Preservation Standards: We All Have to Follow the Rules.

Perhaps the most common argument made by anti-preservationists has been that local historical commissions — the cityfolk who decide what’s a landmark and what you can do to your landmark — are inherently subjective in making their decisions.  It is very often assumed that a board of commissioners will deny a homeowner’s proposal for an addition on his or her historic house because it’s just not very pretty.  Sometimes, this has held up in court, and there’s a robust history of property owners attempting to sue the pants off their municipality for denying a building or demolition permit.

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Buying an Historic Home? What You Need to Know.

I Speak Vintage has heard quite a few horror stories from folks that have bought vintage or historic homes, only to be left holding the bag, as it were.  While historic homes have an appeal and charm for many buyers, there are certain restrictions and expenses (that’s an understatement)  you need to know about before signing on the dotted line.

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Don’t like old houses? Don’t buy one. Simple.

I just read this post and it was so simple and thought provoking that I felt it worthy of re-posting and passing along.

Six Reasons Why More Americans Should Care About Saving Old Homes

I recently read Marni Jameson’s column about the historic Capen House in Winter Park, Florida. In it, she laments that a historic house – and a recently restored one at that – may be torn down to make way for a new, more contemporary home on the lot. She includes portions of an interview with Nicole Curtis, host of HGTV’s Rehab Addict, about the house. The gem from that was Curtis’ advice to buyers who intend to destroy a historic house in order to build anew on the lot:  ”If you don’t like old houses, don’t buy one. Find some vacant land and build there.”

Another historic house gone…a rash of tear downs across Chicago’s North Shore has preservationists growing increasingly concerned.

Curtis also gave six reasons why more Americans should care about saving old homes. I thought they were so on target, I’m posting them here and hoping they may be read throughout the land, and certainly throughout real estate circles. They also nicely coincide with Adventures in Preservation‘s guiding principles – another reason to share them here.

Six Reasons Why More Americans Should Care About Saving Old Homes

  • Because tearing them down is wrecking our history. Countries rich in culture value history and buildings. “In Italy and France, you see 300-year-old buildings housing subways,” she said. “They make them work, they don’t tear them down.”
  • Because it’s bad for our Earth. Most of the wreckage will not be salvaged. All that glass and plaster goes into landfills.
  • Because you can never replicate these houses once they’re gone. The woodwork alone came from 200-year-old trees. These homes were built before electricity, and were made by hand with handmade nails.
  • Because we don’t need new homes. “We have enough vacant homes to put everyone in America in a house,” said Curtis. “We need to take care of what we have.”
  • Because we’re losing our uniqueness. “There is something beautiful about traveling through America and seeing its distinct neighborhoods. Houses that get torn down and rebuilt erase that character.”
  • Because of their quality. “When you have a 100-year-old home made of timbers not particle board, it is solid. These homes have withstood decades of human life and natural disasters. But not city commissions and other self interests.”

Prentice Saga Continues…

prentice

As my mother-in-laws says, “yeah, it’s all about the money.”

The clock is STILL ticking and the fate of Chicago’s iconic Prentice Woman’s Hospital still teeters on the precipice of indecision.  A questionable  decision granted and subsequently revoked on November 1, 2012 on the landmark status for Bertrand Goldberg’s  Old Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago, leads some to speculate about legal recourse for a coalition of preservationists who have fought owner Northwestern University’s plans to tear the old girl down. Members of that coalition took their battle to court on November 15, 2012, claiming  the Commission on Chicago Landmarks “acted arbitrarily and exceeded its authority.”

Knowledge is power. Read on;

 

Update from Chris Bentley’s November 15, 2012 post on arch.paper.com
At an emergency hearing in Cook County Circuit Court on Thursday, November 15, Judge Neil Cohen entered a stay that restores the Commission on Chicago Landmarks’ preliminary landmark recommendation for historic Prentice Women’s Hospital and temporarily bars the city from issuing a demolition permit. The Commission unanimously voted two weeks ago to grant a preliminary landmark designation for Prentice and then–in an unprecedented move–rescinded that designation just two hours later at the same meeting based on a departmental report.
On November 15, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, joined by Landmarks Illinois, filed a lawsuit against the Commission on Chicago Landmarks and the City of Chicago. The suit argues that the Commission unlawfully rescinded the designation in violation of Chicago’s Landmarks Ordinance by improperly weighing alleged economic arguments and by usurping the authority of City Council. Judge Cohen set the next court date for December 7 and made it clear that he wanted to see Prentice protected in the interim.

Lawsuit Press Release.pd

November 1, 2012

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks (CCL) voted “yes” for a recommendation of preliminary landmark designation for Prentice Women’s Hospital, on November 1, 2012. Shortly after, the commission rescinded the vote and Prentice can now be demolished.

Over 100 Save Prentice supporters showed up at the commission meeting proudly wearing Save Prentice tees and buttons. They shared stories, expertise, and passion about Bertrand Goldberg and his iconic Prentice Women’s Hospital. Many more followed the proceeding on Facebook and Twitter, helping spread the word about this important moment with likes, shares, and retweets.

With a unanimous 9-0 vote, the Commission recognized Prentice with preliminary designation. However, all but one Commissioner voted to overturn their landmark recommendation less than three hours later. We applaud Commissioner Christopher Reed for his dissenting vote, a true demonstration of courage and independence.

The Save Prentice Coalition is considering all options in response to yesterday’s proceedings, and we will keep you updated on this page, our “Ten Most Endangered” Prentice page, Save Prentice Facebook, and on Twitter at @SavePrentice. Thanks again for all of your support.

For more, read Landmarks Illinois’ Advocacy Director Lisa DiChiera’s statement delivered at a November 1 press event with the Save Prentice Coalition, prior to the CCL meeting.

My years in REHAB

Up for a challenge?

I bought an old house. From 350 miles away, I decided to REHAB a house in one of Cleveland, Ohio’s historic neighborhoods. A vibrant area of restored Victorian cottages, multi-gabled Queen Anne homes, second empire tributes and a mix of turn-of-the-century European influenced styles.  This melting pot of architectural styles also boasted a diversity of cultures and socioeconomic demographics. Diversity, evidenced by multiple disappearances of my gutters, building materials, tools and, on one occasion, a pair of shoes. Seriously?

This is more about the journey than the actual REHAB. By definition, a journey is traveling from one place to another – usually taking a long trip, Welcome to mine. This is the story of a house divided amongst itself; literally and figuratively. A house that should have been torn down years ago, NOT purchased with the romantic notion of restoring it to a quaint urban cottage. Yet that is exactly what I did and, at the time, it truly seemed like a good idea. I wish I had thought to start this therapy session (call it a blog) years ago and perhaps, by chronicling this journey via the written word, I could have avoided the rolling storm clouds and plagues of locust.

While much of this journey has little to do with the house, I correlate and reference the timeline in large blocks.  Like when I had to rip up the front yard and replace the entire sewer line; $5000.00, thank you very much.

Each mishap somehow lashed me more tightly with my hometown, this falling-down money-pit and the neighborhood of toothless booze hounds    What should have taken 12 months stretched over 4 years, by which time the real estate market was a tumultuous roller coaster. So, I decided to hold on to the house for a while.  Here’s the rub; I had to REHAB the REHAB. I bought the house to provide my brother with an opportunity to build his contractor business with full intention of selling it when complete. Well, his definition of complete and mine were different.  He saw it for what it really was, a flip. I made the mistake that many rehabbers make.  I was spending money as if I were going to live in it.   Lord, deliver me  from myself.

For some reason this house brought familiarity and comfort to me the first time I saw it. Was it a rotting, dilapidated excuse for a house? Absolutely. Was the idea of managing a total rehab from 350 miles away a lousy idea? You bet. I couldn’t wait to get started.

After 4 arduous years of false completions,  I took a brief hiatus from Chicago and went “home” (I am from Cleveland originally) and finished the house.  Then the party really started.

October 2010; after taking firm control of the checkbook I had no choice but to get creative with how every penny was spent. I wanted to maintain  the home’s heritage and integrity and a strict budget certainly facilitated that. The kitchen plan was originally sketched up pretty much on the back of an envelope and it simply did not make use of the kitchen’s size and terrific natural light.  In reconstructing the layout, I took old doors found in the basement and cut them down to build a breakfast bar and re-purposed the granite I had cut for the original layout.

The second floor which I originally planned to carpet took a hit as well.  The stairs and floors were typical of an 1887 worker’s cottage built for employees of Cleveland’s steel mills – pine planks that were patched, gouged, and in some places, patched with old soup cans.  Rather than trying to cover them, I celebrated them.  I painted them, added some well planned “distressing” with a belt sander  and then varnished them. Bam!  They looked terrific and added some wonderful texture to the upper level.

Here I was, 4 years after I had restored 80% of the exterior clapboard and the damn thing needed to be repainted. I discovered it had not been primed and was painted when the wood was damp. #@%$!*! Clean living truly must triumph because February, 2011 brought a week of temperatures in the 60’s. Hallelujah!  I roped one of my disenfranchised neighbors (probably the one that stole the gutters 3 years prior) to help me out.  We got ‘er done in 3 days.  I doubt he spent the money on much needed dental attention.  So be it.

I could make a long story even longer but you get the idea. Well, when all was finally finished in spring of 2011 I put the house on the market.  One open house.  SOLD. List price.

THE END!