This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles 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 Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950

PA Architecture Federal Style 1780 -1820

Identifiable Features

1.  Symmetrical form and fenestration
2.  Elliptical fan light over paneled front door
3.  Side lights flanking front door
4.  Classical details, similar to the Georgian style, but more delicate in size and scale
5.  Flat lintels over windows, often with bull’s eye corners
6.  Cornice with decorative moldings, often dentils
7.  Low pitched side-gable or hipped roof
8.  Double hung windows with thin muntins separating the panes (6 panes over 6 most common)
9.  Decorative front door crown or entry porch
10.  Tripart or Palladian window
11.  Curving or polygonal projections

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The Federal style is also known as the Adam style, after the Adam brothers, British architects who developed this style in England. It is really a refinement of the Georgian style, which was popular in the years preceding the Federal style. Like the Georgian style, the Federal style is designed around center hall floor plan, or side hall for narrow row houses.  The Federal style has many of the same elements of the Georgian style—symmetry, classical details and a side gabled roof—yet it is different in its ornamentation and sophistication. Federal details are more delicate, slender and finely drawn than their Georgian counterparts and may feature swags, garlands and urns. Also, more formal elements were introduced in the Federal style, such as the front door fanlight window, sometimes with flanking sidelights, and more elaborate door surrounds and porticos. The Federal style is also known for dramatic windows, three-part or Palladian windows with curved arches. Another outstanding—yet less common—Federal feature is the use of curving or polygonal window projections.

The Federal style became popular throughout the colonies after the American Revolution and was dominant until about 1820, when it was supplanted by the Greek or Classical Revival Style. The easiest way to identify a Federal style building from a Georgian one is to look for the elliptical fan light over the front door or the Palladian windows—not that those design features do not appear in later styles as well. The Federal house in Pennsylvania is usually a brick two or three story building.

colonial architecture, historic architectural woodwork, historic architecture, historic architecture restoration, historic cabinetry, historic flooring, historic paint color, historic restoration lancaster pa, historic restoration research, historic restorations, historic woodwork, john bachman cabinetry, mylin house, mylin house restoration, restoring historic plaster walls, victorian architecture, willow valley retirement community

The Mylin House project was a complete interior restoration project that we had been very much looking forward to doing.  The Willow Valley Retirement Community hired Historic Restorations to restore the first floor of both the original farmhouse and the addition to use as a community center in keeping with their preservation of the original farmhouses from all the farm properties they’ve purchased and expanded onto.

The original part of the Mylin House was built in the late 1700’s by Martin Mylin III and his wife Barbara Baer (granddaughter of Christian and Anna Herr, the 1710 immigrants who built the 1719 Hans Herr House).  Mylin III was the third generation to live on and work the farm his Grandfather, Martin Mylin I, established when he emigrated from Germany in the early 1700’s and became one of the first Mennonites to settle in Lancaster County.  Mylin I would also establish a gun shop on the original homestead where he would father the Pennsylvania Long Rifle as an accomplished gunsmith.

The Mylin house and its lands were passed down through generations of the family until 1926 when it was sold to Christian Herr and became home to the Herr family (some of whom would later found Herr Foods), who resided on the property until it was purchased by the retirement community.

The original portion of the house was built during the Colonial Period and was constructed in the Pennsylvania German Traditional style.  During the Pre-Civil war period in the 1800’s a Victorian style addition was added to the original house.  (We imagine the eight children Mylin III had were motivating factors in the decision to guilt the addition.)

Though many renovations, upgrades, and modernization projects had been performed over the years both the original house and the addition were almost wholly intact.  The interior woodwork and built-in cabinetry by the renowned Lancaster County cabinet-maker John Bachman, the three corner fireplaces, the balusters and the raised panels in the stairway are all original to the house.  While the windows are likely not original to the house, they are from the 1800’s.

While the house looked like it was in good shape, there were some really questionable repairs attempted over the years and we would need to go through and replace everything that wasn’t honestly part of the historical fabric of the original – for both the original Colonial house and the Victorian addition to original condition.

