Briana Grosicki, associate principal of PlaceEconomics based in Washington, D.C., joined the Practical Preservation Podcast to discuss the economic benefits of preservation. We covered multiple topics, including:

  • Briana’s background, including growing up regularly visiting local battlefields in Virginia, volunteering with her main street district as a teen, to working with Donovan Rypkema 
  • Briana’s additional roles as chairwoman for Preservation Action and board of director for the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions
  • PlaceEconomics’ specialized consultation services at the intersection of economics and historic preservation, including research and city-wide studies, and educational talks and workshops
  • Specific economic benefits of preservation, including that for every 100 preservation/rehabilitation projects there are 186 jobs created elsewhere in the community, vs. 135 new jobs created per every 100 typical construction projects
  • Dispelling typical myths about preservation, including that historic preservation is a major cause of unaffordable housing, when in reality historic districts are more likely to include mixed-income housing than neighborhoods with speculative development (i.e., flipped houses and airbnbs)
  • Challenges in the field of preservation, such as increasing preservation’s advantages for and accessibility to all people 

 

Contact/Follow:

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Educational Resources

For individuals interested in getting help with preservation in their community, Briana encourages they contact her or other staff at PlaceEconomics – they are always open to discussing if they are right for a client or community! You should also tell your local officials about PlaceEconomics’ services!

Briana also suggests that individuals who may be less likely to work with PlaceEconomics’ firm directly continue to work on preservation at a grassroots level – from government involvement with organizations such as Preservation Action, to simply maintaining their own historical buildings, investing in existing resources, and using local resources to fund the local economy.

Briana encourages everyone to consider involvement in Preservation Action’s virtual auction this year, scheduled for October 27th, at 7PM

COFFEE BREAK RECAP – This month’s “coffee break” video recap focuses on how to navigate the existing building code and uniform construction code within your historic building project in Pennsylvania. Watch below.

 

VIDEO SUMMARY:

  • Focus: Exemptions (Existing Building Code) and things liable to the Uniform Construction Code, depending on the parameters of a historic building project in Pennsylvania
  • Solutions: Danielle and Jonathan discussed tips: 
       

    1. Work with a contractor or design specialist who has preservation knowledge who can work flexibly with a code officer.
    2. Know EXEMPTIONS that fall under Existing Building Code:
      • Historic buildings listed on the state or national historic register
      • Historic building that is part of a historic district 
      • Replacement in kind (under the Secretary of Interiors Standards
      • Staircases (unaltered) 
      • Means of egress (doorways)
      • Energy conservation 
      • Floodplain-located buildings
      • Fire rating  
    3. Know what is LIABLE to the Uniform Construction Code:
      • Changing the usage of a building 
      • Substantial improvement/Alterations – if the percentage of alterations is more than 50% of the building’s value (even if usage remains the same)
      • Relocated structure 
      • Seismic (structural) retrofits
      • Means of egress 
    4. If you disagree with the code officer, know the process of appeals
      • Check with your local municipality  

Old buildings are not automatically exempt from the Uniform Building Code in Pennsylvania
– ARM YOURSELF WITH KNOWLEDGE TO NAVIGATE CODES ON YOUR NEXT PROJECT!

 

Further resources:

April C. Thomas, proprietor and sole designer of Fashions Revisited, and Director of the Historic Foodways Program for the Northern York County Historical and Preservation Society (NYCHAPS) in Dillsburg, PA, joined the Practical Preservation Podcast to discuss her fashion business and the foodways program. We covered multiple topics, including:

  • April’s background, including growing up working at local historical sites in the Chadds Ford area, and starting hearth cooking herself when she was 7 years old
  • Her foray into the historical reproduction clothing fashion business over 20 years ago – including creating and providing accurate patterns for sale – in addition to ready-made and custom-made clothing
  • The history of NYCHAPS, Dill’s Tavern, and her foodways program there
  • Well-known projects from Fashions Revisited, including film and TV – most notably, April created the dress for Caroline Goodall’s Martha Washington in Mt. Vernon Visitor Center’s Imax Theater’s “We Fight to be Free
  • Memorable highlights from the foodways program – April and Dill’s tavern staff and historians were featured on an episode of A Taste of History
  • How continuing these traditions preserves an essential part of our collective heritage
  • Challenges maintaining authenticity with modern materials and mindsets, as well as trends that emerge in the historical reproduction clothing world

 

Contact/Follow:

Website

Etsy Shop

Facebook

Instagram here and here

General contact information

April typically is involved in workshops and other events, but due to COVID this year, these will be delayed – follow her events page and other sites mentioned above to stay tuned to future options, and explore her items for sale!

