Maintenance plans are not just important to your historical building, they are absolutely essential if you want to preserve its architectural integrity for future generations to experience and appreciate.

The first step in developing a maintenance plan is having a thorough maintenance appraisal done to evaluate your building beyond the usual brief inspection of a spot or two that many contractors make. These appraisals provide the information needed to develop a maintenance plan specific to your building’s needs.

We offer three levels of comprehensive maintenance appraisals for you to choose from- each one is a step up and adds another feature to the appraisal. See below to pick a tier that’s right for you. 







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It is easy to think that if the look of a historical building is maintained, as well as the types of materials used, then the building has been successfully preserved. But preservation is not just about preserving how something looks, it is primarily focused on preserving how something is so that it remains as original as possible for future generations.

historic wood windows

As important as it is to preserve how our historical buildings actually are, inevitably re­placements will need to be made when features are so deteriorated that stabilization, con­servation, or restoration are simply not viable options.

In these instances, the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Properties allow for “replacement in-kind” (replicating the original feature in all respects, except improved condition) if there are surviving features that can be used as prototypes. The Standards & Guidelines also notes that, “The replacement materi­als needs to match the old both physically and visually, i.e., wood with wood, etc. Thus…substitute materials are not appropriate in…preservation.”

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

historic windows tops

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

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

It also alters a building’s historical fabric, some­times irretrievably. Original wallpaper that is often destroyed during the removal process can’t usually be replaced with in-kind period wallpaper. Replacing one species of wood with another sometimes can’t be undone if the original species of wood is not readily avail­able, or is priced so exorbitantly that it is not financially feasible for your project.

In order to avoid significant, and sometimes irreparable, damage to your building, consider replacing only the deteriorated or missing parts of your building’s features, use materials that match the old in design, color, and texture (both physically and visually), and docu­ment the original material and the replacement process and materials used extensively for future reference and research.

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

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



A number of years ago, we had the very fortunate luck to be given the opportunity to completely restore the Denn House in southern New Jersey.  Below is the story of how that restoration happened, excerpted from Lois Groshong’s book, “2001 Restoration of a Southern New Jersey Colonial”.

Be sure to check out the pictures at the end of the article that we took just this month of how the Denn House looks today, and the pictures of other Patterned Brick houses in Salem County, New Jersey.



Built as a private home in 1725, (the John Maddox Denn house is) two stories with the front entrance facing Alloway Creek.

English Quakers founded in the town, known as Salem, in 1675 as their “New Paradise in the Providence of West Jersey” has much history.  The Dutch, under Captain Mey, explored the area, as wella s the English in the 1630’s, experimenting with growing tobacco.  Swedes and Finns began arriving in 1638, landing in the New World of what is now Wilmington, Delaware.  For twelve years, Salem was a military post of Sweden.

A Chandler form the parish of St. Sepulche in London, John Maddox and his family arrived in Salem aboard the ship “Surry” in 1578 and purchased one half of William Hancock’s allotment of ground.  The grandson, John Maddow Denn, born in 1693, built the home that we see today, a charming remembrance to England in the days of Cromwell and Charles the Second.  Surrounded by towering Spirea Plants, well-kept lawns, and beautiful shrubbery, the old John Maddox Denn house is without a doubt one of the show places of Fenwick’s old Colony.  It sits along the south bank of the Monmouth River on the road, which leads from Hancock’s Bridge.  Like its neighbors on the same road, the Denn property heard the thunder of Major John Graves Simcoe’s Rangers the morning of March 21, 1778.  William Hancock was a Loyalist to the King, yet the English Calvary had wounded him and massacred the Colonials who had sought shelter in the Hancock House.  The Denn house was put to use as a field hospital.  This house is registered in the library of Congress as a National Historic Site


Denn House Before Photos:
historic restoration colonial architecture historic architecture historic building restorations Denn House Historic Denn House Restoration of Denn House


Restoring the Windows

White Oak Denn HouseA load of White Oak was purchased from an antique wood dealer.  Raw material taken from an old building that had been demolished, 3’x8′ beams that ranged in length from three to sixteen feet.