 

Historical Woodwork

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Pretty much all of the woodwork on the first floor of the house was in good condition, but some spot repairs and everything needed restoration.  But before we could even start tackling that portion of the project, we needed to remove all five layers of paint that had accumulated over the last 200+ years – most of which involved lead remediation.  To restore the original interior woodwork we used epoxy and solid-wood Dutchmen for the spot repairs.

There were two built-in corner cabinets in two of the rooms of the Colonial portion of the house that were wonderful examples of traditional woodowork.

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We also re-created a built-in cabinet area in the kitchen of the Victorian addition that had storage cabinetry that was incompatible with the Victorian architectural styles.  The existing cabinets had primitive wood shelves and raised panel doors so we removed them and fabricated cabinets that matched a style on an original built-in located close to that storage area.

The windows in both the Colonial and Victorian sides of the house were not original to the house, but were about 150 years old and mimicked the original window styles well.  To preserve the old growth wood in these windows and their contribution to the historic fabric of the house, we completely restored all the first floor windows and installed interior storm windows on all the first and second floor windows.

 

Restoring Historical Plaster Walls

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That wallpaper that had been applied over the original plaster walls at some point in time was falling off of the walls.  So we carefully removed the wallpaper to keep as much of the original horse-hair plaster intact as possible so we could preserve that plaster.  Some areas of the plaster walls were missing and had drywall installed when misguided attempts to match the original plaster were made.  For these areas, and other areas where moisture had affected the plaster bond we used a three-step application of re-wiring and applying a base coat, then applied a brown coat plaster, and finally a veneer plaster for the finish to create a historically accurate plaster wall.  The plaster ceilings were also restored – some of which was deteriorated to the point that it was about to collapse so we used large washers and screws to re-tighten and fasten the old plaster and then skim-coated over that.  We skim-coated the original plaster walls that could be saved.

 

Historical Paint Color Choices

There is quite the unusual combination of colors that were chosen for the interior walls in the Mylin House.  These colors may seem rather loud and obnoxious to our modern aesthetics, but they were actually colors on that had originally been on the walls that we discovered after removing wallpaper and layers of paint.  And the smaller sitting rooms at the back of the house that had contrasting colors that didn’t quite coordinate with each other in the manner that we think of today when we choose contrast colors.  Lime green, turquoise, a mustard yellow, a real orange (think The Big Home Improvement Store That Shall Not Be Named orange bucket color), and a dark red.

There was one original color we chose not to replicate – the mauvey rose in the foyer.  Despite Lois’ firm urgings that the color was period appropriate and should be used, Chuck just couldn’t bring himself to add that color back.  (Apparently he can tolerate color combinations like lime green and turquoise, but a mauvey rose along with a dark red is just not something he can accept.)  We chose to use a white color in the foyer that would also be period appropriate as the color of unpainted plaster.

The mopboards in the Colonial portion of the house were painted the black they had been originally.  According to tradition, the floorboards were painted black at that time to avoid having the dirty water marks from mops when cleaning the floors.  In the Victorian addition the baseboards had never been painted black, so we painted them a historical green in an attempt by Chuck to mellow out the red on the walls that his aesthetic sensibilities weren’t entirely comfortable with.

For the paint we used the Benjamin Moore Historical Colors line from Grauers Paint & Decorating in Lancaster.

 

Restoration of Historical Flooring

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We also took up the oak floor on the first floor.  We completely re-tongue and grooved that flooring, cleaned it, and then brought it back and re-installed it.  The flooring was left unfinished in the Colonial part of the house, as it would have originally been when it was first constructed.  The restored wood flooring was waxed with Briwax.

