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Should You DIY or Hire a Pro for your Historic Reno?

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Whatever approach you take, the decision involves knowing how much time and money you want to spend, what your interests are, and what skills you’re looking to hire someone for. This toolkit explains different types of professionals who can help you, plus important things to consider before hiring them.

1. Contracting with a historical researcher. A historical researcher typically provides the homeowner with a written report detailing the history and architecture of the house, along with biographical sketches of former owners or inhabitants. Researchers can also complete nomination forms to list properties in the National or state register or local list of historic buildings.

2. Choosing an architect. Architects can inspect the house to determine existing conditions; develop an architectural program to determine best uses for existing rooms; provide conceptual drawings; assist homeowners with obtaining and reviewing bids from contractors; and develop a construction schedule and oversee work.

Tip: To find an architect qualified for your project, contact your local or state chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). You can also reach out to your state historic preservation office (SHPO). Note: Neither the AIA nor the SHPO guarantees or endorses the work of the architects on the list.

blog_photo_architectural plans
Set of architectural plans.

3. Selecting an interior designer. An interior designer specializes in interior finishes, including wall, floor, and ceiling surfaces, fixtures such as lighting, kitchen, and bathroom, and furnishings.

4. Deciding on a landscape architect or designer. A landscape architect or designer can analyze the existing landscape, design one that is appropriate to your house, and prepare drawings and specifications for its restoration or rehabilitation. They can also help obtain bids from landscape contractors and oversee the work.

Tip: Check your state chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects(ASLA), as well as your SHPO. As with architects, no endorsement is given or implied.

5. Choosing a general contractor. A general contractor provides the construction services required to actually restore or rehabilitate your house. Typically, services include securing and providing materials, labor, and equipment, and managing subcontractors and craftspeople. General contractors also usually obtain building and other permits required by the local government.

Tip: The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) can provide you with a list of general contractors who have listed their expertise in residential remodeling. Like the others, NAHB does not endorse or guarantee the work of the contractors on the list.

6. Considering a design/build firm. When architects and contractors join together, they become a design/build firm, offering a full range of design and contracting services. On one hand, hiring a design/build firm instead of an architect and contractor separately may save you time and possibly money. On the other hand, you will not have the benefit of an independent architect acting on your behalf to oversee construction and make sure the contractor is doing work properly.

7. Understanding your subcontractors. Subcontractors provide specialized building trades or services, such as finished carpentry, plastering, masonry work, and plumbing. The general contractor is usually responsible for selecting the subcontractors, coordinating their work, ensuring that it is done correctly, and paying them.

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Stained glass craftsman demonstrating his skill.

8. Hiring appropriate craftspeople. Craftspeople provide specific crafts or services not typically used in new construction, such as repairing or installing stained glass or applying gold leaf to surfaces.

 

9. Finding qualified professionals. Reference Historic Wilmington Foundation’s Preservation Resource Network or contact the NC State Historic Preservation Office or other trade associations. These lists are reference tools and do not necessarily constitute an endorsement or guarantee for contractors’ work. Ask family, friends, and neighbors for recommendations as well, then interview those you’re considering hiring — as well as their former clients — and visit completed projects.  Ultimately, select professionals on the basis of the quality of their work, how well you like their work, and how well you think you can work with them.

10. Talk with former clients of potential professionals you are considering hiring. If possible, visit completed projects. Some questions you can ask include:

  • Did the professional listen to the owner’s ideas and explain how they could be incorporated into the design, or why they should not be?
  • Did the professional help define a reasonable project to fit your budget?
  • Was the design sensitive to the historic and architectural character of the house?
  • Was the design produced on schedule and for the agreed-upon fee? If not, were the changes reasonable?
With the exclusion of the reference to HWF’s PRN, this article was written by Emily Potter and published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

New study shows that restored 200 year old windows are as airtight as brand new replacements

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200 year old window

© Shannon Kyles and Walter Furlan with 200 year old window, before restoration

Tell those replacement window salesmen to go away; fix your old window instead.

