essentially, period-appropriate façades that are preserved are visual clues to the time period of the building, enabling us to visually “read” some aspects of a building’s history.  We can discern the time period of the building based on the style, as well as time periods of later additions. Style also indicates the socioeconomic status of the builder/original owner.

 

  • Form and Function. A preserved or period-appropriate façade also may include functional aspects. Although the nature of design has clearly evolved, we know that form and function often go hand-in-hand in older buildings and this often rings true even on a façade. The ingenious marriage of form and function in their designs often lend to the “charm” that modern people associate with them, and that is typically missing from newer buildings. For instance, historical shutters most-definitely served a function as much as they added to the decoration of a home. Their functions included protecting occupants from prying eyes or intrusion,  weather protection, as well as UV protection of items inside the home, including wooden furniture. They might also provide a breeze to come through without having the window gaping open, and in some cases were substitutes for glass windows. Porches also served dual functions, providing a grand decorative entrance to the home, while also allowing for outdoor socialization (as well as alternative sleeping accommodations in the case of sleeping porches). Other façade design elements can also be functional in many ways. 

 

ISSUES AND CONTROVERSIES

Contractors, building owners, city planning committees, and the public do not always agree on how façades or their buildings should be built, preserved, or maintained, leading to a variety of outcomes and controversies.

  • Façade lost or destroyed. In some cases, an old home or building’s façade is modified, rendering it unrecognizable from its original configuration, and important historical elements are forgotten or lost. Some of the aspects most-threatened by these facelifts include original windows and doors, due to homeowners’ concerns about energy efficiency, cost, and maintenance, and the highly-advertised “maintenance-free” trap

 

  • Façade preserved but interior lost or destroyed. In other cases and as is more common, the façade is preserved while the interior is not. The Secretary of the Interiors’ guidelines for Historic Preservation focuses on the preservation of exterior features (the façade) by allowing historic commissions/HARB districts to regulate changes to buildings within the designated districts to what is visible from the public street (“streetscape” is the term that is used).  The interior is not regulated even in historic districts – leading to gutting of interiors while the exteriors are preserved.  I think this is because the historic preservation policy is based off of community preservation (“rhythms and patterns” is the term that is used) balanced with property owners’ rights – which is still a tension in regulated neighborhoods.  Easements are the only preservation tool that can preserve the interior (if stipulated in the agreement). We will discuss more of this in an upcoming blog post on interiors.

 

  • Façadism. This term refers to an even more extreme example than the one above. Simply put, façadism is when the façade is preserved but the building behind is completely lost or destroyed, and replaced by a completely new building. This is often seen in the case of adaptive reuse. This obviously is a controversial topic in the field of preservation, and some believe it should not be associated with true historic preservation. Locally here in Lancaster, the preservation victory of preserving the Watt and Shand Department Store façade in downtown Lancaster for the Marriott Hotel and Convention Center has been controversial, but I’d rather see the façade preserved than lost.

 

  • Façade and interior restored or preserved. In some cases, façades and interiors are beautifully restored and saved. See this post on an example of one of our complete exterior and interior restorations from several years ago. Another unique local example is also part of the Marriott complex. The Montgomery house’s exterior was preserved as the convention center was built around and incorporated the home into it, and the interior of the house was renovated to meet modern needs, making this a more thorough example of restoration incorporated into adaptive reuse. 

 

FAÇADE PRESERVATION TIPS

There are several things you can do to preserve or restore your historical façade, and we’ve included a breakdown of each of the most common elements of your home’s façade, as well as comprehensive information on overall maintenance and aesthetic/architectural style elements.

  • Entrances (porches and doors). The entrance to a home is one of the most attention-grabbing aspects of a façade. Visit our previous post on porches and doors for more information on restoring or updating your entrance. You can also visit our porch archives.

