One of our current projects, the Franklin Street Station in Reading, PA, involves restoration of dozens of windows and doors originally made in 1929.  Seriously damaged by Hurricane Agnes, the building then sat abandoned and deteriorated from neglect and vagrant activity and by 2011 when BARTA began its restoration project for the building, this is is what the building and the windows looked like when we started:

To restore windows so badly damaged, without replacing them, we started by stripping the multiple layers of varnish and paint and ordered replacement glass.  (In this project’s case, we ordered new glass instead of using salvaged historical glass because the customer wanted tempered glass in most windows and frosted glass for the restroom windows.)  After we have the replacement glass caulked and pinned in, we do the window glazing ourselves – watch the following short video to see how!

Ever wonder just exactly how the magic of historical restorations happens? How do we take something that no longer exists, or has deteriorated so badly you can’t tell what used to exist, and restore it to something that looks exactly like what was originally there?  

One of the most important parts of the restoration process is the mock-up. These very early prototypes allow us to test the construction of detailed designs and give us a working model to use for verification that the recreated details are historically accurate.  Initial mock-ups aren’t necessarily constructed out of the materials that the final product will be made out of and can often be somewhat rough-looking, but don’t let their looks deceive you – without their “rugged” functionality, we wouldn’t be able to produce the refined finished product.

This mock-up is for the Franklin Street Station restoration project in Reading, PA.  Since most of the existing trim at this project was either missing or deteriorated badly, Historic Restorations created this working example of the architectural profile for wood trim around a ceiling for the design approval process.  

Ever wonder what the women of the Ephrata Cloister were like?  What other local women of that era were like?  The Ephrata Cloister can show you, with their program “Mothers, Sisters, Daughters” that explores the roles, duties, responsibilities, and influences of both the celibate women of the Cloister and married women of Colonial America.  For more information, visit their website at:

On Tuesday A. Tamasin Sterner from Pure Energy Coach spoke on the topic of indoor air quality at the monthly breakfast meeting for the Central Pennsylvania Preservation Society (CPPS).  
A single hour in Tamasin’s presence, is easily one of the most informative hours you’ll ever experience in your life and Tuesday was no exception.  The Historic Restorations family and other attendees at the meeting learned what the single most important aspect of energy efficiency and healthy air in a home is:
Balancing the air that goes out with fresh air coming in to achieve a neutral pressure field. 

Energy expert Tamasin Sterner shares her knowledge of Indoor Air Quality

It turns out, balance and moderation are not just good for your waistline and stress levels, it’s good for the air in your buildings too. Tamasin taught us how to evaluate and balance the air flow in buildings and the kinds of things that impact air flow patterns.  Not only does balanced air flow maximize energy efficiency, it protects the health of the building’s occupants and users, and preserves the materials and structure of the building.  
We were particularly interested to learn about the many ways air flow balance in a home is disturbed with all the seemingly innocuous improvements and changes we make to buildings that aren’t things we would have connected to impacting energy efficiency.  
Did you know that recessed lights placed near an air return can make you sick?  That sealing off the roof in your house can create moisture issues?  That even the appliances in your kitchen can create an imbalance in the health of the air of your house?  Did you know that many times asthma and allergy issues are directly related to the health of the air at home?  Did you know that sealing a house is really only half of the picture of energy efficiency?  Do you know what the other half is?  
It’s ventilation.  Without proper ventilation, insulating a house well is actually a bad thing.  It will decrease your energy efficiency, lower the quality of the air you breathe, and set up prime conditions for developing moisture issues.
Tamasin gave us those tidbits and tons of other information in her presentation, but perhaps the most surprising information from the presentation was

There is one single, simple, FREE, thing that all HVAC installers should be doing (but aren’t!) to check for proper drafting and ventilation when a new system is installed in a house and how to ask for it to make sure it gets done.  

When 30% of houses have high levels of carbon monoxide, 80% of houses have gas leaks, and the most common cause of older and historic building deterioration is uncontrolled moisture, this is critical information to have.  

Balancing the air in our buildings can not only contribute to energy conservation, it will keep our buildings healthy so the humans that use them stay healthy in order to continue expanding our healthy and living historical preservation.  
Healthy buildings.  Healthy Humans.  Healthy Histories.