One of the first things many people do in a renovation is change the windows. For years, historic preservation groups like the National Trust for Historic Preservation have tried to show that this was an aesthetic and environment crime. I have railed on against the lying replacement window manufacturers with posts like If I See Another Full Page Pella Window Ad I Am Gonna Scream. We have discussed studies that showed that the payback period for replacement windows can be as much as 250 years.

tiny house© Shannon Kyles/ Tiny House to test windows

But now a new study headed by Shannon Kyles, Instructor at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario, settles the question once and for all. Her team built a tiny house, 12 feet by 8 feet, with two new windows and two restored 200 year old windows and tested them for air infiltration (the biggest source of heat loss with windows). “The test results demonstrate that there is no difference in air infiltration between new windows and restored pre-war windows.”

Some modern windows (like those designed for passivhaus use) are really energy efficient and airtight with special glazing, gases and coatings. However the majority of North American replacement windows are not engineered to such high standards. There has long been a debate, particularly in historic preservation circles, about whether old windows, particularly in century old buildings should be replaced or repaired. Shannon’s study shows that restored windows can do the job.

There are lots of reasons to save old windows instead of buying new. There is the aesthetic, as noted by the National Trust for Historic Preservation:

If you had a beautiful piece of art that was custom designed, crafted by hand, made from native old-growth wood, and imbued with clues to its age and crafting traditions, would you throw the authentic piece in the dumpster if a simulated plastic version suddenly became available? Seems ridiculous, right? However, this is precisely what people all over the country are doing when they rip out their historic wood windows and replace them with new windows.

Then there is the embodied energy saved, the energy that it takes to make the new replacement window. Shannon writes:

An existing 200 year-old window essentially consists of wood and glass with paint or varnish. The energy needed to restore it is minimal. Comparing this to a new window, one must consider first the embodied energy required to extract raw materials to produce the new product, then the direct energy used to remove the existing window and dispose of it in a land fill. More direct energy is needed to then take the new window to the building.

Then there is the issue of the longevity of new replacement windows- as Donovan Rypkema has noted: “ That is why they are called ‘replacement’ windows- you have to replace them every 30 years.”

But then there is the big question: do new windows actually save energy? Shannon and her team built the tiny house and installed four windows.

restored windows© Shannon Kyles/ Restored windows installed in tiny house

Two 1830s Georgian windows were purchased. One was restored by Furlan Conservation in Hamilton Ontario. The other was restored by Paradigm Shift Customs in Brantford. Two new windows were purchased from Pollard Windows. One was a wooden sash window. The other was a vinyl casement. All four windows were installed by John Deelstra, Professor of Carpentry at Mohawk College. All windows were installed with foam insulation. To make a complete comparison, other considerations including ease of opening and access to air circulation were also considered. The restored windows had opening windows and storms that were hinged so that no lifting or access from the exterior was needed for air circulation.

sealing window© Shannon Kyles/ sealing window

On May 10, Surrounded by a gaggle of politicians, building officials and restoration experts, poor Certified Energy Advisor Michael Masney of Green Venture did a very public blower test. The results:

test resultsGreen Ventures Test results /Screen capture

The air infiltration test is accurate to plus or minus three percent. The results as shown in the report show that there was virtually no difference between the performance of the restored old windows and the new windows.

TreeHugger favourite Ted Kesik has said that “Preserving historic windows not only conserves their embodied energy, it also eliminates the need to spend energy on replacement windows.” Donovan Rypkema has noted that renovation and restoration uses twice as much labor, and half as much material as new construction; with windows, it is almost 100 percent labour and it is pretty much all local. Now Shannon Kyles and her team at Mohawk College demonstrate that in fact, it is pretty much just as energy efficient to use old windows as it is to buy new.

Shannon notes that “current energy retrofit funding is limited to replacement of windows, and is not available for window restoration.” Perhaps it’s time to change that; these tests prove once and for all that for many reasons, restoration is in many cases as good as replacement. Throw in the issues of embodied energy, labor and durability, and the balance can tilt in their favor.