 

  • Windows and Shutters. Windows are another key component of a façade, and we’ve discussed many times the importance of maintenance or restoration of old windows vs. falling for the “maintenance-free” new window trap that is heavily touted by modern manufacturing companies and many contractors. Visit the National Park Service’s (NPS) site on windows, and NPS’s National Center for Preservation Technology and Training’s website on windows, and our window archives for more information on approaching your historical windows.

 

  • Siding and Paint. Siding can be just as vulnerable as windows are to replacement with inappropriate modern materials. Paint poses its own challenges in terms of safety (lead in old paint) but also benefits of historically-accurate (minus the lead) paints and paint colors. Visit NPS’s briefs on exterior paint issues and substitute materials, as well as our articles on siding and painting your historical home

 

  • Roofs and Chimneys. Roofs and chimneys can be essential elements of a home’s design and are distinctively different across architectural styles. Visit the NPS’s preservation briefs on roofing and mortar, as well as The Trust for Architectural Easement’s piece on historic masonry chimneys. The Wisconsin Historical Society also has a piece on Preserving Original Roof Features of your Historic Building

 

  • Gutters. Although these utilitarian features are often overlooked when one thinks of more common aesthetic and functional features of a building’s façade, they are no less essential. The Trust for Architectural Easements discusses preservation of gutters and downspouts, and we’ve discussed gutters in our archives

 

  • Additions. Additions to homes, especially ones visible from the front of the home, are another important thing to consider when attempting to preserve most historical aspects of a façade. Visit NPS’s brief on exterior additions and Sheldon Richard Kostelecky’s article regarding sympathetic additions. 

 

  • Architectural character. Character is a major aspect of streetscapes and the cultural landscape, as well as period-appropriate architectural design style. Visit NPS’s brief on architectural character and our archives on architectural design.  

 

  • Overall maintenance. Visit our maintenance archives, including many recent and up-to-date articles on maintaining your home’s exterior. 

IN SUMMARY:

There’s more to a façade than meets the eye. If you would like help preserving or restoring your home’s  façade beyond the resources presented throughout this article, feel free to contact us to discuss your options. 

 

PART 2 OF THIS SERIES of working on your old home explores replacement in-kind. Replacement in-kind refers to replicating the original in all respects except improved condition, when absolute preservation is not possible. This is a follow-up to Part 1’s general information about maintaining your home’s historical relevance and period style. Regarding replacement, it is easy to think that if the look of a historical building is maintained, as well as the types of materials used, then the building has been successfully preserved. But preservation is not just about preserving how something looks, it is primarily focused on preserving how something is, so that it remains as original as possible for future generations. 

Photo of Keperling Preservation Services’ completed work on the Harris Mansion porch in 2014, which necessitated some replacement in-kind. 

As important as it is to preserve how our historical buildings actually are, inevitably replacements will need to be made when features are so deteriorated that stabilization, conservation, or restoration are simply not viable options. In these instances, the National Park Service’s Standards for Preservation and Guidelines for Preserving Historic Buildings allow for “replacement in-kind” (replicating the original feature in all respects, except improved condition) if there are surviving features that can be used as prototypes. The Standards & Guidelines also notes that, “The replacement materials need to match the old both physically and visually, i.e., wood with wood, etc. Thus… substitute materials are not appropriate in … preservation.”

Using similarly styled or patterned ceramic tile to replace a terracotta tile, using a different wood when replacing cabinetry, removing wallpaper in favor of uncovering the plaster walls, using shingles that are of a different dimension, are all changes that can easily be made in ways that are in keeping with your building’s period of significance. Yet doing so can be confusing to anyone researching historical architecture by suggesting these features (or aspects of them) were there during the building’s period of significance when, in reality, they weren’t.

