Greetings 2009

This new year is already picking up the pace from the relaxing holiday season. Next Friday, January 16, 2009 is the opening day for the Greater Philadelphia Historic Home Show. Chuck began constructing frames for mirrors to show and sell last month. The hardwoods that were selected for the mirror project are, Cherry, Maple and Flame Birch. The frames are mortise and tenon, a form of joinery dating back to 2400 BC. Jonathan will add the color to finish the fine furniture pieces. The mirrors are our signature item, kind of a large calling card. A hand crafted, easy to carry away from the show piece that people can hang on their wall – reflecting beauty – and be reminded of the kind of service we provide for our friends/clients. The Historic Home Show will provide for us an opportunity to “predict” how the world is affecting those of us who treasure our vintage homes and the built heritage we share as a nation. Preservation is Green. I am optimistic!

Season’s Greetings! This is the time of year when we all take a little extra time to reflect on our family, our world and what life has presented to us in the past year. If you pay attention to the news, most of us are suffering from some form of shell shock or even Post Traumatic Stress. Some of the institutions we all thought were “bullet” proof, turn out to be part of a mass illusion. How did this happen? Each of us share a portion of the responsibility for this. Each of us must resolve to do better in the New Year. I can hear a lone voice in the wilderness, ” I am only one person, what difference can I make?”
First abandon the old way of thinking. Instead of seeking instant – anything, make decisions that will bring long term benefits. Each choice that you make will not be added to the Merry-go-Round of built in obsolescence. This is the perfect time to push for recovery at personal, national and global levels. This “new” direction can be more rewarding in terms of personal life enrichment than the “old” boom was. The new mind set should provide self fulfilling intentions to every aspect of our day to day living.
Moving forward, we must restore ourselves. A book written by Storm Cunningham, “The Restorations Economy” was published in 2005. Danielle wrote about this book in the July 14, 2008 blog. The books focus is in the building industry but the message should be embraced by everyone who sees real opportunity in the -other side- of all the failures of current industry and institutions of the past months.
As we venture into the next phase of “Life” let us all choose to be the pebble that radiates gentle ripples through the collective conscience of our world.
Blessings, Peace and Love

The Hancock House

Historic Restorations recently built the ‘tavern’ door for the 1734 Hancock House for the New Jersey State Park Service. The Hancock House is one of just a few houses left in Southern New Jersey with the date in a decorative pattern on the gable end. Besides the architectural importance the house was the site of the March 20, 1778 massacre by the British troops to punish the local militia (stationed within the Hancock House) for not supporting the British Army when they came for supplies. Everyone within the house was bayoneted – Judge William Hancock died several days after the attack.
On Wednesday, October 28, Jonathan and Danielle attended a energy conservation workshop offered by LIVE Green and Pure Energy. We learned things that can be done within an older building (they used a city row house as the example) to help conserve energy. The importance of insulation and energy efficient appliances to significantly reduce heating and electric bills. We appreciated the physics lesson explaining why replacement windows are not the answer to save energy (beyond the historic value).

LIVE Green is a non-profit organization that promotes sustainable city living their website is for more information on their purpose, events, and workshops. Pure Energy is a Lancaster-based energy auditing company their website is for information on their services, training, and energy conservation tools.

On Sunday, October 19, Chuck, Lois, Jonathan, Danielle, and Josh attended the Architectural History Tour of the Northeast Lancaster Township Historic District. The tour was appropriately called “Mansions on Marietta” and highlighted buildings built as the first suburban development in Lancaster County.

The oldest house on the tour was built in 1828 and is Wheatland home of 15th President James Buchanan. The other six homes on the tour (private residences) where built between 1920 and 1939. These houses reminded us of the “old” (at least 100 years old) building on the West Coast.


Danielle and Jonathan spent three days in Colonial Williamsburg with Jonathan’s parents Donald and Diane. The picture shows Jonathan and his dad in the stocks next to the courthouse – they quickly learned that public punishment was not very comfortable. A lot has changed in Williamsburg since Danielle and Jonathan visited Thanksgiving 2001. They are in the process of building a new plantation close to the Colonial Capital of Virginia to show how the majority of people lived during this time period – they have a few buildings built (the smaller outbuildings) and they will have to wait until the coffeehouse next to the Capital building is finished being built (next fall) for the carpenters (using only 18th century tools) to build the main house at the plantation.

Jonathan also had a new appreciation for the hand forged rosehead nails that we purchase after watching the blacksmith make them one at a time. Having the time to step back in history appreciating the colonial architecture (noticing the similarities and differences depending on the region of the country) and learning more about the people that lived during our colonial period was a relaxing way to spend a warm fall weekend.

Rainy Days…

What to do when a wet Nor’Eastener settles over Staten Island on a work day? Take the ferry to the Big Apple! Lois and Chuck went on an adventure in Manhattan last Friday. We arrived at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal at noon and mingled with the local fokes waiting to board the ferry to the City. Hearing serveral different languages spoken by excited young adults making their way around the deck. As we all braved the wind and the rain to watch the tug boats, tankers, and ships glide along the Hudson River. Lady Liberty appeared out of the fog to greet us, a beacon of hope and welcome for the past 100 plus years. The ride was actually fast, about 15 minutes. Landing in the Battery Section of lower Manhattan.. Of course Chuck and I walked around, looking up, pointing out the architectual details on the buildings to each other, like a couple of tourist. We even walked to Wall Street, there were a lot of people in the bars….

Catching the ferry to return to Staten Island at the end of the day was another eye opening event. Dare I say thousands of people gathered and boarded the ferry. This system of transporttion works and its free. Historic Restorations will have a field trip to the city again, we will make sure that the kids experince this too.

On Saturday, September 20, 2008 we presented “How to Approach Work on Your Older Home” to a group of interested homeowners in Columbia, Pennsylvania. We discussed avoiding common mistakes, how to make an older home more energy efficient, and how to plan for the work. After we finished the question and answer segment Chuck offered to take anyone who was interested to go outside to look at some of the mistakes made (previously, such as, sandblasting and using Portland Cement based mortar) on the Columbia Market House and the maintenance tasks that can be completed to help preserve the building. The preservation fair was sponsored by The Borough of Columbia and the Historic Architectural Review Board through the support of The Richard C. von Hess Foundation.

Ephrata Cloister

On Sunday, September 14, 2008, we went to the Ephrata Cloister’s tour of the second and third floors (areas not usually open to the public). The third floor is mostly intact from the 18th century (used to recreate the rooms on the first floor for the museum tour) and the second floor was “remodeled” in the 19th century with some walls being taken out and staircases moved. The most interesting features were the wooden thumb latches and wooden hinges on the cabinets.

Some of the buildings on the Cloister site are unique because they are half-timber (frame buildings with the inside of the frame filled with masonry and then covered by wooden siding). This is the largest collection of buildings constructed in this manner in Pennsylvania.

Labor Day Weekend

We spent Labor Day Weekend at the Oregon Coast at the Groshong family reunion. The picture shows Chuck with his siblings in descending order. Almost the entire family gathered to reconnect and reminisce about times spent at the beach. With walks on the beach, rowing in the lake, and a bonfire with singing a good time was had by all.