For the kitchen floor, we chose a slightly different approach.  There had originally been a wood floor installed during the Victorian period that it was built that was then covered over with several layers of vinyl flooring over the years.  Beyond the difficulty of removing the layers of vinyl flooring to salvage the original floor, the wood used in the original floor was an inferior quality and it was questionable as to whether or not it was worth saving. 

colonial architecture, historic architectural woodwork, historic architecture, historic architecture restoration, historic cabinetry, historic flooring, historic paint color, historic restoration lancaster pa, historic restoration research, historic restorations, historic woodwork, john bachman cabinetry, mylin house, mylin house restoration, restoring historic plaster walls, victorian architecture, willow valley retirement communityWillow Valley Retirement Community eventually decided they wanted to install a brick floor in keeping with a style that seemed well-fitted for a farm kitchen floor and we installed a basket-weave brick pattern using a traditional mortar recipe.  We also chose bricks from Inglenook Tile Design since they reproduce a veneer brick that is such an incredible match to the soft historic bricks by mimicking all aspects of historic brick-making, even firing at the lower temperatures that they would have only been capable of historically.

But before we began floor installation we addressed very big problem with the house – a potentially catastrophic one – the house was sagging in the middle of the interior.  We spent several weeks raising the summer beam, the floor joists, and the load-bearing walls that made up the interior frame of the house to level it up and gain back the two inches it had sagged over the years.  It took about two weeks to get just that two inches back.  After raising the sagging interior frame, we installed ¾” plywood for sub-flooring in the kitchen and installed two metal posts in the floor to hold the summer beam since it was made of an inferior quality poplar wood.

 

1700’s & 1800’s Fireplace Restorations

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The Mylin House project also involved restoration of multiple fireplaces in both the first floor and the basement.

On the first floor, we took a cast-iron wood stove out of one of the fireplaces and removed the hearth on both first floor fireplaces restoring the brick in one fireplace and plastering the other fireplace – both traditional treatments for fireplaces.

For the walk-in fireplaces in the basement we applied stucco to encased the loose stone with a natural surface.

 

Restoration in the Basement

In the basement stairway we discovered tread shadow lines on the wall that indicated  the current stairway configuration was not how the stairs were originally configured.  So we rebuilt the stairs, returning them to the original configuration.

To create a cleaner storage environment for Willow Valley Retirement Community, we parged the stone walls in the basement to waterproof them and eliminated a lot of loose mortar since it was a very early mortar with bits of shell and really wasn’t much more than dirt.  We also poured a concrete floor instead of leaving the existing dirt floor to help with moisture control and keep the storage cleaner.

When we started work there were no windows in the basement window openings – the openings just served as free passage of air.  With our moisture control efforts, we decided to fabricate new windows for those openings – each requiring individualized fabrication since each opening was a different size (a quite common occurrence in historic buildings).

 

What challenges did we run into with the project?  

The biggest challenge was digging out the basement since we did not have wide open access to it and had to dig it out by hand taking the dirt out bucket by bucket.  We filled the trailer with loads of dirt, which then got stuck several times in our unusually rainy Spring.  In fact, not tearing up that yard was probably a challenge that might give hand-digging out the basement a good run for its “biggest challenge” status.

 

Historic Wood Window Restoration, Save Historic Wood Windows, Wood Windows vs. Replacement WindowsWood windows are an integral part of the innate energy efficiency of historical buildings. If we have learned anything from history it is that sometimes with all our modern advancements we do ourselves more harm than good.

Advancements in technology do not always produce better results, and construction technology isn’t exempt from that. Built in a time of readily available building materials and energy sources, modern building designs typically make poor use of both. Historical buildings were built when neither was in abundant supply and early designers made the most of building materials and design options to construct buildings with a powerful combination of harnessed natural resources and innovative design that worked together to maximize energy efficiency.

Everything from exterior paint colors, to locations of balconies, to numbers and placement of windows, to physical placement of buildings on lots was carefully considered to maximize heating, lighting, and ventilation in traditional construction.

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The results are astounding and studies have shown that properly restored and maintained 18th & 19th Century buildings can be just as energy efficient as new construction, and in many cases even more energy efficient. (Perhaps not surprisingly, studies have also shown that buildings built in the 1950’s through the 1970’s were the biggest energy consumers of all.)

