One of the most challenging aspects of this job is figuring out how to fix up a (benignly) neglected house on the National Historic Register.

As far as I can tell, there are two steps:

  1. Raise enough money to do what you want (check, almost).
  2. Surround yourself with folks who are smarter than you.

And while #2 will guarantee that from time to time those people will look at you like you’re an idiot, it’s worth it.

Yesterday we were lucky enough to have Tom and Gene from Surber, Barber, Choate and Hertlein take a look at our place …again.

Tom, Gene, Tom, and Marshall in the Basement of the Wren's Nest

Our basement is a labyrinth of different foundations, each with different bricks, mortars, paints, and states of (dis)repair.

The architects reviewed each aspect of our little restoration with a contractor to confirm the estimates outlined in our budget, which was initially performed by a professional cost estimator.

It’s a good thing, too.  Just when you think you’ve got a budget in place, you uncover some new stuff.

Where the Shutters Used to Be

On the eastern (and less traversed) side of the Wren’s Nest, the paint isn’t in good shape.  But it’s in better shape on either side of each window. See how it’s a little brighter on either side?

That means that there were once shutters there.

Shutters Uncovered in Basement #2

…which we found in an obscure portion of the basement, not having noticed them before.

So, now, my job is to look in our restoration notebooks to figure out (a) if these shutters were original, (b) why they aren’t on the house anymore, and (c) would it be worth it to restore ’em and put ’em back on the house.

And it’s always encouraging to discover how the duct work was put in in exactly the wrong spot.

Gene Takes a Look at the Ductwork

See how, just above the N in Nest, the wood was cut to make way for that duct?  Apparently that’s bad news.

The moral is, we’ve got a lot on our plate.  Little things, big(ger) things, things that I have trouble remembering.   Unfortunately, none of them seem to be fixable by throwing wads of singles in their general direction.

Next up: a meeting with a contractor, a mechanical engineer, and an historic brick expert.  Wahoo!

Comments (3)

  • The Wren’s nest basement is right up there on my list of favorite places in the world, although the duct work that was placed directly through some of the main support beams makes me nervous. I wonder what it takes to become a person who is allowed to make repairs on a place on the National Historic Register. Do all the people working need this special ability, or just the people in charge?

  • I don’t think there’s like a card that, say, a painter carries in her wallet to say whether or not she’s passed the historic preservation test. You can get a Masters degree in historic preservation, but I doubt most painters or contractors do that.

    Ideally, I’d be the one to have the Masters. But, you get what you pay for, and the Wren’s Nest couldn’t afford a professional at the time.

    So, mostly it’s the people in charge who need to be familiar with and mindful of the Secretary of Interior’s Historic Preservation Guidelines:

    We’re working with preservation architects and contractors who they personally recommend.

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