Preservation Pennsylvania has released their “Pennsylvania At-Risk: Twenty-Year Retrospective of Pennsylvania’s Endangered Historic Properties, Where Are They Now” edition. It’s a fascinating look at preservation in action and we’ll be posting a look at each property in a series of posts over the next several months.

INTRODUCTION
Preservation Pennsylvania established the annual Pennsylvania At Risk list in 1992, making us the first statewide preservation organization in the United States to have an annual roster of endangered historic properties. Since 1992, we have listed and worked to preserve more than 200 endangered historic resources, including individual buildings, historic districts and thematic resources statewide. For 2012, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of our organization, we are presenting a 20-year retrospective edition of Pennsylvania At Risk. In this issue, we revisit some of the amazing historic places across the Commonwealth, some of which have been rescued from extinction through preservation and rehabilitation efforts, and others that still need our help.

Approximately 18% of Pennsylvania’s At Risk properties have been lost, having been demolished or substantially altered. Another 32% have been saved or are in a condition or situation where the identified threat no longer poses a problem for the historic property. Approximately 50% of the 201 At Risk resources remain in danger, or we have not been able to confirm their current status as either saved or lost.

By monitoring these properties over the past 20 years and working with individuals and organizations trying to preserve them, we have learned many valuable lessons. Those lessons are called out throughout this publication.

1999 – Thomas Kent, Jr. Farm, Green County

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

 

• SAVED! (Sort of…)•

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

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

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

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

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

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

[sws_grey_box box_size=”630″]Longwall Mining:

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

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

[/sws_grey_box]

 

Painting a historical home is about more than just going to the big box home improvement store and browsing the array of color choices available, picking a few you like, trying each of them out in test spots, and then making a final decision.

While seemingly harmless, painting a historical home carries with it a surprisingly significant risk of damaging your home.

The National Park Service’s Preservation Brief #10: Exterior Paint Problems on Historic Woodwork notes:

“Because paint removal is a difficult and painstaking process, a number of costly, regrettable experiences have occurred – and continue to occur – for both the historic building and the building owner.  Historic buildings have been set on fire with blow torches; wood irreversibly scarred by sandblasting or by harsh mechanical devices such as rotary sanders and rotary wire strippers; and layers of historic paint inadvertently and unnecessarily removed.  In addition, property owners, using techniques that substitute speed for safety, have been injured by toxic lead vapors or dust from the paint they were trying to remove or by misuse of the paint removers themselves.”

There are several factors to consider when choosing an appropriate paint for your historical home:

Quality Paint for Historic Buildings

The temptation to save money by using cheap paint can be alluring.  Many contractors, and even homeowners, mistakenly think that paint choices need only match historical but this is not so and the old adage “you get what you pay for” is particularly true for your paint.  Investing in quality paint will save you money in the long run.

Paint Preparation for Historic Buildings

The key to successful paint application is in knowing what preparation is required for the different types of paint that may already be on your building – they each have their own preparation requirements.  If you are not sure of what type of paint is on your building, you can consult a qualified contractor to obtain a paint analysis to provide you with both the chemical and color makeup of your existing paint.

Lead Paint Handling on Historic Buildings

The health risks of lead exposure are well known – brain and nervous system damage, hearing and vision loss, impaired development of children… But did you know that lead in dust (such as the dust created while sanding and prepping surfaces for new paint) is the most common way people are exposed to lead?  To avoid these risks, choose a contractor who is “Renovation, Repair, and Painting” certified by the EPA for lead paint handling.

 

[sws_grey_box box_size=”630″]

A few questions for evaluating the paint on your historical home and to ask before beginning any painting project:

Does my paint exhibit any peeling, cracking, chalking (powdering), crazing (small, interconnected cracks), mold or mildew, staining, blistering, or wrinkling?

Does my building have an existing paint application that is inappropriate for its historical fabric?

Do I know what type of paint is currently on my building and what preparation is required before painting over that type of paint?

If I am using a contractor, are they “Renovation, Repair, and Painting” certified by the EPA for lead paint handling?

Does that contractor understand which methods, tools, materials, and chemicals are appropriate for paint removal on my historical building?

