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

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

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

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

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

Quality Paint for Historic Buildings

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

Paint Preparation for Historic Buildings

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

Lead Paint Handling on Historic Buildings

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Resources for Painting Historic Buildings

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

To support that goal, we’re going to do a three-part blog series with each post focusing on one aspect of the theme.  Last week we posted about seeing PA historical architecturewith an overview of the styles found in Pennsylvania and the time period they are associated with, and we gave you resources for saving historic buildings in another blog post.

Now we want to celebrate projects that saved historic buildings in Pennsylvania for future generations and give you a list of ways you can support and encourage historic preservation projects.

First I’m going to begin by tooting our own horn a little bit.  In November of 2011, we began working on a project that looked like this:

historic restoration

 

The Franklin Street Train Station in Reading, PA was originally built in the 1920’s.  In 1972 when Hurricane Agnes destroyed the building, it was abandoned and sat empty until 2011 when the Berks Area Regional Transit Authority began the massive undertaking of restoring the building to its original glory so they could use it as a bus terminal for their public busing system.

After sitting abandoned for 40 years, the building was in terrible shape.  Such terrible shape that in 1999 it was listed as being “At Risk” on the PA At Risk list of threatened historic buildings.  The flooding of Hurricane Agnes did the initial damage, but vagrants and vandals over the years, as well as several fires, decimated the building.

historic building preservation

 

historic building

 

historic preservation

 

 

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

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

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

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

Save Historic BuildingsSave Historic HomesSave Abandoned Buildings

 

 

Resources to Save Historic Buildings

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

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

 

HISTORICAL ARCHITECTURE REVIEW BOARD (HARB)

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

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

 

LOCAL HISTORICAL DESIGNATIONS

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

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

 

THE NATIONAL TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION

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

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

 

PARTNERS FOR SACRED PLACES

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

 

THE NATIONAL PRESERVATION CONFERENCE

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

 

PRESERVATION BOOKS

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

 

HISTORICAL AND PRESERVATION SOCIETIES, TRUSTS, AND ORGANIZATIONS

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

Traditional/Vernacular Architecture 1638 – 1950

Traditional/Vernacular Architecture 1638 – 1950

Photo by PA Historical & Museum Commission

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

 

 

Georgian Architecture 1640 – 1800

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

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

 

Federal Style 1780 – 1820

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

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

Greek Revival 1820 – 1860

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

 

 

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

 

Gothic Revival Style 1830 – 1860

historic building preservation

Photo by PA Historical & Museum Commission

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

 

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

 

Exotic Revival Style 1830 – 1850

victorian architecture

Synagogue in Philadelphia

 

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

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

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

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

Italianate Villa/Italianate Style 1840 – 1885

architectural preservation

Photo by PA Historical & Museum Commission

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

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

 

Romanesque Revival Style 1840 – 1900

historic wood windows

Photo by PA Historical & Museum Commission

 

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

 

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

 

Queen Anne Style 1880 – 1910

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

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

 

Tudor Revival Style 1890 – 1920

Tudor Revival Style 1890 – 1920

Photo by PA Historical & Museum Commission

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

 

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

 

Bungalow/Craftsman Style 1900 – 1930

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

We’ve posted before about the preservation projects that the good folks at reserections.com do – preservation projects unlike what most of us think of when we hear “preservation project”.  They specialize in documenting, marketing, selling, and disassembling architecturally unique and historical homes and then moving them to new sites – often several states away from their original location.  This time they have graciously agreed to let us re-post the project they are currently working on, along with their progress posts that show how this massive undertaking happens – we’ll post these in a series of posts over the next few weeks.

 

First Baptist Church

100 yearr old Baptist Church

historic restoration of Old Church

This 8,500 sqft church suffered from fire damage and was slated for demolition.  An Austin, Texas Architect firm found a buyer and we will disassemble and ship the church to a new site in Bee Cave, Texas.  The city of Middletown, Ohio saved at least $ 100,000 needed to demolish the church, which had become a public nuisance due to fire and abandonment.  It would have taken a few more years before tax payer money would have been available to demolish and landfill it.

It was originally built in 1808, and rebuilt after a fire in 1904.

historic restorationpreservation

Designed by architect Frank Mills Andrews, First Baptist Church was constructed in 1906. Andrews worked on a number of notable projects including the Kentucky State Capitol, Montana State Capital, Hotel Sinclair in Cincinnati, Ohio. Hotel Taft, New Haven, United Shoe Machinery Manufacturing Plant, Beverly, Massachusetts. National Cash Register Co. plant Dayton, Ohio. Hotel McAlpin (tallest hotel in the world in 1909) New York, New York. George Washington Hotel, New York, New York. Columbia Club House & Clayton Hotel, Indianapolis, Indiana. Dayton Arcade, Dayton, Ohio.