January 13, 2001, Chuck and Lois take a Saturday trip to remove existing windows.  Halfway through the process the wind picks up and snow flurries begin.  “Press On” was the decision; all windows were disposed and openings boarded up before nightfall.

To begin the process of transformation the wood is run on the planer, making all the sides straight and smooth.  Sections are measured, cut and set aside.  Cracks and imperfections are filled “Bondo” and sanded smooth to the touch.  Next the ends are mortised or tendoned, depending on if it is a vertical or horizontal section of the window frame.  Side jambs are tendoned to fit the head and sill mortise.  The pieces are sized and glued together.  Historic Restorations also uses steel clamps to insure that the fit is square and tight as it can be.  Clamps are kept on for 24 hours; there will be no movement that can be detected in any unit.  After the window frames are all together, an oil base primer is applied to all surfaces to seal the wood; this is also an effective method to prepare for the finish coat to be applied on site.

Sash size varies because the window openings are all different.  There are five twelve-over-eight windows on the first floor, three eight-over-eight and three twelve-over-eight windows on the second floor.  Old glass is purchased for the “new” old windows.  Each pane is measured, cut, and glazed to fit each section of sash.  The effect is complete; newly made window frames and sash complement the 276-year-old house.


Working on the Walls and Ceilings

The walls are covered with paint, layers of wallpaper and plaster.  The ceilings are covered by plasterboard, resembling a seven and one-half foot modern flat ceiling.  Upon removing the added-on coverings, the walls revealed the original brick, badly deteriorated from years of settling and time had weakened portions of the interior structure.  A 12″x15″ Chestnut Summer Beam spans the length of each room, with the joist system for the second floor 5″x4.5″, at right angles.  Originally these exposed rafters were white washed; the lye used in the white wash prevented infection of insects as well as supplying a finished look for the wood.

Our next project was to strengthen the walls in the two rooms on the first floor.  Old brick was carefully taken out and relayed in an interlocked pattern, three deep, modeled from existing brickwork.  This was similar to putting a giant jigsaw puzzle together.  Concrete lintels have been installed above the doors and window.  Wire mesh is nailed to exposed brick to prepare for a new layer of fresh plaster.

Woodwork in Denn House antique pine in Denn House

Main Room Stairway

In the artisan woodworking shop of Historic Restorations a staircase made from Poplar for risers and antique Pine as treads is made ready.  The staircase that had been taken out was not original.  That stairway had narrow treads and curved away from the room.  The handrail system was square posts and a Bullnose on the bottom tread.  Chuck has determined that originally the stairs were a straight run between the fireplace and a door that opened into the room from the hallway.  Paneling made in the Historic Restorations shop from Poplar was stained and included in the delivery.  Jonathan has found evidence of paneling as being part of the earliest home decor.  Custom paneling will be used in the more formal first floor room.  A Colonial handrail is purchased to be taken apart and fit into the stair and rail system.

Main Room Stairway
ick Work and History
Historic RestorationsDenn House Restoration and Preservation



The John Maddox Denn House is a splendid examples of the English homes of the Cromwell Period.  The east wall is covered with a diamond diaper of only three diamonds wide, but covering twenty-three courses from point-to-point.  The largest such figure of any known American or English house.  The date of 1725 begins several courses below the eaves level.  The 4-course brickwork in this wall is the first time that numerals of different sizes were used in a date.

The history of the unusual brick work found on the walls of some of Salem County’s old homes begins as far into the past as Boos Manor, Rouen, France with a small brick dove cote or pigeon house.  Built early in the fifteenth century, these dovecotes were decorated with the diaper or diamond designs seen today on Salem County houses.  Flemish-Norman artisans introduced the design into England in the fifteenth century.  Ornamental brickwork, on the overall pattern of the house and diaper design are two examples from France.  The English method of brick making yielded to the Flemish influence, so much that the Flemish ideas virtually replaced the English.

