Historic buildings are renewable resources. With proper care and maintenance, they can last for generations. Unfortunately, current public policy promotes the expansion of urban sprawl and does little to encourage the rehabilitation of buildings, whether historic or not.
The Pew Center on Global Climate Change estimates that 43 percent of carbon emissions in the United States are attributable to energy used in the daily operation of residential, commercial and industrial buildings, making the building sector the largest source of green-house gases in America. This figure doesn’t include the energy required to build new structures or to demolish established ones.
As a nation, we are reassessing our impact on the natural environment. There’s a waiting list for hybrid cars and alternative fuels are beginning to be more than just political buzz words. Sustainability now factors greatly into our decision making, impacting what we eat, wear and drive. Meanwhile, the buildings that we spend most of our time in at work and home actually have the largest environmental impact of all and it’s time that we do something about it.
The Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentive Program was originally conceived to sustain and protect our nation’s cultural heritage. Now we know that there are also environmental and sustainability benefits to historic preservation easements.
In this issue of Columns, we identify practical approaches to immediately reducing energy costs related to cooling and heating historic buildings. We also take you on a tour of Baltimore’s Mount Vernon historic district and profile a c. 1710 farmhouse in Stow, Massachusetts that is protected by a historic preservation easement held by the Trust.
As always, I encourage you to contact us for more information about the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentive Program. To place a historic preservation easement on your residential or commercial property prior to the end of the calendar year, be sure to contact us at your earliest convenience.
Steven L. McClain
President, Trust for Architectural Easements
Historic Building Spotlight
Three Centuries of Historic Preservation at the Randall-Hale Homestead
Names can sometimes be misleading. The National Register of Historic Places, for example, is the official list of the country’s historic places worthy of preservation. Thousands of individual properties and historic districts are on the list. This does not guarantee the protection of any of them by preservation laws, however – such laws are municipally enacted and enforced.
Historic preservation easements provide protection in perpetuity for our historic buildings. Easements last forever. Municipal preservation ordinances can come and go, and often do not exist where they are particularly needed.
The Randall-Hale Homestead of Stow, Massachusetts is a case-in-point. Individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this c. 1710 farmhouse is not protected by any local preservation laws. Its historic preservation easement is its only guarantee against future neglect.
The Homestead has weathered the years well. In 1769, at 59 years of age, the house was updated in the Georgian style, the architectural fashion of the time. This classic style remains popular to this day – a perfect example of sustainability.
The Homestead’s current owners placed a historic preservation easement on the building with the Trust in 2006. “We were incredibly impressed with the quality of the house, and it made sense to take the extra step to protect it with an easement,” said owner Eve Fischer. Thanks to Fischer and her husband, the building can not be torn down.
Community Cornerstone – The Mount Morris Ascension Presbyterian Church
A miracle was in-order for the Mount Morris Ascension Presbyterian Church this past summer. A cornerstone institution of New York City’s historic Harlem, the church was very nearly forced to close. Exterior stonework, woodwork, and stained glass were all in great need of repair. Without immediate attention, the seven children’s Head Start classes hosted by the church during the school year would have been cancelled.
Thanks to a grant from the Trust for Architectural Easements, the church’s historic walls and windows have been saved, and Head Start is back up and running again.
The Mount Morris Ascension Presbyterian Church is only one of many houses of worship across the country facing closure due to lack of funds. For every historic church or synagogue that is saved, many more face demolition.
The church dates to 1906, and is “one of the most eccentrically designed churches in New York City,” says Andrew Dolkart, chair of the historic preservation department at Columbia University. Pale yellow Roman bricks are sandwiched between thin red mortar joints. Rough tan sandstone trims the Syrian arches of the entrance. A large copper dome billows above the sanctuary.
The Reverend Arthur Eugene Adair and his wife Dr. Thelma Adair founded the church’s congregation in 1942. Today, Dr. Adair continues to direct the church and its several community-based programs, including the Head Start program. The church’s mission is to serve its community, particularly children – Dr. Adair has guided several generations of young people through the church’s programs. The community has benefited greatly from this commitment. The grant will enable the congregation to continue these good works for generations to come.
Teaching Children About Architecture
Today’s children are tomorrow’s stewards of the built environment. Educating youth about the importance of historic preservation ensures the future protection of the nation’s historic buildings. To this end, the Trust’s education department is bringing architecture into the classroom.
Last spring, the Trust partnered with openhousenewyork, a nonprofit organization specializing in educational programs about the built environment of New York City. Together, the two organizations led a series of workshops for second-grade students at public schools in Brooklyn and the Bronx. Each participating class planned and built an imaginary city on its classroom floor.
The students loved the project. They gave their cities names such as “Ice Cream Town,” “Money City,” and “Candyland.” Each city was carefully planned out, with much thought given to the locations of streets, parks, schools, houses, police and fire stations, and all the other necessities of a well-planned urban environment. The students learned to think like town planners, and to work together in the process.
To make their buildings, the students covered boxes with brightly-colored construction paper, and decorated them. The “Donut Shop,” for example, featured an oversized paper doughnut on its roof, while a bank was covered with dollar signs.
To supplement their city-building, the students toured their school neighborhoods. They learned words such as “column,” “arch,” “pediment,” and “gargoyle.” They also learned a little bit about the history of their schools’ neighborhoods.
This fall, the Trust will be leading similar workshops at public schools in Washington, D.C. The Trust sponsors these and other workshops as part of its educational mission.
Baltimore’s Historic Mount Vernon Cultural District
The Mount Vernon Cultural District in Baltimore consists of venerable institutions, beautiful churches, and plenty of historic architecture, including the Mount Vernon Place National Register Historic District. This walking tour was recommended by Anne E. Bruder, an architectural historian who works for the State of Maryland.
Begin your tour of Mount Vernon at the southwest corner of East Madison and North Calvert Streets, at the St. Ignatius Church built for the Jesuit Order in 1856. Gracefully dressed in red brick and gray granite, the original church complex included the Loyola College and Loyola High School buildings. Enslaved and freed African-Americans worshipped in St. Ignatius’ basement chapel until a separate church was built in 1863.
Walk one block south along North Calvert Street and two blocks west on East Monument Street and East Mount Vernon Place to the Mount Vernon Place Methodist Church, completed in 1872. Clad in six different types of stone – including a rare green serpentine marble from western Baltimore County – this Victorian Gothic Revival style church overlooks Mount Vernon Square, Baltimore’s most celebrated public space. At the center of Mount Vernon Square stands Robert Mills’ Washington Monument, a tall Doric column of white marble. Completed in 1829, this was the first architectural monument to honor George Washington. Inside, marble steps lead to the top of the column, where there is a statue of George Washington.
Southeast of the monument is the Peabody Institute, the music conservatory given to the city of Baltimore by George Peabody. Designed in 1866 in the Renaissance style, the Institute’s white marble facade and column-supported portico recall contemporary London club buildings.
Walk two blocks south of the monument to the Walters Art Museum, at the northwest corner of West Centre Street and Washington Place. In 1905, Henry Walters retained New York society architect William Adams Delano to design the Renaissance style palazzo as an art museum.
Continue south on North Charles Street to West Franklin Street, where you will find the First Unitarian Church at the northwest corner of the intersection. Designed in 1817 as a domed cube fronted by a graceful portico, and covered in white stucco with gold trim, this was the first Unitarian church to be built in the United States. Inside, late-19th-century stained glass windows are from the studio of Louis Comfort Tiffany, an American artist and designer most famous for his Art Nouveau work in stained glass.
Walk one block west on West Franklin Street to the YMCA at the corner of West Franklin and Cathedral Streets. Built in 1906 in the Italian Renaissance palazzo style, and faced with brown brick and green-and-white glazed tile trim, it was home to single men new to living and working in the city in the early 20th century. Today, it is a hotel.
One block south of the YMCA, on the opposite side of the street, is the Enoch Pratt Free Library, built in 1933 in the neoclassical style. The library was founded in 1882 by Baltimore philanthropist Enoch Pratt on the premise that any Baltimore resident – regardless of race – could borrow its books.
Across the street from the library is the Basilica of the Assumption, the oldest Catholic cathedral in North America, designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe in 1804. Latrobe, often referred to as the “Father of American Architecture,” also designed the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., and many other public buildings in the young republic. Prior to his emigration to the United States from London in 1796, British-born Latrobe was London’s Surveyor of the Public Offices. In 1803, Latrobe was appointed Surveyor of the Public Buildings of the United States. The Basilica is one of Latrobe’s most brilliant works.
To learn more about the Mount Vernon Cultural District’s historic buildings, take a walking tour of the area. For a list of self-guided and guided options, we suggest you visit the following websites: Baltimore’s Mount Vernon Cultural District; the Maryland Humanities Council; the Mount Vernon-Belvedere Association.
Historic Home Care
Improve the Energy Efficiency of Your Historic Home
There is a common misconception that historic buildings are not as energy efficient as new buildings. Actually, most were designed with comfort and energy efficiency in mind, and take advantage of natural sources of heating, lighting and ventilation. Data from the U.S. Department of Energy, however, finds that walls, ceilings and floors account for approximately 31 percent of heat loss in all buildings, historic or new.
There are two broad courses of action to take in minimizing the heating and cooling costs of a building. The first involves the use of passive energy-saving measures, which relate to how and when a building is used. These measures are particularly appropriate for historic buildings because they do not require building alterations:
• Lower the thermostat in the winter; raise it in the summer.
• Control the temperature only in those rooms most often used.
• Maximize natural light.
• Use operable windows, shutters, awnings and vents as originally intended to control the interior environment and maximize fresh air.
• Service mechanical equipment regularly to ensure maximum efficiency.
• Clean radiators and forced-air registers to ensure proper orientation.
The second course of action involves reducing heat loss through the attic, roof and basement. Insulating accessible attic spaces is effective, inexpensive, and requires little skill.
The most common attic insulations consist of blankets of fiberglass and mineral wool, loose fill cellulose, and rigid board. If the attic is unheated and not used for habitation, the insulation should be placed between the floor joists with the vapor barrier facing down. If flooring is present, or if the attic is heated, the insulation should be placed between the roof rafters with the vapor barrier facing down (see above).
However, problems can occur if the attic space is not properly ventilated. The insulation can become saturated with moisture and lose its ability to resist heat flow. When the net area of ventilation – the free area of a louver or vent – equals approximately 1/300th of the attic floor area, the attic is properly ventilated.
Substantial heat is also lost through un-insulated basements and crawlspaces. Adding insulation in these locations is an effective measure, but is complicated because of the excessive moisture that is often present. One must be aware of this and ensure that insulation is properly installed for the specific location.