Tools

 

Written by Robert Verrier, FAIA, NCARB

For more than 30 years, historic preservation tax incentives have been helping architects, builders, and private citizens transform historic buildings for new uses, preserving architectural heritage, and benefiting communities all over the country.  I should know, because using tax credit incentives has been key to my business for just as many years, allowing me and one of my partners Mike Binette to save clients money while restoring more than 150 historic commercial,  industrial, and educational structures -- many of which can be found on the National Register of Historic Places.

We are proud of what we’ve achieved in and around Boston -- an American city rich in history and beautiful old buildings -- but we’re also excited about how these incentives have helped Boston and cities like it all over the country.


Bourne Mill, one of America's oldest cotton gins, in Tiverton, Rhode Island.

The recent debate over historic preservation tax incentives is long on political orthodoxy but short on common sense. The benefits of these tax credits are indisputable. By redeveloping historic buildings, tax credits save our architectural heritage and spur new private investment, create construction jobs, and set the stage for new economic activities, such as tourism.

There’s nothing like a broken window to scare off businesses. Any savvy investor will agree that commercial activity gets a bump when abandoned buildings are brought back to life, or derelict properties are restored to their former grandeur. 

But there’s much more. Many historic buildings serve as the visual gateway to entire towns and neighborhoods. They anchor their communities, and often had a central role in making them happen. Examples are everywhere -- churches, town halls, first settler homesteads, factories, schools, mills, lighthouses, and office and institutional buildings. Our architecture firm has spent four decades restoring and adapting old mills and other historic structures throughout New England and along the East Coast -- each of which has precipitated in some way the rebirth and growth of the community.


St. Aidan's Catholic Church in Brookline, Massachusetts, where John F. Kennedy was baptized.

Why does this matter? First, these landmarks are part of the fabric and collective memory of their communities. Generations of families made their living inside those factories, connecting the old stone walls with their family history. They root us to the place.

More so, these old buildings have great bones and can reinvigorate their neighborhoods once again. Many adapted mills have taken on new lives, such as commercial, hospitality, community centers and a wide array of residential type uses. In this way, these historic structures have brought their towns and neighborhoods back to life.

Preservation is also the greenest thing we can do. For example, in Dorchester, Mass., the 1765 Baker Chocolate Factory grew to employ hundreds. After shuttering in 1969, it sat mute and untended until its conversion to a community of apartments, assisted living, and more. The work took decades to complete and recycled tons of brick, granite block and many hundreds of massive wood beams and deck.

Today, Dorchester Lower Mills not only has hundreds of new residents, it has become a vibrant downtown with cafés, boutiques, and a bustling grocery store. People visit for fun, ambiance -- and history. In this way, historic tax credits create a valuable commodity: hope.


Baker Chocolate Factory (side view) in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

Proof of old and historic buildings' attraction and economic value is everywhere. And many of our friends and clients -- mayors, real estate developers, bankers, and residents -- will vouch that the same results never would have been accomplished without historic federal and state tax credits.

Our country’s history deserves better than a wrecking ball. If you believe in America’s past -- and our chances for a better collective future -- historic tax credits are something you can and must believe in, too.

Robert Verrier, FAIA, NCARB and Michael Binette, AIA, NCARB, are partners at The Architectural Team, Inc., a Boston-based architecture firm specializing in master planning, hospitality, mixed-use, multi-family housing, and historic preservation and adaptive reuse.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is committed to raising awareness of the importance of the historic tax credit and advocating for a few strategic improvements that would expand its already impressive track record of saving places, creating jobs and revitalizing communities. You can help! Visit SaveHistoricCredit.org.

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.

[10 on Tuesday] 10 Twitter Terms Explained, Preservation-Style

Posted on: September 18th, 2012 by Sarah Heffern

 

“I don’t read your tweets. Everything on Twitter looks like it’s written in some sort of code that only the cool kids understand.”

This statement, made not too long ago by my younger sister, is one I’ve heard echoed by many others, including many colleagues in preservation. Since I’ve spent a couple of weeks making lists of why social media is important to our work and how to find the time to do it, I thought a quick primer on Twitter might be a great next step.

Bonus: This is actually two lists of 10 wrapped into one. Each explanation comes with an example from a local preservationist or preservation organization that’s worth following on your own account!

1. Feed:  The main item you see when you’re logged into your Twitter account. The feed is made up of the latest tweets from the people you follow. The feed for @PresNation looks like this:

@PresNation Twitter Feed


2. Following:
The users whose tweets you have chosen to see. A good way to find new people or organizations is to look at who other preservationists are following; for example, check out who @FHLouisiana (Foundation for Historical Louisiana) tracks on Twitter. You don’t have to follow everyone, of course, but it’s a helpful way to discover like-minded folks.