Further, removing these features permanently alters your building’s historical fabric, sometimes irretrievably. Original wallpaper that is often destroyed during the removal process can’t usually be replaced with in-kind period wallpaper. Replacing one species of wood with another sometimes can’t be undone if the original species of wood is not readily available, or is priced so exorbitantly that it is not financially feasible for your project. In order to avoid significant, and sometimes irreparable, damage to your building, consider replacing only the deteriorated or missing parts of your building’s features, use materials that match the old in design, color, and texture (both physically and visually), and document the original material and the replacement process and materials used extensively for future reference and research.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I have documentation of all former replacements, including documentation of the original features?
  • Have I had my buildings evaluated by a qualified contractor to identify any inappropriate replacement materials or approaches?
  • Do I document all replacements I do, including written and photographic documentation, noting the materials, details, and tooling on both the original and the replacement?
  • Are there any parts of my building’s original features that are deteriorated or missing and need replacement?
  • Is it possible to just replace the deteriorated parts instead of replacing the whole feature?
  • Have I checked with a qualified contractor to see if remediation is needed for any not-in-kind replacements previously performed on my building?

Next week: PART 3 OF THIS SERIES focuses on using a good design.

PART 1 OF THIS SERIES of working on your old home explores options for property owners to save the home’s historically relevant aspects specific to when and how it was built, versus mixing time periods and styles. Maintaining your home’s historical relevance necessitates preservation and restoration tactics that honor the home’s appropriate time period. If too much of the historic fabric is lost (e.g., removed or replaced), the methods and materials that make a historical building special are also lost. At a certain point so much may be lost that the property becomes “just” an old building.


Photo by Joel Filipe on Unsplash

There is over 400 years of architectural history in the United States, including a diversity of styles as rich as the diversity of our people. Early Colonial architecture still intact today displays magnificent examples of the Spanish and English influences prevalent when European settlers first immigrated here. Revolution period buildings demonstrate the forging of a new nation with Federalist and Jeffersonian features. Homes and buildings from the mid 1800’s through the early 1900’s capture the two “moments” in American time that define the experience of our culture’s Revival Period and Gilded Age.

Every historical building has a period of significance that determined how that building was constructed and the features it would have that, together, define its architectural importance. Maintaining your historical building in keeping with the period of significance that defined it as an important piece of our built history, is essential to its historical integrity. Mixing and matching period styles can permanently alter your building to the point of historical insignificance

Historical materials, and the craftsmanship used when working with those materials, are easily damaged by modern renovation attempts – even when your intention is focused on preserving your building’s features. For example, using a power sander while restoring original wood that was hand-planed will result in woodwork that can never again reveal the same character as the original woodwork did. Painting wood flooring in a house from a period when a wooden floor would never have been painted is something typically considered reversible, but isn’t always if the wrong paint is chosen or when the removal of the paint causes significant damage to the original flooring. Original porches (and other projections), building footprints and materials, period layouts and unique features can all be altered to the point of no return while adding living space meant to bring a historical building in line with more modern functional style (i.e., failed reconstruction attempts). Removing original wallpaper, or installing wallpaper on a house from a period when wallpaper wasn’t used, isn’t just affecting the aesthetic integrity of a historical house – it can permanently damage the original plaster walls behind it.

If your ultimate goal is to maintain the historical integrity of your property’s time period, focus on preservation (focuses on the maintenance and repair of existing historic materials and retention of a property’s form as it has evolved over time), restoration (depicts a property at a particular period of time in its history, while removing evidence of other periods), or even reconstruction (re-creates vanished or non-surviving portions of a property for interpretive purposes) if possible or necessary. Essentially, avoid making changes that may try to make it appear older, newer, or fancier than what it really is. Even small, subtle changes can permanently damage the integrity of your building. The National Park Service details these options further in terms of standards and guidelines for treatment of historic properties (https://www.nps.gov/tps/standards/four-treatments/treatment-restoration.htm).

Ask yourself:

  • Do I know my building’s period of significance?
  • Do I know the architectural features common during my building’s period of significance?
  • Have any of the architectural features original to my building been altered, removed, or renovated?
  • Has the interior layout of my building been changed?
  • Have I checked with a qualified contractor to see if any changes to my building that I want to make are incompatible with my building’s architectural integrity, or can it be done in a more compatible way? Consider professional help given the potential for such a project to overwhelm you (see our helpful tips on hiring a qualified contractor https://practicalpreservationservices.com/hiring-the-right-contractor/). The qualified contractor will best be able to navigate the National Park Service standards and guidelines referred to above.