[/sws_grey_box]

 

Resources for Painting Historic Buildings

 

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

 

Why Save Historic Wood Windows?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Historic Wood Windows Vs. Replacement Windows

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

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

 

The Importance of Historic Wood Window Restoration

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

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

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

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

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

1) are original,

2) reflect the original design intent for the building,

3) reflect period or regional styles or building practices,

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

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

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

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

• Identify, Retain, and Preserve

• Protect and Maintain

• Repair • Accurate Restoration

• Sympathetic New Windows in Additions

• Preserving Decoration and Function

• Replacement In-Kind

• Compatible Materials

[/sws_toggle1]

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

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

• Removing Windows Important to Historical Character

• Changing Location or Size of Windows

• Inappropriate Designs, Materials, and Finishes

• Destroying Historical Materials

• Replacing Windows that Can be Repaired

• Failing to Maintain

• Replacing instead of Maintaining

• Inaccurate Historical Appearance

[/sws_toggle1]

 

How to Save Historic Wood Windows

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every May, the National Trust for Historic Preservation picks a new theme for their National Preservation Month.  This year, they’ve built it around: “See! Save! Celebrate!” to encourage us to see our historic places, save the threatened ones, and celebrate the vital role they play in our communities.

To support that goal, we’re going to do a three-part blog series with each post focusing on one aspect of the theme.  Last week we posted about seeing PA historical architecture with an overview of the styles found in Pennsylvania and the time period they are associated with.  With this post we’re focusing on “Save!” since Pennsylvania’s historical architecture is certainly worth saving.

If you’re reading our blog, you likely know why it’s important to save our historic buildings – they preserve our architectural heritage and character, they give us a window into the past, they save on energy consumption and invigorate local economies, etc.

But do you know what to do to save a threatened building?

Save Historic BuildingsSave Historic HomesSave Abandoned Buildings

 

 

Resources to Save Historic Buildings

I want to start by being brutally honest about a few things.  There is no guarantee a threatened historic building will be saved and not every historic building should be saved.

If you’re recovered from the shock of those truths, read on to learn about the preservation resources you can use to try and save the ones that are important to you and your community:

 

HISTORICAL ARCHITECTURE REVIEW BOARD (HARB)

A HARB is a public advisory body created by state and local laws that oversees exterior alterations to any building in a federally designated historic district that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  HARB’s typically reviews changes such as alterations to roof lines, changes in openings, demolition of projections, additions to the building, changes in exterior treatments.  In creating their recommendations, HARB’s generally take into account the impact of the changes on the historic and architectural character of the district and its streetscapes, the cohesiveness of the changes with the building’s architectural style, and whether or not the materials and workmanship proposed are in keeping with the historic nature of the building.

If you are concerned about changes to a threatened historic building you would like to protect, your first step is to determine whether or not that building exists in a federally designated historic district overseen by a HARB.  If it is, you can find out more information about the changes from the HARB process.

 

LOCAL HISTORICAL DESIGNATIONS

Here in Lancaster, PA, the need to protect the overall character of our many historic buildings and streetscapes was recognized and in 1999 the Heritage Conservation District was created by City Council to protect those buildings not in the historic district overseen by the HARB review process.  The Lancaster Historical Commission oversees the Heritage Conservation District and must review all new construction and demolition on a building in the district.  Between the HARB and the Historical Commission, there are over 20,000 historic buildings protected by a review process in Lancaster.

If you are concerned about a threatened historic building in your community you can first investigate whether or not a review process has been created for buildings not in a designated district reviewed by HARB.  If there is no review process for those buildings, you can open a conversation in your community and with your local governing officials about creating one.

 

THE NATIONAL TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a private, nonprofit organization created in 1949 that provides leadership, education, advocacy and resources to save historic sites. The Trust can help donors with everything from obtaining additional funds and working with architects and contractors to enlisting community support, getting buildings listed on national and state registers of historic places, or even obtaining plaques for historic structures.

They also have a National Trust Preservation Fund provides financial assistance and direct investment to support preservation efforts in cities, towns, and rural areas. The Trust also has a Main Street Center, which promotes the revitalization of commercial districts and downtowns, combining historic preservation with economic development.

 

PARTNERS FOR SACRED PLACES

If the building you are trying to save is a religious building, monument, or institution you can turn to Partners for Sacred Places, a national, nonsectarian, nonprofit organization that provides training and resources to congregations that focuses on preserving religious sites.

 

THE NATIONAL PRESERVATION CONFERENCE

Held each fall, the National Preservation Conference is the the single best source for information, ideas, inspiration, and contacts for professionals in preservation and allied fields, dedicated volunteers, and serious supporters.  For more information, visit the conference website or call 202-588-6100.