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The historical wood windows in your building contribute to that energy efficiency and, contrary to urban legend, new replacement windows are not more energy efficient than historical wood windows. Typically, studies that conclude such a finding have compared new replacement windows with historical windows that

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have not been maintained or restored, are decaying, and have no complementary energy retrofits such as weather-stripping and storm windows.

If you would like to read these studies, you can access them in the resources section of our website.

Studies on energy efficiency also usually fail to consider “embodied energy”. Embodied energy represents the energy it took to manufacture a product. They say the greenest building is the one
already built when you consider this embodied energy – an existing energy investment that will never be able to be recaptured once you destroy the product it’s embodied in.

If the greenest building is the one already built, then the greenest window is the one already there. Historical wood windows have an embodied energy value that includes all the energy from harvesting and milling the wood to transporting and manufacturing the windows to installing them in your historical building.  Preserving existing windows conserves that embodied energy and reduces the use of additional energy when making replacement windows.

Which means that when you take all energy, energy expended on heating and cooling costs as well as the embodied energy, into consideration for defining the energy efficiency of windows – historical wood windows are far more energy efficient than replacement windows
.

 

Historically Sensitive Storm Windows

A Product Recommendation from Chuck

When storm windows first came into use to promote energy efficiency, they were installed on the outside of the house.  Not only did this take away from the architectural integrity of the house by impeding the view of major architectural features in windows, they also often created moisture on the outside of the window.

Fortunately for historic homeowners today, we have better options now.  And the option we recommend here at Historic Restorations are the interior storm windows by Allied Window.

historic preservation contractors, historic restorations contractors, historic building maintenance, historic building energy efficiency, storm windows for historic buildings, historically sensitive storm windowsAllied offers an “invisible” storm window installed on the inside of the window.  One of the major benefits of this storm window option is that it has a low profile that doesn’t limit visibility of a window’s historical architectural features.  Made from aluminum they can also be painted any color – send them a sample of the color of your trim and they’ll match it for a seamless integration into your window’s look.  They also have a good seal with an aluminum u-channel across the top, magnetic strips that the aluminum frame attaches too, and a rubber or brush seal that sits on the sill.

They do offer an exterior option with the same features of the interior.  Some people think this would be the better option, that an exterior storm window would help protect the wood in their window.  I don’t recommend this option – wood needs to breathe moisture and if there is a storm window installed on the exterior moisture will be trapped in the wood and promote rot.

We’ve had a good long-term experience with Allied.  We’ve tried other companies, much to our dismay, and Allied is the one that has provided a consistent service and product performance over time.

You can learn more about the products that Allied Windows offers by visiting their website at alliedwindows.com.

This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles 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 Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950

PA Architecture Late Victorian Period 1850 – 1910

The Late Victorian Period covers the later half of the 19th century, for a portion of the true reign of Britain’s Queen Victoria (1837-1901) for which this era is named. This was the time period in American architecture known for intricate and highly decorative styles such as the Second Empire, Romanesque Revival, Victorian Gothic, Queen Anne, Stick/Eastlake, Shingle, Renaissance Revival and Chateauesque. All of these style are often described as “Victorian” and indeed may buildings of this era borrowed stylistic elements from several styles, and were not pure examples of any.

The Late Victorian Period was a time of growth and change in America. Advances in building technology such as the development of balloon framing and factory-built architectural components made it easier to build larger, more complex and more decorative structures. The expanding railroad system allowed these products to be transported across the country at a more reasonable cost. Heretofore luxury elements could be employed in a wide variety of more modest buildings. It was an expansive time in American culture and the buildings of this period reflect this. Most Victorian styles look to historic precedents for inspiration, but the architectural designs of the era were not exact replicas of those earlier buildings. The tall, steeply roofed, asymmetrical form of Victorian era buildings is based on a Medieval prototype, with a variety of stylistic details applied. Elements of the Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, and Italianate styles continued to appear, but often in a more complex form, in combination with one another. New stylistic trends like the Second Empire style, Queen Anne style, Stick/Eastlake style, Romanesque Revival, Renaissance Revival and Chateauesque style, borrowed from those previous styles, but offered new shapes, forms and combinations of decorative features.