Next week: PART 2 OF THIS SERIES focuses on replacement in-kind.

 

Typically, on homes built in the mid-1800’s until the early 1900’s, the most unexpected maintenance problem deals with the internal gutter system. This is because the problem is hidden until the failure has begun. However, regular inspection and maintenance can catch the problem before it is too late, and damage is done.

First, I bet you are wondering, “what is an internal gutter system?” What we call internal gutter systems are also known as “Yankee Gutters,” or built-in, sunken, box or integral gutters. These drainage systems have been used on houses from the 1700’s through the early 1900’s, though they are most commonly found on buildings from the Victorian period. Typically, they are incorporated into the cornice along the roof line, on a porch, or bay window. The usual construction is a wood trough lined with metal. Because of the cornice trim covering the gutter, problems with the metal lining (typically the first problem – allowing water into the structural framing and eventually the trim) remains unseen until damage is spotted from the water infiltration.

Signs your system is not functioning properly include: peeling paint, moist wood, damage to the masonry (at the roof level), and plaster damage on the interior of the house (at the bay window). Unfortunately, once these symptoms are presented, there is often damage to the structural walls or ceiling, not to mention the decorative moldings of the cornice, making the repair a restoration project (replacement to match the original) rather than a preservation project (maintenance) – an expensive proposition.

One way to minimize the cost is to make sure the gutter is regularly inspected and the solder joints in the metal are properly maintained. These inspections can be done semi-annually when the gutters are cleaned of leaves and other debris.

PRO TIP: Never use roofing tar to seal the joints (rather than soldering the metal seams). This will trap the water into the wood, causing the same problems you are trying to prevent.

Some people roof over the internal gutter system and use external gutters for their water management – this is an option for saving money, but it does change the original appearance of the building by covering the decorative cornice. Further, this solution does not address the damage to the structural systems. Often, unenlightened homeowners will wrap the problem in vinyl or aluminum using the “I can’t see it, so it’s not a problem” approach to maintenance. Of course, this causes larger problems and sometimes results in losing the entire front porch.

If you have external gutters, you should regularly inspect them (semi-annually) to ensure that they are doing their job keeping water out of the house and moving it away from the foundation. If replacement becomes necessary, be sure you replace them with half-round gutters and round or rectangular downspout styles appropriate for historic buildings. NEVER replace them with K-style or corrugated downspouts.

Newsletter

   

 

in    0

Articles on Preservation of Historic Buildings and Architectures

 

How to Revive Our House Paint Scheme

Our agent had run out of things to show us when she hesitantly mentioned one more house, an estate sale that hadn’t been listed yet. At first we had only the street name, so we walked up and down saying, “I hope it’s this one . . . but I bet it’s that one.” Of course, it turned out to be that one, the dilapidated Italianate….Continue reading

Caution Old Home Owners

By following the information in this site, your house will stand out from the others in a class unsurpassed. Whether you live in a small bungalow or Gothic mansion, your house will be able to equally make a strong impact on others. Although there are many references to Historic Restoration, our goal is based on and emphasizes Aesthetics. However, in most cases both are accomplished by following timeless Architectural Principles….Continue reading

Historic Preservation in Lebanon, PA

This was by far one of the most well-preserved American cities I have ever visited. The business district and Victorian era residential districts seemed wonderfully intact and most appeared to be well-maintained, as far as these old towns go. The contrast between some of the eastern and western PA cities is rather startling……Continue reading

Restoration of former mansion

Last year, Louis DePellegrini solved a vexing neighborhood problem when he purchased the nuisance apartment building next door to his Allegheny West home. Now he has a different problem: He wants to restore the former mansion at 835 N. Lincoln Ave., which had been chopped into 20 apartments — one per room — in the early 1950s. But he can only guess at what the facade, which has been stripped of its porch and brutally modernized with casement windows, might have looked like….Continue reading