In the meantime, April recommends looking into events at Dill’s Tavern and NYCHAPS, including their Oktoberfest this week, and the Colonial Market & Fair at Mt. Vernon next week!

LABOR DAY although it was yesterday, we feel it’s timely to discuss it. Now known as the unofficial end of Summer, a time for store sales, or an extra long weekend for some. But the history and meaning behind the day represent the struggles of laborers in the American workforce, and collective issues that are just as relevant today as they were over a hundred years ago. It’s important that we preserve the history of Labor Day and continue to support our laborers. Read on for a brief overview of national and Pennsylvania labor history, and links to Pennsylvania labor history points of interest.

Illustration from Tribute to Labor Day newspaper article – 1901 edition of the Desert Evening News, Great Salt Lake City, Utah. Image Source: Library of Congress.

 

The History Behind Labor Day

The U.S. Department of Labor’s fairly neutral overview of Labor Day reports that the holiday is the result of years of dedicated efforts by members of the Labor Movement to establish fair wages and work hours. The first official Labor Day celebration (which was actually a demonstration) occurred September 5, 1882 by the Central Labor Union in New York City, including a parade followed by a festival. This had a cascade effect. Subsequently, grass roots efforts by laborers and small unions led to initial ordinances being put in place in various municipalities by the mid-1880s. The first state law declaring Labor Day a legal holiday was passed in Oregon in 1887, and several other states followed suit. June 28, 1894, then-President Grover Cleveland officially signed the act into law making the first Monday of September a legal national holiday. 

“According to legend, Peter McGuire stood before the New York Central Labor Union on May 12, 1882, to suggest the idea of setting aside one day a year to honor labor. McGuire believed that Labor Day should ‘be celebrated by a street parade which would publicly show the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations.’” 

U.S. Department of Labor

 

What the report by the U.S. Department of Labor fails to mention is the significant unrest, violence, and suffering that occurred for laborers before this holiday was created. Laborers endured 12-hour or more workdays, worked 7-days a week, had low wages, no benefits, and unsafe working conditions. Child labor was also prolific. Most sources claim that the official legalization of this holiday was a political move made to appease labor unrest. The PBS New Desk asserted that the catalyst for this political move was the Pullman Strike of 1894. The workers protested the simultaneous drop in wages and maintenance of rents following a decline in sleeping car orders (due to nationwide economic depression). The domino effect of this initial rebellion included nationwide boycotts of trains carrying Pullman cars, by railroad workers. Some of these protesters pillaged and burned the cars. Railroad executives were concerned and mail trains were delayed. President Cleveland’s initial response of declaring the strike a Federal crime and deploying troops to break it culminated in heightened violence and several deaths. The strike was declared ended via injunction July 20, 1894, several strike leaders were arrested, unions were disbanded, and striking Pullman employees were rehired on the condition that they signed a pledge not to unionize again.

Although it appears that the powers that be were ultimately victorious at the expense of the common working man, the strike’s handling was viewed poorly by much of the public. Some say to appease the public and garner political favor (although this source indicates Cleveland had little to gain by doing so), President Grover Cleveland quickly signed the act into law a few days after the strike’s declared end.