The John Maddox Denn HouseEnglish bond was very irregular and uneven.  The English style had become popular and persisted until the introduction of Flemish bond around the second half of the fifteenth century.  English bond there (across the pond) were alternate courses of headers and stretchers with the second brick of the heading course used as a closer.  Flemish bond had a stretcher and header in the same course.  IN this method, the artisans used vitrified or blue header brick.  This used with the red stretcher brick gives the checkerboard effect still seen in Salem today.  The diaper design was strictly ornamental.  Colors used to make the diapers were grays, yellows, purples, and blues.  Vitrified brick, originated by the Flemish, was made by applying continued heat until the color changed.  “These patterns, diamonds, diapers, etc., were produced by over-burnt header bricks vitrified for the purpose.”  Vitrified, dictionary definition: “changed into glass or a substance like glass, give or having a glassy or glazed surface.”  It had been thought that glass was mixed with the brick, this is erroneous.

The English preferred the soft gray diaper pattern because it is soothing to the eye.  Today in England many houses show the gray patterns, some approaching a vermillion shade.  Naturally being close to France the invasion of the Flemish builders sex hundred years ago left is mark.  What transpired to bring this artistry another three thousand miles and to locate in one county of one province, a Quaker settlement where ornamentation and display were frowned upon?  Bricklayers immigrating into America sought to continue their art in the New World, these artisans settled in Salem county from about 1720-1764.  Nowhere in all of America do we find the profusion and intricacy flowering to the heights of artistic genius as in Salem County, New Jersey.


Bringing the Fireplaces Back to Life

The Denn House was designed with a central chimney.  A popular style in the late 16th Century Europe, it supports the ventilation system for the four fireplaces in the original house.  The two fireplaces on the first floor sit back-to-back directly below the two fireplaces on the second floor.

Over the years the fireboxes on the first floor have been decreased in size.  One fireplace on the second floor was hidden behind a wall.  A gem uncovered when Jonathan demolished the bathroom that had been added in the early 20th Century.  This fireplace has an arched opening with a “keystone” center top.  Chuck loved the look of this discovery so much he wanted to duplicate it in one of the first floor fireplaces.

First floor first, both fireboxes are taken apart exposing the original dimensions for reconstruction.  A windfall is discovered down the road, a brick building being taken down provide hundreds of old brick.  The labor to pick through to find unbroken whole bricks, bring the brick back to the Denn House and clean them before the brick can be put back into service is a small price to pay for the quality and authentic appearance of the found brick.

Both fireplaces are taken apart creating an open look from either room.  The chimney is rebuilt a portion of the length up to reinforce the structural strength.  Hearths are remade; this is for adding stability as well as aesthetic purpose.

Bricks are placed on the hearth and and back in a Herringbone pattern.  The decision to do this was arrived at by searching local homes to observe the style of the tradesman when this area was first settled.  The Herringbone pattern is seen repeatedly in sidewalks, courtyards, and driveways, a definite eastern seaboard occurrence.

Herringbone pattern




The Denn House as it stands today:historic architecture
   historic building historic building Denn House historic building restoration historic building preservation Denn House the historic building historic restoration historic restoration



The Denn House 2013:

historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic restoration historic architecture historic architecture historic architecture historic architecture historic architecture John Maddox Denn House John Maddox Denn House Restoration 


Other Patterned Brick Houses in Salem County, New Jersey

John Maddox Denn House Preservation Maddox Denn House Maddox Denn House historic property Denn House Denn House Restored historic building contractor historic building contractor


Patterned Brick Quaker Meeting House

historic building contractor historic building contractor historic building contractor building restorations building preservation preservation of Denn House preservation building preservation historic building preservation


Our recent blog post from Ken Roginski about the mistakes and and “no-no’s” that are so often made by well-meaning historic building owners as they attempt to preserve a house through the years reminded us very much about a project we did a few years ago.  The John Maddox Denn House project was built in 1725 and over the years it had been remodeled several times, with mistake piling on top of mistake.  By the time we were hired, a complete restoration was required to return the historic home to its original period of significance. (You can also read an excerpt of the book our own Lois Groshong wrote about the restoration of the Denn House “2001 Restoration of a Colonial Home“.)