Restored Oswald Jaeger Bakery

Hidden away amidst the Hillside housing development at North9th and Somers, the former home and bakery of Oswald Jaeger is barely discernable from neighboring thoroughfares. Just a glimpse of the turret can be seen while traveling northbound on Interstate 43. My curiosity has long been piqued by the blue spire that can narrowly be seen from behind the Leinenkugel’s Brewery building for just a moment, shortly after the McKinley/Fond du Lac exit….Continue reading

West Side Savings Bank

The introduction of interstates and freeways has marred our perception of the neighborhoods that our current city lies upon. Freeways transected neighborhoods like the Third Ward and Bronzeville, and wiped out large portions of once thriving commercial centers as in the Park East corridor. Standing at the corner of Third and Juneau, surrounded by vast expanses of concrete, new hotels, and parking structures, it’s hard to imagine this intersection as a bustling epicenter of the west side comprised primarily of German immigrants and their children…..Continue reading

P2


You have seen what we say about ourselves.
Here is what other people have to say about us:

In the Fall of 2013, the Franklin Street Train Station project won the Architectural Woodwork Institute’s “Award of Excellence” and was featured in an article in the Fall 2013 edition of their Design Solutions magazine.

 

Click here to read the article.


“The project was delightful- accomplished our goals and found new friends who are extremely knowledgeable, helpful and generous with their expertise.” – Anne & Walt 

 

 

“Jonathan and Danielle replaced the windows in our 1908 historic condo, installing new sound insulated versions that blended perfectly with the oversize window frames … it’s an easy 5 star for us.” – Jim

 

“Keperling Preservation Services is everything you want in a contractor. Their preservation work on the Bowmansville Roller Mill was excellent, on time and on budget. Highly Recommend.” – Nancy 


“Thanks for all your efforts and particularly the guidance and recommendations during the restoration of the Mylin Farmhouse.  You are particularly diligent and committed to the end result and I’m sure we are not the only customer to have benefited.

Jim Cluck, Willow Valley Retirement Communities”


Sunday News, Sunday, June 9, 2013, Lancaster, PA

Pointers from preservationists

By PAULA WOLF
Staff Writer

Pointers from preservationistsDid you know:

  • Repointing  a  historic  building’s bricks  with  modern  mortar  can  cause deterioration?
  • Using cheap  paint  can  permanently damage the surface to which it is applied?
  • Installing aluminum and vinyl siding over wood siding means trading a product that  can  last  200-plus  years  for ones that last 50 to 60 years? These are just three of 10  mistakes people make when upgrading historic properties, according  to Danielle Groshong-Keperling and her father, Charles Groshong.

   …. click here to read the full article.


Sunday News, Sunday, May 26, 2013, Lancaster, PA

Building on a respect for old structures

By ENELLY BETANCOURT
Staff Writer

“I started my life in an old house,’’ says the native Nebraskan.

“I lived in a home that my grandfather built for his family,and I was drawn to it. I always felt a need to take care of it.”          Building on Respect

A city resident, Groshong is chairwoman of the Lancaster Historical Commission, which oversees new construction

and demolition of properties within the Heritage Conservation District.

The 64-year-old is a partner at K&G Artisan Builders, which is also known to local residents as Historic Restorations.

Old buildings, she notes, have survived all kinds of changes and they have stories to tell. “To me it’s about taking care of them and keeping that piece of our history alive,’’ she says.

“I believe that being a preservationist is a small thing I can do to make the world a better place.”

….to read the full article, click on the picture on the right.              


 


Intelligencer Journal and the Lancaster New Era, Thursday, August 9, 2012, Lancaster, PA

Lancaster city firm is restoring battlefield landmark

By LARRY ALEXANDER
Staff Writer

At around 9 a.m. on Wednesday, July 1, 1863, Lancaster-born Gen. John F. Reynolds drew rein at the Lutheran Theological Seminary just west of the town of Gettysburg.

