Preservation Pop Quiz: The A/C Question

Still hot where you live? It certainly is here in Vermont. So, let’s revisit Friday’s pop quiz, which¬†asked you to describe the issues in this image:

The comments seemed to focus on the architectural conservation issues and maintenance problems of the over-the-door air conditioning unit. While those are all good points, it wasn’t exactly what this question was getting at. It was meant more in the vein of this post about air conditioner units in the window of historic houses. If you missed it over the weekend, here is the second image to help you with your answer.

Less drastic than the first example, perhaps, but the same issue remains.

In this image, the air conditioning units are at least screened rather than exposed. Does that help? Without maintenance issues, what is really going on with air conditioning units installed in doorways? Think about it for a second. Doorways often have sidelights and transoms, yes?

These air conditioning units are installed in the place of the transom. The glass transoms are so often removed in favor of the units. So often they are not concealed like the first image; but, even in the second image, they are still visible to anyone who is looking.

In other words, there is a loss of architectural integrity on many storefronts. We often talk about the downside of replacing windows, but how often do we mention doorways? Frequently entrances are altered to meet modern building codes, which sadly can be a devastating change to fenestration. Architectural integrity aside, when has an air conditioning unit ever been attractive? It never seems like a friendly way to greet customers (and the stability, or lack thereof, seems to worry many of you, based on the comments!).  Obviously, this is a preservation pet peeve of mine. It might be one of yours now, too.

What are the other options aside from installing air conditioners in the transom? Are there none, or is it just the easiest thing to do?

Anatomy of Preservation Guilt: HGTV

I have two confessions.

(1) I get sucked into HGTV. It’s terrible. Usually it’s “House Hunters” or “Property Virgins” or some remodeling show such as “Love It or List It” or “Property Brothers.” This particular selection of shows is probably more related to when I watch HGTV than choosing specific shows.

(2) Normally, every show that I watch on HGTV drives me crazy. Yet, I still watch. My mom and I enjoy yelling at the TV, just as my father enjoys yelling at the NY Jets on Sundays.

Now, what annoys me about these shows? A short rant, if you will. Consider yourself spared from the long rant.

(1) Buyers are always looking for “charm” and “character.” So they start by saying that they want a “historic house” but then buyers shudder at any sign of needed maintenance. More often than not, buyers shy away from old windows and only look to beautiful wood floors. What they want is a Pottery Barn house that evokes the cleanest sense of history, with none of the quirks and small bathrooms and closets of older homes.

(2) The shows’ hosts & contractors knock down plaster walls and add double doors in place of windows, completely changing the facade. Windows are so often replaced.

(3) Buyers are constantly buying houses that are way too big for them (a single person does not need even close to 2000 sq ft).

(4) The shows seldom say where they located! (At least the renovation shows do not).

So, why do I watch?

(1) I can’t help it.

(2) I like to see the transformations of houses, even if I do not agree with changes. But not all renovations are bad.

(3) Once in a while, I’ll pick up a useful home improvement tip.

(4) I like houses and neighborhoods and hearing another point of view.

A solution? Can someone please make a TV show about rehabilitation projects according to the Secretary of Interior’s Standards? What about people who want a historic home and appreciate a home that is listed on the National Register? If viewers want drama and controversy, we can find some.

What do you think?