 

Increasing energy efficiency in historic buildings is always a hot topic. Here are our Top Six Tips for improving the energy efficiency in historic buildings:

 

Number 1

Have a Maintenance Appraisal Performed to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

When not properly maintained, there are many ways energy efficiency in historic buildings suffers – one of which are air leaks into and out of the home.  A maintenance appraisal performed by a qualified contractor will locate any source of air leakage and provide you with a plan-of-attack to remedy the leakage without damaging the historic aspects of your home.

 

Number 2

Schedule an Energy Audit to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

This could really be tie for the #1 spot – both the maintenance appraisal and an energy audit are absolutely essential things that need to be done BEFORE you implement any energy-improvement measures.  The energy audit will evaluate current energy efficiency in your historic building and identify any deficiencies in both the envelope of your home and/or the mechanical systems.

 

Number 3

Implement a Maintenance Plan to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

After you have these two critical reports in your hand, set to work implementing them.  Hire a qualified contractor to eliminate any air infiltration, repair windows, and perform the other maintenance affecting your home’s energy efficiency.  Hire a qualified energy contractor to replace any mechanical systems they’ve found to be detrimental to your home’s energy efficiency.  Make sure both of these contractors have a proven track record of working with historic buildings in a way that does not damage the architecture and its features.  Maintenance is one of the most critical aspects of improving the energy efficiency of historic buildings.

 

Number 4

Change Your Habits to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

This can be the toughest one to do, but if we truly want to increase the energy efficiency of historic buildings then our habits have to change.  Some of these changes can be easy – install timers or motion detectors on lights, attach self-closing mechanisms on doors that might otherwise hag open, install fans and raise the thermostat temperature, use CFLs in your lights, unplug “vampire” devices that use electricity in standby mode or whenever they are plugged into an outlet (most chargers, DVD players, etc.).

 

Number 5

Install Insulation to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

Installing insulation in strategic places can be a cost-effective solution to energy loss – but make sure you are not installing the insulation in ineffective places and ways.  There is a lot of misinformation floating around out there of the best ways to insulate your house, and some of them can even permanently damage your home.  Have the historic contractor and energy consultant you hire work together to devise an insulation plan specifically tailored to increase the energy efficiency of your historic building that won’t compromise its architectural integrity.

 

Number 6

Use Shading Devices to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

There are several ways you can make use of shading devices in ways that are historically compatible to increase the energy efficiency of historic buildings.  Many historical homes made use of exterior awnings and if there is evidence your home may have originally had awnings you can consider installing them again.  Some homes may still have their awnings on them – if yours does, maintain it well for maximum benefit.  Trees, bushes, and other foliage are another good way to shade your home during the summer to increase energy efficiency if you have the space.  As is hanging drapes and curtains on any windows receiving direct sunlight  and keeping them closed during the sunlight hours.

 

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The Technical Preservation Service at the National Park Service offers Preservation Brief #3: Improving Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings that provides an in-depth look at this topic.  You can read the brief online at: nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/3-improve-energy-efficiency.htm

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Maintenance Plans for Historic Home & Buildings

Recently we completed a maintenance appraisal for the Trinity Church Oxford in Philadelphia.  The church purchased the appraisal to evaluate several key areas they knew needed immediate attention and ended up with not only our recommendations for remediating the emergent needs on their buildings – but a five-year plan for fixing other maintenance needs that were threats looming on the horizon.  Below is the process of how that maintenance appraisal and long-term plan were developed.

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The church purchased our Tier 2 Maintenance Appraisal and scheduled an appointment for us to perform the appraisal.

Chuck and Lois spent a morning evaluating three separate buildings on the church property – the Gathering Hall, the Church, and the Rectory/Archive building.

During that appointment,  Chuck and Lois recorded a detailed assessment and made thorough documentation of the current condition of the roofing, windows and doors, foundation, exterior walls and woodwork, interior features, projections, etc.