Given how commonly restoration and renovation mistakes are made when working on historic buildings, we’re also in the process of launching our very first Preservation Primer that addresses this very subject.  Look for the announcement of that release soon, but in the meantime, the following books (taken straight from our very own bookshelves) may help you learn more about how to work on a historic building without compromising its historic fabric.


Collins Period House: How to Repair, Restore, & Care for Your Home by Albert Jackson and David Day


Collins Period House is intended for home-owners of period property who appreciate the beauty, tradition, and fine craftsmanship of their older homes and who wish to maintain and restore them in a way that is true to their individual histories.

A step-by-step guide, Collins Period House puts sympathetic restoration firmly within the grasp of all period-home owners.  Detailed instructions and nearly a thousand informative photographs and drawings explain exactly what can be done, using authentic techniques and materials.  The book also indicates what should be left well alone and when it may be necessary to call in a specialist.

The authors concentrate on the restorations of those elements that give buildings their special charm and character.  They explain how to renovate existing period fixtures and fittings, and suggest sources of authentic designs to replace those discarded or beyond repair.  And when there is little possibility of obtaining the genuine article, suitable reproductions are proposed.

Whether it is simply refinishing an antique banister or installing a period mantelpiece, Collins Period House will give readers the confidence to tackle restoration projects on their own by painstakingly guiding them through every stage in the process, until they achieve the home of their dreams beautifully restored for posterity.”


Building Codes for Existing and Historic Buildings by Melvyn Green, S.E.

images“Learn to apply the International Building Code and International Existing Building Code to historic buildings.  Written for architects, engineers, preservation, and code enforcement professionals, this is the only comprehensive book that examines how the International Building Code (IBC) and the International Existing Building Code (IEBC) can be applied to historic and existing buildings.  For ease of use, the book is organized to parallel the structure of the IEBC itself, and the approach is cumulative, with the objective of promoting an understanding of the art of applying building regulations to the environment of existing buildings.

Building Codes for Existing and Historic Buildings begins with a discussion of the history of building regulations in the United States and the events and conditions that created them.  Next, it provides thorough coverage of:

-The rational behind code provisions and historic preservation principles

-Major building code requirements: occupancy and use, types of construction, and heights and areas

-Building performance characteristics: fire and life safety, structural safety, health and hygiene, accident prevention, accessibility, and energy conservation

-Case study projects that reinforce the material covered

Additionally, the book includes building analysis worksheets – both blank and filled-in versions with examples – that illustrate how to develop a code approach for an individual building.  If you are a professional at any level who is working on creating a plan that meets the intent of the code for historic or existing buildings, Building Codes for Existing and Historic Buildings gives you everything that you need to succeed.”


Restoring Old Houses by Nigel Hutchins


“The many professional disciplines and trades required to restore a house would take lifetimes to master.  This book is not meant to teach those skills, but to aid the layman and preservationist in the process, pitfalls, and delights of this endeavor.

Evolving one’s lifestyle to suit a lifestyle of another decade or century is a challenge technically, socially, and visually.  “Preservation,” “recycle,” and “reuse” are terms we use in our day-to-day conversation.  When looking at the resource of four hundred years of domestic architecture, these axioms seem easy to follow.  Unfortunately, the process of preservation has given way first to neglect and patchwork solutions, and second to a wholesale popularizing of preservation, which in turn creates its own set of problems.

