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Chaloner Building tour and consultation

By | Ilene's Professional Blog, News | No Comments

A visit to the Chaloner Building in Adrian, Michigan gave Norm and I a chance to engage professionally with Mayor Jim Berryman, local historian ScottWestfall, and other local development team members about the potential and opportunities for rehabilitation of this building. Adrian’s streetscape is incredibly intact and holds great architectural interest for its diversity of styles. Flanking buildings from the same time period add to the challenges of isolating an initial project with room to grow.

Tour of the Chaloner Building

University of Michigan Power Plant Tour

By | Ilene's Professional Blog, News | No Comments

One of many buildings opened for tours this week, I chose this one, because I’m always up for a behind-the-scenes tour of raw power. We wore earplugs and safety glasses, and were told not to take photos. In a small group of seven, we were guided through the plant observing the noisy turbines and firing chambers and the eerily quiet command center. Three people monitor all of the controls for the entire system around the clock, and react quickly to power surges and outages. In the next couple of years, major upgrades are planned to simplify this process and allow a smoother response to interruptions of power.

The University is finding many ways to celebrate its Bicentennial and it seems only natural to enjoy as many of these as I can. While I’ve been fortunate to have explored many campus buildings in the course of my career, the Power Plant is one I’d never been inside, even though I’ve walked by many times. Asking if the central-campus location has proved to be an asset or a liability, our guide explained that the site was chosen in 1914 for its low elevation – steam rises, and condensate falls back to the plant. This is still true, of course, so the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Library Lot Proposal

By | News | No Comments

For many years the city of Ann Arbor has been discussing proposals for a new development on a key site in the downtown next to the city’s library. The current proposal is for a massive mixed-use structure with a plaza in front. Ilene and I wrote a letter to City Council expressing our concerns with the current design. We have attached the letter here as a pdf.

New transportation history book

By | News, Norm's Author Blog | No Comments

Norm wants to share his excitement about his new book. For years he has had had a special interest in the history of transportation, both because he likes the study of history in general and because for many years he taught a Transportation Planning course at Eastern Michigan University. The new book currently has a working title of Crossing the Continent: Pioneers of Transcontinental TravelThis story is told through the perspectives of individuals significant in each era of transportation development. Some of the protaganists of this drama are familiar, but in unfamiliar roles—George Washington as a young surveyor trekking to new western territories. Some were entrepreneurs who were ruthless in their quest—Thomas Durant, as master schemer and scammer in charge of building the Union Pacific Railroad. Others were larger-than-life figures now largely forgotten—Carl G. Fisher, an eccentric businessman who instigated and prodded construction of the country’s first coast-to-coast highway as a way to sell more of his automobile headlamps. Other biographical sketches reveal inconceivable feats—Annie Kopchovsky, who in 1894 left her husband and two children for fifteen months to successfully ride a bicycle not only across the country, but around the world. The stories of these individuals and others are marvelous, intriguing, and sometimes unbelievable. A reflection on these individuals and their roles in “Crossing the Continent” provides the focus for this history of American daring and determination during the historical, and historic, evolution of systems of transportation.

Norm is now looking for an agent and a publisher. Stay tuned and you will be the first to know when the manuscript has become a published book.

nortoncoversmallWe are also excited to have been asked by the publisher of our book, Historic Preservation, to update it for a 3rd edition. Written by Norm and Ilene and Ted Ligibel, it remains one of the bestselling books on the topic. For this edition, Ilene has agreed to lead the editorial effort.

Should It Stay or Should It Go

By | Ann Arbor | No Comments

Historic properties are recognized for their place in a community and for their importance to a period in time, in addition to other details, like the architecture and/or persons associated with the property. Where the resource was originally constructed is inexorably linked to to its historic integrity, such that moving the resource to another location raises questions about loss of this integrity. If the foundation is new, does this change perceptions about the resource? Were the old foundation materials significant, or perhaps was the basement or crawl space significant to the history and use of the resource?

Historic properties are recognized for their place in a community and for their importance to a period in time, in addition to other details, like the architecture and/or persons associated with the property. Where the resource was originally constructed is inexorably linked to to its historic integrity, such that moving the resource to another location raises questions about loss of this integrity. If the foundation is new, does this change perceptions about the resource? Were the old foundation materials significant, or perhaps was the basement or crawl space significant to the history and use of the resource?

In most cases, if the resource is threatened with demolition, then moving the structure may be the only option to save any of the memory and physical evidence of the original structure. So, consider the decision with this larger view in mind, but admit that moving the above-ground portion of a building to a new foundation forever changes the building’s larger history. Usually, the history associated with a property can still be told if the structure is still evident, even if relocated and the surrounding context is changed.

Documenting historic properties threatened with demolition captures historical and physical information in a logical and consistent manner for a permanent record of the structure at a particular point in time. Ideally, this would only be to temporarily “mothball” the structure until a productive use and funds can be found, but this can also be extrapolated to include documenting those buildings at risk for complete removal. Preservation Brief 31: Mothballing Historic Buildings, by Sharon C. Park, describes this process. I have clarified and simplified the process for use in our local community of Ann Arbor, Michigan so volunteer preservationists can complete the documentation and put the information in a community archive available to future researchers.

Arthur Miller House

439 S. Division Street

Our first project has been to investigate and document conditions at 439 S. Division Street, a property owned by the University of Michigan. In just under two hours, two of us performed a visual survey of the first floor, second floor, and attic, as well as a walk around the exterior. The basement was not available for visual survey. Sketches of the floor plans provide the general layout at each level, with photo locations indicated. All of the photos are listed in a log with a notation of photo locations and conditions observed.

Separately, an architectural description and statement of significance complement the hard data and provide a larger context for the historic resource. Ultimately, this documentation of the structure will have little impact on its fate. The task for the volunteer preservationists has been primarily to gather readily available information and to create a record of the structure. If discussion should open up about an alternative strategy to save the structure, even if saving it means moving it, then these documents provide a useful reference.

That gets back to the original question: should it stay or should it go? If staying is NOT an option, and if going means moving rather than demolition, should that be viewed as a good thing? I like to think so, as moving provides more options than losing the resource entirely. Although not reversible, everything else can be preserved. It is easier to tell stories about the house, the people who lived there, the details of its design, and any events that took place there, if physical evidence of the house remains. Explain what is lost but be proud of what remains.

Kerrytown Bookfest 2015

By | Ann Arbor, Events | No Comments

We came, we saw, and we survived. We even sold books! It was a different perspective to participate as authors, instead of perusing the sellers’ stalls and sitting in on author talks. While we were pleased with the response to our offerings, we missed the same engagement with others, and will likely return to being a patron/customer next year. The Kerrytown Bookfest is an excellent event that highlights local talent, and we were proud to be in the mix and to share our books. Many thanks to the Board and volunteers who make the event a success for the entire community.

Tyler table at Bookfest 2015

table 109 display before the opening bell

Where in the world…?

By | Travel | No Comments

We thought it would be fun to share this map showing some of the places where we have traveled and stayed for at least a few days. We like to explore new areas each time we leave home.

TravelMap

 

I think we may have missed one or two, but ran out of room. We also have a few in mind to be added in the near future, so this will be updated in the future.

Hydrangea question

By | Ann Arbor | No Comments

When is a plant likely to cause damage to a building? Will the damage be structural or cosmetic? Is structural damage caused by the weight of the plants or by water infiltration or by growth that lifts and displaces materials? All good questions, and all asked about three climbing hydrangea plants at corners of the Peter Heydon buildings on East Washington Street in downtown Ann Arbor.

HeydonSoutheastHydrangea

 

In this case, the climbing plants were knowingly selected by a highly qualified landscape gardener for their beauty, heartiness, and inability to harm the historic masonry. Maintenance is required to keep the plants trimmed away from the wood fascia trim, the shutters, and the windows, but there is no concern about the weight of the vines impacting the masonry structure, nor is there any concern about the vines penetrating the mortar joints or masonry units.

Some plant materials, like English Ivy, can do great harm and should be kept off historic buildings. The little ivy “feet” dig into the mortar and weaken it, then allowing water to enter the joints and cause freeze-thaw damage, which can result in eventual structural damage to the wall.

Mr. Heydon takes great pride in his buildings and their landscaping. Given his care and foresight, they will be preserved for many years for all to enjoy.

 

Ilene strikes a pose

Wilson House Acroterion

By | Ann Arbor | No Comments

Installing a new roof lead inevitably to moments of discovery. The western half had not been re-roofed in a long time, and although there were no underlying shingles, there was also no underlying sheathing or waterproofing. Some of the boards were as much as 18 inches wide. Gaps between boards had been infilled with wood strips, but many of the old boards were badly split and broken. Needless to say, we installed new OSB over the old boards, before proceeding to install new asphalt shingles.