Author Archive

[Slideshow] Restoration Diary: Ch-ch-ch-Changes Inside & Out

Posted on: September 28th, 2012 by David Garber

 

After hearing word the other day that the scaffolding was down at Lionel Lofts, I popped over to check out the recent progress -- which turned out to be pretty dramatic. Not only is the 3-story scaffold down, but the interior has been fitted out with -- wait for it -- floors and walls! It's. All. Starting. To. Come. Together!

Check it out:

 
More information on this development project can be found on the Lionel Lofts website.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

[Interview] Patrick Baty: Paint Detective

Posted on: September 19th, 2012 by David Garber 1 Comment

 

Patrick Baty is the world's preeminent architectural paint historian and consultant. Based in London, England -- where he runs a second-generation family shop called Papers and Paints -- Baty has consulted on a wide range of archaeological and restoration projects in both the United Kingdom and the United States. We spoke with him to hear more about historic paint colors and their significance.

Why are historic paint colors important?

Paint colors of the past are not important in themselves -- however, when one is faced with the decoration of an historic building a knowledge of what was used is important. Color was frequently used for a particular purpose. There was a strict hierarchy. The purpose of the room and the status of the owner would often be indicated by the paint color that was applied. Much of my work is carried out in buildings that were once lived in by historic figures and are now open to the public.


The interior of the George Frideric Handel house in London.

If one is going to show a house as it was when Benjamin Franklin or Handel, the composer, for example, lived in it, there is a requirement to show how it was decorated at that time. When an historic interior is painted in colors that have a precedent, it begins to make sense and reads well.

Describe a day in the life of a historic paint color consultant.

My days vary -- most of the week has been spent carrying out microscopy, writing reports and answering emails. Yesterday I was climbing a scaffolding on a large 1840s house in St James's Square. Having carried out the analysis of the external paint and supervised the color trials I was asked to check on the preparation of the surfaces. Were they clean enough? Was the right filler being used? And did the contractor seem to know what he was doing?

Today, I was at Hampton Court Palace, where I had to give a presentation to officials from English Heritage explaining how one of the 18th century staircases was to be decorated. Although I hadn't carried out the analysis I was asked to work from a report produced by someone else and to develop a decorative scheme based on it. Work on historic buildings is carefully supervised in the UK and permission must be given before it takes place -- so I frequently have to write a rationale before redecoration is allowed.

What are some of the most fascinating projects you've worked on?

The range of projects that I have carried out is wide, and they each have their fascinations. However, three memorable ones are:


A cross-section of paints applied to the Royal Albert Bridge.

  • Royal Albert Bridge -- This is a major landmark, designed by the famous Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It required me climbing the 172-foot structure in the middle of the night, when the trains were not using the bridge, and taking samples on the end of a rope. The 1850s photographs, which showed it being constructed, were very helpful in my interpretation of the paint evidence.
  • Hampton Court Palace -- One of my most interesting projects here was the recreation of a Tudor garden. My task was to identify the heraldic 'beasts' that King Henry VIII used to indicate his Royal lineage, to establish which colors were applied on which elements and to prepare a technical specification for the painters.

The most high-profile?

It's difficult to say which has been my most high-profile project. I have worked in some very well known buildings. However, I suppose the one that is most recognizable around the world would be Tower Bridge, which in many ways is the symbol of London. Once again a head for heights was required as I had to take samples from all elements of the bridge, which is 213 feet high.


The Tower Bridge.

The documentary research took even longer than the microscopic analysis. The responsibility of getting everything absolutely right on such a high-profile project is immense. You can just imagine that someone somewhere knows quite a lot about the bridge and would be very eager to point out any mistakes, so one's argument has to be water-tight.

Do you have any apprentices training under you?

Over the years I have had a few interns working with me. Several have come from the United States -- including one of the rising stars -- but I have also had a very good intern from Sweden. It is a very demanding pursuit, and I find that few are able to deal with all aspects: being comfortable at heights, able to work in archives and libraries and prepared to spend hours at the microscope, willing to give presentations and lectures -- sometimes to large or very important audiences, and also to have a genuine passion in the subject.

What would you recommend as an introduction to the field of historic paint colors?

An accessible book that introduces the subject of historic paint colors has yet to be written. Dr. Ian Bristow, who has done so much to develop the field in the UK, wrote two magnificent volumes in the 1990s, but they are very dense works and one is now out of print. I began to learn about the subject by studying early house-painting manuals and by reading up about pigments and painting materials in order to find out what was available at a particular time.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Preservation Round-Up: Parking vs. History Edition

Posted on: September 14th, 2012 by David Garber

 


The State Savings Bank in downtown Detroit, seen here not long after its original construction.

In Downtown Detroit, A Battle of Parking vs. History -- Detroit Free Press

"No matter what happens to the State Savings Bank Building in downtown Detroit, even the suggestion of turning the building into a parking garage signals that we are likely to see this type of dispute again and again. Thankfully, Triple Properties, which owns the building, has publicly said they will not replace the structure with a parking garage, as they indicated last month to a huge public outcry."

San Antonio's Roadside Treasure's Worth Saving -- San Antonio Express News

"San Antonio has a remarkable collection of roadside icons, including De Wese's Tip Top, Bun N' Barrel, the original Pig Stands, Kiddie Park and the Ranch Motel, to name a few. Recognizing their value can help ensure they are preserved for future generations."