 

PRESERVATION BOOKS

The National Trust offers booklets on preservation issues, including topics such as Appraising Historic Properties, Buyer’s Guide to Older and Historic Houses, Design Review in Historic Districts, Rescuing Historic Resources: How to Respond to a Preservation Emergency, Coping with Contamination: A Primer for Preservationists, and Protecting America’s Historic Neighborhoods: Taming the Teardown Trend.

 

HISTORICAL AND PRESERVATION SOCIETIES, TRUSTS, AND ORGANIZATIONS

There are a multitude of national and local preservation organizations with a wealth of information and resources you can use to identify threatened historic properties and organize community efforts to save them.  You can find these organization by Googling key search terms like “preservation organization”, “preservation society”, “historical society”, etc. – adding in the locality you are trying to find them in.  Don’t discount national organizations, though, they are valuable too!

 

 

 

 

Every May, the National Trust for Historic Preservation picks a new theme for their National Preservation Month.  This year, they’ve built it around: “See! Save! Celebrate!” to encourage us to see our historic places, save the threatened ones, and celebrate the vital role they play in our communities.

To support that goal, we’re going to do a three-part blog series with each post focusing on one aspect of the theme.  First we’re going to focus on “See!” since Pennsylvania’s historical architecture is certainly worth seeing.

 

Traditional/Vernacular Architecture 1638 – 1950

Traditional/Vernacular Architecture 1638 – 1950

Photo by PA Historical & Museum Commission

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

 

 

Georgian Architecture 1640 – 1800

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

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

 

Federal Style 1780 – 1820

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

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

Greek Revival 1820 – 1860

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

 

 

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

 

Gothic Revival Style 1830 – 1860

historic building preservation

Photo by PA Historical & Museum Commission

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

 

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

 

Exotic Revival Style 1830 – 1850

victorian architecture

Synagogue in Philadelphia

 

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

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

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

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

Italianate Villa/Italianate Style 1840 – 1885

architectural preservation

Photo by PA Historical & Museum Commission

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

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

 

Romanesque Revival Style 1840 – 1900

historic wood windows

Photo by PA Historical & Museum Commission

 

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

 

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

 

Queen Anne Style 1880 – 1910

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

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

 

Tudor Revival Style 1890 – 1920

Tudor Revival Style 1890 – 1920

Photo by PA Historical & Museum Commission

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

 

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

 

Bungalow/Craftsman Style 1900 – 1930

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Preservation Pennsylvania has released their “Pennsylvania At-Risk: Twenty-Year Retrospective of Pennsylvania’s Endangered Historic Properties, Where Are They Now” edition. It’s a fascinating look at preservation in action and we’ll be posting a look at each property in a series of posts over the next several months.

INTRODUCTION
Preservation Pennsylvania established the annual Pennsylvania At Risk list in 1992, making us the first statewide preservation organization in the United States to have an annual roster of endangered historic properties. Since 1992, we have listed and worked to
preserve more than 200 endangered historic resources, including individual buildings, historic districts and thematic resources statewide. For 2012, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of our organization, we are presenting a 20-year retrospective edition of Pennsylvania At Risk. In this issue, we revisit some of the amazing historic places across the Commonwealth, some of which have been rescued from extinction through preservation and rehabilitation efforts, and others that still need our help.

Approximately 18% of Pennsylvania’s At Risk properties have been lost, having been demolished or substantially altered. Another 32% have been saved or are in a condition or situation where the identified threat no longer poses a problem for the historic property. Approximately 50% of the 201 At Risk resources remain in danger, or we have not been able to confirm their current status as either saved or lost.

By monitoring these properties over the past 20 years and working with individuals and organizations trying to preserve them, we have learned many valuable lessons. Those lessons are called out throughout this publication.

 

1997 – Coal Oil Johnny House, Venango County

Coal Oil Johnny

 

• SAVED!•

Commonly known as “Coal Oil Johnny,” John Washington Steele was the Pennsylvania oil boom’s prodigal prince.  Adopted at a young age by the McClintock family, John resided in this circa 1850 wood-frame farmhouse for much of his life.  In return for decades of helping the widow McClintock run the farm and manage oil leases on the property, John inherited the estate when Mrs. McClintock died in 1864.  His inheritance included well royalties of $2,000 to $3,000 per day, plus a huge reserve that the widow had stored in a safe in the farmhouse.

