Restoration Diary: Gutting and Exposing the Upstairs

Posted on: February 15th, 2012 by David Garber 3 Comments


Gutting. It's kind of a bad word in some preservation circles. But in the case of Lionel Lofts, most of the interior walls and surfaces weren't original to the building: drywall, dropped ceilings, and carpet that would make me fear for my life if I walked on it barefoot.

As you can see ... EXPOSED BRICK! Although in most cases exposed brick was never intended to be exposed, it's a trend that adds warmth and character to building interiors and isn't likely to go away any time soon. For capital H historic buildings, keep the plaster. For lofts in a cool-and-old-but-not-necessarily-historic-building on a hot restaurant corridor, exposing brick isn't exactly a deal breaker.

Removing the plaster also exposed some 10-Commandments-shaped brick details in the walls (above). Anyone have an explanation for these? They don't tie into anything on the inside, but don't look like they were windows, either.

Demolition is a dusty job. But someone's gotta do it. While wearing air purifying masks.

During an intensive demo such as this, spraying a mist of water over the debris is an effective way to minimize airborne particulate matter, AKA all the stuff I was breathing in since I wasn't wearing a mask.

Goodbye, old pipes.

At this point you're probably wondering: "Are they saving anything??" Yes, but not much. The floor joists, elaborate radiators, and things like cool old cast iron sinks are being salvaged. But otherwise, the interiors will be pretty much brand new. Inside the old exterior, of course.

Mid-way through demo on the second floor...

And almost done with demo on the second floor. Notice a difference in ceiling height?

I thought this was a neat juxtaposition of places where the exterior has been opened and closed over time. From left to right: original window, new(ish ... very much ish) air conditioner unit, and old doorway, now bricked up.

As you can see above, the garage space is currently being used to sort and store demolition debris. Although the demo to this point has taken place only on the top two levels, hammers will hit the first floor retail space starting later this week.

David Garber is the blog editor at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. 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.


Love stories start in the darnedest places.

Isn’t that what every rom com – and nearly all of Julia Roberts' on-screen career, for that matter – wants us to believe? Whether we’ve just missed a flight home for the holidays (it’s always the holidays, isn’t it?) or we’re standing in line for coffee on an ordinary Tuesday, we should always be prepared to trip and fall into the arms of a heartthrob, right?

Annnnd snap back to reality. Everyone knows it rarely goes down like that (c’mon, on the subway?!?). Until it kind of does, but in a way that is adorable and utterly real.

Meet Bernice Radle and Jason Wilson, Buffalo's young preservation power couple.

When the National Trust rolled into Buffalo this fall, Bernice Radle and Jason Wilson had never met, though both had long been preservation dynamos working overtime for the city they loved. It wasn’t until after the conference – and the individual preservation events they each planned for it – that their interest in all things old brought them together.

Fast forward to today, and their conversations (I overheard them!) go something like this: “Can you believe these houses on the demo list? Where should we go for date night? What’s the status on the reuse study for the Trico building?”

Totally cuter than Julia Roberts being unexpectedly swept off her feet, right?

Knowing what you now know about this young preservation power couple, it shouldn’t be a shocker that the majority of Bernice and Jason’s Valentine’s Day preparations were spent churning out personalized construction paper hearts … for vacant and abandoned historic buildings. It’s a concept their group, Buffalo Young Preservationists, dubbed a “heart bomb.” Because my words probably wouldn’t give it justice, I’ll let the love birds explain it themselves.

PreservationNation: For starters, how did the whole "heart bomb" idea hatch?

Bernice: I love all things heart-shaped and I love Buffalo. Buffalo and hearts combined is the ultimate Buffalove! So one day, Jason and I thought it would be fun to throw Valentine's Day hearts (lace, glitter, and lots of construction paper) onto our most loved vacant houses to pull on the heart strings of Buffalonians. Heart bombs!

PreservationNation: How many buildings did you end up "bombing" and how did you choose them?