“What’s the matter, John?” he shouted to Gen. John Buford from the cupola atop the seminary roof. Buford had been anxiously watching as his cavalrymen held back the long lines of Confederate infantry approaching the town.

“The devil’s to pay,” Buford called back and climbed down to confer with Reynolds.

Those were the opening moments of the Battle of Gettysburg. And while Reynolds would die two hours later, and Buford within six months, the building where they met, Schmucker Hall, still stands.

To ensure that the landmark structure maintains its historical integrity, a Lancaster firm is performing extensive restoration work.

“When we’re finished, Schmucker Hall will look just like it did during the Civil War,” said Danielle Keperling, who, with her husband, Jonathan, owns and operates Historic Restorations.

….to read the full article, click on the picture on the right.


“We realize that we are very demanding and that you are a consummate artisan…we are very pleased with the job you are doing.  The crafstmanship is outstanding!  You have been so helpful in filling the gaps of our knowledge. Thank you!” –Clients wish not to be identified

 


Intelligencer Journal and the Lancaster New Era,  Wednesday,  May 5, 2011, Lancaster, PA

 

People know of Ford’s Theatre, where on April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln.  Fewer people know of the Peterson House, where the stricken president was carried and treated, and where he died the next day.

Now, a team of Lancaster County woodworkers is toiling to restore the federal-style rowhouse in Washington, D.C., which has fallen into decline.

“The National Park Service…wants to save it from falling apart,” Chuck Groshong, co-owner of Historic Restorations at 341 E. Liberty St., said.  “There had been some repairs down over the years that were shortsighted.  There were a lot of ‘Band-Aid’ solutions.  Now they have a plan.”

The Peterson House, built in 1849 by a German tailor, is owned by the federal Department of the Interior and is maintained as part of the….  To read the full article, click on the picture.


“We had an opportunity to watch what was going on when Charles Groshong was remodeling and restoring part of The Heritage House Museum, which is an old log-constructed house.  We were able to observe the careful and fastidious craftsmanship they used in accomplishing the project.  This was the kind of craftsmanship we wanted in the restoration of our own 200-year-old building.”  — Dot and Mickey



“Thank you for the great work on the crown moulding.  We are very pleased with the look!  We’ll keep you in mind for future projects.”  — Shelby and Jack

 

“Thank you so much for the spectacular job you did on the ‘Sugar Shack’.  The entire process was a pleasure!” — Nancy


Click here to read the Historical Architectural Review Board testimonial.

 

Sunday News, Sunday, September 9th, 2012, Lancaster, PA

Making Old New Again

When Richard and Dasa Redmond wanted to upgrade the kitchen in their 19th-century home, they chose a contractor who specializes in old properties.

Historic Restorations is known for its work on such landmarks as the Pterson House in Washington, D.C. – where President Abraham Lincoln died after being shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theare – but the Lancaster company also does smaller projects too.

Before tackling the Redmonds’ kitchen, Historic Restorations redid the front windows in their home, located in Lancaster City’s Old Town neighborhood.  The job required city approval because of the residence’s historic character.

 

….to read the full article, click on the picture on the right.


 

“Our carpenter was Chuck.  Thankfully, he knows much more than we do about restoration details.  We feel his work and expertise are outstanding.” — Gib and Marty.

 


 

“Appreciated having the same crew throughout the project…and the clean up when the job was completed.” — Laura and Ron

 

“It is not enough to say that your work on the floor is superb.  In fact, the architect, Gary Shaffer, called it ‘impeccable’. High praise indeed, and we agree!” — Rev. Mitchell

 


Lancaster New Era, Thursday, April 24, 2008, Lancaster, PA

Chuck Groshong is an artist who fears his art is dying.  He takes a traditional approach to building, sticking with mortise and tenon in a particle-board world.

Chuck runs Lancaster-based Historic Restorations, along with his wife Lois, their daughter Danielle Groshong-Kerperling, and her husband Jonathan Keperling.