Almost overnight, John stopped working hard and started playing hard.  He left his wife of two years and young son in western Pennsylvania and adopted a flamboyant, expensive lifestyle that included extended stays in New York and Philadelphia, where he rode in a bright red carriage decorated with pictures of oil wells gushing dollar signs.  According to local lore, Johnny once spent $100,000 in a day; he bought a hotel for  a night; he lit cigars with hundred-dollar bills; and diamonds dripped from his fingers.  His life was reflective of the boom and bust of the industry.  After living the high life and drinking heavily in cities along the eastern seaboard while poorly managing his money, Coal Oil Johnny quickly depleted his fortune.  He returned to this farmhouse and his wife and son in 1866, and filed for bankruptcy in 1867.  Johnny returned to work.  After hauling other people’s oil to market and dabbling in business, he moved his family farther west, dying nearly penniless in 1921.

After sitting vacant for more than 50 years and subjected to water infiltration as well as insect and rodent infestation, the structural integrity of the building’s foundation was in jeopardy. Its support beams had rotted, and the building’s exterior cladding was damaged beyond repair.  Unable to find a new owner for the house, the owners announced plans to demolish the building in 1996.  By 1997, when the house was listed in Pennsylvania at Risk, the Oil Heritage Region, Inc. (now Oil Region Alliance) had stepped forward to coordinate emergency stabilization measures.  Making good use of both public funds and private donations, they succeeded in moving the house across Oil Creek to the Rynd Farm in Oil Creek State Park in 2001, where they were able to rehabilitate the house over the following years.  The Coal Oil Johnny House is open for special events, an annual open house, and by appointment.  The immediate threat of demolition has been overcome, and the building is currently safe from harm.  But the Oil Region Alliance could still use additional financial support for expanded programming at the house.

To support this project, please contribute to the Oil region Alliance via their website: www.oilregion.org.

 

[sws_grey_box box_size=”630″]

Lessons Learned:

Intervention tools such as grants and tax credits are helping to make preservation projects possible.

The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission’s Keystone Historic Preservation grants make a significant impact on the ability of municipalities and non-profits to preserve endangered historic buildings for public use. At least 48 grants have been given to 25 of Pennsylvania’s 201 At Risk properties as a result of the Keystone Recreation, Park & Conservation Fund. The federal Save America’s Treasures program assisted at least six additional projects that were once at risk of being lost. At least nine additional endangered historic properties in Pennsylvania have benefited from grants from the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP). The NTHP has invested additional funds into initiatives started to address the threats identified in Pennsylvania at Risk, such as the demolition of historic properties for construction of new, large houses and stores, and addressing problems common among specific property types, such as churches and schools.

At least 20 historic properties that were included in Pennsylvania At Risk over the past 20 years have benefited from the federal Rehabilitation Investment Tax Credit. All relatively large commercial rehabilitation projects, these projects are scattered all around the state, occurring in Allegheny, Bedford, Blair, Crawford, Dauphin, Erie, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, and Philadelphia Counties. With the new state tax credit in place, rehabilitation tax credits will certainly continue to provide important financial incentives for preserving Pennsylvania endangered historic properties in years to come. [/sws_grey_box]

 

The Central Pennsylvania Preservation Society recently hosted representatives from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission for a presentation on the brand new state historic tax credit program.  You can read their summary of the presentation here.

 

 

 

 

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]

 

 

One of the exhibitors at the recent Greater Philadelphia Historic Home Show was approaching preservation from a unique perspective – “mass” production.

When most of us think of traditional wrought irons handcrafted by blacksmiths, we think of custom orders.  But Fagan’s Forge is forging a new path with handcrafted wrought irons.  They sell stock items only, no custom orders.  How do they do that?  They place orders with traditional blacksmiths across the country for quantities of items that they work on in between their custom orders and then Fagan’s Forge carries that stock.

But don’t let “mass” and “stock” scare you away – Fagan’s Forge is reproducing patterns that are literally hundreds of years old and date as far back as the 1600’s.  Nancy McMerriman is the second generation owner of the Forge, her father founded the business, and her knowledge of the history of wrought iron latches, handles, and hinges, along with her attention to detail, results in products that are authentic period pieces.

Below is the information from Fagan’s Forge’s website, you can browse their online catalog here.

