Summer Maintenance Tips

 Paint in sections if you get overwhelmed easily.

Paint in sections if you get overwhelmed easily.

 Moss growth on roofs will shorten its lifespan and potentially cause moisture problems. 

Moss growth on roofs will shorten its lifespan and potentially cause moisture problems. 

 Sometimes regular inspection reveals bigger problems. 

Sometimes regular inspection reveals bigger problems. 

Summer isn't over yet so there's still time to work on your old house to-do list.

There are lots of competing interests in the summer months, and usually scraping and painting the gable end of your old house fails to win over opportunities to relax. Then autumn comes and we start to wish we had spent just a little more time doing maintenance in the summer...

Prioritize.

Every old house has a laundry list of work items, from painting to window repair to finally re-installing that trim in the upstairs bedroom. It can be overwhelming. 

Or maybe your insurance company is calling the shots. We talked to Dale Barney, of Barney Insurance in Canaan, about what insurance companies want to see with older houses. "If homeowners want preferred policies, make sure your house is well-cared for and well-maintained." That means no peeling paint, no curling roof shingles, and no rickety stair railings. 

Insurance companies inspect properties every five years on average. Making your house look good can save you hundreds of dollars on homeowners insurance.

Clean up.

Spend time clearing vegetation away from the perimeter of the house and barn. Foliage and roots trap moisture against siding and their roots can cause foundation issues. Trim back tree branches that reach over roofs, which can foster environments for moss growth (you can later kill moss with baking soda). 

Inspect and clean your gutters while you're up on the roof. Keeping your gutters free of leaves and dirt prevents moisture issues down on the ground.

Gently washing dirt and mold growth off wood siding and trim also helps extend the life of your house's paint job and clapboards. Gentle is the key word here. Instead of power washing your siding, use mild soap and TSP substitute.  

Work in small batches.

You could easily spend your weekend hours working on your old house. (Many of us here at the Alliance can attest to this.) Dividing your house into manageable sections can give you a sense of satisfaction without draining your spare time and wallet.

Tackle one elevation of your house or barn at a time.  Spend a few hours here and there cleaning siding or painting trim. Cut up just one load of brush a weekend. Over time, these smaller efforts pay off.

Celebrate.

"I use benchmarks in my house's restoration as an excuse to invite people over," admits our field service representative, Andrew Cushing. "When the porch was done, I had a porch party. When the yard was mostly cleared, I had a bonfire. The affirmation helps, but so does the clear timeline to finish projects."

Do you have tips for staying sane with summer maintenance? Share them with us.

 

 

Preservation Personality Test

Members of the N.H. Preservation Alliance are a diverse, committed group. Here is a personality quiz to encourage you to think about your interests in historic preservation and support of the Preservation Alliance. Try to pick just one answer for each question, and consider our assessment below.

This sounds like an ideal afternoon:

A.     Investigate the timber framing in a double-English barn, or mid-19th century Moses Kent murals a federal home.

B.     Visit all the meetinghouses in the Templeton Run, a linear dispersion of a distinctive design running north of Templeton, MA into New Hampshire.

C.     Prepare stirring testimony for a planning board hearing or talk to your state representative about the benefits of historic preservation investment.

Which of these preservation icons would you like to be?

A.     Bob Villa, first host of This Old House.

B.     Part of the team that saved a historic mill, bridge, school, church or painted theater curtain.

C.     Dorothy Vaughn. Her activism in Portsmouth lead to the first use of urban renewal demolition funds for preservation in the U.S.

If you wrote a best-selling book or Hollywood scripts, it would be most like:

A.     House by Tracy Kidder or The Moneypit.

B.     Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil or The Building History of Northern New England by James Garvin.

C.     The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton or the Economics of Historic Preservation by Donovan Rypkema.

·        If you answered a lot of As, you are likely an old house or barn enthusiast.

·        If you answered a lot of Bs, you are likely a community landmark advocate. Perhaps caring for an old town hall, church or helping with other civic issues in town.

·        If you answered a lot of Cs, you are likely a preservation activist involved in lots of different aspects of preservation activity.

The Preservation Alliance needs all types to help us do more! We support you; please support the Preservation Alliance today.

 Preservation Alliance board members, staff and friends at Throwback Brewery, North Hampton (an award-winning farm re-use).  Photo: Steve Booth Photography

Preservation Alliance board members, staff and friends at Throwback Brewery, North Hampton (an award-winning farm re-use).  Photo: Steve Booth Photography

Donald Hall's Preservation Legacy

What a legacy Donald Hall left for New Hampshire citizens and readers all over the world! The award-winning writer of prose and poetry died this past week at age 89.  Hall was an incorporator of the N.H. Preservation Alliance when it was formed over 30 years ago, and we think his decades of writing before -- and since -- supports and inspires preservation activity. 