3. Followers: The people who follow you. There is no requirement to follow everyone who follows you, but if someone looks interesting, by all means, follow them back! Here’s an example of a list of followers from our @PresNationLive account.

4. Tweet:  The message you send out. The maximum length is 140 characters, including links to websites or images. Twitter automatically shortens any link to 20 characters (no matter how long it is!) and you can upload photos from either the Twitter website or its mobile applications.


5. RT:
Short for retweet, which is the term used for sharing a tweet created by someone else. Retweets can be done two ways:

  • Using the retweet button, which sends the entire tweet in its original format to your followers.
  • Using the quote tweet option (alas, only available on mobile applications), which allows you to add a comment before or after before sending.

You may also see MT, rather than RT. This stands for modified tweet, and is used when editing someone else’s tweet: 

 6. @mention: Using someone’s Twitter handle in a tweet so it links back to their account.


7. @reply:
Replying to a person’s question/comment; others' @replies show up in your feed only if you follow both the sender and the receiver. If you'd like your @replies to be visible to all, add a period before the @.


8. #hashtag:
Using a “#” before a word makes it a clickable search term in Twitter. We often use #preservation, #savingplaces, #PresConf, and #builtheritage. If you’re planning a campaign that uses Twitter, such as #SavePrentice, it’s a great idea to come up with a hashtag in advance and do a quick search on Twitter to see if anyone else is using it.

If a hashtag or other term becomes wildly popular, it is said to be trending -- and appears in a box on your main page, to the left of the feed.

Additional note about hashtags: they are also often used to denote a side comment or sarcasm. So, if you see a hashtag like #nerdswithcameras, it’s not really meant to be a search term.

9. Direct message: Twitter’s non-public communication channel. It can be found via the envelope icon on most mobile apps or in the same drop-down menu as settings on the Twitter website. You can only send direct messages to people that follow you.

@PresNation direct message

10. Twitter chat/Tweet chat. A designated time for folks to discuss a topic, using a hashtag to gather all the conversation together. We host one monthly on the #builtheritage hashtag, and @JennWelborn, a public historian, has pulled together a list of other history-related chats on her blog.

Did I miss anything you find incomprehensible about Twitter? Let me know in the comments, and I'll follow up.

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 Common Preservation Terms Defined

Posted on: September 11th, 2012 by Emily Potter 7 Comments

 

As you delve into preservation projects (maybe our 10 on Tuesday posts have inspired you to green your home or use social media to promote your cause), you might find you need a little clarification on common -- and seemingly interchangeable -- preservation terms. We’ve pulled together 10 (surprise!) of the big ones for you here.

1. Preserve: To maintain a site’s existing form through careful maintenance and repair.

2. Conserve: To keep a place in a safe or sound state in such a way as to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect. This often refers to environmental and natural resources.

3. Cultural resource: Broadly, this is evidence of past human activity and includes places like buildings or old roads, battlefields, sacred landscapes, and historic artifacts or objects. They are generally considered non-renewable resources.

4. Reconstruct: To re-create an historic place that has been damaged or destroyed; to erect a new structure resembling the old by using historical, archaeological, or architectural documents.

5. Rehabilitate: To repair a structure and make it usable again while preserving those portions or features of the property that are historically and culturally significant.

6. Remodel: To change a building without regard to its distinctive features or style. This often involves changing the appearance of a structure by removing or covering original details and substituting new materials and forms.

7. Renovate: To repair a structure and make it usable again, without attempting to restore its historic appearance or duplicate original construction methods or materials.

8. Restore: To return a site to its original form and condition as represented by a specified period of time using materials that are as similar as possible to the original ones.

9. Stabilize: To protect a building from deterioration by making it structurally secure, while maintaining its current form.

10. Easement (as it relates to historic preservation): A voluntary legal agreement, typically in the form of a deed, which permanently protects a historic property.

Now it’s time for a pop quiz! Just kidding. We hope this glossary is a handy reference for you going forward.

If you’ve already familiarized yourself with these terms through personal experience, tell us about it -- have you rehabilitated an older home, reconstructed an old barn, or dealt with/put in place easements on a historic property? Also, any other terms you’d like to better understand?

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.

Go In-Depth with the Preservation Leadership Forum Blog

Posted on: September 7th, 2012 by Julia Rocchi

 

Knowledge is power. And in the field of preservation, more knowledge can mean more places saved.