 

A History of Wrought Iron from Fagan’s Forge

WROUGHT IRON THROUGH THE AGES

In the earliest days iron was thought of as a strange mystery. It was such a wonderful material, so hard, so strong, beyond the imagination of early man to take for granted. They were so impressed that they envisioned gods to be responsible for the existence of this wonder metal. The material from which King Arthur’s Excalibur was fashioned. the Norse god, Odin was thought to assist a gifted smith with his very fine work, and in the Christian era, St. Clement was the patron saint of blacksmiths.

The black smith, the anvil smiter, was thought to be the most important craftsman of his time. He made most of the tools used by other craftsmen to ply their trade. Without the blacksmith, the other tradesmen activity would grind to a halt.

The great Roman historian Pliny, speaks at length about iron, the wondrous metal that did great work turning over the earth at plow time and slaughtering the enemy in time of war. Wrought iron is an enduring metal, in places where it has been left to perform its first intended work, “if it could speak” would tell us tales from the birth of this now mighty land. It would tell us of times of doubt, times when our might was not so great that we could think that this might was right.

THE MATERIAL – WROUGHT IRON

About Wrought Iron

The making of wrought iron became established in Europe about 500 B.C. The wrought iron was much harder than bronze, and the iron ores were more widely distributed. The other ingredient, charcoal, was also readily available.
 Wroughtiron, though not as hard as steel, did have a quality superior to steel in that it resisted rusting due to its silica, or glass, content. The silica arranged itself in thin layers in the wrought iron and restricted the formation of rust.

The eastern coast of North America was found to have considerable deposits of iron ore and the ample forest cover provided an excellent supply of charcoal to fuel the blast furnaces of the day.

The colonies exported a good amount of iron bar to England before the Revolution. During the Revolution bog iron from the New Jersey pine barrens supplied iron to cast cannons for our revolutionary forces.

After the Revolution iron production dropped off until the country reorganized. After that point iron, and then steel production grew at a phenomenal rate to support the great expansion of new industry and the great expansion west.

Wrought iron with its ductile rust resistant qualities is just about nonexistent today. We use the term “wrought” as an adjective concerning iron not as the very important noun it used to be.

The mild steel we use today to make types of objects from an earlier time may not resist rust to the degree wrought iron did but our improved coatings may help a bit.

 

A History of Hinges

Large HL Hinges were common for passage doors, room doors and closet doors in the 17th, 18th and even 19th centuries. On taller doors H hinges were occasionally used in the middle along with the HL hinges.

H Hinges were shaped like an H and used on flush mounted doors. Small H hinges (3–4 in/76–100 mm) tend to be used for cabinet hinges, while larger hinges (6–7 in/150–180 mm) are for passage doors or closet doors.

A BIT OF HISTORY

American Wrought Iron

Second generation owner Nancy McMerriman  browses her bible of wrought iron

1694 – Those wishing to inspect the house carefully may see in the cellar the foundation arch of hand-made bricks and stone, and an old closet door with hinges attached by hand-made nails. In the attic is another of these HL hinges; the chimney is of bricks made in the town in 1694, originally joined with mud mortar. The floors and most of the roof timbers are the original white pine, and some of the old wooden pins with which they were put together still remain.

1730 – The HAVILAND INN was built in 1730 and is now the village hall. The original windows are intact; the beams are wooden-pegged; hand-hewn shingles cover three-quarters of the structure; several of the doors have Colonial “HL” hinges. Dame Tamar Haviland, a war widow, was here hostess to Washington on several occasions.

1775 – The H and HL hinges came into use in New England in the early and lasted until after the Revolution. These hinges were cut out of heavy sheet iron and were made in factories in England. This type of hinge was superseded by the cast-iron butt, still in use, which was invented in England in 1775, and adopted very generally in the United States at the close of the Revolution. In some old houses that have been restored and in many modern constructions done in the manner of the colonial homes.

1837 – When the colonies belonged to England, they followed English laws for marking silver, but after independence, standards varied. In 1837, Congress passed a law that established 900/1000 as the official standard for coin silver. Most silver objects stamped “coin” were not made from melted coins. THE COLONISTS WERE SO RELIGIOUS THAT THEY PUT HL HINGES ON THEIR DOORS, WHICH STOOD FOR HOLY LORD.

1948 – CLUES: In 1948, author Carl Drepperd wrote that, “Anything in wrought iron, from a four-inch rattail hinge to a complete iron balcony, has a collector waiting somewhere for it. Even the common H and HL hinges have value, while ram’s-horn hinges are on a parity with fine historic china.” What he didn’t say was that all of these, and other wrought iron items were being reproduced; and still are.