The process of neglect, while its very meaning is negative, has in many cases meant that change has not occurred.  This lack of change means details are undisturbed.  The layout of the rooms remains the same.  In fact, the vestiges of the original structure are often untouched.  The preservationist can then discern how and why restorations should take place, marrying past and contemporary.

Therefore, while neglect is bad, it is not as grave as the second problem.  The popularizing of period homes has in many cases destroyed the very elements that preservationists should be saving.  For instance, in an effort to glamorize a structure, neoclassical features may be stuck on neogothic facades, or windows may be transformed into T.V. colonial.  Often elements are replaced rather than refurbished.

The further evolution of this process is the setting apart from the general neighborhood of the “heritage” house or district.  The labeling of structures and areas as “heritage” may save them in the immediate; however, this approach also sets them apart from the general community, depriving them of their role as a working part of that particular neighborhood.  Heritage preservation should be part of the housing building process today.  The very term preserve means “to keep”.  Old does not have to be new again, but functional, both visually and technically.

It is important that we, as temporary tenants in a period house, make changes and maintain it for future generations.”


Restoring Houses of Brick and Stone by Nigel Hutchins

images (1)“In Restoring Houses of Brick & Stone, Nigel Hutchins has created a worthy successor to Restoring Old Houses.

This splendidly thorough work is at once a comprehensive history and a practical manual.  Its starting point is an exhortation to the well-intentioned old-home preservationist to know first and foremost the meaning of the term “restore.”  For the restorer, historical accuracy is the watchword, even if the results shatters our preferred fancies.  For the renovator, there are more options.  We may very well wish to rebuild a historic home according to our wishes for what history should have been, or we may take the earnest path and seek to return a structure to what it once was in actual fact – the important thing is that we are aware that we are making a choice.

A great wealth of pleasure accrues from a slow and sensitive reading of each chapter.  The historical introductory comments are a special treat, valuable if for no reason than to spare us the exasperation of repeating the mistakes of those who have gone before.  The historical erudition of these pages is matched by a wealth of sensible day-to-day insights regarding selection and repair of building materials, techniques of construction and reconstruction, methods of cleaning, principles of renovation and additions and invaluable discussions of things best not done at all.

For the professional and amateur alike, here is a clear-headed, wise and even witty account of a thousand useful topics.”



Practical Restorations Reports by John Leeke, American Preservationeer

Practical Restoration ReportsPractical Restoration Reports are a detailed technical series on preservation topics packed with practical methods you can use now.

The reports contain complete descriptions of useful techniques with drawings and photos that reflect the latest developments in the field of architectural preservation.  Information in each report is updated as new developments in preservation are actually used on projects around the country.  These reports are based on real projects and the author’s thirty years experience as a preservation tradesman and contractor.  He brings that experience to work for the readers of these reports.  He developed these reports in response to the needs of professionals, contractors, and homeowners for detailed and accurate information about their old and historic buildings.

Homeowners & Do-It-Yourselfers:
Use Practical Restoration Reports as do-it-yourself guides.  They give you all the information you need to talk with trades people confidently

Trades People & Contractors:
Bring your crews up-to-speed quickly on new preservation techniques with Practical Restoration Reports.  With their help, you can move into productive work with less time and hassle.

Architects & Professionals:
Refer to Practical Restoration Reports in your specifications, then just include a copy of the report.  The reports provide a hands-on approach contractors will appreciate.





In honor of the ever-approaching spooooooooky Halloween holiday, we’ve been highlighting haunted historic buildings (or historic buildings that by all rights should be haunted) for you to virtually explore so you don’t have to meet the ghosties face-to-face.

One of our recent blog posts was about the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia – the state’s first attempt at humane treatment of prisoners that opened in 1829.  After implementing Penitentiaries as prison management reform, the state then turned its eye towards reformation of the way the mentally ill were treated with the opening of the Harrisburg State Hospital in 1850.