If you haven’t yet attended a monthly breakfast meeting for CPPS, or you don’t make it a habit to attend regularly, you should.  Meetings are only $15, include a continental breakfast spread (with The Cork Factory Hotel’s homemade pastries), and expert presenters that cover a variety of topics.  You can see their upcoming schedule and register to attend one of their monthly breakfast meetings at:

It probably comes as no surprise to most of us that history is very important to us here in Lancaster County. So important, in fact, that Lancaster County’s Historical Society and President James Buchanan’s Wheatland are working together to recreate Wheatland into an entire campus dedicated to Central Pennsylvania history.

Here is the press release they posted on their website regarding the campus:

The Lancaster Campus of History—Lancaster County’s Historical Society and President James Buchanan’s Wheatland—has experienced more than a decade of pronounced change and growth, made possible by strong leadership, innovative educational programming, exceptional strategic planning, 

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first-rate historical collections, and enthusiastic support from the community.

The Lancaster Campus of History will build on the strengths of, and will transform Lancaster County’s official historical society and Wheatland, a National Historic Landmark and the home of Pennsylvania’s only U.S. President, into a new national model for historical learning and public programming. It will place Central Pennsylvania at the forefront of a movement exploring foundational themes of American history by demonstrating the relationship between local, regional, and national stories, events, and people, creating a center for critical reflection on America’s past.
 The centerpiece of the Campus of History will be a 19,755-sq-ft addition to the headquarters of Lancaster County’s Historical Society to accommodate expanded programming for both Wheatland and the Historical Society, new research facilities, new archival, library, and collection storage areas, exhibition galleries, learning centers, conservation space, and a multi-use educational auditorium.
Additionally, the project will include significant site enhancements to make the Campus more visitor-friendly, more park-like, and a model for responsible 

Campus2012 crop

stewardship through a variety of “green technology” initiatives. The Campus of History, composed of Lancaster County’s Historical Society headquarters and its new addition, as well as President James Buchanan’s Wheatland, its outbuildings, and historic landscape, will offer a ten-acre park-like setting enhanced by the Louise Arnold Tanger Arboretum and the Wheatland Gardens.

Building on a solid track record of award-winning educational programs, is well-positioned to explore historic themes and events under the rubric “County, Commonwealth, and Country.” We are confident that the Campus of History will provide an engaging civics laboratory to investigate fundamental principles of American society and life at the local, state, and national levels that will lead citizens to a deeper understanding of important issues like 


religious tolerance, the quest for freedom and democracy, as well as the American presidency and national politics of the antebellum period.

A recently-awarded challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, being matched by supporters on a three-to-one basis, will support a new roster of research fellowships and expanded humanitiesbased programming. Furthermore, as a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver-Level project, the Campus of History will be a model of sustainability and will help set a new standard for environmental preservation amongcultural organizations.

Seventy some years ago, carpenters working on the construction of the NIH campus in Bethesda made a mere $1.62 per hour.  Carpenter apprentices made even less.  Fast forward to 2011 and carpenters working on the restoration of Building #3 on the campus were paid a prevailing wage rate of $17.44 per hour. 
That’s a big difference at first glance.  Though when we thought about the fact that 1938 was almost one hundred years ago, we might have expected a bigger difference in wages between now and then. Which made us wonder: which was really worth more?
On their face values, the current prevailing wage of $17.44 certainly appears to have the greater value. But what of inflation?  It is tempting to quickly (and fairly reasonably) assume that the two incomes are probably fairly comparable in value, given that the cost of living would have risen along with the hourly rate.  But did income and cost of living rise equitably?
And what about the Great Depression?  1938 was at the tail end of the Great Depression and it’s full effect would have been felt deeply across the country.  Would the vast numbers of people looking for work, desperate to bring in the income needed to house, clothe, and feed their families, have driven down labor wages?  On the other hand, perhaps the lack of funds, creating a lack of demand, equally drove down the cost of goods and services?
So which wage rate truly had more buying power: $1.62 per hour wages in 1938 or $17.44 per hour wages in 2011?
The US Department of Labor provides an inflation calculator on their Bureau of Labor Statistics website that answers this very question and inputting our historical data gave us a surprising answer:
Carpenters working on the NIH construction project in 1938 earned wages that were worth more than our carpenters working on the NIH project in 2011.
Which could be read to imply that our current economic climate may have had a more sobering effect on incomes than the Great Depression did.  Which is a thought that had a sobering effect on us.