Door Blower readings on test building measuring energy efficiency of old versus new windows – virtually no difference in air infiltration

Download PDF of Shannon Kyle’s report here.

See HWF’s Most Threatened Historic Places List for 2017

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John N Smith Cemetery
225 E Leonard Street, Southport, NC

The John N Smith Cemetery in Southport, is the only cemetery which interred African-Americans in Brunswick County. There is an urgent need to construct a fence around the property, restore grave markers, complete a ground penetrating radar study to identify the location of unmarked graves and place identifying markers so that new interments do not compromise existing burials.                    New Nomination -2017 MOST THREATENED

 

Rocky Point School Buildings
13991 Hwy 110, Rocky Point, NC

The first of these two school buildings is a one-story brick structure designed by Leslie N. Boney in 1925, it was originally the Rocky Point Elementary school for white students. The second was built in 1917 when local African American families organized and raised funds in order to get a grant from the Rosenwald Fund. With the grant they constructed the first building of the nearby Pender County Training School campus in 1917. These properties are historic examples of the concern for education in Pender County in the early twentieth century. The buildings are threatened by their poor physical condition and neglect, and they are also listed for sale. Potential redevelopment of this area should include these buildings. They provide a glimpse into the history of the people of this region, and their desire to educate their children.
2015 MOST THREATENED List-Relisted for 2017 MOST THREATENED

 

Historic Wood Windows
Lower Cape Fear Region

A building’s character is often determined by its windows. Frequently, however, historic windows are improperly removed when a structure is repaired or rehabilitated and are then replaced with inappropriate modern windows.  Yet in most cases, wood windows can be repaired and upgraded in an environmentally friendly manner while retaining historic integrity.Well-maintained wood windows will typically outperform new replacement windows.
2016 Threat List-2017 MOST THREATENED List

 

Fort Caswell Rifle Range
Oak Island, NC

Built in 1918, this 200- foot concrete structure has three compartments: a Store Room Passageway, a Target Pit area, and a rifle range that was abandoned by the United States Army after WW Il. It was used for soldiers in both World Wars, but now the structure is threatened and made unsafe by tree growth and failing concrete walls. A friends group has organized to protect, save and restore this site and it has recently stabilized the site. It seems appropriate to recognize this World War l site as we acknowledge the hundredth anniversary of the United States entrance into the Great War.

After five years of fundraising, trees that were compromising the north wall of the rifle range were removed.   In addition, an engineering study and hydrological study with final reports was completed. The rifle range now has a web site for the nonprofit about the Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range.
2016 Threatened List –Carryover to 2017 MOST THREATENED LIST

 

Rosenwald Schools
Pender County – First Listed in 2006

Over the last several years’ public awareness of the region’s Rosenwald Schools has grown dramatically because of the hard work of Claudia Stack and other activists.  However, these structures, built as forums for African American education at the beginning of the twentieth-century, continue to be threatened by neglect, deterioration, and expanding development.  Unless dramatic action is taken, these important reminders of our state’s history of segregated and unequal educational opportunities will disappear. The rehabilitation of the Canetuck School into a senior center a few years ago, demonstrated that these sites have potential for new purposes. Hopefully, this example will be repeated.
Listed since 2006 on the Most Threatened List -2017 MOST THREATENED

 

William Rand Kenan House
110 Nun Street, Wilmington, NC
The Kenan House, built circa 1870, was awarded a plaque by Historic Wilmington Foundation and the Make America Beautiful program. It has been cited for neglect and secured by the City and it appears to be moving to foreclosure. While it is in steep decline, this house can be saved.
New Nomination- 2017 MOST THREATENED

 

 

Thematic Listing of Public & Private Family Cemeteries of the Lower Cape Fear Region