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Back at the office, Chuck reviewed all of the maintenance needs he and Lois had documented to compile an itemized list of specific repair work that needed to be done on the building to make sure it wasn’t deteriorating any further.

Next he prioritized which needs were immediate (needing repair in the next 1-2 years), which needs were intermediate (needing repair in the next 3-5 years), and which needs were long-term (needing repair in 5+ years) for each of the areas they evaluate.

The 18-page report was then submitted to the Trinity Church Oxford.

After the Church reviewed our report and worked with Chuck to determine which maintenance needs they could address within their budget, they contracted with us to perform the work.

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Is your historical building deteriorating?  

Do you need a maintenance plan for your historic home?  

Find out in these four easy steps:

#1: Contact us to decide which maintenance plan tier is best for your building

#2: Purchase the maintenance appraisal

#3: Schedule the maintenance appraisal appointment

#4: Sit back and have a cup of tea while we work our magic and get you’re your report!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Post Medieval English House in Pennsylvania, 1682 – 1740

Common Building Types: Houses

Identifiable Features

1.  Steeply pitched, side gable roof
2.  Narrow overhanging eaves with no cornice detail
3.  Massive chimney, central or end location
4.  Small multi-paned casement or fixed windows
5.  Timber frame and/or brick walls
6.  Batten (vertical board) door
7.  Overhanging second story with decorative pendants
8.  One room deep floor plan, sometimes a lean-to added

Click on a photo below to enlarge.

1704 - William Brinton House, Delaware County William Harvey House, Chester County Golden Plough Tavern, York County
Letitia Street House, Philadelphia County Morton House, Delaware County

The Post Medieval English form is not a true architectural style, but is a traditional type of building brought to the colonies by the early English colonists.   In shape, form, materials and appearance these buildings resemble those built in England in the late medieval period.  Initially, all of the early colonists looked to their country of origin for building techniques and practices.  Here in Pennsylvania, established as a colony by Englishman William Penn, buildings reflecting English tradition appeared at settlement.  True Post Medieval buildings are quite rare because as the earliest type of construction, few have survived. Additionally, Post Medieval English buildings were only constructed in the first settled area of the state, the south east corner near Philadelphia.  Any examples of the Post Medieval English form found outside that settlement area are almost certainly a revival form of the style, built many years later to replicate that traditional appearance. Also confusing the identification of true Post Medieval English buildings are the enthusiastically undertaken preservation efforts that have occurred since 1900 to celebrate our nation’s colonial heritage.  While distinctive common features allow the identification of Post Medieval English form buildings, research is needed to confirm the construction date and possible changes over time.

Post Medieval English buildings are rather easy to identify since their appearance is notablely different from the more common building forms.  They have steep roofs, with very little overhang and plain undecorated cornices.  The wall surface is often timber framed, sometimes with brick and stucco infill. Some buildings have a brick or even stone first floor with a timber framed and plaster upper story.   Diagonal wooden bracing is an another distinictive characteristic. Windows are small fixed or casement types with much small diamond–shape panes. (Surviving original windows would be exceedingly rare, and if present most would be restorations).  Doors are of batten or vertical board construction.  Chimneys are large, sometimes with decorative tops and placed often in the center of the building, but sometimes at the ends.  Some Post Medieval English buildings have a second floor or attic front overhang with decorative pendants.  Originally the roof would have been thatched or of wooden shakes.  These building truly have an old World appearance—the difficult part is determining if they truly date from the colonial era or are masterful reconstructions or revival efforts.  Surviving examples of this style are far more common in New England than in Pennsylvania.

 

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.

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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

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We’ve been talking a lot about the recently released Preservation Primer, Volume 1: Avoid Common Mistakes that Cause Irreversible & Costly Damage to Your Historical Building’s Architectural Integrity and thought you might want to know more about the father/daughter preservation team that authored the book – our very own Chuck and Danielle.

