Jump to content

Crimes Against Architecture


Recommended Posts

Mike,

Do you know of any good books on the subject of historic building techniques? Something that starts from the basics, with enough graphics to make things clear? I'm in a town (and an entire local area) with a disproportionate number of these properties, but I'm really not that familiar with what they did back in the day, and how and why they did it. I'll settle for a source of any such books, if you've got one.

Brian G.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Mike,

This has always been a part of the long-term plan for me, but it's hard to get it off the back burner when you're just trying to make it. Developing a historic speciality makes tremendous economic sense here, and it's wide open for the taking. I have a few under my belt already, but I need to build-up a lot more in-depth knowledge. I can just imagine what kind of fees I could charge when one of these Great White Behemoths is gonna move! [:-dopey]

Brian G.

Find Ways to NOT Compete [:-mischievous]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My new website will touch on the fact that I have a deep appreciation for historic homes and keeping them architecturally correct. I don't think you have to be a purist to maintain the essence of the home. It can be done using modern materials and techniques. My own home has urethane dentils and crown moldings,and fiber cement siding to no ill effect. For most people money is a stumbling block that sometimes cannot be overcome in a restoration. There are a few rules that can't be broken: don't wrap the trim in aluminum, don't install vinyl siding, leave the corbels alone, and if possible restore the existing windows.

Someone needs to explain to the owners of these homes that they are high maintenance and that they have to step up to the challenge and get their hands dirty.

My own father has a beautiful huge (7,000 sq feet) Victorian that he went to the trouble and expense of siding with cedar, and installed cedar shingles on the steeple (over 70 feet tall)but then he wrapped his trim, enclosed the porches and installed vinyl windows. The result is from a hundred yards the house looks old, but loses that effect as you approach it. To his credit, the place would have fallen to ruin without his intervention.

Inspecting old homes is going to be a focus of mine and I eventually would like to be known as the local authority on the subject. I think there's money in them there old ones.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chad,

How about posting some pics of your home? It sounds interesting.

Mike,

Did you happen to get any pics of the home you wrote about in the "Crimes" article?

I'm in the same ball park as Brian. I love older homes but my experience working on them is limited. In the downtown district of Houston, the popular thing is to doze the older ranch style homes built in the 30's, 40's and 50's and put up behemouth 4k to 7k square footers. I usually end up telling the clients that the little ranch home that was dozed was built better than the new one. For some reason, a few of the builders have taken offense at this statement.

Donald

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mike

I own a home that was built in the late 1860’s out of a rock material called Oolite. It is a very beautiful white stone. My home used to be an old roller mill and has many interesting characteristics that I would love to preserve but as has been mentioned before will cost a significant amount of money. To compensate for this I am currently taking historic restoration classes that are being offered by a company that is very reputable. I am very found of old construction and they make up a very large percentage of my work.

The story that I wanted to tell is that I had an opportunity to do a very large home that was built around 1900 on the other side of the mountain. It was a two-hour drive one way but did it because a large amount of my relatives came from that side of the mountain and the age of the home

As I walked up to the home I was completely awed by the beauty of the architecture, and was even more impressed at the interior and how well it had been preserved. Fortunately a single woman devoted to restoring this home was the current owner. She was quite old and could no longer continue in this large home. During the inspection she would show me several things that as a home inspector I would have missed. For example: The builder of this home was a polygamist and under the stairs was a hidden door that opened up into a room where he would hide his other wives and children, this same thing would happen in the bedrooms where there were hidden panels and false walls. The most amazing thing was a tunnel that was lined with rock that leads out into an open field some hundred yards away. (Too many spider webs for me to go into.) This home was build during the time that the government was cracking down on the polygamists in the area. I have never seen such a home. I was in this home most of the day and still felt like I had not seen everything.

Now for the interesting part: I knew that my great, great grandfather had spent several years in prison for refusing to not practice polygamy. (Something that did not carry on with the rest of the family.) I started to inquire on whom the builder was and if they had done all the woodwork and building. The lady told me the name and it stopped me in my tracks. It was my great, great grandfather who had built this home. I did some further investigation since the home is registered with the historical society and sure enough, I had the opportunity of looking at the ingenuity and craftwork of a master, my great, great grandfather, the polygamist.

Jon

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Brian,

Finding books on historic building techniques that cover any specific region is difficult. A large majority of nationally published books focus on traditions found only in New England. In my little service area, there are historic Swedish, Dutch, English and German buildings, all with their own characteristics and building techniques.

The best printed sources that I have found helpful all came from out-of-print/used book stores or libraries. Local authors, historic societies and colleges have published books, papers and studies that can't be found at Barnes & Noble.