Oklahoma City's Historic Gold Dome Sells At Auction For $800,000 -- News9.com

"David Box submitted the only bid at a public foreclosure auction on Thursday for the Gold Dome. [...] Box hasn't revealed his plans for the Gold Dome yet, but says he does not intend to tear it down."

City of Dallas Working to Restore Remnants of Frontier Farm -- DallasNews.com

"“People will be able to see how early pioneers and settlers lived,” Willis Winters, assistant director of Park and Recreation said, “how they farmed and survived and how they eked out a living and how rough it was. “To see this kind of place in its original, natural context anywhere, much less in Dallas, is phenomenal.”"

Save Pittsburgh's Frank and Seder Building -- Change.org

"The Frank and Seder Building is a historic building and contributes to the identity, character, and history of downtown Pittsburgh. The building was built circa 1917 as the Frank and Seder Department Store. Oxford Development has proposed a plan to either refurbish the existing building, or demolish for new construction. We hope to persuade Oxford Development to save [it]."

How Mom-and-Pop Restaurants Can Compete With the Big Chains -- Forbes

"We have a traditional place we stop for dinner on this trip, at one of the big chain restaurants. The food is consistent but unexceptional, yet it’s become our normal stop just because we’ve had so many bad meals stopping at locally owned, independent restaurants in the area. This time, I spotted a local eatery that looked intriguing and we decided to take a chance. We had a great experience which could provide a guidebook for other independents looking to lure customers away from the chains."

7 Adaptive Reuse Projects We Love -- Dwell

"As the way in which people use cities morphs form generation to generation, we're left with dormant buildings -- those that have outlived their original purpose, but are rife for enterprising architects and designers to give them a second wind. This latent stock might include industrial remnants, former school houses, barns, and even convenience stores."

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

[Slideshow] Restoration Diary: Work Begins on the Historic Facade

Posted on: August 20th, 2012 by David Garber

 

We've been covering the adaptive reuse of the c. 1905 Lionel Lofts building on DC's fast-changing 14th Street NW for about eight months now. And up to this point, most of the construction work has taken place inside the building -- which, aside for a few original brick walls, isn't seeing a lot of restoration. But with the sidewalk scaffolding now in place in front of the building, some actual restoration is finally happening!

Take a look at our slideshow of recent progress below. Not only is the exterior finally moving forward, the interior is also starting to look a little different thanks to brickwork, new steel framing, and installed floor joists.

 
More information on this development project can be found on the Lionel Lofts website.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Preservation Round-Up: One-Dollar Movie Theater Edition

Posted on: July 30th, 2012 by David Garber

 

Why I Restored and Reopened the Closed-Down State Theatre and Started the Traverse City Film Festival -- MichaelMoore.com

"I asked the Rotary group to give me the theater for a dollar, and we eventually settled on a dollar. I set up a community-based non-profit organization that would own the theater. Four others and I donated all the money needed to bring the theater back to life. I promised that we'd complete the entire rebuild in 6 weeks. And we did."

New Park in Downtown Los Angeles Inspires Grand Hopes -- LA Times

"This week, after a $56-million renovation, that 12-acre rectangle from the top of Bunker Hill to the base of City Hall will be christened as L.A.'s Grand Park, providing downtown with its first sizable amount of open space. [...] The park begins along Grand Avenue with a dramatic view of a renovated Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain and the tall white crest of Los Angeles City Hall. Parking ramps that once hid the fountain from pedestrians have been torn down, and the fountain is now programmed to run a colorful light show."

Local Museum Lands Sante Fe Sign -- Chicago Tribune

"The Illinois Railway Museum will take possession of the sign that advertised the former Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway from the roof of Chicago's Railway Exchange Building at 224 S. Michigan Ave." [...] Volunteers for the nonprofit museum will refurbish the sign, said Dave Diamond, the general manager for facilities. Once ready for display, it will join a collection of other Santa Fe equipment and railroad signs, many with roots in the Chicago area. [...] "It's a unique artifact that's tied to Chicago," Diamond said. "It keeps a piece of that in the area where it's still viewable to folks to understand Chicago's importance as a rail transportation hub."

Pittsburgh City Council Seeks Historic Preservation Limits -- Pittsburgh Post Gazette

"Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess introduced legislation Tuesday that would prohibit people from seeking city historic status for properties they don't own, a bill that grew out of the yearslong effort to save the old St. Nicholas Church building on the North Side. Mr. Burgess said third parties shouldn't have the right to interfere with owners' property rights. He said the city's historic designation 'should not occur without the landowner's consent.'"

Behind the Scenes: Teddy Roosevelt's House -- Washingtonian

"Ben Barnes has a Washington player’s résumé. He’s a Democratic lobbyist, he’s made a fortune in real estate, and he’s a former lieutenant governor of Texas and speaker of the state’s House. But there’s another side to him: history buff, art collector, preservationist. These are embodied in his building on 19th Street in downtown DC, where he has set up the Ben Barnes Group, a team of six including partners and staff. It’s the former home of Teddy Roosevelt and his second wife, Edith, who lived there when Roosevelt served on the Civil Service Commission."

When Values Collide: Balancing Green Technology and Historic Buildings -- NRDC Switchboard

"I believe that historic preservation in the right context -- a healthy neighborhood -- can be intrinsically green. Most historic buildings, at least the ones constructed before the days of freeways and urban flight, are on walkable streets in relatively central locations. They represent embodied energy and materials that would be consumed if the same amount of space and the same function had to be constructed anew. [...] But, by definition, historic buildings do not have the latest technology unless it is added many years later."

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.