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Forum on Historic Windows: Part 2

Posted on: March 27th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Yesterday, in Forum on Historic Windows: Part 1, we opened the floor for discussion on the common reasons for and against restoring historic windows.

Now we're back with part two, and we're asking the same Forum members to chime in on a new question. Take a look at what each has to say, and then sound off by leaving a comment below with your own thoughts and ideas.

Question: Generally, what factors should preservationists and homeowners think about when evaluating the cost of a window replacement/rehabilitation? How is the cost for an appropriate replacement/rehabilitation usually determined?

A well-restored or renovated window with a new storm window is going to lose a little more energy than a new window, but the carbon debt to make and transport and install the new window, as well as the waste of embodied energy as the perfectly good old growth sash and glass are thrown in the landfill, just about washes the small gain away, and all you have left is the empty wallet from paying for all new windows, which will fail in 20 to 40 years. This is the final measure of un-sustainability. The greenest window is the one that is already there and was restored by a local worker who spent his money in his local community adding economic sustainability to the equation.

Costs for rehabs/restores are as individual as the windows themselves. Condition is the main factor, and so is the degree of restorative work. My style is to make the windows work as well as when they were new. In my blue collar style, we often fix and seal the upper sash and make it stationary, and then install blue board in that weight track (if the trim is off). Then we usually install an aluminum storm window and strip the lead paint off if it is in a friction spot. We cut the sash as needed so the meeting rail and lock align. Then I find a good quality triple or double track and mount it inside the trim on the stops. Budget window rehab costs about $300 per window including storms/painting extra. Rotted or damaged sashes which need rebuilding will add cost of course.

- Chris Sturbaum owns Golden Hands Construction in Bloomington, IN. They have been in operation since 1979.

1) Consider reducing the scope to save cost. If they are taking a comprehensive look at their windows, think about which windows are actually used and put their money up front. Most of the owners we meet use some form of air conditioning part of the year. If they have no intention of giving up their A/C anytime soon, you can typically restore full operation to anywhere between 30% and 60% of the windows to save money on the mechanics of making all of the windows fully operational. The remaining ones are either restored or maintained in-situ fixed (stationary) until they need to be addressed down the road.

2) Consider the role of high-quality, wooden storm windows to save cost. These can often buy time, defer or completely table the restoration costs of the primary window.

3.) Consider how the replacement affects the interior casing/trim and/or exterior casing and brick mold, and whether that's covered in the cost.

4.) Consider how you maintain or repair the replacement window. How do you replace a cracked or broken thermal pane of a new window? Typically you have to replace the entire sash, insert or window!

5.) Consider the reality of sales pitches and bogus claims. Will the replacement window company sign a guarantee that their windows will save X% on their energy bill? Will they reimburse you for the difference (as adjusted for annual heating degree days)? Our cost varies widely depending on the quality of the window; whether storms/screens are included; where the work starts and stops (sash only, window only, window and trim, etc.); if double-hung; whether both sashes will remain operable; whether the window originally had groove and rail metal weather-stripping or the sashes need to be routed out; etc. Windows and doors are the only mobile millwork on the house. They require maintenance and they are the items most often neglected by old house owners. The cost in our area varies from $300 to $2,500+ per opening for wood, and $900 to $3,500+ for steel, depending on the work required, storm windows/screens included, and the standards of the final product desired. Usually, handymen are handling the lower range and our projects tend to range on the higher end. However, that said, we also deal with leaded glass, large fanlights, rose windows and other unusual window types.

- Neal Vogel of Restoric, LLC, a firm located in Wilmette, IL that provides restoration of historic structures.

I think the more basic question here is what percentage of homeowners actually consider or thoroughly evaluate the rehab of existing windows. I realize that the folks that are members of PreservationNation and/or the National Trust would routinely consider rehab versus replacement, and within replacement, they would be more likely to consider historically consistent windows. However, I’m not sure that our members recognize that the rest of the country doesn’t necessarily share their view or their passion for preservation. Remember that the National Trust has 250,000 members out of a population of 306 million – that’s less than one-tenth of one percent of the population! And Forum, where discussions can be both passionate and heated, has just 4,000 members! The lesson of course is that, to some extent, we’re preaching to the choir rather than to the congregation!