From solid-wood custom cabinetry to additions that complement an older home’s original style, the family sees restoration as not just a job, but an art.

 

….to read the full article, click on the picture on the left.

 

 


“Everything you folks did, was nothing but the best!” — Don

 

“It was a pleasure renting from your company.  You were always prompt and polite.  Your quick replies and suggestions were appreciated.” — Mike and Tricia

 

 

“Thanks, thanks, thanks.  We will be much more satisfied with this project in the end than we would have been without you.” — Clients wish not to be identified

 

“Thank you for the work on the porch and window sills.  I just wanted to let you know that Josh was very professional and kept me well informed of the progress and what to expect.  — Genevieve



“Thanks for your help and guidance in the restoration of our historical home.  We surely needed your ideas.  Keep in touch.  We enjoy your visits and treasure your friendship.” — Carlton and Audrey

 

“Thank you so much for the lovely work you did on the finials, they look wonderful.  We are very pleased with the way they turned out.”  — Glenn

 

“Just wanted to send a slightly more formal thank you for coming over on such short notice to make sure all was well at the house.  It really made a difference.  Your efforts are appreciated and we know none of this would be happening without you.”  — Client wishes to not be identified

 

“The windows look very good.  Just as intended, I barely noticed them.  Thank you for all the patience and concern you and your family have shown toward the Marietta Community House. Please pass on my thanks to all involved.”  — Eric


Lancaster City Living, Fall/Winter 2009/2010

No one could dispute the charm and unmatched character to be found in older homes — especially those in Lancaster City. The old-world architecture calls out to many potential buyers … and yet, their interest is often tempered by wariness at the potential costs involved with operating and maintaining an old house.

Will their utility bills be through the roof? Will they purchase the house, only to be saddled with expensive repairs a few months down the line?

Both Chuck Groshong of Historic Restorations and Mike Zimmerman of City Brick Restorations will tell you that there are ways to alleviate the common problems of energy efficiency (or lack thereof) and structural repair that often plague some historic houses.….to read the full article, click on the picture on the left.

 

 


Sunday News, Sunday, August 4, 2013, Lancaster, PA

Preserving History 

As it expands for the first time in years with its Providence Park neighborhood, Willow Valley Retirement Communities is also busy preserving Lancaster County’s history. Preserving HistoryA 1787 stone farmhouse on Willow Valley’s Lakes Campus — built by the grandson of Martin Meylin, inventor of the  Pennsylvania long rifle — has just been renovated.

The purpose is to turn it into an interpretive center, where the history of Willow Valley’s older buildings and the area in general will be told, said John G. Swanson, president of Willow Valley Retirement Management Inc.

This project is “a good example of taking a historic building and blending it” with the present, said Joe Patterson, executive director of the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County.….to read the full article, click on the picture on the right

 

in    0

Projects & Services

HISTORIC PROPERTIES WE HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN RESTORING
(To see more pictures of a particular project, please click on the thumbnail.)

For a printable version of this list, please click here.

Public Projects


Petersen House
Perhaps our most famous project, the Petersen House is the 19th Century house across from Ford’s Theater that President Lincoln died in.  We also repaired and replicated the interior and exterior woodwork, including structural repairs, in our 2011 rehabilitation and repair project for the National Park Service.

 

 

National Institute of Health Building #3
For this project in Bethesda, Maryland, we repaired and replaced a seven-piece cornice.

 


Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial
The Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Independence National Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, owned and managed by the National Park Service.  For this project we made exterior woodwork repairs using solid wood and epoxy systems including: window frames and sash, doors, and shutters.  The project also included: exterior painting, masonry repairs, and replacement of a hand-split, cedar shake roof.

 


Columbia Market House
This building was built in 1869, and we restored the double hung windows, frames, and sills, and installed invisible exterior storm windows to increase energy efficiency.

 

 

Iron Horse Inn/Strasburg Hotel
This project involved rebuilding a Victorian wrap-around porch to match a picture provided showing a previous porch from the 1900’s.