For all our readers who want to deepen their understanding of the latest preservation research, tools, and trends, you  have a terrific new resource at your disposal: the Preservation Leadership Forum Blog.

The Forum Blog is the latest benefit from Preservation Leadership Forum, a network of preservation leaders -- professionals, students, volunteers, activists, experts -- who share the latest ideas, information, and advice, and have access to in-depth materials and training. (Learn about all Forum benefits here.)

Where Preservation Nation goes broad, spotlighting a wide variety of people and places around the U.S., the Forum Blog goes deep with rich, timely content that's "just a little wonky." In its own words:

Our goal is to be your filter -- providing well-researched articles, preservation news and analysis, advocacy information, and links to important stories.  The blog is also a place for you to share your viewpoints and hear from colleagues across the country.   We hope it will spur discussion and inspire solutions to critical preservation challenges.

We encourage you to check it out, comment, and share it as a resource with others doing the good work of 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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the associate director for 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] 10 Ways to Green Your Historic Home

Posted on: August 14th, 2012 by Julia Rocchi 8 Comments

 


Job Corps students help restore Grey Towers National Historic Site to make it a more sustainable facility.

We walked you through 10 easy ways to weatherize your historic home a couple weeks ago. Now we want to help you take it a step further with these simple approaches to making your home more sustainable.

But what exactly do we mean when we say “sustainable,” at least in the context of historic preservation? Well, we’re talking about using what we already have -- in this case, buildings, and the features and materials that make them unique and historic. Many older homes were constructed with energy efficiency in mind (when home owners once had no choice, because things like central AC weren’t an option), so their “environmental friendliness quotient” is already high.

Today it’s up to us, the current caretakers, to continue retrofitting and reusing these places in ways that both honor their original construction and also reduce their environmental footprint in a modern world.

So let’s not waste any more energy -- here are 10 tips for greening your historic home.

1.    Keep original windows intact. Studies show that older windows can perform as well as vinyl replacements. Weatherstrip them so that they seal tightly, caulk the exterior trim, and repair cracked glazing or putty around glass panels. You'll reduce landfill waste and the demand for vinyl, a non-biodegradable material that gives off toxic byproducts when it's made.

2.    Use light paint colors for your house's exterior. Lighter colors reflect heat better than darker ones. Many older homes were typically painted with light-reflecting finishes, so you can be sustainable and accurate in one fell swoop.

3.    Insulate the attic, basement, and crawl space. About 20 percent of energy costs come from heat loss in those areas. Just take care to avoid materials that can damage historic fabric.

4.    Reuse old materials such as brick, stone, glass, and slate when making home improvements. You can also scour local salvage shops to find contemporaneous materials (and save it from going to a landfill).

5.    Plant trees. Evergreen trees on the north and west sides of your house can block winter winds, and leafy trees on the east, west, and northwest provide shade from the summer sun. Use old photos of your house to try to match the historic landscaping. (Don’t have photos? See our tips on researching your home’s history!)


Example of a well-shaded wraparound porch on a historic home in Oxford, North Carolina.

6.    When appropriate, open the windows and use fans and dehumidifiers, which consume less energy than air-conditioning. Many old houses were designed with good cross-ventilation; take advantage of your home's layout. Ceiling fans lower the perceived temperature in summer, lessening reliance on air conditioning and saving energy. And in the winter, they draw warm air down from the ceiling, saving on heating costs. So again, double benefit for one change.

7.    Keep doors airtight by weatherstripping, caulking, and painting them regularly. Recent studies suggest that installing a storm door is not necessarily cost-effective. Better to keep your doors in fighting shape -- and ideally in keeping with the character of the house.

8.    Install fireplace draft stoppers, attic door covers, and dryer vent seals that open only when your dryer is in use. An open dampener in a fireplace can increase energy costs by 30 percent, and attic doors and dryer vent ducts are notorious energy sieves.

9.    Restore porches and awnings. Porches, awnings, and shutters were intended for shade and insulation, plus they add a lot of personality to your home. To further save energy, draw shades on winter nights and summer days.

10.    Inspecting, maintaining, and repairing your existing roof is the best way to "go green" by using what you already have. Depending on the materials, installation, and ongoing maintenance, some roofs will last longer than others. We hope to present more info on solar-powered roof systems in future 10 on Tuesday posts -- stay tuned!

And as we mentioned in our weatherizing post, an energy audit is the best place to start. It will help you determine what you need to do now and exactly how much you’re likely to save.

Happy greening!

Want a ballpark estimate on the cost of going green? Check out our Green Guide to get a sense of how long it might take to recover the dollars you invest.

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 associate director for 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.