Haunted Historic Buildings

The History Behind these Haunted Historic Buildings

Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital, as it was then called, was also built by architect John Haviland (who built Eastern State Penitentiary, another haunted historic building in Pennsylvania)  The cost for patient housing (paid for by families of the patients or the county in which they lived before admission to the hospital) was $2.50 per week and the facility used an adjoining 130-acre farm for work therapy and to grow food and provide other necessities for the hospital’s operation.

Originally, the hospital was a single structure that housed all administration, staff, and patients.  In the late 1800’s and very early 1900’s, the hospital was rebuilt in the increasingly popular “cottage plan” style.  At its peak, the facility had 70 buildings spread out over 1,000 acres and was completely self-sufficient with its own farm, power plant, and stores.  This “City on the Hill” as it became known, operated as a hospital facility for mentally ill patients until 2006 and has been housing various government administration offices since then.

The Hauntings

Since the closing of the insane asylum the place has been haunted. Noises, screams, shadows, apparitions, and footsteps have all been heard and seen within this place. The basement, morgue, and the tunnels underneath the basement are the areas of heightened supernatural interest.  Blood like stains are sometimes found on the floor of the exam room in the morgue and poltergeist activity runs rampant on the property.  Paranormal activities are reported by visitors, staff, maintenance crews, contractors working on the property, etc.

So rampant that the Everyday Paranormal and Ghost Lab television crew from Discovery Channel came to investigate the building for one of their episodes.  The Ghost Lab show explores haunted buildings, which are often haunted historic buildings.  For this episode, they explored a private residence in Arkansas and the Harrisburg State Hospital.

NOTE: The segment on the Harrisburg State Hospital starts at about 6:42 in the first video.

Readers beware: this is some spooky stuff, please watch at your discretion.



Produced by Restore Media: Clem Labine’s Traditional BuildingClem Labine’s Period Homes, and the Traditional Building Exhibition and Conference, the following free webinar is being offered on September 19th:

Click here to register for this webinar.

Credits Where Credits Are Due: Tax Credits for Historic Preservation Projects 

September 18, 2012, 2:00 p.m., 90 minutes, 1.5 AIA HSW LUs

For more than 30 years, generous federal tax credits have been the driving economic force behind the rehabilitation of historic structures in the United States. Through case studies of successful projects, learn how to earn tax credits while navigating a sometimes exacting process. This is a must-attend event for architects, contractors, building owners, and developers.

Learning Objectives

After the session, participants will be able to do the following:

  • Discuss in detail the federal tax credit program for the rehabilitation of historic buildings.
  • Identify essential characteristics – both in design and construction – sucessful projects share.
  • Apply the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation to individual projects.
  • Cite lessons from the tax credit-worthy projects presented during the Webinar.


Staff from the National Park Service, Washington, D.C.


Judy L. Hayward, education director, Traditional Building Exhibition and Conference and Traditional Building Conference Series, Restore Media, LLC, Washington, D.C.


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

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

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

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


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About Us

Located in Lancaster, PA,  Keperling Preservation Services is a historic preservation and restoration company specializing in the restoration of 18th, 19th, and early 20th century buildings. We offer a whole house approach to restoration with a custom millwork and cabinet shop.  We are Nationally acclaimed preservation contractor trusted by homeowners, general contractors, and the National Park Service to repair, protect, and preserve our nation’s historic architecture. We can provide everything to accurately restore a building. We also offer hands on classes in wood working and building preservation to help keep the traditional trades alive.

“A man who works with his hands is a laborer…. a man who works with his hands and brain is a craftsman…. a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist.” –– Louis Nizer, American Lawyer (1902-1994)



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In the summer of 2011, the tower at Independence Hall was bared to the bones for the first time since it was added in 1828.  In a restoration project for the National Park Service (NPS), contractors bared the face level of the tower down to the structural framing.  The NPS has a detailed write-up of the project, along with pictures, videos, and step-by-step pictorial guides of the process.