1989 – Even the common H and HL hinges have value, while ram’s-horn hinges are on a parity with fine historic china.

historic restorations of bean handle

About Handles

Bean Handle
The Bean is a delicate handmade iron pull, simple in design and very functional. The most common pull found in early New England homes. A beautiful replica of the early handle, the Bean handle is finished with a rubbed beeswax/linseed oil finish that brings out the beauty of the iron details. For outdoor use, request a painted black finish. Please note that the height of the Bean handle is not the same as the height of the Bean latch, although the proportions are the same. 2-1/2” x 6-1/2”

Spade Handle
The Spade handle is sister to the Spade latch and is perfect for closets, large cupboards or any application where a full latch is not necessary. The Spade is suitable for interior or exterior use, and can be ordered in a boiled beeswax/linseed oiled finish or painted black.. 3” x 10”

 

About Latches

Bean Latch

Bean Latch
In the Suffolk family of latches and handles, the Bean latch is a simple latch design, the most common found in early New England homes. Ours is a beautifully hand made replica of an early latch found in Horsham, Pennsylvania, circa 1755.

Can be ordered with a rubbed oil finish for interior, or painted black finish for exterior use. 2-1/2” x 8”

Spade Latch
Another Suffolk variety, our Spade Latch is a beautifully hand-crafted piece that will grace any handsome paneled or plank door.  The history of this latch extends all along the eastern shoreline, and its ancestors can still be found in many antique homes in New England.

The Spade is suitable for interior or exterior use, and can be ordered in a beeswax boiled Linseed oiled finish or painted black.. 3” x 10”

Meeting House LatchRestoration of Bean Latch
This handsome latch is quite an eye-catcher. Reproduced from a latch found on the front of a 1780 Connecticut meeting house, this large latch is a beautiful representation of colonial craftsmanship.

The Meeting House latch would grace the front entryway of any restoration or reproduction home. 4-1/2” x 18-1/2”

Mission Latch 
Another Suffolk Latch variety, the Mission latch is a slightly different design than was commonly seen in early colonial homes. Ours is similar to a door in the Wayside Inn, Sudbury Massachusetts, circa 1683.

This beautiful latch, with its beveled edges and detailed hammered finish, would be a handsome addition to a period home or elegant outbuilding. Because of its size, the Mission latch is primarily an exterior latch, so is painted black to withstand the weather. 3-1/2” x 13-1/2”

 

historic restoration

 

 

 

 

 

Historic Preservation in Progress is a series of our posts where we show you how historic preservation happens, as it’s happening.

Historic Preservation in Progress

The Wilmington Public Library

Historic Preservation in Progress

The Wilmington Library was built in 1922 and has remained a landmark on Rodney Square for ninety years.  Especially in recent years, due to heavy use by the public and the changing role of libraries in an urban environment, there has been an increasingly evident need for expensive repairs.

After extensive study, the Board of Managers determined that the best course of action was to undertake a substantial renovation to restore the Library to its original classic beauty.  As importantly, the “redesign” of the facility would also be the catalyst for the Library to modify, expand and effectively market its collections and exciting new services and programs to better accommodate the Library’s diverse constituencies.

Historic Restorations will be restoring three pairs of doors on the project, including the massive exterior pocket doors.  Below are videos we shot while removing these HUGE 22′ tall wood entrance doors on the Wilmington Public Library.  The doors will be stored at our shop until we are ready to restore and re-install them for the Library’s restoration project.

 

httpv://youtu.be/Uh00HMP5D0o

httpv://youtu.be/FUx5B98TvWQ

httpv://youtu.be/qD0H5YabrqA

httpv://youtu.be/XwUrYS0W42E

 

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

Historic Architecture in Pennsylvania

Log Buildings 1638 – 1880
Common Building Types :  Houses, barns, forts, taverns, churches, mills

Identifiable Features
1. Horizontal log construction
2. Small windows
3. Clay or mud chinking between logs
4. Side gabled roof
5. Brick, stone or clay chimneys
6. Irregular spaced window and door openings

Historic ArchitectureHistoric ArchitectureHistoric ArchitectureHistoric ArchitectureHistoric Architecture

Very little historic architecture has caught the public imagination as much as log houses have. To many people, these simply designed structures are the epitome of early American life, and thus the log house has assumed a rather mythic and romanticized place in our national history. However, log buildings played a real and significant part in Pennsylvania’s architectural past.

