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  • Alex E. Wendt

The Complexities of Fixing Historic Buildings

Historic buildings have cultural, personal, and, of course, historical significance. This significance is kept alive through the building itself, and the art or architectural structures within.

Naturally, every historic building will need work at some point. Even the strongest of buildings may undergo wear and tear that threatens its structural integrity as well as its aesthetic beauty. 

When it comes time to fix up a historic building, you may find that the solution isn't so simple.

Read on to learn more about how to fix historic buildings and what you'll need to consider in the process.

What Kind of "Fixing" Does Your Historic Building Need?

Evaluate the project at hand. It's important to distinguish between the different treatments a historic building may need to undergo.

This will help you determine the amount of work that your treatment will require. From there, you can settle on an appropriate budget for the project, and the specialists you should involve.

Historic Preservation

To preserve a building is to focus on maintaining or repairing existing historic structures and materials. It applies to both the parts of the building that are original and the parts that have evolved with time.

Historic Rehabilitation 

Some historic buildings have to change in order to meet the changing needs or uses it will face over time. Rehabilitation seeks to add to or alter the building as it is. It must also maintain the property's historic appearance or characteristics.

Historic Restoration 

Imagine a historic building that has gone through many different stages in its lifetime. Many of the features as they exist now are modern or reflective of a period of time much later than the building's original construction date.

Restoration seeks to remove all evidence of these anachronisms. The building is then brought to its original glory and appearance.

Historic Reconstruction

Reconstruction is often the biggest task historic building caretakers will face. Reconstruction implies that areas of the building have been destroyed or are in a state of heavy disrepair. These sites are then rebuilt to closely resemble their original construction.

Common Fixes Historic Buildings Need

Although each historic building is unique, there are certain fixes they tend to need. Let's take a look at some of those restorative processes that require a specialist's handiwork

Traditional Plaster Restoration

Throughout our nation's history, plaster has been the traditional material used to finish interior walls. From the mixing of the plaster to the technique used to apply it, plastering is one of the many signatures of the original architects and designers who worked on the building.

When plaster becomes severely cracked or damaged, it may be tempting to remove it and redo the wall.

However, historic plaster is durable. It contributes to the building's structural integrity more than you may realize. It is also expensive to wholly replace.

Instead, work with specialists who can restore damaged plaster. It should retain the same look and feel as the original plaster in spite of the new layer. 

Painting and Design Work

Intricate murals and painted designs often beautify the walls of historic buildings, especially churches. Rarely do you see a modern building with ceilings covered in handpainted patterns. Gone are the days of arching walls depicting sprawling scenes from edge to edge.

When these painted areas begin to fade, you start to lose the history you seek to capture. Skilled painters versed in American art history can restore these areas. They will be vibrant once more without altering the appearance of the original paintwork.  

Statuary Restoration

Like murals and painted ceilings, statues serve to capture the history and cultural significance of a historic building. However, repairing them requires careful cleaning and delicate repair work. 

Does marble need to be polished and decades of grime removed? Does paint needs to be reapplied, or do certain areas need recasting? A specialist should always be involved. 

Is The Building on the National Register of Historic Places?

The National Historic Preservation Act was established in 1966 in response to the failure of the Historic American Building Survey. The HABS had documented over 12,000 historic sites in America but by the 1960s, half of them were either destroyed or in a horrible state. 

The National Historic Preservation Act sought to create a larger, more unified effort to preserve our nation's history. It established the National Register of Historic Places.

If your historic building is on the NRHP, you may be entitled to a number of resources that could streamline your project and increase your budget! 

Note that if you are not necessarily confined by federal laws that determine what changes you are allowed to make to the site. However, one of the major considerations for deciding what sites are on the NRHP is authenticity. Has the building been maintained and does it tell a clear story of the history it represents?

For that reason, you want to make sure that you work with the right specialists who will make the needed repairs while preserving the building's historical integrity. 

Finding the Right Specialists 

The restoration or preservation of your historic building is only as good as your specialists. If you need work done on a historic church in Greenwood, Missouri or throughout the Midwest, consider Ecclesiastical Studios & Sons.

Our small team is dedicated to the history and culture of our nation's churches. In order to meet your budgeting needs, we provide our own scaffolding and other necessary materials that can otherwise become costly. 

To find out more about our work and our availability, contact us today. 


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