 

Pennsylvania’s Involvement in the Labor Movement

The Explore PA History website provides a thorough overview of Pennsylvania’s particular involvement in the labor movement. The Pennsylvania Labor History Society also includes a detailed timeline of Labor History in Pennsylvania. This history is summarized subsequently. Philadelphia printers staged the U.S.’s first strike for higher wages in 1786. Some of the most notable Pennsylvania industries in the 19th century – mining, steel, and railroads – involved very low wages, extremely long hours, and limited benefits so laborers in these industries were well-known for their unions and strikes. The Depression of the 1930s also caused hardship for Pennsylvania workers, especially in the steel industry, leading to an influx of union members. The Cold War period’s increased international competition and the subsequent deindustrialization of the United States caused significant job loss and lower standards of living for many Pennsylvania workers.

Tangible evidence of Pennsylvania’s industrial and trade contributions are existent today in their original locations (some still in-use) and through museums. The Pennsylvania Labor History Society includes links to various sites, The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission includes a link to the industrial heritage trail, with museums of industry (here), and The State Museum of Pennsylvania includes several items paying homage to Pennsylvania industry (many of which can be viewed virtually, here, here, ). 

 

IN SUMMARY:

Work has shifted significantly in the U.S. over the past two hundred years from the industrial and skilled-trades to the white-collar jobs that we see today (related as well to the skilled labor shortage we’ve outlined before). Union memberships have significantly declined, and labor concerns have shifted to issues of health care, equitable wages, retirement, etc. Essentially, the players have changed but the game is essentially the same. It is incumbent upon us as a society not to forget the meaning behind Labor Day, to visit and read about historical industrial and labor movement sites and objects, to continue to fight for worker’s rights, and to support our local laborers as much as we can. In this way, we preserve our history as well as our society.

 

SHARE WITH US!

DO YOU OR A FAMILY MEMBER HAVE A PERSONAL STORY RELATED TO THE LABOR MOVEMENT? OR, DO YOU KNOW OF ANY HISTORICAL SITES OR OBJECTS RELATED TO THE LABOR MOVEMENT THAT YOU’D LIKE TO MENTION? 

FEEL FREE TO SHARE BELOW!

 

 

Bill Morrow, president of Langhorne Carpet Company in Penndel, PA, joined the Practical Preservation Podcast to discuss the company’s history and current operations. We covered multiple topics, including:

  • Bill’s family’s background in the carpet-making business, founding Langhorne Carpet Company in 1930
  • Henry Ford’s connection to the mill
  • The company’s basis on heritage and tradition – traditional weaving processes, original mill, original looms, and continued ownership by the founding family – and the distinction of being the longest continually-operated Wilton carpet mill in the United States
  • The history of and mechanisms involved in Wilton carpet production 
  • Products and services, including modern and historic reproduction Wilton carpets, and specialty custom carpet designs
  • Notable reproduction and restoration historical projects – including Congress Hall in Philadelphia, among many others – and the artistry involved in recreating these carpets
  • Benefits of Langhorne’s carpet, including its durable, natural, sustainable, and safe qualities – their wool-based carpets even help filter indoor air!

 

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Bill reminds us that Langhorne Carpets is one of only a handful of Wilton carpet mills in the world – this distinction combined with the noted benefits of their carpet make it the perfect option for modern and historical property owners alike!

Sign up for their newsletter – here – or follow on Instagram to stay on top of sales and other news!

A few months ago I came across an article from DWM Magazine (DWM = Door and Window Market) about a lawsuit filed on Oklahoma against Pella Corp by a homeowner that alleged the Architect Series windows have design and manufacturing defects as result they are leaking and causing premature wood rot and damage.  You can read the article here: https://www.dwmmag.com/lawsuit-alleges-pella-architect-series-windows-were-defective/

Replacement windows come in a wide range of options and price points – unfortunately paying more doesn’t always equal greater quality when choosing a replacement window (and if you have your original windows they most likely can be repaired and as energy efficient as replacement windows – science backs this.)  You can read more here:  https://practicalpreservationservices.com/put-replacement-windows-to-shame-what-that-nice-salesperson-doesnt-want-you-to-know/