The Swedes, who settled in southeastern Pennsylvania in the mid-17th century, are credited with first bringing the log house historic architecture form to the American colonies. The Swedes had established several permanent settlements as part of the colony of New Sweden in southeast Pennsylvania andDelaware from 1638 through 1654. Despite some challenges by the Dutch, the Swedes and Finns of New Sweden continued to control their land until William Penn claimed the land under his charter for Pennsylvania in 1682. The few remaining Swedish log buildings in the southeast corner of the state are the earliest evidence of European settlement in Pennsylvania . The earliest surviving building in our state is the Lower Swedish Cabin, which dates from circa 1640 and is located along the Darby Creek in Drexel Hill , Delaware County. The Lower Swedish Cabin is a typical Swedish log house, built from hewn logs, stacked horizontally and joined by notched ends with a corner chimney. Clay chinking fills the space between the logs. Almost all the buildings in New Sweden were of log construction: houses, barns, churches, forts, mills, sheds, stables, and trading posts. Even the house of the governor of the colony was made of logs. Unfortunately, just a few of these early Swedish log buildings survive.

Another early survivor is Morton Homestead in Prospect Park , Delaware County. It is a one and one half story three-room house, built in three periods. The earliest section of the house dates to circa 1698; a similarly-designed log addition was made in 1758, and a stone connecting center section dates from the late 18th century. Log construction was not just for houses; it was used for forts, taverns, barns, churches and mills.

The log building historic architecture form was adopted from the Swedish by other settlers in Pennsylvania . When the English, Irish, and Welsh settlers arrived with William Penn, constructing a log house was an expedient way to provide shelter in the new world. Oftentimes a log house was built, only to be replaced as fortunes improved, with a house of brick or stone. The log houses were then abandoned or relegated to use as a shed or agricultural outbuilding or housing for relatives. Log houses were also incorporated into newly expanded buildings as seen in the Morten Homestead. Log buildings were constructed by the German and Scots-Irish settlers as settlement moved westward. While the Swedish preferred corner chimneys, the Germans generally built central chimneys, and the English often used wall end chimneys. Log buildings were usually of one or two story design, with some beginning as a single story, and then enlarged. Windows were small, originally employing sliding wood shutters before glass was commonly available. The gable ends were made of boards and the roofs of wooden shingles.

Vernacular architectural historians have identified a number of traditional log house forms and patterns commonly found in the United States.  A simple, one-room, log house is called as a single pen or single crib house.  Another common descriptive term for log houses in the Mid-Atlantic region is a Continetal Plan house, made up of a single-pen log house with three rooms arranged around a center fireplace. The Continental Plan type of log house is associated with the early German settlers of Pennsylvania who brought this building tradition with them from Europe.  Another common log building plan is the Saddlebag Plan, where two single-pen log rooms are joined by a center chimney.  The Saddlebag Plan often reflects the addition of another log room onto an earlier building with the old exterior chimney wall now forming a center interior one.  The Dogtrot Plan includes two log pens with an open porch or covered passageway between. The Dogtrot Plan is often associated with the building traditions of the southern states  because its open air design is well suited for warm weather.

In the mid to late 19th century, log buildings were often covered by clapboards in an effort to make these vernacular buildings fit into the architectural styles of the day. Many historic buildings thus have an inner core of logs, long covered and forgotten. Due to the immense practicality of log construction, log buildings continued to be built throughout the 19th century, especially in more remote areas of the state. Log construction also remained popular for sheds and agricultural buildings.

Certain types of late 19th and early 20th century buildings incorporate log construction to create a consciously “rustic” design.  In the 1870s as part of the “Great Camp Movement” rustically designed vaction homes and visitor lodges  were built in the Adierondack Mountains of New York.  Buildings of similar style and design were also constructed in the Poconos area of Pennsylvania as rustic retreats.  Designed with natural materials to better fit into their wooded enviroment, these buildings featured native stone, wood shingles, and logs, often with the bark retained.  In the 1930s and 1940s the Civilian Conservation Corps (a federal program created as part of FDR’s New Deal) also produced log buildings for public parks.  These early 20th century log cabins, visitor centers and support buildings are still present in Pennsylvania’s public parks and recreation areas.  Thus, every log building should not be assumed to be of especially early construction.