 

Get to know Chuck Groshong

historic restorationBorn in Oregon in a year we won’t mention, Chuck had a very “All American” small-town childhood.  The oldest of 11 children (no, that isn’t a typo) he says he was a very innocent, shy, and sensitive boy who was very much into playing sports – wrestling and football in particular.

After high school he joined the Marine Corps to take advantage of a free college education.  While in the Marine Corps, he served in Vietnam from 1970-1971 – an experience he says drastically changed him.  “It was very different from the world I knew in my childhood.  In Vietnam I learned more truth about our government, racism, the Civil Rights movement, politics, patriotism, and the world at large than I ever did in school.”

Do “shy and sensitive”, “into sports”, “innocent”, and “joined the Marine Corps and served in Vietnam” strike you as an odd combination?  That’s our Chuck – an unusual, unexpected, and unique combination of the seemingly incompatible.

But Chuck and his quirks are no accident.  During his time in Vietnam, Chuck remembers consciously deciding he wasn’t going to live his life by the values and standards of the culture he was raised in.  “I realized that I didn’t have to approach life through the lens of stereotypes and generalizations.  So I decided that I would choose a path of specificity – judge people, places, situations individually and based on their own unique circumstances. “

Chuck began that new path for himself by heading off to college after being honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 1971.  There he spent a few years studying “pretty much a little bit of everything” – liberal arts, art appreciation, quadratic equations, world geography, sociology, composition, history to name a few.  He even did well with debating – something he enjoyed just for the sake of debating.

“I was still pretty screwed up and unstable, which is probably why I didn’t settle down into anything specific.”

(We suspect there was more to it than that.  The Chuck we know and love is a curious guy who likes to learn about a lot of different things, and it’s a trait that those who know Chuck say has always been what has made Chuck the person he is.)

That settling down bit took Chuck awhile to master.  As a young man, Chuck says he was “pretty cocky and an out-of-control rebel – but not to change the world, I just didn’t want to be like the world.”  But Lois, lots of practice, and then his daughter Danielle worked their magic and somewhere in his 30’s Chuck says he finally managed to settle down.

historic restoration“Now I’m at peace with myself and there aren’t too many things in life that scare me.  I am completely settled and have carved out the life I want for myself.  I never aspired to be rich or “move up in the world” or any of the other typical aspirations of mainstream America.  My aspirations were of a higher level – creation of beauty, taking care of the people I love, being challenged on different levels, and to continue the evolution of myself.”

And one of those things about himself that he continues to evolve are his mad grilling and cooking skills.  (Take it from someone who has been lucky enough to dine on some fare grilled up by Chuck – the man can grill!)

“I think carpenters are excellent cooks because they like to build things and approach that building from the perspective of analyzing how all the individual pieces to need to be put together to get the finished product they envision.”

Sage insight from our resident sage.

Chuck likes to fish too and one of his fondest fishing memories is the time he caught a 50-pound Lingcod.  “You just don’t find them that big anymore, they’re no more than a few pounds each.”

He prefers to fish the lakes of Colorado and doesn’t fish just any fish.   “Some fish that fisherman like to target these days are historic and over a hundred years old.  Why would you disturb fish like that?”

Yet another sage point to ponder – one of the many that Chuck offers up.  Spend just a day in his presence and he’ll offer you no less than two or three thought-provoking points to mull over – a gift that results from his contemplative approach to life.

As for the rebel Chuck…”Well, I do still like to debate and I can do a number on somebody’s head sometimes – though it’s no longer just for the sake of arguing but is more persuasive debate based on my values and beliefs.”

Now, heading into the “grand finale” of life he focuses his attention on building the business he started and values staying active in something he believes so strongly in – historic preservation.  “You know… I’m not quite ready to leave yet.  I’m still looking forward to what life has to teach me.”

 

Meet Danielle Groshong-Keperling

historic restorationBorn a natural tomboy in Denver, Colorado, Danielle’s early life was spent following in her Father’s footsteps – figuratively and literally.  Danielle recalls a photo of her at age two where she is wearing her Dad’s work boots and carrying his lunch box, fully prepared to go to work. “I wonder if that picture was a harbinger of things to come,” she says both with a laugh, and in all seriousness.