“You can’t have your cake and eat it, too” might apply in the kitchen, but when you’re building houses, you sometimes can have both.  If you like timber-frame houses but can’t afford one, consider a hybrid.  Although a complete timber frame usually costs 10% to 20% more than a comparable stick frame, a small timber-frame structure integrated into a stick-frame house adds only a fraction of that cost.  Hybrids also are less complicated to build than full timber frames, yet they retain the dramatic look of timber-frame structures in visible areas.  These timber-frame parts can range in scale and complexity from a simple covered entry to an entire two-story addition.  In a typical situation, a timber-frame company such as mine is used as a subcontractor and provides the materials and installation; we also have supplied materials and/or assembled components for builders.  The following are some examples of projects we’ve built.
Entries and porches: A little timber goes a long way
A home’s entrance serves as a transition between outside and inside; it should be protecting and inviting.  A timber-frame entrance (see photo) satisfies these requirements and is relatively easy to build.  Typically composed of two trusses and connecting girts, the structure is lag-bolted to wall studs through the sheathing; the posts are anchored to a masonry pad or footings with noncorrosive standoffs and 1-in. dia. Galvanized-steel pins (see drawing).
Building a flat-ceilings timber-frame porch is also fairly easy (see photo).  The porch is built with a series of posts, girts and braces that support a simple stick-frame roof, which in turn ties the timber frame to the house.
Any number of styles is possible.  Entrances can be as simple as a single bent with a ridge, purlins and side girts that die into the exterior wall.  A large entrance can be even more elaborate.  Railings can be integrated into the posts, or the posts can be doubled up.  Whether on a porch or a deck, posts that look too feeble to support even themselves are the one thing that most diminishes the presence and personality of a house.  We always recommend that substantial posts and girts be used – say, 8x8s and 6x10s, respectively.  If these dimensions look too heavy, the beams’ edges can be chamfered or beaded for a lighter look.
Sprucing up the ceiling with a floor system
A timber-frame floor/ceiling system usually consists of a massive central, or summer, beam that supports the smaller joists (see photo).  The drywall then can be placed on top of the timbers, and a sound-deadening floor (usually layers of plywood) or a conventional 2x-joist floor can be built above, especially if ductwork is an issue.  For a wood ceiling, tongue-and-groove boards are usually the materials of choice, followed by a built-up floor or 2x joists.  Some builders may opt for a single layer of tongue-and-groove boards, but sound transmitted between floors can be irritating.
Opening a space with trusses
The most popular hybrid form is the timber-frame truss system (see photo).  Most often, trusses are placed in a large open space, such as a great room.  Heavy trusses generally can be spaced 16ft. apart if they’re connected with purlins (see drawings) spaced 4ft. o.c.  If the purlins don’t fit in the design, more trusses with closer spacing do the trick.  In such a scenario, tongue-and-groove ceiling boards run perpendicular to the trusses rather than parallel as they do with purlin connections.  It’s usually more economical to go with the purlins because fewer trusses are used.
Other considerations include roof pitch and span-loading requirements.  In terms of structural effectiveness as well as aesthetics, scissors, hammer-beam, and tied-rafter systems work better with steep pitches (12-in-12 or greater) and shorter spans (24ft. or less).  Whatever the choice, review  any design with a licensed structural engineer.
Incidentally, for whatever type of project that we’re working on, we have drawings sealed by a registered engineer because loading requirements can dictate not only the shape but also timber size and spacing.  The relatively low cost of an engineer’s time is money well spent.
Truss design can make a space feel contemporary and light, medieval and heavy, or just about anything in between, depending on configuration (see drawings), timber species, surface, and finish.  Ceiling materials also has an impact.  White drywall or pickled tongue-and-groove boards can help a tight area to feel larger; dark painted drywall or clear-finished tongue and groove can make a high ceiling feel lower or make a large room feel more inviting.
This article originally appeared in Fine Homebuilding Magazine and was reprinted with permission from Anthony Zaya of Lancaster County Timber Framers, Inc.