 Hall's Eagle Pond Farm in Wilmot.

Hall's Eagle Pond Farm in Wilmot.

Hall’s observations about his adopted state (he said, “I was created to love New Hampshire”) were based off of characters he met in Wilmot, where he resided, and nearby Danbury and Andover. In his collection of essays, Here at Eagle Pond, Hall wrote, “In New Hampshire the state supper is beans and franks, and every recipe begins with salt pork, Campbell’s cream of mushroom, and Miracle Whip” and “In New Hampshire convenience stores sell Fluff, Wonder Bread, Moxie, and shoes with blue canvas tops.”

His realistic settings connect you to special buildings in addition to natural landscapes. When you read Lucy's Christmas, you feel like you’re visiting the white, steepled South Danbury church for the annual pageant.  (It still hosts the annual Christmas party and lots of other activities too.)

Hall's themes of practicality, frugality and continuity shine through in his work. The title of his recollections of summers on a New England farm, A String too Short to be Saved, describes the hand-written label on a box of short strings. In his 1977 poem Oxcart Man, Hall describes how a farmer loads his potatoes into a cart and walks beside his ox to market, where he sells the potatoes. Then he sells the cart, ox, harness and yoke and, we imagine, walks home and starts again.

He lamented the loss of people and loss of landscape – burnt houses, new development, and the conversion of special places into the indistinguishable. “Nostalgia without history is a decorative fraud,” he wrote. This affinity for place was borne from his c. 1806 house, purchased by his great-grandfather in the 1860s.  In memoir and fiction, he described this place that served as his boyhood retreat and eventually his residence until his passing.  He wrote in the same first-floor room in which he slept and first began writing poems as a boy.  He seemed to love the continuity of use, the layers of people’s and building’s history, and we do too.

Here are some ideas of ways to honor this great artist:

·         Read a poem or story of his (or his wife Jane Kenyon, another incredible voice for life in New Hampshire) for yourself or to a child. 

·         Think about what rural New Hampshire means to you on a scenic 24-mile drive through his town of Wilmot along New Hampshire Route 4A or Rt. 4 between Lebanon and Andover. (Get some coffee at the preservation-award winning Lucky’s Coffee Garage in Lebanon after your drive.)

·         Support a local preservation project or the Preservation Alliance so we can enjoy more preservation and less lamentation.

Hall.jpg

2018 Preservation Achievement Award: Reuben Whitten House, Ashland

west side painted.JPG

In 1815, Mount Tambora - a volcano on an Indonesian island - erupted with tremendous force. Its volcanic ash changed global temperatures and, thousands of miles away in New England, farmers struggled with a "year without a summer."

In Ashland (then a part of Holderness), a farming family somehow managed to grow their crops. Sally and Reuben Whitten decided to share 40 bushels of their wheat with 100 neighbors who were less fortunate, an act of generosity that was later recorded on a memorial stone by their grandson, in 1911. 

The c.1800 house, however, stood more or less forgotten. It was moved in the 1870s from the hillside farm to the village for use as worker housing. In 1969 it was donated to the Historical Society, struck by a runaway truck, and moved again to a location behind the Whipple House Museum. With the 200th anniversary of the year without a summer approaching, the Ashland Historical Society decided it was time to pay it forward and embark on a rehabilitation campaign.

The largely volunteer effort was a lesson in perseverance. It took years of soliciting donations and grants, organizing work weekends, and researching the social history of the house. Thanks to a report by Jim Garvin (the former state architectural historian), the Society had a road map that guided their rehabilitation.

Work included listing the building to the State Register of Historic Places, repairing the hole in the wall created by the 1969 truck accident, repairing and reconstructing the windows, cladding the exterior with clapboards, adding a cedar shake roof, and finding a more period-appropriate door. The interior was left untouched, having retained much of its original fabric, despite a century of housing tenants.  

The result is the rehabilitation of a humble house that tells a big story. According to co-chairs of the Whitten Project Committee, Katie Maher and Susan Macleod, the house represents the layers of Ashland's history, from its farming days to its use as worker housing after the town industrialized. "This little house holds those human stories and artifacts within its walls," they shared at the Awards ceremony. 

And now the little house will reflect another story, that of a town coming together to honor the good deed of a family over two hundred years ago.