Another valuable resource for me was getting involved with local historic sites and districts. Seeing meticulously restored and documented buildings first hand gave me additional technical knowledge and also enriched my appreciation and dedication to historic preservation. Even if you don't get involved, just touring some restored/preserved old buildings will increase your knowledge of local historic architecture and building techniques. The tour guides are always surprised when you ask to see the basement and attic!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mr. Kibbel,

I'll be damned, welcome the discussion. I visited your site months ago and filed it away in my brain (somewhat risky, yes). I was thinking of emailing you to ask that same question, and one other. Since you're here...

Does your organization have anything similar to a candidate program? I'm not looking to do anything but gain access to historically experienced inspectors like yourself, I don't need for my name to appear anywhere. You guys do have a members forum, right? The value of the information exchanged in these wandering threads is tremendous, but would be even more so in your field.

Brian G.

If Not, Tell Me a Pretty Lie That Won't Crush My Hopes

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Brian,

That's a great idea. I never did like the candidate label though. Let's call it "Aspirant".

As far as a members forum, we plan on setting up an online group soon and we will welcome you and any other inspector interested in learning more and educating homebuyers about preserving our architectural heritage.

Until then, here are other resources that may be helpful:

http://inspecthistoric.org/resource.htm

Scroll down to Technical Resources.

Or visit our historic homes info at:

http://www.geocities.com/asiedydd/

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is a topic of great interest to me. I'm glad to have Mr. Kibbel on board; he's a great source of information.

I'll admit, my own education on the subject is OJT. My moms house is a Greek Revival built in 1852. It still has the faux woodgrain door panels & other interior paint finish details. I grew up wondering why we had to work so hard to save all that old stuff.

I've been working on knob & tube since about age 14, reworking old rotten woodwork, salvaging windows w/ the wavy glass, tuckpointing stone foundations, etc., etc. all my life. Of course, working in Chicago, 100 year old homes are a regular occurrence. Our tragedy is the demolition of fine masonry buildings w/ the ubiquitous Type N mortar.

I'm going to have a seperate web page for my old building stuff; it is a distinct skill category requiring both book study & hands on experience.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by inspecthistoric

That's a great idea. I never did like the candidate label though. Let's call it "Aspirant".

I don't know...sounds like sombody coughed me up. How about "Associate", that has a nice ring to it. Or we can call it like it is..."Wannabe". At first one would be a "Newbie Wannabe" (say that 10 times fast!). In any event, I'd jump at the chance. I vote in advance to maintain the current standards and not publicly list historic greenhorns like myself until we fully meet them.

As far as a members forum, we plan on setting up an online group soon and we will welcome you and any other inspector interested in learning more and educating homebuyers about preserving our architectural heritage.

Outstanding. I'm sure some of our other resident knotheads would be very interested as well (note Kurt's post for proof of both).

Columbus was a hospital town during the Civil War, so we didn't lose much. The nearby towns didn't either, most of the fighting in the area was in the countryside. We got 'em, and plenty of 'em. Some are pristine, some have been update to a degree, and some are not so lucky.

Thanks for the links.

Brian G.

The First "Historic" Associate to be?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by hausdok

Hi,

While we're on the subject, this just came out. A fast printer, some comb bindings some card stock and it makes a nice addition to the library. I love free stuff. Don't know why, but when they're free I can even read statistics without falling asleep.

Here's the Link: These Old Houses 2001

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

Interesting stuff!

These statistics explain why we don't see much "old" stuff in Central Texas. I can never figure out whether Texas is South or West (probably more South), but either way, about 90% of houses were built after 1959.

Austin was founded about 1836 and the oldest house I've inspected was built in 1906. (The only electricity in the place was a bare bulb hanging by a cord in the center of each room...but that's another story). Unless there's real historical significance, most old houses around here get extensive remodels or bulldozed. There is a push to preserve the look of old neighborhoods, but that ends at the elevation.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

After checking out their website the other day I went ahead and joined the Nat'l Trust for Historic Preservation for a year. For a measley $20 you get 6 issues of "Preservation", a tax deduction, and a nifty tote bag for the little woman. I doubt if many of the articles will be on the line I'd like, but I'll learn something anyway. I'll also have a chance to find out who else around here is involved, maybe get connected with the local preservation community. You just never know where these things might lead to.

Brian G.

Toucan Brian, Following His Nose

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was just wandering around www.theoldhouseweb.com and found a bunch of reprints of historic house books. They're all cheap too, about $8 - $12 each. The only thing is, they never say what physical size they are, might be small. The umpteen detailed drawings wouldn't be much fun if you had to squint.