Reading the article about the lawsuit against Pella I wasn’t surprised by the issue the homeowner had.  They had purchased aluminum clad (wood wrapped in aluminum) ‘designed and manufactured to protect the wood’ and I’m sure they also tout the maintenance free aspect of the design.  The complaint alleges, “[An] investigation revealed that the defendant’s Architect Series windows aluminum exterior cladding had design and manufacturing defects allowing rain water to drip in to the interior wood and that the rain water dripping in to the interior wood over the years resulted in rotted wood  internal destruction of the windows.”  This is a common issue when wrapping wood (I won’t even get into the fact that the pine they are using is inferior to old growth wood) and is one of the reasons the Secretary of the Interior advocates for NOT wrapping wood in metal or synthetic siding: https://www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/8-aluminum-vinyl-siding.htm

“Since aluminum and vinyl sidings are typically marketed as home improvement items, they are frequently applied to buildings in need of maintenance and repair. This can result in concealing problems which are the early warning signs of deterioration. Minor uncorrected problems can progress to the point where expensive, major repairs to the structure become necessary.

If there is a hidden source of water entry within the wall or leakage from the roof, the installation of any new siding will not solve problems of deterioration and rotting that are occurring within the wall. If deferred maintenance has allowed water to enter the wall through deteriorated gutters and downspouts, for example, the cosmetic surface application of siding will not arrest these problems. In fact, if the gutters and downspouts are not repaired, such problems may become exaggerated because water may be channeled behind the siding. In addition to drastically reducing the efficiency of most types of wall insulation, such excessive moisture levels within the wall can contribute to problems with interior finishes such as paints or wallpaper, causing peeling, blistering or staining of the finishes.”

Trapping the water behind the metal and against the wood is the same issue that is being alleged as a design fault in the Pella lawsuit.  The lawsuit also alleges that the company had known this was a design defect since 2006 (there had been previous class action litigation).  The complaint sums this up, “[Pella] breached its duty to disclose to plaintiff that its Architect Series windows had a substantial risk of leaking because of design and manufacturing defects and that the leakage would result in rotted wood and that after the purchase of the windows defendant breached its duty to inform plaintiff that defendant’s Architect Series windows had a very high likelihood of leaking that would result in rotted wood”.

As I stated previously I wasn’t surprised by the cladding causing wood rot and I do think a window manufacturer should understand this and design to avoid the condition, but most people move every 7 years and if the previous homeowner paid the expense of replacement windows when the windows begin to fail it is a ‘necessary’ cost of maintaining a home and the replacement cycle continues.

 

Mike Emery, site administrator of Cornwall Iron Furnace in Cornwall (Lebanon County), PA – joined the Practical Preservation Podcast to discuss the museum’s history and current operations. We covered multiple topics, including:

  • Mike’s own deep roots – growing up in Pennsylvania, as well as working in several local museum positions in Pennsylvania – which inspired a lifelong love and appreciation for his own family’s and the commonwealth’s history
  • The history of Cornwall Iron Furnace and its special significance as the only surviving intact charcoal cold blast furnace in the Western Hemisphere
  • The furnace’s essential contribution to the Continental Cause in the Revolutionary War via artillery and other military ironware
  • The furnace’s association with indentured servants and enslaved persons – including a famous local named “Governor Dick – without whom such a vast operation could not run
  • The furnace’s link to the Coleman family, one of the most prominent and well-known families of Lebanon (as well as Lancaster) County
  • Challenges for the museum (limited funding and budget as well as staff, and limitations due to COVID-19) and challenges to preservation in general, including the rise of shows popularizing “harvesting” historic fabric from old buildings, particularly in our region where more and more buildings are lost to so-called “Progress”
  • The importance of supporting historical sites and buildings, particularly during these challenging times, and how “Preservation is Progress”

 

Contact/Follow:

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Twitter

Instagram

YouTube

General contact information

Mike suggests some ways that interested people can support Cornwall Iron Furnace (or any other historical organization of personal interest), including volunteering or becoming a member.

You may also support this and other sites by tuning into online/virtual programming and tours (here and here for Cornwall Iron Furnace specifically).