Different sectors of the population use differing hierarchies for decision making. For some, it’s price. For others, it’s quality. For others, it’s how quickly I can have what I want.

It’s interesting to note that the discussion on this issue is not confined to the National Trust and its affiliates. There are discussion groups that have touched on this topic on Yahoo and a website dedicated to promoting window restoration. It’s also interesting to note that if you Google “window rehab” or “window restoration," none of the top 25 hits direct you to National Trust resources.

- Jeff Donohoe of Donohoe Associates, an economics and real estate consulting firm located in Manchester, NH.

Want to learn more? Visit PreservationNation.org for resources on historic windows, including Window Know How: A Guide to Going Green, our Green Home Tips and our Tip Sheet for Historic Wood Windows. Also, check out the National Park Services’ technical preservation services page for additional resources.

- Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya is a program assistant for the Center for Preservation Leadership at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Forum members can read past messages from Forum-L on Forum Online, which is now located at www.preservationnation.org/forum. If it is your first time visiting the new site, please follow these instructions.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Examining the Life of Mary Todd Lincoln

Posted on: March 27th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Mary Todd Lincoln, c. 1863 (Credit: Courtesy of Library of Congress)

Mary Todd Lincoln, c. 1863 (Credit: Library of Congress)

Mary Todd Lincoln, a deeply controversial figure of her day, continues to draw an intense amount of public interest, sympathy and even scorn. As much as we continue to debate Abraham Lincoln and his presidency, so too do we dissect his wife's actions and role in the overall Lincoln story.

Mary Lincoln was intelligent and highly educated (fluent in French, she received ten years of formal schooling to Lincoln's aggregate one year), with a well-connected family (Dolley Madison was a kinswoman and Henry Clay a neighbor and family friend), and had a keen interest in politics. Mary was one of the first to see the promise in Abraham Lincoln and, to her family's initial dismay, wed the prairie lawyer who was virtually unknown, unrefined, and lacking formal education and familial and political connections. Not unlike other first ladies, Mary Lincoln appears to have been intimately involved in Lincoln's political career, even at a time when overt involvement in politics by females was regarded as inappropriate or unwelcome.

It cannot be denied that when the Lincolns arrived in Washington, D.C., they entered a social and political minefield as the Civil War loomed. Opponents wasted no time deriding and ridiculing the Lincolns. Not unlike celebrity gossip rags today, the public gobbled up outrageous stories about Mary Lincoln, always eager for more. But for every sensational story - whether based in truth or not - published about Mary, you can find a redeeming one that drew little press attention. And for every judgment of Mary, you can find a great deal of context that's omitted.

Much is made of Mary's spending habits, but little is made of her frequent visits to hospitals to bring supplies and to help care for wounded soldiers. Fewer know of Mary Lincoln's letter to her husband requesting $200 to be donated to Elizabeth Keckley's Contraband Relief Association (CRA). The Lincolns' $200 donation was the largest donation received that year by the CRA, which provided relief to formerly-enslaved African Americans who had fled to the District after the D.C. Emancipation Act was passed in April 1862.

With her patriotism frequently questioned, Mary was called a traitor and a spy in large part because of her Kentucky roots and her Confederate family members. The theme of divided family is integral to the Civil War story, and was experienced first hand by the Lincolns while they were living at the Cottage. Yet Mary never publicly mourned the loss of her siblings who died fighting for the Confederacy, once saying in private, “They would kill my husband if they could, and destroy our government - the dearest of all things to us.”

Like all humans, Mary Lincoln had her faults and weaknesses. Her faults cannot be denied, but her strengths and admirable qualities deserve equal attention.

President Lincoln's Cottage, a National Trust Historic Site, strives to offer a balanced story of the Lincolns and their time at the Soldiers' Home. For those interested in learning more about Mary Lincoln, we welcome you to join us in May for Cottage Conversations, during which Catherine Clinton will talk about her new book, Mrs. Lincoln: A Life. Click here for more event information.

-Erin Carlson Mast

Erin Carlson Mast is the curator at President Lincoln's Cottage, a National Trust Historic Site.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Forum on Historic Windows: Part 1

Posted on: March 26th, 2009 by Guest Writer 4 Comments

 

Check out window tips from the latest issue of Preservation magazine.

Check out helpful window tips from the latest issue of Preservation magazine.

A few weeks ago, a member on Forum-L (the discussion list for Forum, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s professional membership) raised a question regarding window deterioration. And, as is the case with many topics pertinent to energy efficiency and sustainability, the thread got a lot of attention.

As a result, we asked three of the contributors to the conversation to answer two follow-up questions on the topic. The first question dealing with reasons behind replacement is answered below. Tomorrow, we will post the answers to the second question involving cost considerations.

And of course, please feel free to discuss your own thoughts and opinions on historic windows by leaving a comment below.

Question: What are the most common reasons that homeowners use to replace a historic window? What are the reasons that homeowners should not replace a historic window?

The most common reasons that homeowners use to replace a historic window are that they’re hard to open or that the ropes are broken. Drafty. Some of the windows are showing signs of decay. People want to save energy.

As for reasons they shouldn't. Original windows look better and have character. It is cheaper to fix them and put on storm windows. They are usually a hundred years old and will last another hundred if they are cared for. New windows will last fifteen to fifty years tops, and they will need new glass in five to twenty years usually, and their plastic parts will break down sooner than that, and they are mostly not replaceable. The payback in real energy savings is slight and the cost recovery time is something like 40 years.

- Chris Sturbaum owns Golden Hands Construction in Bloomington, IN. They have been in operation since 1979.

This is a loaded question because the reasons are broad and all encompassing. However, that said, the calls we receive for window restoration fall into three general categories: a) new homeowners planning to replace all of their windows (this is particularly problematic when the call comes from "flippers," or owners buying older houses to simply rehab and sell with no intention of living in them and no personal care for the property, just maximizing profit.), b) new or existing homeowners planning an addition or remodeling to include new windows, or c) a cold winter, hot summer or high energy bill that spurs them to consider replacements.

We are most often called when a new owner has acquired a property and is planning major rehabilitation work to the entire house. They are weighing window restoration against complete window replacement. They typically need to be personally enlightened (i.e. consumer education) in the first place because the window replacement market is very accessible and convenient. Most architects, contractors, sales people and suppliers financially benefit more from window replacement, so no one should have difficulty comprehending why the window replacement market is so prolific; many of these professionals simply want a known quantity and zero-risk approach.

As for the second part of the question, not replacing a window, the answer is "all of the above." A properly-restored historic window provides better service over the life of the window; is more comfortable (with a proper storm window); will perform better in terms of energy over the life of the window if properly maintained (with a proper storm); is easy to maintain compared to new windows after the first few years of service; and will cost less than replacement over the life of the building.

That said, window restoration is not convenient, as it requires some personal sacrifice on the part of the owner if the house is occupied during the work. One way we have tried to address this is to use translucent board-up materials (with or without temporary operable vents) so they at least get daylight and/or ventilation through the openings. More often than not, the work is staggered around the house. Meanwhile, reducing removal/reinstallation to just a few windows at a time increases logistics and costs substantially unless they are dealing with a local handyman one window at a time.

And of course, sustainability!

- Neal Vogel of Restoric, LLC, a firm located in Wilmette, IL that provides restoration of historic structures.

I think that most “average” homeowners look to replace their windows because of their concern over energy bills, and their expectation that a newer-insulated window will help to reduce the energy loss associated with their existing windows, and that they’ll have a tighter seal and therefore be less likely to be “drafty”. Once a homeowner has decided to replace their windows, cost becomes a primary consideration.

I know that many of the staunch “preservation supporters” will be grinding their teeth about now – they’re thinking to themselves “people should have existing windows repaired, they shouldn’t be replacing them!” Unfortunately, that’s not always the preferred alternative for a variety of reasons. Some markets, for example, don’t have a ready supply of specialists that can provide restoration/preservation services. In some other areas, the most highly regarded restoration specialists don’t have the depth of staff to meet the needs of homeowners within a realistic time frame. Some may not be able to do the job for months because of their backlog. Once the homeowner has decided that they’re going to replace their windows, many will choose products with price as a determining factor. This is frequently because the homeowner has a shorter term view. The U.S. Census indicates that the median length of time in a home is nine years, so many homeowners will look for a shorter term “fix”, taking the stance that the next owner can use historically accurate windows if he or she wants to.

As for reasons not to replace your windows, I’ll be shocked and disappointed if someone doesn’t say, “The existing windows help to keep the home original, and therefore will enhance the value of the property”. True enough if you’re dealing with an educated buyer. However, that’s not always the case. Real estate is first and foremost about location, and since many historic neighborhoods are well-located, some buyers care more about the location than they do about the “authenticity factor." This is, in part, one of the factors that drives the McMansion effect, where historic homes are purchased and demolished in favor of constructing a new home. People want the location more than they want the structure.

So, in my opinion, the original windows will appeal to a certain segment of the buying public, but they’ll be a detriment to another segment of the buying public. Some will see it as an opportunity to own a more “complete” home, while others will see it as an expense that they’ll incur to replace the windows as soon as they close.

- Jeff Donohoe of Donohoe Associates, an economics and real estate consulting firm located in Manchester, NH.

Want to learn more? Visit PreservationNation.org for resources on historic windows, including Window Know How: A Guide to Going Green, our Green Home Tips and our Tip Sheet for Historic Wood Windows. Also, check out the National Park Services’ technical preservation services page for additional resources.

- Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya is a program assistant for the Center for Preservation Leadership at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Forum members can read past messages from Forum-L on Forum Online, which is now located at www.preservationnation.org/forum. If it is your first time visiting the new site, please follow these instructions.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Protecting the Story of Juana Briones & Her California Gem

Posted on: March 25th, 2009 by Guest Writer 7 Comments

 

Juana Briones (Credit: National Park Service's Point Reyes National Seashore Archives)

Juana Briones (Credit: National Park Service's Point Reyes National Seashore Archives)

On March 12, 1802, Juana Briones y Tapia de Miranda was born in Villa de Branciforte (present-day Santa Cruz), which was one of three secular villas in Alta California.

Juana’s father, a Spanish corporal, was a participant in both the 1769 Portola and the 1775-76 De Anza Expeditions. In 1812, the Briones Family moved north to the Presidio de San Francisco, and in 1820, Juana married Apolinario Miranda in Yerba Buena (current-day San Francisco), where she mothered 11 children between 1821-1841. In San Francisco, the Briones Family operated a dairy farm in what is now North Beach. In addition to being a rancher, Juana was a curandera, or a practitioner of traditional medicines, and was highly regarded by both early Californios and American settlers.

In 1822, Alta California shifted hands from Spanish rule to Mexican, and although the territory changed hands politically, little changed in regard to individual land ownership. In 1843-44, Juana purchased for $300 a 4,442-acre parcel (known as Rancho La Purísima Concepción) from Neophyte Indian José Gorgonio in the Palo Alto hills. Still standing today, the wood-framed, rammed-earth and adobe brick house is believed to have been built by American desertee sailors.

Juana Briones House, c. 1890 (Credit: Palo Alto Historical Association Archives)

Juana Briones House, c. 1890 (Credit: Palo Alto Historical Association Archives)

With the incorporation of Mexican California into the United States, land ownership for many early Californios was challenged by the requirement of proof of ownership. In keeping her rancho, Juana hired the best attorney in California, Henry Wager Halleck, and with her rich ancestry proved ownership to both the Land Commission and the U.S. Supreme Court in 1856, which allowed her to retain her property. At a time when American women could not own land, Juana’s case was unique, setting a precedent for other early settlers. In 1884, Juana moved to Mayfield (now Palo Alto), and eventually died in 1889 at the age of 87.

Fast-forward to the 21st century, and Juana lives on in the ambition of local preservationists who are fighting to save her 165-year-old house. Designated a California State Historical Landmark in 1954, the house has sat abandoned in an affluent neighborhood for over ten years, open to the elements and suffering from earthquake damage. In 2007, it was threatened by the possibility of demolition, which encouraged twenty volunteers to document the building with a Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS).

Just as Juana fought for custody of her lands, preservationists today continue to fight for her story in the hope of saving this early California gem.

- Corri Jimenez

Corri Jimenez received her master's degree from the University of Oregon in historic preservation. In 2007, she led a volunteer HABS documentation project on the Juana Briones House. She currently works as a preservation consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area. For more information on Juana Briones, see "Juana Briones of 19th Century California" by Jeanne Farr McDonnell (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2008) or visit online.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

A Lobby Day Throwdown: Bring It On

Posted on: March 24th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Admit it: you’re getting just a teensy bit tired of hearing about this coffee-guzzlin’, sandals-with-socks-wearin’, software-lovin’ group from the other Washington being touted as the biggest, baddest team of preservation advocates to storm the halls of Congress since, well, who knows when.

Although we’ve worked hard to earn this claim to fame (and loved every minute of the limelight this year), we’ve decided that the time has come to relinquish our title, but it’s gonna cost you.

Team Way Outside the Beltwayers is throwing down the gauntlet and officially challenging other states to take us down by bringing a bigger, badder team to Lobby Day in D.C. next year. What’s on the line, you ask? Nothing short of bragging rights and a round of drinks on us at the Willard Hotel. And, let me tell you that nothing beats raising a toast with your teammates in the Nest at the end of that long, yet rewarding day of lobbying. If you don’t believe me, just ask our friends from Indiana.

In the spirit of leveling the playfield (all for the good of the movement, of course), we’re even willing to offer a few tips to assist you in your quest to unseat us:

Talk it up. If you’ve had the privilege of carrying the preservation mantle for your state on Lobby Day, tell everyone you meet what an amazing and worthwhile experience it is. Tell them how thrilling it is to become totally steeped in the national preservation agenda, to experience D.C. from the inside, and to know you are truly making a difference by joining preservationists from around the country to advocate on this important day. Oh, and in describing the experience, you might want to leave out adjectives like hectic and exhausting. Also, omit the part about how you seriously thought your feet were going to fall off at the end of the day.

Think outside the box. Diversity is the key to a strong, well-balanced Lobby Day team. Some of our most passionate and articulate voices for preservation aren’t preservation professionals at all; they are historic barn owners, county council members, former educators, developers and maritime heritage enthusiasts. The common thread? We all share a belief that historic preservation makes a difference in our landscapes and in our lives.

Start recruiting now. For the best results in recruiting a well-balanced cadre of seasoned lobbying veterans and enthusiastic first timers, don’t wait until a few weeks before the trip to begin cobbling together your team. Plant the Lobby Day seed now, and cultivate it throughout the year by sending legislative updates and keeping potential participants informed and excited about what is going on. Oh, and try to recruit at least one representative from each of your state’s congressional districts. This will send a strong message that preservation matters in every corner of your state.

Show them the money. Traveling to and staying in D.C. is expensive, so make it easier for folks to make the trip by offering travel stipends. Even if you can’t cover all of their travel expenses, often times offering even a few hundred dollars can make it more possible for someone to participate. Also, remember to cultivate the ongoing support of your Lobby Day scholarship donors by keeping them informed throughout the year.

The ball is in your court now. Show Preservation Action, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, and most importantly, your congressional delegation how much preservation matters in your state by putting together your largest Lobby Day team yet.

Beat Team Way Outside the Beltwayers and our consistent, double-digit team numbers next year, and the glory (and the libations) will be yours to savor…for at least a year.

- Jennifer Meisner

Way Outside the Beltwayer Jennifer Meisner is the executive director of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. Visit our Lobby Day 2009 website on PreservationNation.org to learn more about her recent trip to Capitol Hill.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.