Yo Mike, they've got some turn-of-the-century Bungalow plan books by Stickley and others. I admit it, I'm a sucker for Bungalow and Prarie. They both look very sturdy and solid, but with a certain quiet elegance.

If anyone's interested, go to that site and click on "Restoration Bookstore", then look under "Featured Collections". The next to last item in the left column is "Historic Reprints".

Brian G.

Up Late Again

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I ordered 3 of those historic reprints yesterday, should be here in a few days. I finally found out they were all around 12 x 9 inches, so we're talking full sized pages. If any of them is particularly well-suited for HI reading I'll let you gents know about it.

Brian G.

I Wonder If I Might Find George in a Drawing in the One From 1869? [:D] [:-dev3]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Back when I was younger and "foolisher" I spent abt a year on the west side of Chicago at Central and Washington, Kurt knows the exact corner. I commuted once per week home to Beaver Island and did a few inspections in Michigan to keep beans on the table. I learned more about historic buildings during that year than in the time since of before. It takes a real passion to really become a historic building inspector. I worked the year for nothing, but got hands on experience with Wright's house, Mt Sienna Girls school

(convent), Rivera's Mob safe opening downtown, several closed movie theaters, countless houses, etc.. I also wormed my way into the old intercontinental hotel downtown. In New Mexico in Jan this year I went thru every unlocked door at LaPosada. I also took the historic tour of the Casino. Historic houses and buildings are like scooters and pickups - everyone wants a new one, but likely has an old one in the barn. I have been a national trust member for twenty plus years and particularily like their Christmas Card offerings.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by Les

Back when I was younger and "foolisher" I spent abt a year on the west side of Chicago at Central and Washington, Kurt knows the exact corner. I commuted once per week home to Beaver Island and did a few inspections in Michigan to keep beans on the table. I learned more about historic buildings during that year than in the time since of before. It takes a real passion to really become a historic building inspector. I worked the year for nothing, but got hands on experience with Wright's house, Mt Sienna Girls school

(convent), Rivera's Mob safe opening downtown, several closed movie theaters, countless houses, etc..

Ah, the things we do when we're young and foolish. If they're so foolish, why do we tend to remember them so fondly? Sounds like good experience.

I also wormed my way into the old intercontinental hotel downtown. In New Mexico in Jan this year I went thru every unlocked door at LaPosada. I also took the historic tour of the Casino.

The long-term plan slowly forming in the back of my mind includes a lot of meeting the local people who live in these homes and asking to snoop around in their attics, crawl spaces, etc. If I know my people, most won't mind at all. I have worked on a few from time to time as a carpenter, but I wouldn't claim most of it was "restoration". More like "Can we get a closet out of this space somehow?".

I took a first run through the county library this morning, and as predicted by Brother Kibbel there was gold in them thar shelves. I found a few books with good relevance, but particularly one with an entire chapter about historic homes in Columbus (2 smaller chapters on neighboring towns as well). While I was there I served notice on my local archivist that I would be coming back to plunder his extensive photographic section. I wonder if I could be lucky enough to find photos of some of the slightly post-antebellum monsters during framing? Hope so.

Brian G.

Old Times Here Are Not Forgotten,

But Now It's Soybeans Instead of Cotton [:-hspin]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Brian G, I have 100+ old books and publications on houses, carpentry etc. One of my favorites is Practical Carpentry, Shrewesbury Publishing Chicago Ill 1930, there is no ISBN #. Also Audels Carpenter and Builders Guide(s)are frequently found in garage sales. There is about a bizzillion editions, but most are quite useful. If you get vocal enough, anything to do with houses and buildings fill in all the gaps for "presents received". Good luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by Les

One of my favorites is Practical Carpentry, Shrewesbury Publishing Chicago Ill 1930, there is no ISBN #.

Hey Les,

I'll give ya $10 for that old rag...even throw in the shipping, just 'cause I like you. What do you say? [:D]

Brian G.

Ever Tried Any Snake-Oil? It's Great! [:-dev3]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by Les

Back when I was younger and "foolisher" I spent abt a year on the west side of Chicago at Central and Washington, Kurt knows the exact corner. I commuted once per week home to Beaver Island and did a few inspections in Michigan to keep beans on the table. I learned more about historic buildings during that year than in the time since of before. It takes a real passion to really become a historic building inspector. I worked the year for nothing, but got hands on experience with Wright's house, Mt Sienna Girls school

(convent), Rivera's Mob safe opening downtown, several closed movie theaters, countless houses, etc.. I also wormed my way into the old intercontinental hotel downtown. In New Mexico in Jan this year I went thru every unlocked door at LaPosada. I also took the historic tour of the Casino. Historic houses and buildings are like scooters and pickups - everyone wants a new one, but likely has an old one in the barn. I have been a national trust member for twenty plus years and particularily like their Christmas Card offerings.