Finally, if you’d like to see the outside of the Cornwall Iron Furnace complex’s buildings and Gothic Revival Architectural Styles, the nearby miner’s villages, and other natural and historical resources Lebanon County has to offer, take advantage of a nice day and drive around for your own “self-guided” tour!

 

 

UNIQUE HISTORICAL FEATURES SERIES – Periodically – usually the 4th Tuesday of the month – we’ll bring you a brief overview of a unique architectural feature. Most of these features have become unique to old buildings because they are now obsolete. Finding surviving features is rare as they often fall victim to updates and renovation. However, we think it’s important to be aware of them – besides, learning about them can be a lot of fun! This month’s feature is: THE BOOT SCRAPER. 

Boot scraper at the John Maddox Denn House, Alloway, Salem County, NJ. See our project page on it here

 

What is a boot scraper?

According to the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction (2003), a boot scraper is:

“A horizontal metal plate set in a small frame, once  located  near the front steps of most  buildings; used to scrape dirt or mud from the  bottoms of  shoes or boots before entering the building; common before the advent of paved streets.” 

 

Most people today do not know what boot scrapers are because they are no longer a necessity. In fact, they did not come into use until two- to- three centuries ago. Prior to that, people either did not travel much, or if they traversed the muddy countryside or farm fields, they likely lived in humble homes and were unconcerned about dirt or used other methods to clean. Paved roads were also uncommon for quite some time in Europe and the United States; mud and horse excrement, garbage, and all manner of undesirable debris were unavoidable when traveling. Consequently, there were many deterrents to walking.

Attitudes toward walking changed from the mid-18th through the mid-19th century. Walking was now viewed as a popular pastime instead of a sign of vagrancy or something adverse. The Romantic Movement’s appreciation for nature and civil improvements such as parks and pavement intensified the appreciation for walking. But, even as paved thoroughfares and pedestrian outings proliferated, processes for waste removal evolved at a much slower rate. Not surprisingly, the decision to enter a stately home following a walk through dirty streets presented a dilemma. The solution? The boot scraper.

Initially, boot scrapers were typically made of hand wrought iron. Their composition evolved to cast iron designs in the 19th century. They were generally secured into a stone or other base, or sometimes built into front steps, stair railings, or even built into the side of a building (a practice often seen in Europe). Boot scrapers were always placed at or near the entrance to the building. Unusual designs and materials can also be found (see here), a testament to people’s creativity. Some also included brushes into the design for extra cleaning power. Several patents for boot scrapers were also filed in the 19th century. Boot scrapers became so ubiquitous that they were often included in builders’ and architects’ plans. J.C. Loudon referenced boot scrapers in his Encyclopaedia of Cottage, Farm, & Villa Architecture & Furniture (1839), stating that:

“There are various forms of scrapers for building into walls, which may be had of every ironmonger…”

 

There are many fine examples of boot scrapers throughout Europe. Brussels, Belgium reportedly has a significant number of extant boot scrapers, as detailed here. The French called them “decrottoir” (translated to: “excrement remover”), with some Parisian examples here. English versions also include some built into the walls of buildings, as seen here

 

Examples of American boot scrapers:

 

Boot scraper at main entrance to the Upsala Mansion in Mount Airy, Philadelphia, PA, built in the Federal architectural style in 1798

 

 

 

 

 

 

The image above was taken by staff of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), in 1933. Image source: Library of Congress

 

Boot scraper outside Arch Street Friends Meeting House in Philadelphia, PA, building dating to between 1803 and 1805. 

 

 

 

 

 

The image above was taken by staff of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), in 1933. Image source: Library of Congress.

 

Boot scraper from the “Banker’s House” on South Canal Street in Natchez, MS – an example of Greek Revival Architecture dating to 1836

 

 

 

 

 

 

The image above was taken by staff of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), in 1933. Image source: Library of Congress.

 

Boot scraper by main entrance to Stan Hywet Hall – a fine example of Tudor Revival architecture from 1915 – in Akron, Ohio. 

 

 

 

 

 

The image above was taken by staff of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), in 1933. Image source: Library of Congress

 

Boot scrapers today

Where to see them. 