Partners included:

Ashland Historical Society

James L. Garvin

Starck Housejoiners, Inc.

Ashland Lumber / Belletetes

Sippican Partners

2018 Preservation Achievement Award: Jackson House, Portsmouth

Jackson 15.JPG

Built in 1664, the Jackson House is New Hampshire's oldest timber-framed building. It's also one of only twenty-three National Historic Landmarks in the state. Its age and significance meant that needed structural and drainage improvements involved years of careful planning and just the right team.

The project involved four components, aided in part by a $90,000 LCHIP grant:

1) Archaeological investigation revealed important 17th and 18th century artifacts, providing information about trade in early Portsmouth. In total, the investigation yielded 12,000 artifacts. 

2) Improving drainage to arrest the deterioration of the building's sills. 

3) Adding structural reinforcements to the house's lean-to in the shape of tubular steel, which is reversible, minimally invasive, and allows for visual distinction from the historic fabric. 

4) Replacing the wood shingled roof and specific clapboards with in-kind material. 

The Jackson House opens back up to the public on June 2 , when admission is free. Thereafter, the house is open the first and third Saturdays until mid-October. For more information, visit Historic New England's website

Partners:

Historic New England

Independent Archeological Consulting, LLC

Woods & Co. Civil Engineering

GNCB Consulting Engineers

Safari Construction Management, LLC

Edmunds General Contracting, LLC

Curtis Earth Works, Inc.

LCHIP

Ways to Make a Difference: Big and Small Preservation Activity Ideas

 Boscawen.

Boscawen.

May is Preservation Month, and here are some big and little ideas of ways to engage in preservation activity.

Take care of your old home. Spring is a great time to evaluate repair needs and plan for the year ahead.  An energy audit can also help you prioritize investments. Get ready for the next cold season with properly-installed insulation in your attic and around your foundation. “Re-tuning” old windows keeps cold air out and preserves original features of an old house. Check our Directory of Preservation Products and Services for key contacts.

 The Weeks Estate in Lancaster includes this fire lookout tower. Prepare for tremendous views!

The Weeks Estate in Lancaster includes this fire lookout tower. Prepare for tremendous views!

Take a second look around you.  Are there places you can’t imagine your community without? Start a conversation with other interested citizens, and consider planning tools like easements and tax incentives to turn a challenge into an opportunity.  Support your local farm, and thank a neighbor who has fixed up his or her barn.  Visit a local historic site that you haven’t been to in a long time or check out the cool NH Department of Natural and Cultural Resources's initiative this May, which will showcase our state's fire towers.

Be an advocate for preserving our heritage. Volunteer to serve on your local planning board, library board, heritage commission, cemetery commission, or downtown organization. Attend a local heritage event. Help with a preservation project, or enjoy dinner in an old inn or theater in a historic venue. Talk to your legislator about the benefits of the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, New Hampshire's popular and effective matching grants program for historic preservation and land conservation projects. E-mail the Preservation Alliance to receive preservation news updates.

Support the Preservation Alliance by becoming a member or renewing your support. Give to local preservation efforts. Buy a “Moose Plate” conservation license plate for yourself or as a gift. 

Preservation activity creates local jobs and keeps more money circulating in local economies than new construction, and is part of the landscape that attracts visitors and businesses to New Hampshire. For you, it also can be an activity that makes you feel good and connects you to special places, old friends and new ones.

More at www.nhpreservation.org or by calling 603-224-2281.

Researching Your Old House

 Lord Tavern in Effingham.

Lord Tavern in Effingham.

Perhaps you just purchased an old house (congratulations!) or maybe you've lived in one for some time and have grown curious about its history. Where do you start? 

It's always a good idea to first read up on your town's history. It's useful information to know if your town changed names or counties over the years, annexed land, or had certain development patterns. This comes in handy when you do keyword searches later on.

Physical Evidence

Before you hit the books or ask Google, study your house and its setting. You can learn a lot about your house's history based on its architecture, materials, and the landscape. Houses evolve over time - so sometimes this practice takes a careful eye. It's fairly common to see Greek Revival houses get Italianate porches, for example. It's also fairly common to see ells, barns, or dormers added decades after a house was first built. (And sometimes your ell or barn may be older than the house.)

Does the landscape include mature trees or flower beds where a house no longer stands? Maybe there are granite steps leading to nowhere, or a cow run connecting a barn long since gone to a pasture since grown up.

Inside, look for details like doors, exposed nails, or framing. These things can help pinpoint a construction date. If your house is more recent (say after WWII), look for catalogs online that advertise materials like linoleum, metal cabinets, or louvered windows.