(And those of us who know Danielle don’t doubt for a second that even at age two, she really would have accompanied him right into work, fully prepared to pitch right in and get to work!)

“By the time I was in Middle School, I would help him clean the shop on weekends to spend time with him, sometimes I would even make wooden plugs,” says Danielle.

Danielle may have inherited a penchant for all things shop-related and a work ethic from her Dad, but she was born with an innate thirst for knowledge.  (Winnie the Pooh once asked Danielle, “Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?”  Danielle patted his head and offered him more honey.)

At the age of 11, Danielle migrated to Lancaster County, PA with her parents, where she began her long and lustrous career of educating herself.  She attended private Catholic grade schools and graduated from Lancaster Catholic High School.  After which she studied Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management at HACC and then completed her Organizational Leadership degree in 2009 at Eastern University.  In late 2011 she graduated with a Masters in Business Administration from Eastern University as well.

While she very much values her formal education, Danielle notes, “Real life eamples and experience have always been the ‘best’ teacher for me, which is one reason I did not feel as comfortable in a traditional college setting.  After all, my first ‘college’ experience was people that brought their real life experience to the ‘class room’.”

And believe it or not, she uses both her Culinary Arts education and her business education to this day.  As Chief Operating Officer at Historic Restorations and as a pastry chef at Byers Butterflake Bakery in Leola.

“I wanted to be a social worker until my senior year of high school when I had the revelation that I could not, in fact, save the world (or even, failing my saving of the world, just bring all the unwanted children home with me).  One day I was home from school sick with wisdom teeth, saw a commercial for a pastry arts program and decided that is what I wanted to do,” Danielle says.

Chief Operating Officer by “day”….  Wedding Cake Decorator by “night”….

And she could rivet too. 

That is indeed our Danielle.  Not having any interest in being anyone but herself, Danielle is funny, creative, decisive, determined, quirky, educated, and sharp.  So smart, we’re pretty sure we’ve seen tacks bow to her as she passes by them in the office.

In her spare time, when she’s not intimidating the office supplies, Danielle can be found reading, watching MSNBC or reality TV, helping friends, working in the community, or working on her master plan for world domination as she belts out her theme song – The Gambler by Kenny Rogers.

Danielle at Mercer MuseumDanielle pulls from all these strengths, her work history, and her education in her daily management of Historic Restorations’ operations, working hard towards good stewardship of our collective built history – the most rewarding part of what Historic Restorations does for Danielle.  ”My favorite quote points out that we are only on this planet for a short period of time, how we care for and preserve our history is a legacy for for future generations,” she says.

“Like people, houses are created, live, and grow old.  Like us, they eventually disappear.  Houses that survive to be studies, explored, and admired by distant generations should be regarded as emissaries from another time, as gateways into our past.”

 By Jack Larkin in WHERE WE LIVED: Discovering the Places We Once Called Home, The American Home from 1775 to 1840

But it’s only one of the legacies Danielle is working on leaving behind.  As a strong woman in a male-dominated field, she faces daily challenges in her career.  She says that while she does believe things are changing for women in construction, they still have to work a little bit harder and know their “stuff” a little bit better to get respect.  ”I don’t know how many men get winked at during a project meeting for knowing the right answer…. but I bet it’s not as many as me,” she says with a laugh.

She advocates for women in business to be supportive of other women in business by sharing stories and providing information, helpful resources, guidance, and support.  ”I’ve enjoyed reading books about women that have overcome obstacles and paved the way for my generation.  Including Personal History by Katherine Graham (the first woman to lead a Fortune 500 company after her father died), and If You Don’t Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons on Your Pigtails: And Other Lessons I Learned from My Mom by Barbara Corcoran (who built her real estate empire with a $1,000 loan),” she notes.

So what does the future hold for Danielle?

“Babies, more puppies, penguins, teaching on the college level, a pygmy hippo, who knows?  I am waiting for my crystal ball to arrive – it has been back ordered for awhile now.”