Flemington Oak Grove Cemetery 612 Sampson Street Wilmington, NC 28401
Wood Cemetery Markers, Cemeteries Brunswick County
Ferrell Coleman Cemetery
5152 New Britton Loop, Ash, NC 28420
Location: Tri-Counties (Pender, Brunswick, New Hanover)
As writer Ruth Little suggests, an old graveyard or cemetery is an invaluable source of insight and information about the families, traditions, and culture surrounding that community. Slowly, time is erasing these memorials. These historic sites are threatened by neglect, vandalism, and development. As just one example, the Lillington Cemetery in rural Pender County is the burial site for the local Revolutionary War hero, John Lillington. However, the walls and markers of this cemetery are deteriorating and crumbling due to lack of attention and exposure to the elements.
Carryover from 2016 THREATENED PLACES LIST

 

2017 Historic Wilmington Foundation Watch List

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church, St. Helena, Pender County, NC – First Listed in 2006
Built to serve a community of Russian Orthodox immigrants in Pender County, this church with its
picturesque golden onion dome has long been threatened by a shrinking congregation. Members of the church are concerned about preserving this community structure into the future. The site was on the 2016 MOST THREATENED List, but a recent listing on the National Register of Historic Places gives the members hope.
Move to the 2017 WATCH List to keep this historic structure in everyone’s awareness.

 

Historic Downtown Wilmington/ Wilmington National Register District
A proposed new Cape Fear River Crossing bridge located at the existing Cape Fear Memorial Bridge would do irreparable harm to our historic downtown core and the larger Wilmington National Register District. This is the center of our Lower Cape Fear Community and it defines what is unique about the region. Other crossing options are available and a new bridge should not be built at this site. Everyone should take part in the discussions about a new bridge and its location.
New 2017 WATCH List

 

New Hanover County Library
201 Chestnut Street Wilmington NC, 28401
New Hanover County’s redevelopment study places the downtown library in a precarious spot. The report could suggest that the library be relocated and the site redeveloped. This is a critical community resource that serves all sectors of the county. It provides the county with a landmark main library and an impressive array of services. The building is also a good example of mid-century modern architecture, and a wonderful adaptive reuse. The completion of the new Story Park adds emphasis to its importance to the citizens of the New Hanover County.
New 2017 WATCH LIST

Want to know what you can do to help preservation efforts in our area?  MTHP What Can I DO 2017

 

Announcing the 2017 Most Threatened Historic Places List!

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Today, HWF Executive Director George Edwards, Board of Directors President Walker Abney and Administrator for the NC State Historic Preservation Office and Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Ramona Bartos introduced Historic Wilmington Foundation’s 12 annual Most Threatened Historic Places List!

The list casts a spotlight on threatened sites and structures throughout the Lower Cape Fear Region.  In order to save sites such as those found on Most Threatened List, the  Foundation has employed various strategies such as easements and a revolving fund.  To date, Historic Wilmington Foundation has saved 101 properties in Wilmington alone.  Today, HWF Executive Director George Edwards, Board of Directors President Walker Abney and Administrator for the NC State Historic Preservation Office and Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Ramona Bartos introduced Historic Wilmington Foundation’s 12 annual Most Threatened Historic Places List!

Historic Wilmington Foundation has been working to preserve and protect the historic treasures of Wilmington and the Lower Cape Fear since 1966.  The need for these efforts continues as evidenced by both the new additions to the list and the ongoing threat to previously listed sites.  Small historic houses, historic cemeteries, schools, and downtown areas are the landmarks of our local history and culture.  If not saved, they will be lost forever.  The Foundation’s list, combined with the efforts of preservationists, concerned citizens and local government, will result in success stories for these architectural and cultural treasures.

View 2017 MTHP Final List.

May is Preservation Month & We Have Great Activities for YOU!

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Preservation Month Activities

May 1Proclamations: New Hanover and Pender Counties will proclaim May to be Preservation Month.
May 2Proclamation: City of Wilmington will proclaim May to be Preservation Month.

May 13
Second Saturday Workshop at Legacy Architectural Salvage, 1831-B Dawson Street.
9:30AM – Free “make & take” workshop. Create a collage from vintage botanical prints and cedar shakes. Pre-registration required: salvage@historicwilmington.org.