 This house in Enfield Center has a Victorian-era porch added to an otherwise Greek Revival cape.

This house in Enfield Center has a Victorian-era porch added to an otherwise Greek Revival cape.

Photographic Evidence

Not all houses were photographed back in the day, but chances are your local historical society or library may have a good collection of images. Having historic photographs is very helpful in determining when things were added or removed from your house. You may be able to find photographs from lifelong residents, neighbors, or former inhabitants, too.

If you're looking for images from the 1970s onward, you may have luck looking through old tax card photos at your town office. 

If you live in a grander house, or one with a prominent owner, try using Google Books or archive.org using keywords like your town, address, names of previous owners, and occupations. You never know if an agricultural journal profiled Farmer John Kimball or if an architectural trade magazine highlighted your house.

 Historic images show that this Greek Revival house in East Grafton once had an earlier cape (background), ell, and barn.

Historic images show that this Greek Revival house in East Grafton once had an earlier cape (background), ell, and barn.

Maps

Maps are great resources, too. In New Hampshire, there are a few go-to map resources:

c.1860 Walling Maps were cadastral maps made at the county level, and many are available online at the Library of Congress. If you don't see your county listed, you may have better luck finding one in person (they're on display at the NH State Library, in many county offices, and at some historical society museums). 

c.1890 Hurd Maps are also wonderful cadastral maps worth exploring, and are available through the David Rumsey Map Collection.

Sanborn Fire Insurance maps were made for insurance companies to assess risk between the 1880s and 1920s. They're most common in densely settled areas, or where industry was located, but they reveal interesting context. Dartmouth has digitized an extensive collection, and those are available for here. They're also available at the Library of Congress website.

Birds Eye Maps are drawings of towns, often made in the decades after the Civil War. Many are available at the Library of Congress website, or by doing online searches. 

If your house is very old, or if you want to research land owners before your house was built, the NH Historical Society has many towns' early proprietor maps, which show how towns were divvied up into ranges and lots. 

Deed Research

Deed research is a good step once you fully understand your property and have some names associated with it. While some counties offer online searches, not all counties are the same. It's sometimes worth it to travel to your county seat and spend an afternoon poring through paper records; this way if you get stuck (and you very well might if your property history has subdivisions and hard-to-read print), you can ask the registrar experts for help.

Census Records

If you don't have an account to Ancestry, consider spending a day at a nearby library, university, or historical society that does have an account. Census data is the best way to understand who lived in your house. While the sorts of data collected changes between decades, you'll be able to determine things like the ages and professions of your house's previous owners.

Three things to note about the census: some census data is missing due to archival fires at the federal level (1890 especially, but also 1820 for some towns in Grafton, Rockingham, and Strafford Counties); census search engines sometimes cannot translate the handwritten names, so it's worth it to look at your town's entire sheet or enter in old neighbors' surnames that are easy to translate and look from there; and the public can only search up to the year 1940.

If you know that your earlier homeowners were farmers of millers, there's a good chance you can find additional information about them through the Industrial and Agricultural Schedules. These were done in 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 and provide details about the amount of corn, cheese, and carded wool your person of interest produced. This data isn't available online, so head to the NH State Library's genealogical room where it's on microfiche.

Other Great Sources

City directories (many available online or at the local library) are great resources if you live in a more urban area, or if you've discovered that your house once doubled as a lawyer's or doctor's office. 

If you suspect your house was built from a kit (likely if it dates from the early 1900s), try searching online for catalogs that may include its design. There will be clues in your house, too: look for labels or stamps on lumber or on the back of trim. Sears and Roebuck was just one of many mail-order companies, so keep your searches broad at first. 

Oral history can be a great way to connect to your house's more recent history. Ask old timers in town (or maybe you are the old timer - in that case, write it down!) or former inhabitants about quirks you've noticed. Even the mundane can prove interesting.

With your collection of keywords, enter in names of owners into Google Books or other online databases. You never know what will come up. Maybe someone was a master of a local grange, a suffragette, or a state representative. 

Next Steps

When you feel like you've researched all you can research, consider listing your house to the National or State Register of Historic Places. Both are honorary programs, which means that they don't come with regulation. By joining the historic register, though, you're providing greater context to our state's architectural history - which is very helpful for professionals and other homeowners.

You should also type all of your findings and create a report to pass on to the local historical society or next stewards. And remember, what you do to your house will add to its history. Leave behind photographs for your local historical society and record changes that you make. The future will thank you.

You can find a list of these compiled resources - and more - here and another one here