Jason: Although there are several buildings worth highlighting, we ultimately chose four beautiful homes located throughout the city. These homes have a high degree of architectural detail and unique character that is difficult to find in any new build today. We also believe that these gems could be saved and rehabbed with a little love from a special someone.

PreservationNation: Once everything was hung with care, how did you spread the word?

Bernice: Mainly, we used Facebook and Instagram to show off our art project in real time. Instagram gave the houses a cute, vintage flair. We also posted photos on popular blogs and the Preservation-Ready Facebook group, which is home to 600 people who love Buffalo and preservation. And for the more traditional types, we wrote a press release (filled with love, of course!) and sent it out.

PreservationNation: At the end of the day, what do you hope these little guerrilla valentines accomplish?

Jason: These four homes are actually on the city's most recent demolition list, which mainly consists of tax foreclosures. Through the creative use of art, we aim to raise public awareness of these and other threatened architectural treasures. With the added attention we hope to start a productive dialog among concerned citizens and elected officials that will lead to a proactive approach to dealing with our city's vacant property crisis.

PreservationNation: Tell us a little about your group, Buffalo Young Preservationists.

Bernice: Buffalo Young Preservationists is a group of young, energetic preservationists who love Buffalo and want and try to make positive change. We are a small army of preservation folks filled with enthusiasm and passion. We are a proactive bunch and are involved in several projects that we know will help to preserve Buffalo's future. It's a lot of fun getting us together. We throw a great party and geek out on Buffalo.

PreservationNation: Is this the first time you've dabbled with art to raise awareness?

Jason: Not at all, we've done similar actions before. A few months ago, we put a large red ribbon on a wonderful little house that was slated for demolition on Buffalo's east side. The "Bow Bomb," delivered right before Christmas, was the first time we realized how effective our message could be if communicated creatively and correctly.

PreservationNation: What advice would you give old building lovers in other cities who want to save historic places?

Bernice: There are so many important things to do, but the first thing that needs to happen is to build a story around a place that deserves to be saved. When was it built? What neat historical features does it have? Does it have qualities or features that cannot be recreated? Make people fall in love with the building. Make them want to save it.

PreservationNation: Lastly, today is all about love, but what does it mean to be in Buffalove?

Jason: Buffalove is an extremely unique feeling. It's realizing you're living in a place rooted in rich history that's not only worth saving, but celebrating as well. And like in any good relationship, you can have a direct impact in the overall positive outcome if you try hard enough.

PreservationNation: Do you agree with that definition, Bernice?

Bernice: Yep! Buffalove is really comprised of the rich history, a unique urban environment, the friendly people, and the belief that Buffalo can be an even greater city than it already is.

Jason Lloyd Clement is the associate director for online campaigns at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Like Bernice and Jason, he is also in Buffalove.

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.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

American Brewery: National Preservation Award Winner

Posted on: January 19th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments


Nominations are now open for the 2012 Richard H. Driehaus National Preservation Awards. We'll be highlighting a few of our favorites from last year here on the blog to give you a sense of what's won in the past, and hope to see some of your projects here when the winners are announced at the 2012 National Preservation Conference in Spokane, Washington, on November 2!

American Brewery - Baltimore, Maryland
2011 National Trust Board of Advisors’ Award

The American Brewery project rehabilitated an abandoned 1887 brewhouse in East Baltimore whose derelict condition symbolized how far the once-proud neighborhood had fallen. Vacant for thirty years, all previous attempts to revive the striking, five-story Gothic structure had failed. In 2008, that changed thanks to a $25 million historic rehabilitation conducted by a private developer and Humanim, a social services organization with roots in the community. Federal and state historic tax credits and private donations transformed the bat-infested brewhouse while retaining key historic elements, such as the vats that now serve as the office’s "think tank."