Yep, I know that corner. More than a few old ones in that neighborhood. Who were you working for?

I do the same thing w/ the "guerilla" inspection thing; old steam tunnels, abandoned buildings, church steeples, etc. Don't wanna get caught because it's trespassing, but man is it fun.

Snuck into an unlocked passage of a church in South Bend, Indiana last summer & managed to make it all the way to the top of the bell tower.

Beaver Island? Are you a St. James townie, or were your ancestors some of King Strangs bunch? Just kidding on the Strang thing....

I've spent more than a few nights camped on Beaver Island; I usually favor the SW corner of the island where I "poach" a few good campsites.

How about the Bailey boy? Is he still building surfboards & windsurfers on the island in winter? I heard he headed out to Oregon many years ago, but that he's been back to island(?).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Attending an APT conference satisfies one of the requirements for membership in The Historic Building Inspectors Assoc., provided the subjects are similar to some of the past workshops. Examples: "Wood Preservation, Masonry Restoration, Assessing Historic Structures, Structural Engineering for Older Buildings, structural triage for historic buildings, mitigating the impact of unsympathetic repairs." Workshops like "conservation of heritage submarines" would not qualify.

Doug, Kurt & Brian,

Same sex marriage is not a requirement for membership, but we don't discriminate either.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by Douglas Hansen

As an added bonus, Kurt and Brian could get married while they're here.

No way, Kurt is just too-too butch for me. But you on the other hand, Dougie-Baby, you're the cats' pajamas. You're sooooo knowledgeable and masterful!

Brian G.

Putty in Dougie's Hands [:D]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I recieved the three historic reprints I ordered, the ones I mentioned a few posts back. I've been meaning to post about them, but I've just been too busy to get a good long look at them.

First off, as promised, they're not puny (9 x 11-ish, all). The quality is pretty good too, especially for about $10. I did have the very center page come out of one, but so what, I'll fix it.

At first look, the best of the bunch for my purposes is definitely Old House Measured And Scaled Detail Drawings For Builders And Carpenters by William A. Radford, originally published in 1911. This is 200 pages of detailed drawings of every imaginable part of a house, from the simplest corner moulding to timber framing and back. Some of it is so detailed it can be difficult to tell exactly what you're looking at. Common items like windows, columns, sills, cabinets, doorways, etc., and things that no longer exist like wooden garage doors, ice houses, silos, you name it. If it was a useable architectural item of the era there's probably a drawing of one in here. I love the cornice drawings with the built-in gutters...trippy! The framing stuff is my favorite though, just the kind of thing I was hoping for. Man, they weren't kidding when they did it.

Less useful but very interesting is A Victorian Housebuilder's Guide by George E. Woodward & Edward G. Thompson, originally published in 1869. No meaty frame details here, but some incredible ornate trim designs for all kinds of woodwork. Stairs, rails, brackets, doorways, windows, etc., etc., etc. One page shows 8 different lattice patterns, and they ain't squares brother. Beautiful! One of those is gonna wind-up around my front porch when I get to the re-do project.

The third is a "pattern" book, or what we would call a house plan book, Turn-of-the-Century House Designs by William T. Comstock, originally published in 1893. It's pretty much what it says it is, with some price estimates that will make any modern homeowner shake his head in disbelief and envy.

If this kind of thing interests you and you're a blank slate like I am, these reprints aren't a bad place to start for the money. If I get my image-posting problems worked out I'll scan a few pages for the curious.

Brian G.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey Mike,

Why not combine your profession with your passion and put up a "Historic / Old House" conference for us. You can start it by moving this thread over. I'm sure some of the visitors would be interested in it too, if they knew it was here. Generate interest, spread the preservation gospel, facilitate the learning process...Win, Win, Win deal!

I promise it won't lie dormant.

Brian "Post or Die" Goodman

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Brother Kibbel,

Just so I know, what do you like to be called? There must be a dozen variations on "William", at least.

Your bio says you've written several articles on this subject. Where could I find them? I tried some of the links at the website, a few of them didn't work (expired, moved, whatever).

My fabulous library find Historic Architecture In Mississippi says there are approximately 100 antebellum homes in Columbus / Lowndes county. I would guess about that many more in the neighboring counties, plus all of the slightly post-antebellum ones and everything since. Keep making the circle bigger and the number grows rapidly, I'm sure. I seem to fairly well located. [:-thumbu]

Brian G.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...