Tradespeople and Craftspeople often seem like they are speaking a foreign language with all the strange architectural terms that show up in their sentences.  Here are a few you may hear and what they refer to:

FOIL:An architectural foil refers to the arcs (or lobes) between projection points of a circle (think of a clover leaf and you’ll begin to get the picture of arcs/lobes surrounding the center point of a circle).  A foil can have three (trefoil), four (quatrefoil), five (cinquefoil), and even more arcs and are often found in Gothic architectural masonry, woodwork, and cast plasterwork.

QUOIN or COYN: A quoin is a corner of a masonry building, constructed of alternating long and short pieces.  Using quoins (also spelled “coyn”) strengthens corners, which is particularly important if the corners are structural and load-bearing.  Quoins are usually a material different from the main material of the building walls – stone quoins in a brick building, brick quoins in a stone building.  Sometimes quoins are intentionally built-out to project out so they are not flush with the wall in order to provide a visual emphasis of stability.

JOGGLE JOINT:  A type of fitting where a notch is created in each the two pieces being fitted together, so that the end result is a joint that looks like a zig-zag, or notched.

LAMB’S TONGUE: The end of a handrail that is turned out or down from the rail and curved to resemble a tongue.

Lancaster County is not normally the place one thinks of when considering social experimentation.  Yet that is exactly what The Drogaris Group and Garden Spot Village are doing with the Lancaster Press Building that sits on the corner of Prince and Lemon Streets.

The 100-year-old, massive brick building was originally built as a cigar factory in 1907.  The building served as a cigar factory until 1922 when it was purchased by Lancaster Press Co., to house their printing operations.  For the majority of its life this was the building’s use, until 1992 when the printing company moved and the building sat empty until a packaging firm used the building between 1997 and 1998.  From 1998 on the building has been empty and abandoned. 

In 2006 the building was purchased by the Drogaris Group, who is partnering with Garden Spot Village to create a unique retirement community for those 55+ who want to live in an urban setting.  To honor the building’s history and the architectural features that give the Lancaster Press Building its character, Historic Restorations is working with the Drogaris Group to restore window sashes, windows, door jambs, a custom-built Sapele transom, and a  4’ wide X 7 ½’ high wood door using insulated glass and traditional joinery to showcase the building’s potential in a model living space.  

Working on the restoration of a historic building is always awe-inspiring, but working to restore a historic building that once housed the laboratories and research of brilliant medical scientists who advanced our medical knowledge by leaps and bounds over the last 75 years inspires a particular awe.

Cornice restoration work by Historic Restorations in progress at
Building #3 of the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD

In 1938, when The National Institutes of Health (NIH) broke ground on their new 70-acre campus, Building #3 was constructed to house intramural laboratories, including animal breeding facilities on the second and third floors.  In the 1950’s, Building #3 was home to ground-breaking biochemists and other scientists, some of whom would go on to become Nobel Laureates for their research and advancement of medical knowledge. 

In 2011, after being abandoned and left to sit vacant and unused for years, Building #3 is making a come-back to its former glory in an adaptive re-use project designed to restore and renovate the stately brick building for office and administrative space for the Intramural Research Program.   Our master craftsmen are currently working on restoring and preserving eight-piece cornice.  Not all the wood in the cornice is salvageable, requiring our carpenters to use consolidant and wood-fill epoxy to retain original fabric and fabricate custom moldings to match existing moldings where the wood was too badly damaged to restore.

The story of the design and construction of this massive complex, and Building #3 in particular, including an intimate look at how large projects like this were handled in the 1930’s, how much tradespeople earned for their craftsmanship, pictures of the construction process, and a general history of the establishment of such an impressive, and important, medical campus, please read Michael Lyons’ article 70 Acres of Science: The NIH Moves to Bethesda available on NIH’s website at: