10 on Tuesday


Water damage can be one of the most devastating aspects of a natural disaster, as many in the path of Superstorm Sandy have discovered in recent weeks. And while all structures are vulnerable to flood waters, special care needs to be taken with historic buildings in order to limit the damage to irreplaceable materials and/or design.

In the event that you find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance of dealing with a flooded historic property, here are 10 tips (adapted from our publication Treatment of Flood-Damaged Older and Historic Buildings) to get you started. Additional information can be found in the comprehensive disaster-recovery materials on PreservationNation.org.

1. Document the damage. Before starting your cleanup, take careful notes about damage to your home. This is essential not only for insurance purposes, but also to record important historic features. Photograph any items removed for cleaning or repair purposes to help ensure that they are reinstalled correctly.

2. Create an inventory of found items. Flood waters can carry dislodged architectural features, decorative fragments, and furnishings a great distance. Items found on your property may be extremely valuable to a nearby restoration project.

3. Ventilate! The least damaging drying process begins by using only ventilation. The most effective way to do this is to open windows and doors and allow the moisture to escape. Fans can be used to speed evaporation by moving interior air and exhausting humid air to the outdoors.

Tip: Beware of using industrial drying equipment to remove moisture at a very fast rate. You are likely to cause permanent damage to wood and plaster.

4. Clean the mud while it’s still wet. Rinse mud, dirt, and flood debris with fresh water as soon as possible -- it is safer and easier to remove the mud while it is still wet. Avoid using high pressure water on historic materials and exercise extreme care, so as not to cause further damage.

Tip: Silt and mud will accumulate not only on the floor and furnishings, but in interior wall spaces as well. Be sure to open electrical outlets and mechanical areas and rinse thoroughly, and check heating and air conditioning ducts and clean out any mud or dirt before turning on the units.

5. Beware of a flooded basement. Be careful when pumping water out your basement. If the water level is high, and you are reasonably sure your drains are working, groundwater levels may also be high and pumping water out could result in either more water coming in or a foundation collapse. It is generally advisable to wait for high water to recede on its own.

6. Keep an eye on cracks in the foundation. Movement, particularly widening of cracks, is a sign of structural instability, At this point, call in a qualified structural engineer or architect for a careful examination.

7. Remove saturated insulation. There are two reasons for this: 1) Flooding renders most insulation permanently ineffective. 2) Saturated insulation holds water which, if left in place, can perpetuate high moisture conditions destructive to wood, masonry, and steel.

8. Let the efflorescence take care of itself. The what? Efflorescence is the unsightly white residue found on brick, stone, or concrete walls. It comes from impurities in the materials, but the residue is not usually harmful and frequently disappears naturally when it rains.

Tip: Stubborn efflorescence maybe removed with water, detergent, and bristle brushes -- or with chemicals.

9. Check on your interior materials. Drywall should almost always be replaced. Once it has gotten wet, it becomes unstable, and can be dangerous for residents. (FEMA recommends replacement as contaminants may make the drywall a permanent health hazard.) Plaster, however, is more unpredictable and may survive without damage, while other times it must be replaced.

Tip: One technique for checking plaster is to tap lightly on it with a piece of wood, as damaged plaster will sound hollow.

10. Let wood floors, trim, and doors dry thoroughly before making any decisions. Most wood will expand and warp when wet and then return more or less to its original form as it dries, though it depends on a variety of factors. Waiting for woods to dry can mean the difference between just needing to sand down your historic floors and replacing them.

Have you dealt with flood recovery in your historic home? What proved most helpful to you?

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.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.


Homeowners face some of the most cutting impacts of natural disaster: physical displacement, loss of property, financial uncertainty, and stress. And as Superstorm Sandy just proved, you can never take too many precautions ahead of a natural disaster.

But what if you own a historic property? Are there additional steps you should be taking? And what resources are available to you, the historic property owner, in the disaster’s wake?

Fortunately, there’s a wealth of information out there to help historic property owners minimize the impact to their building as well as strengthen their building’s resistance to extreme wind, rain and other climatic forces. This week’s toolkit compiles the essential steps you can take before and after the storm.

In coming weeks we’ll build on these principles and share specific tips for preparing, planning, and responding to a variety of natural disasters -- including hurricanes, floods, fires, and earthquakes. But for now, let’s start with the basics.

Storm Damage from Hurricane Sandy, Beverley Square West, Brooklyn, NY. Photo courtesy Chris Kreussling (Flatbush Gardener on Flickr)

Before the Storm

1. Create a disaster preparedness plan for your home or property ahead of time. Following a checklist in times of crisis can help focus your attention and keep you from missing important details. Check out this hurricane preparedness example from the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

2. Check your insurance coverage. Older and historic properties often use materials or building techniques you can’t easily replicate today, which makes insurance companies far less likely to cover damage. A great option for insuring historic homes is National Trust Insurance Services (a National Trust subsidiary). NTIS can help value your property and ensure sufficient protection. Visit their website to learn more.

3. Print important information and documents ahead of time. Disasters often cause power outages and service disruptions, so in this wired age of computer and smartphone reliance, it’s helpful to have critical info already at your fingertips.

After the Storm

4. Secure your property. Your two most important tasks immediately following a hurricane are: a) ensure the safety and security of people working on site, and b) keep valuable or important building fabric from the debris heap. Saving architectural fragments, building materials, decorative plaster, etc. can help with restoration later.

5. Call your insurance company and register with FEMA. File a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible. If your area was included in a national disaster declaration, you’ll then want to register and file apply for assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Guidance, housing assistance, and more can be found at FEMA’s Disaster Recovery Centers after a national disaster.

Damage from Superstorm Sandy in Arlington, VA. (Photo courtesy Arlington County, via Flickr)

6. Call your state historic preservation office (SHPO) and local preservation commission. Your SHPO can answer questions about your historic property, direct you to the appropriate state and local resources, and help you navigate any confusing processes. If your property is protected as part of a local historic district or locally landmarked, make contact with the local commission early -- before proceeding with demolition or repairs to parts of the property that may be under the commission’s review.

7. Assess the damage. It usually costs less to repair or renovate a disaster-damaged house than to re-build. Before gutting your property (or deciding to demolish), contact your SHPO or statewide preservation organization to find contractors with proven expertise in historic buildings, who can walk through your property with you and help determine the scope of the damage.

8. Make a list. Inventory what was damaged or lost on your property (especially useful in cases of total destruction). Having an inventory will also help with your contractor bids and insurance claims later.

9. Compile repair bids. Figure out exactly what needs to be done, write it down, and walk through your house with contractors to get a ballpark estimate. If it sounds reasonable, request an item by item detailed bid. Try to get three bids based on the exact same work. (And remember to verify the contractor’s state license number and insurance.)

10. Investigate financial resources. Your property might qualify for any number of federal, state, and local funding programs, including grants, loans, and historic tax credits. Your SHPO can help direct you to the programs that best fit your property and its repair needs.

You can find more disaster recovery information on PreservationNation.org. You can also visit DisasterAssistance.gov.

Has your historic property weathered a natural disaster? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the director of digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

[10 on Tuesday] Build Your National Register Knowledge

Posted on: November 6th, 2012 by Emily Potter



“The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation.” -- National Park Service

The National Register is an important and useful tool in preservation. Inclusion in the Register signifies to the nation that a place is worth preserving. It also often opens up doors to helping the preservation of a site become a reality, though doesn’t guarantee it.

Scroll through the online database and you’ll find thousands of America’s historic places are in the Register. (Want to know the exact number? See below.) Of course, there are many more places not in the Register that are worthy of preserving. But the National Register is one, official way of recognizing that value.

To help you learn a little more about this resource, we’ve collected -- and answered -- 10 frequently asked questions about the National Register of Historic Places. Or, quiz yourself and see how much you already know!... Read More →

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.

Emily Potter

Emily Potter is a copywriter at the National Trust. She enjoys writing about places of all kinds, the stories that make them special, and the people who love them enough to save them.

[10 on Tuesday] 10 Ways to Use Pinterest for Preservation

Posted on: October 23rd, 2012 by Sarah Heffern 1 Comment


Earlier this year, Pinterest arrived on the social media scene like a cool new kid showing up in school -- one everyone couldn’t wait to sit next to at lunch.

Online, though, that kind of popularity is worth a lot more than free meals; it means going from a tiny, invitation-only site to 25 million unique views per month in just about a year (per Fast Company). And it also means a lot of people with a lot of businesses and causes saying, “Is this useful to my work?”

For those of us in the historic preservation, house museum, and Main Street worlds, the answer is very much YES. Pinterest is, at its core, a place for sharing pictures of pretty things. Historic places are pretty, but it goes well beyond that, too.

To help demystify the latest social craze, here are 10 tips for using Pinterest -- five for getting started, and five easy, preservationist-friendly ideas for content to share.

1. What is Pinterest, exactly? It’s where the corkboard on your wall meets your web favorites and becomes social -- it's bookmarking, with pictures, that you can share. But instead of having one corkboard like on your wall, you can have as many as you want, and each can have its own theme. For example: National Treasures. Historic Travel. The color yellow. (Really.) Each pin links back to the site it came from, so if you are sharing content from your own website, you’ll be driving traffic right where you want it!

2. How do I use it? Visit www.pinterest.com to sign up for an account, and use the built-in tools to identify your interests and find people to follow.

Tip: Take a moment to install the “Pin It” button that makes pinning fast and easy.

3. Create some boards. Pinterest is a great way to show visually what your site, museum, or community is about, so when you’re planning your boards, think about what story you want to tell. Are you into “neato architecture”? Or maybe about “finding your cool”?

4. Pin. Once you've decided on what your story is, pin items -- from your website, partners (see item #9 below), or other sites -- that support the story you want to tell.

5. And re-pin. A big part of the culture of Pinterest is sharing, so be sure to watch the feeds of the pinners you follow. If you have picked folks with similar interests and/or organizations within your community, you’ll find lots of pins to share -- or re-pin, as it's called.

6. Say “I do.” Pinterest is a hotbed for planning weddings and other events. So if your site, museum, or Main Streets hosts weddings and other social events, post as many pictures of it as you can, and link it back to the related info on your website.

7. Cook up interest in your site. Food is another popular topic on Pinterest, so use recipes to tell the story of your site or community.

8. Think about your partners. If you don’t have wedding photos to share or your own tasty food, do you work with photographers and caterers when you’re hosting events? Of course you do! Coordinate with them to cross-promote their service at your site.

9. Use the search function. A great way to find more great things to pin is to use the search. You'll find pins from people who have visited, or want to visit, your site. Click through on their pins, and you may even make your way to blog posts or online reviews that say nice things. Re-pin those too!

10. Expand your online store. Does your historic site or Main Street shop sell things online? Share them on Pinterest to give them additional visibility.

Tip: If you include the price of your item with a dollar sign ($15.00, for example), Pinterest will automagically flag it as something that can be purchased.

Are you a pinning-for-preservation whiz -- or know someone who is? Let us know in the comments.

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.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.

[10 on Tuesday] 10 Ways to Connect Main Street and Hispanic Communities

Posted on: October 16th, 2012 by Julia Rocchi


This toolkit was adapted from a National Trust Main Street Center Story of the Week, “America in Translation: Hispanic Heritage on Main Street.” Read the full article.

Throughout National Hispanic Heritage Month this year (Sept. 15-Oct. 15), communities across the country honored the many contributions Hispanic and Latino Americans have made both to our nation and to their own cities and towns. This reflection is a great starting point for thinking about how to revitalize your own community while also honoring diverse heritages.

Norma Ramirez de Miess, Senior Program Officer at the National Trust Main Street Center, travels regularly to work with individual Main Street programs all over the country and help them reach out to their Hispanic constituents.

“Downtowns are at the heart of the community for everybody, and most cultures, even outside the U.S., have downtowns as their centers,” she says. “There is great potential for Main Street to be the catalyst for inclusion.”

Ramirez de Miess distills her long experience of building inclusive programs into three key principles: 1) understand what is shared among people in the district; 2) recognize the differences; and 3) build bridges. With these building blocks in mind, let’s look at 10 ways your town can connect with its Hispanic communities.

1. Spot economic opportunities. In many Main Street communities, often the more recent immigrants of the Hispanic community have become the primary economic force in once-forsaken downtowns. Take Woodburn, Oregon, for example. When an outlet mall dried up downtown business, the first-generation Mexican migrants living there saw an opportunity to start businesses in the vacant storefronts. Such entrepreneurship created a niche retail experience in the region, one that leveraged its Hispanic roots and also helped bring downtown Woodburn back to life.

2. Get hands-on. Betsy Cowan, Main Street manager in Egleston Square, Roxbury, Massachusetts, suggests that “tailored, on-site bilingual group training and one-on-one assistance programs designed for micro-businesses, although requiring a higher investment of time and resources, have been proven to yield results.” For example, with Cowan’s help, one local grocer realized that by making minor façade improvements and adding certain products to his stock, he could transform his business from a store catering primarily to Hispanic residents into a marketplace for all the neighborhood’s residents.

3. Start at the very beginning… A truly inclusive Main Street program needs to involve members of the Hispanic community on a fundamental planning level, whether through representation on the board of directors, partnerships, or volunteers. As Ramirez de Miess says, “When there’s no sense of ownership, there’s absolutely no commitment in the community to participate.”

4. …and start small. Not all Hispanic business owners might be as comfortable with or educated about the formal processes necessary for non-profit organization planning. As Woodburn’s Community Relations Officer Robyn Stowers suggests, “sometimes it makes more sense to start small, with the group that needs more coaching, and then strategically bring other groups in” as people gain more trust in the organization.

5. Take it offline. To successfully reach out to the Hispanic community in particular, Ramirez de Miess recommends direct rather than indirect forms of communication. In other words, have face-to-face meetings or visit individual businesses, rather than relying solely on email or phone calls.

6. Throw a party. Special events that celebrate important Hispanic holidays and festivals are perhaps the most visible way for a Main Street program to appeal to its Hispanic constituents. “I joke with people -- just give us a reason and we’ll have a party,” Ramirez de Miess says. “Celebrations of heritage, of family, are great for any culture.” And with the large number of volunteers required for a special event, celebrations are a great way to build a base of support in the Hispanic community for a growing Main Street.

7. Go bilingual in Spanish. In towns with a strong Hispanic demographic, make sure everyone can understand flyers, posters, and other promotional materials. In Amarillo, Texas’s Center City, the Main Street program translated all of its advertising copy into Spanish and launched a promotional campaign on a Spanish-language radio station for the annual August block party. While most, if not all, Hispanic residents are fluent in both English and Spanish, says Main Street Manager Beth Duke, “it meant a lot to Spanish speakers to hear the ads in the language of their home, it made them feel more welcome. Many people told me that they felt like they were truly invited to the event.”

8. Go bilingual in English. The language barrier can go both ways. In Bridgeton, New Jersey, Main Street manager Carola Hartley says that she used to hear complaints from English-speaking residents that it was hard for them to shop at Hispanic businesses due to the lack of English-language signs. In response, Bridgeton Main Street helped Hispanic merchants translate and put up signs and menus in both languages.

9. Balance preservation with culture aesthetics. In Harlingen, Texas, recent immigrants opening new businesses downtown sometimes have design ideas that clash with the existing built environment. “There’s a different aesthetic in Mexico -- large print, bright colors, the more signs the better -- so you want to respect the culture, but you also want to respect the original architecture of the building. You want to merge that,” explains Manager Cheryl LaBerge. Downtown Harlingen brings in architects and interior designers to work with individual businesses and educate business-owners about preserving the community’s architectural heritage.

10. Know your community’s makeup. Diverse ethnicities, nationalities, beliefs, and cultures are combined under the umbrella terms “Hispanic” and “Latino.” Moreover, established Hispanic communities as old as the town itself will likely have quite different needs than more recent immigrants or seasonal laborers. Learn your town’s particular makeup, and implement initiatives that will best help local entrepreneurs revitalize their businesses and participate in downtown activities.

When in doubt, the first step is always to respect the individual needs and rights of others, so that you can build mutual understanding and trust. As Ramirez de Miess puts it, “Building a relationship of trust means to connect with a genuine interest in people, finding out their needs and preferences. The first efforts need to be about learning about each other.”

Now it’s your turn. What examples can you share from your community about connecting with Hispanic heritage?

Interested in learning more about how Main Street can transform your community? Visit the National Trust Main Street Center for more info.

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the director of digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.