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Ann Arbor

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

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.