Preservation Photos #77

A lone barn in New Haven, VT on a cold, gray March morning. It is waiting for spring, like the rest of us in the north country.

Preservation Photos #76

The harsh Vermont winter has uncovered the historic cobblestone streets under the modern asphalt in Montpelier.

Preservation Photos #71

Charleston, SC. Photo taken April 2007 by Kaitlin O'Shea.

I love winter and the north, but today something about the warm southern weather and early spring is calling me. How about you?

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.

Friday Links: News and Winter

Happy Friday! Check out some links to important preservation news topics, news from around the Lake Champlain Valley, and some winter related links (sites and festivals).

Read PreservationNation’s summary about the fight against WalMart in order to save the Wilderness Battlefield in Virginia. It is an excellent summary and gives important facts.

Do you have opinions on LEED and its relevance to historic preservation? Now is the perfect time to voice those concerns! Read information on the Green Preservationist or some from the National Trust as well as instructions on how to comment. The comment period has been extended until January 17, 2011 at 11:59pm.

NPR ran a story this week about the largest donation of audio recordings ever received by the Library of Congress.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation is working with the Town of Charlotte, studying rehabilitation options for the Quinlan Covered Bridge.

A historic building in Elizabethtown, NY caught fire early morning January 11, 2011. The building was Hubbard Hall, which was originally built around 1840 by Congressman Orlando Kellogg, housed the Elizabethtown Community House Inc. in 1921.

Ever hear of Winter Park, Florida? Sounds a bit too cold for Florida.

Do you think it’s cold? Just remember Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War.

Need some winter fun? How about some winter festivals? In Vermont you can visit the Burlington Winter Festival, the Bennington Winter Festival, the Stowe Winter Carnival, and the Middlebury College Winter Carnival. Or in upstate New York there is the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, staking the claim of the oldest winter carnival in the eastern USA.

Keep in mind that a bit of draft in your house is okay; I’d rather have some air circulation than a dry throat every morning. Still, keep in mind that there are ways to reduce energy loss. Take weatherization tips from the National Trust.

Enjoy the snow and stay warm!

Need something bright in the dreary winter? How about these fun sunflowers painted on a fence in Milton, VT?

Why Preservationists Should Love Winter

I love the winter season and the cold, and not just for the holiday season. I don’t know how to ski, snowboard, or do any other type of winter sport (ok, I can ice skate), but I still love to be outside in winter. Call me crazy, but six years in the hot weather of Virginia and North Carolina was enough for me (it was hardly ever cold or snowing). Now, a day above 80 degrees is getting to be too warm for me. What’s that? How am I connecting my love for winter to historic preservation? Like so:

As a preservationist, one of my favorite things to do is sight-seeing, whether by car or by foot. But when the trees and flowers are in full bloom, they obscure so many houses and views. Frequently, while driving in winter, I’ll notice a beautiful new view on the road. This might be across the lake, between two houses, down a hill, or from my living room window. Winter gives us a chance for entirely new visual experiences. And, of course, a pretty white snowfall makes everything look magical. Best of all, those bare trees of winter no longer hide the abandoned, neglected houses that intrigue me so much: two of which are on my usual route to work.

As far as being outside and not in my car, I love to run at night. Fewer people are out and about, which gives me greater reign of the sidewalks. People are home and cozy, and the glow of the lights makes each house seem happy. And, not to sound like a stalker, but I love that architectural details and built-ins really pop in the house glow. Don’t you like to know what the insides of houses look like? Yes. Running on a winter night is quiet and peaceful. Views from the higher points in city show the shining lights of the neighborhood and the sky is generally clear. It’s nice one-on-one time with the streets of the city.

See? Winter is a wonderful season to be a preservationist.

Old-Time Skating Party

Are you a member of Historic New England? If so, check out the Old-Time Ice Skating Party at the Frog Pond in Boston, MA on Monday March 15, 2010.

(Email from Historic New England)

Maybe there will even be snow — unlike in Burlington, Vermont. If you go, have fun and let me know how it was!

O Christmas Tree

Choosing and chopping down a Christmas tree with my family was always one of the best days of the year. Even on Long Island we had Christmas tree farms, so all six of us would pile into the minivan and drive out east to the beautiful, seemingly rural tree farms. Those days remain among my favorite memories. We’d be bundled in jackets, mittens, and boots, just hoping for snowflakes. We ran around the trees and walked as far back as we could on the farm, figuring that was where they kept the best trees. After searching and all choosing different trees, we would finally narrow it down to two and Mom would make the final decision. Knowing how much her young daughters liked tall tress, we always ended up with a tree larger than we could handle. Luckily, our 1957 ranch house was designed with 12′ cathedral ceiling in the living room (technically called the “great room”). A few years Dad actually had to cut about 2′ – 3′ from the bottom of the tree in order to make it fit! One year the tree almost fell off the roof on our way home; we four girls watched it like a hawk after that.

Eventually cutting your own tree became much too expensive, and we resorted to choosing a tree from a lot, though we’d still head out east for it – until we got to be older and we weren’t all home from college in time to participate in the tree picking.  While we can’t all be there for tree picking, we make sure to decorate the tree all together – it’s a bit event with music, cookies, eggnog, too many ornaments, and traditions – even if we have to wait until Christmas Eve to decorate. We’ve had ugly trees, fat trees, tall trees, trees that fell down in the house, and many more. I imagine it will always be a big deal to us.

My dad is a fan of breaking shoes and bustin’ chops, as he would say, so every year he now talks about that nice 8′ artificial tree that he and Mom are going to put in the living room – forget the real trees!  I think he’s kidding, but still, I threaten to not come home if there is a fake tree. Or I’ll just haul one down from Vermont. We do have fake miniature trees in the house, but there is nothing quite like the Christmas tree smell, without which it wouldn’t feel like Christmas as my house.

Yesterday I received a neighborhood email with 5 reasons to buy a real Christmas tree that touch on the environment and the local economy – how perfect!


By Clare Innes, Marketing Coordinator – Chittenden Solid Waste District, Redmond Rd,

Thinking about getting an artificial Christmas tree this year? Here are 5 great reasons to go for the real deal:

1. The average artificial tree lasts 6 to 9 years but will remain in a landfill for centuries.

2. Think a real tree poses a greater fire hazard? Think again. Artificial trees pose a greater fire hazard than the real deal because they are made with polyvinyl chloride, which often uses lead as a stabilizer, making it toxic to inhale if there is a fire. Lead dust can be harmful to children.

3. Every acre of Christmas trees produces enough daily oxygen for 18 people. There are about 500,000 acres of Christmas trees growing in the U.S. Because of their hardiness, trees are usually planted where few other plants can grow, increasing soil stability and providing a refuge for wildlife.

4. North American Christmas tree farms employ more than 100,000 people; 80% of artificial trees worldwide are manufactured in China.

5. The most sustainable options: Buy your tree from a local grower or purchase a potted tree and plant it in your yard after the holidays.

Enjoy the beginning of the holiday season and have fun finding the perfect tree.