  • Scavenger hunt – Hit the pavement in a historical neighborhood and see how many boot scrapers you can find. Don’t forget to inspect stair railings for the subtler scrapers (just be mindful of private property!).
  • Photo gallery – Visit the boot scrapers flickr page, here

Where to get them. 

  • Antique/Salvage Business – If your home is missing a boot scraper, you can find historical scrapers via salvage and antique businesses, including this one.
  • Historic Reproduction Business – If searching for originals proves unsuccessful, search for reproduction types like these.
  • Modern Options – Even if you’re not looking for the historical variety, you may find a use for the modern styles, like these

 

For further resources and reading:

  • For another overview of the boot scraper, read the article here.
  • Take a virtual “tour” of American places with boot scrapers, here and here

 

Stay tuned each month for a new installment in this UNIQUE HISTORICAL FEATURES SERIES!

 

SHARE WITH US!

DO YOU HAVE AN ORIGINAL BOOT SCRAPER ON YOUR PROPERTY, OR DO YOU OWN AN UNINSTALLED ONE?

FEEL FREE TO SHARE BELOW!

 

 

 

Jack and Jessica Meyer – father-daughter owners of  White Chimneys in Gap (Lancaster County), PA – joined the Practical Preservation Podcast to discuss their property’s history and their business. We covered multiple topics, including:

  • The Meyers’ realization of their historic preservation values through the purchase and renovation of White Chimneys over the past 15 years
  • The 300 years of history – including the estate’s direct connection to our founding fathers and famous historic figures such as the Marquis de Lafayette – of White Chimneys
  • Restoration and renovation experiences and tips from the homeowners’ perspective, including historic discoveries made along the way
  • Services utilized for restoration and ongoing maintenance, including details on the air purification system (particularly in light of COVID-19) 
  • How curious visitors planted the seed for their wedding venue and other business
  • Unique options and services offered to brides and grooms – including co-creating a signature cocktail with ingredients from the estate’s own gardens
  • Their business focus on sustainability, to support the history and future of the estate (which is on the National Register of Historic Places and under a historic preservation easement)
  • Challenges of owning a historic home and business, including that maintenance work is never done!

 

Contact/Follow:

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TikTok

General contact information

Listen to the end of the podcast to learn more about the HVAC businessShoemaker Heating and Cooling – responsible for the custom ductwork and air filtration system installed at White Chimneys. Mr. Shoemaker can be reached via the link above, at 610-314-7278, or at [email protected]

If considering a wedding or other service at White Chimneys during these uncertain times, listen to their description of adjustments in the podcast or visit their COVID discussion here.

COFFEE BREAK RECAPS – Periodically, we will be bringing you recapitulations of our live “coffee break” videos, where Danielle and Jonathan address questions related to preservation and provide answers or brainstorm solutions. These recap posts will include additional information and resources. This month’s recap focuses on rising sea levels’ impacts on historic buildings and possible solutions. Watch below. 

 

VIDEO SUMMARY:

  • Focus: The ever-increasing threat of flooding to historical buildings and properties caused by climate change (among other things) – after all, water is the enemy of historic structures 
  • Question: What can be done to protect historic buildings and districts – in a way that is also sensitive to preserving the historic-fabric – from rising sea levels?
  • Solutions: Danielle and Jonathan discussed 3 possibilities:
    1. Make bottom levels of buildings “floodable” as is being attempted at the national level (see resources below for an example) – however, this still puts floors, doors, windows, trim, etc. at significant risk of damage and destruction.       
    2. Consider elevating the building to a level high enough that it is less likely to need to be raised again, and treating the elevation similarly to a “sympathetic addition” – one that is new but whose style and materials are in keeping with the historic fabric of the rest of the building.
    3. Although relocation of the entire structure is also an option, it may be less desirable than the other options, as it is extremely costly and has other risks.

When it comes to flood mitigation in coastal or water-front communities, historic structures should not be forgotten
DON’T THROW THE PROVERBIAL BABY OUT WITH THE BATHWATER

 

Further resources: