Home for the Holidays

Wishing you + yours safe travels to and from home this holiday season. And wishing you your favorite type of Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa) weather. We woke up to a snowy Vermont this morning (it’s about time).

Snow covered trees, hooray!

Snowy Vermont. Drive carefully.

Happy Holidays! Check back for fun holiday related posts throughout the rest of this year.

Preservation Photos #109

A rare snowfall in Southern Pines, NC, as seen from the streets of the historic downtown in January 2009.

North Country Blizzard

Our cars are buried; the sidewalks have disappeared; the entire state has shut down for the day; the city is quiet and white; over two feet of snow has blanketed northern New York and Vermont. The world is beautiful.


Snowy garage window, just barely above the snowdrifts, March 7, 2011.


The problem of living on a small city lot with a large driveway that abuts the house and the neighbors’ property line: what do we do with all of the snow? Where does it go? We are running out room! It’s getting ridiculous. The snow has no other place but against the house. It pains me to have to shovel all of that snow against our foundation, practically up to the windows. Those rising temperatures worry me: will the house leak? To those of you who live on small lots in cities or towns, where do you put all of your snow? Advice from experienced folks living in snow country is much appreciated. At least this storm blew much of the snow off the roof!

Otherwise, happy snowfall to my fellow northerners!

Preservation Photos #70

At the Weymouth Center in Southern Pines, NC, January 20, 2009.Photograph by Kaitlin O'Shea.

Contrary to current weather patterns, when we lived in North Carolina, it snowed only once — at least, I only had one snow day from work. And those few inches that we got on January 20, 2009, transformed the entire town into a beautiful winter wonderland. This picture was taken on the property of the Weymouth Center, the location of the historically significant Boyd House. I love that property and this tree.

Ice Dam

Check out those icicles; this is a common scene up here in northern New England. Actually, these icicles, though a few feet long, are not even the biggest ones around. Signs warning of “Falling Ice” are common. While pretty, they can cause great damage to historic buildings (all buildings, actually) due to the pressure on the eave, the architectural details, and to the roof. If you live in the southern climate, this is likely never an issue because the icicles melt quickly; but, in colder climates, they can remain all winter long.

Ever wonder how large ice dams, like this one, form? Old House Web has a good article explaining it (and will be more technical than my iteration) – read it here.  Or read this fact sheet from the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office. The short version of the story is that poor or uneven insulation causes an ice dam. If the house is not sufficiently insulated, heat will escape through the ceiling to the attic roof and cause the snow to melt.  Often the lower part of the roof slope and down to the eaves will not capture as much heat as the attic, because it is exposed without an interior ceiling and heat beneath it, thus providing colder conditions. So the water that melted near the peak of the roof will drip down to the edge (the eave) and then refreeze where there is no insulation. Then the water begins to back up behind the ice dam and can cause leaks into your house.

If your house has proper insulation, then heat will not pass through the ceilings (whether you have an attic or not) and out to the roof. In that case, the roof and the eaves will be closer to the same temperature and the likelihood of ice dams decreases.

The moral of the story? Insulate your house properly. The ceilings and the roof are more important than your windows, if you ask me. Ice dams can cause moisture damage, which, leads to many problems such as rotting wood, insect infestations, mold, and more. Remove snow from your roof, too.

Preservation Photos #69

The importance of trees in a streetscape can be observed even in the dead of winter; the trees lining the sidewalk, seen here, are important to the integrity of the Old Bennington Historic District. Trees must be respected in addition to the historic architecture.

White Christmas

Every year of my life, I dream of a white Christmas.  Every time I wished on a star during the holiday season, I would wish for a white Christmas. Snow may not be as important to some, and I know in many of parts of the world, people never see snow and have never seen snow on Christmas, but I’ll keep wishing nonetheless. Blame it on the Christmas songs, movies, images, and the classic ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas poem. Snow is a part of my Christmas tradition, even though part of that may always be wishful thinking.

Sadly, this year it will not snow on Christmas.  I haven’t seen snow in December (while I’ve been in New York) for the past four years.  However, to my delight, when Vinny and I arrived on Long Island on Saturday, there were already five inches of snow on the ground! And it kept snowing! In fact, days later, the ground is still covered in white (until it rains tomorrow).  Saturday night, my sisters and I ran around in the snow and jumped off swings for hours. That particular sister adventure has become one of my favorite Christmas memories, even if the snowy present arrived a few days ahead of schedule. I think it can count as a white Christmas.

Of course, as per my tradition, I will still wish for snow on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, regardless of the weather forecast. Traditions may be rooted in generations or they may be personal, but they are all important. May you enjoy your favorite traditions this Christmas – historical or new.