Paul Sorg provided a $10,000 donation to jumpstart the church’s building program. The church, made of Bedford Stone, was vibrant until 1972. The church is part of Middletown’s South Main Street Historic District.  In late 2005, fire swept through the rear of the building. Although the Sanctuary was saved, years of water leaks have damaged the vacant structure extensively and the future of the building is fragile.

historic building contractor

The interior of the church is largely intact.  Note the ornate trusses holding up the ceiling. 

historic building

It is constructed of Bedford, Indiana Limestone, which is one of the finest stone building materials.  The stones themselves are of very unique shape, not square,

  and laid in no apparent pattern.  Reconstruction will take great care.

Trusses supporting the inside ceiling are connected to buttresses on the outside walls. Note that the fire damage did not affect the Sanctuary or bell tower

building restorations

church restoration

The stones are randomly shaped and must be relaid in the same position.  The limestone can be cleaned and the building will be glistening white.

victorian architecture     restoration of victorian architecture

 

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.

 

1998 – Hazleton High School, Luzerne County

Hazleton High School, Luzerne County

 

• SAVED!•

Hazleton High School, affectionately known as “The Castle on the Hill” to local residents, is one of the city’s most distinctive landmarks.  Built in 1926 in the collegiate Gothic style with elaborate medieval-=style towers and concrete parapets, the building was later converted for use as a junior high school.  Despite its continued use, the school suffered from years of deferred maintenance.  Serious structural problems resulted from water penetration; outdated heating and cooling systems resulted in broken pipes that damaged the wood floors.  When a section of the concrete parapet above the building’s main entrance fell and struct a parent, the school board voted to demolish the historic school.

With vocal opposition from the community and support by a mayor who refused to issue a demolition permit, local residents rallied and called for funding to repair and rehabilitate the building.  Following changes in the composition of the school board, claims that the building was beyond repair were questioned and its condition was reassessed.  When the building was listed in the Pennsylvania At Risk in 1998, the board was divided, and the community was polarized over the issue; many saw preservation as counter to the school’s need for improved technology and other upgrades to the educational curriculum.  After much public debate, the school board voted in May of 2004 to renovate the building for use as an elementary and middle school rather than demolish it.  Renovation of the school occurred relatively quickly, with the new Hazleton Elementary/Middle School opening in the old High School in 2007.

During this renovation, the auditorium was stabilized but not rehabilitated.  Members of the community worked to preserve the auditorium and raise funds for its rehabilitation.  Using a variety of funding sources including grants, private donations, and a large contribution from the school district, the auditorium was fitted with new seating and reproduction aisle standards, digital theater lighting, theater rigging, audio and visual systems and more, and opened as the Alice C. Wiltsie Performing Arts Center in 2011.  The facility, which is owned by the school district and leased to a nonprofit organization that operates the auditorium, received a preservation award in 2012.

To support the Wiltsie Performing Arts Center at the Hazleton School, please visit www.wiltsiecenter.org.

 

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In 1998, Preservation Pennsylvania dedicated its entire At Risk list to endangered schools.  With help from Arthur Ziegler at the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, Preservation Pennsylvania brought attention to the fact that the Pennsylvania Depart of Education’s policies for reimbursement encouraged the construction of new schools over the continued use and preservation of existing and historic schools and began working to improve the situation.

Since 1998, Preservation Pennsylvania has continued to focus on the school issue, working with the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and other partners to keep the issue of retaining historical school buildings as schools in the forefront and to encourage the smart siting of new schools in locations where at least a portion of students can walk or bike to school.  Preservation Pennsylvania just completed a policy recommendation on Capital Maintenance Reimbursement and the Joint Use of Community-Centered Schools in Pennsylvania.  The Community-Centered Schools page on our website has the most up-to-date resources and success stories. [/sws_grey_box]

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

1997 – Coal Oil Johnny House, Venango County

Coal Oil Johnny

 

• SAVED!•

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

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

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

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

 

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Lessons Learned:

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

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.

 

1996 – Walnut Street Bridge, Dauphin & Cumberland Counties

 

Walnut Street Bridge

Photo by origamidon on flickr

• SAVED (Partially) •

Erected in 1889-1890 and comprised of 15 wrought-iron, steel pin-connected Baltimore truss spans, the 2,850-foot Walnut Street Bridge (or People’s Bridge) was one of the largest multi-span truss bridges ever fabricated by Pennsylvania’s nationally significant Phoenix Bridge Company using their patented Phoenix column.  By 1893, the toll bridge carried trolleys that transported passengers between the west shore of the Susquehanna River and the state capital, as well as foot traffic and horse-drawn vehicles.  The bridge also enabled recreational development on City Island in the early 20th century, including baseball, football and track, as well as picnicking, swimming and boating.