 

 

Hancock House
Built in 1737 in Salem County, New Jersey, this house was owned by the State of New Jersey, Department of Environmental Protection.  For this project, we fabricated and installed a replica 18th Century door using existing hardware.

 



Victorian Store-Front for Nine West
For this project in Soho, New York City, we manufactured and delivered an assembled and ready-to-install set of nine-foot doors (made of Spanish Cedar with riot glass) and Victorian store-front.

 

 

Elizabethtown Train Station
The Pennsylvania Railroad built the Elizabethtown Train Station in 1915 to serve the Masonic Home and the citizens of Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.  Our project involved restoring twenty-nine sash frames for the original leaded glass.

 

 

Old Main, Franklin & Marshall College
Old Main is a Gothic Revival style building built in 1856 at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  We restored thirty-one windows, rebuilt the four level stair tower, replaced the bell tower louvers, and removed a modern replacement door to install a door we fabricated to match the original doors in the two flanking buildings.

 


Franklin Street Train Station
Built in 1929, the Franklin Street Train Station is located in Reading, Pennsylvania.  It has been abandoned and damaged by weather, vandals, and vagrants since 1972.  Our project includes: rebuilding the interior and exterior doors, jambs, sidelights and transoms, restoration of wood windows, and rebuilding a coffered ceiling.

 

 

Great Conewago Presbyterian Church
Built in 1787, and remodeled in 1870, the church was used as a field hospital during the Battle of Gettysburg.  For this project, we lovingly restored the antique heart pine flooring during the restoration in 2002.

 

 

St. John’s Episcopal Church
Located in Havre de Grace, Maryland, this church was built in 1809.  We restored double doors and surround – stripping the paint, repairing the mouldings, and repainting.  We also coordinated restoration of 1840’s antique hardware.

 

 

Schmucker Hall, Seminary Ridge, Gettysbur
Schmucker Hall is a Civil War Era building located on Seminary Ridge in Gettysburg, PA.  For this project we restored 92 wood windows and replicated 24 interior rail and stile doors with fire rating.  We rebuilt Peace Portico and Rear porch using new rails and balusters to match exissting.  Removal, storage, and re-installation of existing millwork.

 

 

 

Private Projects

 

1910 Tobacco Warehouse
Converted into a single-family residence, this project was featured in Lancaster County Magazine and on Lynette Jennings Design on the Discovery Channel.  This project won the 2000 C. Emlen Urban Aware for building preservation from the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County.

 

 

Log Home
Located in Elizabethtown, PA, this project involved removing the 1950’s asbestos siding to reveal the logs, making the second floor livable space, and converting the front room into an art gallery.

 

 

Victorian Farmhouse
For this project, located in eastern Lancaster County, we built a sympathetic addition to match the original house.  We also fabricated a custom kitchen to match the Victorian style of the house.

 

 

John Maddox Denn House
Built in 1725, this monogrammed house in New Jersey needed a complete historic restoration transforming the house back to 1725, correcting alterations from previous remodels.  This project also involved extensive research into the appropriate materials, applications, craftsmanship, and styles to ensure a period-appropriate restoration.

 

 

Circa 1850 Stone Bank Barn
This project converted the 150-year-old bank barn into a single-family residence, with new timber frame addition on the original tobacco barn foundation.

 

 

 

George William Curtis House
For this project in Staten Island, New York, we fabricated 19th Century porch architectural details, installed columns, built stairs, replaced ears on window sills, replaced brackets under the eave, fabricated true divided light windows to replace modern replacement windows, and fabricated solid wood louvered shutters.

 

 

Second Empire Revival House
For this Circa 1860 house in Pennsauken, New Jersey, we replaced the cornice to match original, rebuilt the internal gutter system, flashing and roofing, repaired the wood siding (replaced rotten pieces), and reinforced water-damaged framing.

 

Log Restoration
For this project in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, we repaired insect and water-damaged logs with consolidant and epoxy system.  Daubing was replaced with a historically accurate lime-based daubing.

 

 

 

 

 

in    0