Managing Historic Structures

Stewardship of your home in the Elgin Historic Districts

Stewardship is the bottom line.

It seeks to minimize loss of historic materials and to maintain historic character.

Information concerning historic structures is often brought to light for the first time during a construction project., the framing of a wall system is exposed, or an original detail is discovered. Valuable information is gathered, recorded, and put into a field notebook or folder. Later, when the project is completed, the information is filed away and forgotten, possibly even thrown out, by the homeowner, or their heirs.

What happened to the structure during the period you were responsible for its well-being? The structure was in your hands; you assisted in its treatment. It is your responsibility to document that work; not only what you did, but how you did it, what you used, where you got it, and the actual changes that were made to the structure during your tenure as its steward. It is your responsibility to pass this information on to the next steward of the property.

One response to the potential loss of materials and character is the mandate for improved record keeping.

A more common term used in the professional construction industry is POST CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTATION. Any contractor who has followed a historic project for many years is familiar with this phrase. It comes after the punch list items have been completed. Usually it lingers as the last part of each projects close-out. Often it is not given the attention it deserves. Without the commitment of the homeowner and the  construction team to get this documentation completed, valuable information regarding the project can be lost forever.

Typically, the Post-Construction Documentation package includes such things as the operations and maintance manual, construction drawings, measured drawings, field sketches, as-built drawings, and possibly the project files.
They include changes in construction different from design drawings.

New materials and replacement features should be recorded in place with photographs or drawings that clearly show their extent.

Physical evidence of the development history of a structure should also be recorded before being removed or covered during the project.

These things and more are required to put together the package of information that is called the RECORD OF TREATMENT.

Contracts must be clearly written and specific. Any changes clearly marked and included. Pricing documentation.

Specifications that were followed, All changes made during a project are graphically documented with cleanly marked drawings and photographs.

Video tape including narrative is becoming the new standard to the more progressive field operatives.

Customer narrative, maintance updates.

The scope and complexity of the Record of Treatment is directly related to the complexity of the project. Records documenting the replacement of a historically accurate front porch will be more complex than the records documenting the removal of a non-supporting wall in the front bedroom.

All this information should be clearly dated, and marked with the address of the property and your wished that it remain with the property and not be disposed of.

No matter if you personally think your home is not worth so much effort, beauty and historic value is in the eye of the beholder.

Every year your historic home becomes even more beautiful to many of us.

Do it Yourself Maintance, Like a Pro.

The National Trust is a strong advocate of maintenance planning, and frequently offers educational sessions on this topic at its national preservation conferences. All building owners and managers recognize the value of maintenance, but the value of maintenance planning is often overlooked, and it is a very important component of good stewardship for a historic site. The first objective of a maintenance plan is to foster more planned and less unpredicted maintenance. With good prediction, action can precede system failure or material loss. Long-term cyclical improvements can be charted and scheduled, with the advantage that both staff and finances are budgeted in advance of the need. Unpredicted maintenance, especially a crisis or emergency, is undesirable because it corresponds with loss of historic fabric and authenticity, and ultimately decreases the cultural value of the property.

A good maintenance plan also includes two major benefits which can save time and money- the task list and the schedule. The task list breaks down the maintenance into smaller tasks which are easier for everyone to identify, prioritize, and accomplish. The schedule allows tasks to be purposefully spread out, gives staff the opportunity to plan ahead to perform similar tasks in one operation, and helps control the frequency of tasks.

Consequently, economies of scale are realized, staff time is effectively allocated, and efforts are focused on the most important items.

Basic guide for walking the yellow brick road. 

Excellent article on Sustainability

Heritage Commission