With evolutions in popular modes of transportation and periodic damage from storms and floods, owners of the Walnut Street Bridge have dealt with minor structural problems since about 1910.  After overcoming resistance by the private property owner, the Commonwealth finally acquired the toll bridge in 1954.  They continued to collect tolls on the bridge until 1957.  The bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.  That same year, flood waters from Hurricane Agnes caused severe damage to the bridge, and it was closed to vehicular traffic.  However, the bridge survived as an important pedestrian link between the west shore, City Island, and Harrisburg’s downtown commercial district.  The Walnut Street Bridge was one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world.

In January of 1996, the Walnut Street Bridge was again seriously damaged by ice-dammed flood waters.  Three metal trusses were destroyed, and the piers that had supported them were removed.  Overwhelming local support and extraordinary stewardship by the Commonwealth resulted in the rehabilitation of the remaining eastern spans, which provide pedestrian access between downtown Harrisburg and City Island facilities.  The bridge is used by over one million visitors, tourists, and residents each year.

There are no plans to replace the three missing spans to reconnect the Walnut Street Bridge to the Susquehanna River’s west shore.  The City of Harrisburg, which is responsible for the maintenance of the bridge, is currently unable to devote financial resources to this project.  Fortunately, a coalition of residents, area businesses, and other partners, known collectively as Lighten Up Harrisburg, is working to illuminate the historic Walnut Street Bridge and address other urgent safety needs.

To support this project, please visit Lighten Up Harrisburg.

 

In 2008, metal truss bridges statewide were recognized by Preservation Pennsylvania as an endangered resource; many truss bridges were at risk for replacement due to strength deficiencies, size limitations, deferred maintenance and the high cost of repairs.  In 1996, 328 truss bridges in Pennsylvania were eligible for or listed in the National Register.  Following the Commonwealth’s “Accelerated Bridge Program,” that number was expected to decline to 237 by the end of 2008 and just 184 by the end of 2012.  While not all metal truss bridges can and should be saved, some may be strengthened to continue to serve the community.  

In reaction to concerns about the shrinking population of metal truss bridges in Pennsylvania, PennDOT is currently working to develop a management plan to help maintain the bridges and prioritize select bridges for rehabilitation rather than replacement.  The plan seeks to balance sound engineering with historic preservation considerations in evaluating the level of significance and the rehabilitation potential for each bridge.  PennDOT anticipates that the plan will be an invaluable tool to be used throughout their planning and project development process.

 

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

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

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

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

 

A History of Wrought Iron from Fagan’s Forge

WROUGHT IRON THROUGH THE AGES

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

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

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

THE MATERIAL – WROUGHT IRON

About Wrought Iron

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A History of Hinges

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

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

A BIT OF HISTORY

American Wrought Iron

Second generation owner Nancy McMerriman  browses her bible of wrought iron

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

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

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

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

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

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

historic restorations of bean handle

About Handles

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

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

 

About Latches

Bean Latch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

historic restoration

 

 

 

 

 

 

For 30 years folk artist Nancy Rosier of Rosier Period Art has dedicated her life to the preservation of a dying and disappearing art form from the early to mid-1800’s – theorem painting.

Theorem painting is the art of making stencils and using them to make paintings on fabric (Nancy uses an egg-shelled colored velvet cotton).  Popular during the 1800’s, theorem painting was taught to women in academics and boarding schools in Colonial New England.  The appeal of the genre lay in the fact that it allowed the non-professional artist to create a work of art that was acceptable enough to display. It derived its name from the definition of the word – “an expression of relations in an equation or a formula”, according to Webster’s New World Dictionary.

Every one of Nancy’s paintings starts the same way – with a black and white line drawing that she will turn into a stencil to use during the painting phase.  These drawings are always drawn freehand, even when she is reproducing a period painting.

When she is ready to begin painting, Nancy doesn’t use the typical brushes one would expect a painter to use.  She uses a piece of the cotton velveteen over her finger, though she does go back over the painting at the end with a detail brush to add defining outlines as needed.

But Nancy does stop there, to have total artistic control over how her paintings are presented she has learned several traditional decorative art techniques she uses to paint the handmade frames for her theorems.  (Her husband even  constructs the frames for her to use.)

In true folk art style, Nancy is self-taught – she has learned her craft through studying antique theorems and reproducing them.  She became so accomplished at the historical reproductions that she was commissioned and provided Colonial Williamsburg with thirty-three large paintings, which hang in the public and private spaces of the Williamsburg Lodge.

 

After spending some time mastering the reproduction of 19th-Century theorems, she began to branch out to include her own original designs.

Her work clearly speaks for itself.

Nancy has been selected each year for close to twenty years as a member of the nationally acclaimed “Directory of Traditional American Crafts” which showcases America’s finest artisans who are dedicated to preserving the early American crafts.  Her work was among the few artists asked to contribute their art to decorting the Christmas White House during the Clinton administration.