From its new home, Humanim is now perfectly positioned to provide workforce development services and job creation opportunities directly to the neighborhood. In addition to relocating its 250 employees there, the organization made 40 local hires. Meanwhile, new development is taking place, signaling greater developer confidence in the community. The top-notch historic rehabilitation preserves a piece of the city’s industrial past while demonstrating that historic preservation is a viable strategy for sparking new investment and economic development in challenged urban neighborhoods.

Each year the National Trust for Historic Preservation celebrates the best of preservation by presenting the Richard H. Driehaus National Preservation Awards to individuals and organizations whose contributions demonstrate excellence in historic preservation. We invite you to nominate a deserving individual, organization, agency, or project for a Richard H. Driehaus National Preservation Award. The nomination deadline for all awards is March 15, 2012.

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Restoration Diary: Asbestos Remediation. (But Look, Old Photos!)

Posted on: January 17th, 2012 by David Garber


The building as it looks today. See below for the before shots. (Photo: National Trust for Historic Preservation)

Bee Beep Rrrrrrrrrrrr. We interrupt this program to bring you an important news bulletin: minus the addition of some plastic sheeting and removal of some floor tiles, not much has changed at ye olde Lionel Lofts since our last update. Fortunately for your friendly neighborhood National Trust blogger, when I went over to take some new pictures, the key was missing from the lock box and I was unable to enter. Turns out it's asbestos and lead paint remediation time. Probably for the best that I didn't breathe all that in.

But don't click away thinking I've left you empty handed. Voila, a fascinating window (literally?) into the old Lionel Trains shop of the 1970s.

Stay tuned for more Restoration Diary soon. Next up: interior demolition. Get excited for the crumbling walls to come tumbling down. (While carefully preserving key character-enhancing elements, of course.)

David Garber is the blog editor at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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.

Our Fascination with Pretty Pictures of Needy Places

Posted on: December 23rd, 2011 by David Garber 7 Comments


I was making my way through the internet this morning and came across a couple articles highlighting old and abandoned places. Not at all unusual here, but for some reason they got me thinking - thinking about our complete fascination with the images that show those places off. You know, the photos of caved-in houses and old train depots with long-shattered windows and graffitied hallways. It's almost become an industry unto itself, yet the photographs - limited by their frames - rarely tell the full story. What does the surrounding neighborhood (or lack thereof) look like? What political decisions have made these places fail? Who is still there, struggling to create a sustainable future?

(Photo: Flickr user tibchris)

Why are we so fascinated by pretty pictures of needy places? Until this morning I've brushed them off as a largely insensitive well-framed, grungy counterpoints to the mediums in which we usually see these images: glossy magazines, bright computer screens, or crisp, white-walled galleries - and there's something to that. There's an artistic draw to the broken, and with it, the temptation to keep the images out of context. Entertainment over investment.

(Photo: Flickr user Jon Bradley Photography)

For three years I lived in Washington, DC's historic Anacostia neighborhood. The neighborhood has its charms: dollhouse Victorians (albeit many in need of repair), open spaces, and active neighborhood groups. But it's better known for the things that bring it down: the drug busts, bullet-proof glass retail, the crumbling facades, and the severed connections to the rest of the city. But the neighborhood doesn't want it to stay that way, and is actively seeking solutions to repair and restore. There's much less romance in boarded-up buildings when they exist, not printed in black and white, on your own block.

(Photo: Flickr user sebastien.barre)

But rather than disparage the "pretty pictures of sad places" craft I'd like to offer a more hopeful explanation for our fascination with them. These images get more screen and gallery space than positive images. And while it would be wonderful if there was a greater journalistic and artistic effort to highlight the good, there are reasons we are drawn to the falling down: they get our hearts pumping faster and we are connected into needs without any expectation that we'll follow up and do anything about them.

(Photo: Flickr user Howzy)

There are at least two ways we can respond to this phenomenon. We can see the pictures and go on: Leave the gallery, turn the page, click away. Or we harness their energy, allow them to become inspirations, and become doers. These images serve as an important reminder that there is still a lot left to restore before more needs to be created. And we're the only ones that can do anything about it.

David Garber is the blog editor at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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.