May 15 & 16
5:30-7:00PM – NC Preservation Tax Credit Workshops
Preservation Tax Credit Workshops to be held in two neighborhoods. May 15 workshop will be held at Temple Baptist church, 1801 Market St. May 16 workshop will be held at 231 Central Blvd. Learn about state tax credits, local historic districts and energy efficiency. Free for HWF Members. $10 for non-members. Register by May 11 to guarantee a workshop package. Walk ups are welcome, but packets may not be available. Register for May 15 Workshop. Register for May 16 Workshop.

May 17
Sip -n- Shop at Legacy Architectural Salvage, 1831-B Dawson Street.
5:00-7:00PM – Enjoy free wine and snacks while shopping antiques, handcrafts and salvaged gems. Discover the hottest salvage store in the region! RSVP to attend: events@historicwilmington.org. To apply to be a vendor (by May 10): Sip N Shop Vendor Agreement.2017.docx

May 20
9:30AM – Wood Window Repair Workshop
Free demonstration workshop at Legacy Architectural Salvage, 1831-B Dawson Street. Expert instruction on how to care for your old wood windows. Register at salvage@historicwilmington.org.

May 24
10:00-11:00AM – James D. & Rosalie W. Carr Plaque Dedication
This year’s recipient will be the Cape Fear Museum, formerly the National Guard Armory at 814 Market Street. Presentation and plaque unveiling.

May 25
6:00-8:00PM – HWF Preservation Awards Ceremony
Awards to be presented for restoration, rehabilitation, compatible infill and adaptive reuse projects. Awards of Merit & the David Brinkley preservationist of the Year will be presented as well. Reception to follow. Co-sponsored by Residents of Old Wilmington, New Hanover County and Wilmington Downtown, Inc. Will take place at Historic New Hanover County Courthouse, 24 North 3rd Street.

May 27
10:00AM – Guided Architectural Walking Tour
HWF’s Guided Architectural Walking Tours begin. Tours will alternate every other weekend between Forest Hills and Street Car Suburbs. Tours offered, weather permitting, through mid-October. $10/pp, $5/students. Approx 1.5-2 hours long. Call 910.762.2511 or email, membership@historicwilmngton.org to reserve your spot.

May 31
6:30PM – HWF Shrimparoo
Riverwalk Landing at Elijah’s Restaurant, 2 Ann Street, Wilmington. Member event and Friendraiser. Fresh shrimp, cold beer provided by Ironclad Brewery & live music from 2017’s International Blues Competition Finalist Randy McQuay. Open to current HWF members and new members joining at the door. $20 for members OR bring a guest who signs up as a member and get in FREE. A Members only event. RSVP by May 26, 910.762.2511.

May 31
2017’s Most Threatened Historic Places List Release – Site and time TBA.

June 3
Black Rock Plantation Tour and Reception, Columbus County
2:30 – 5:00PM, Black Rock Plantation Tour and Reception, Columbus County
Meet the owner, Everett Lewis, who is restoring this c. 1845 plantation house and hear about his fascinating experience of living in the house each summer as he performs the restoration. The home, located at 7875 Hwy 87N in Columbus County, outside of Reigelwood, is being restored without electricity and water. A tour of Weyman Chapel Cemetery is included. HWF Members: $15, non-members $30. Register by May 30: 910.762.2511. Limited to 50 registrants.
Parking is limited; carpooling is encouraged. Register for the Black Rock Plantation Tour.

 

Friends of Preservation Month

FASTSIGNS,  Wilmington Downtown, Inc,  Ironclad Brewery,  H. Kenneth Stephens, Attorney at Law,  Angie & George Edwards,  Residents of Old Wilmington,  Johnston Architecture AIA,  City of Wilmington,  Building Performance Specialists,  Cunningham & Co. Mortgage Bankers,  Equity Restoration,  Sunset Park Baptist Church,  Temple Baptist Church,  North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, Wells Insurance, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage