Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Broken Preservation Ordinance - Application Procedure

Ordinance 51-05 Ashland, Ohio
“Application Procedures.
(1) Submission requirements. Before it can be considered at a meeting of the Historic Preservation Board, an application along with any supporting documents, shall be filed with the Planning Commission Building & Zoning Office. In order for an application to be reviewed and approved, the applicant shall submit drawings, photographs, specifications and material samples as outlined below. A minimum of six sets of drawings and one set of photographs and material samples shall be submitted. These items shall accurately represent the proposed alterations or additions and new construction. The Building & Zoning Office Planning Commission will place the applicant on the next meeting’s agenda and forward the submitted copies to all the Board members.
A. Alterations and change of color.
1. Photographs of existing conditions.
2. Drawings indicating any changes to the physical appearance.
3. An outline describing work and the procedures to be performed.
4. Material samples and manufacturer’s literature for major materials and products to be incorporated in the building.
B. New Buildings.
1. Photographs (8”x10”) of the proposed site and adjoining building.
2. Site plan and elevation drawings showing the design, indicating drives, road, parking, walks, walls, fences, landscaping, doors, windows, decoration, materials, finishes and other features accurately representing the proposed design.
3. Material samples and manufacturer’s literature for major materials and products to be incorporated in the proposed design.
C. Additions to existing buildings.
1. Photographs (8” x 10”) of the existing building and adjoining building.
2. Site plan and elevation drawings showing the design, indicating drives, road, parking, walks, walls, fences, landscaping, doors, windows, decoration, materials, finishes and other features accurately representing the proposed design.
3. Material samples and manufacturer’s literature for major materials and products to be incorporated in the proposed design.”

The application process listed above is nowhere to be found on any City of Ashland website.  So even if one happens to know a preservation ordinance is in effect, one can not comply because the process may not be available to them.  

Application as defined by Webster’s online dictionary is, “ a form used in making a request.” To my knowledge, no form/application has ever been created by the City of Ashland, the Building and Zoning Office, or the Historic Preservation Board.  “In order for an application to be reviewed and approved, the applicant shall submit drawings, photographs, specifications and material samples as outlined below.”  This statement implies that a form must be accompanied by drawings, photographs, specifications, etc. in order to be reviewed.  A simple application would document the homeowner’s name, address, contact information.  When applying for a recent job, I don’t just send in my teaching certificate and curriculum vitae.  I must complete a form accompanied with a cover letter and other required documents.

With technology today, an online application is easy to create as well as complete.  “A minimum of six sets of drawings and one set of photographs” is outdated.  A computerized log would be created if the applications and items requested were submitted digitally, no file cabinets needed.  Stating that pictures must be 8” x 10” is also outdated in a digital world.  I can print an 8” x 10” picture that is extremely pixelated.  Requesting a digital image with a certain number of pixels is much better.  Yearbook and other printing companies do this to maintain quality.

If Ordinance 51-05 will ever be successful in the preservation of the Center Street Historic District, the Historic Preservation Board and the City of Ashland must start with an updated application process for documentation purposes.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Broken Preservation Ordinance - Design Guidelines

Preface. The purpose of these guidelines is to preserve the architectural history of existing buildings or structures and to ensure the procedures and materials used are compatible with the existing building or structure and help to ensure its preservation into the future and are meant to give architects and owners design direction consistent with the Codified Ordinances of the City of Ashland.  In principle, the Board adopts the United States of America, Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.” - Ordinance 51-05 Ashland, Ohio

Many years back, I attended a number of Historic Preservation Board meetings in Ashland.  Because the Ordinance and Board were new, I suggested that prior to a decision for each application being made, one member of the Board prepare a written explanation much like that of the Supreme Court of the United States.  Explain the reasons for the decision, whether in favor or not.  This creates precedents to support the Historic Preservation Board in the future, provides information to homeowners as to what has been acceptable and what has been declined, and displays how the Board has reflected back to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.  To this date, no evidence of a written explanation using Department of Interior's Standards has been propagated.

The lack of the Historic Preservation Board’s understanding of the Department of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation is evident with many of the applications approved by the Board.  A number of homes have been vinyl sided with the blessing of the Board.  The problem is not with the vinyl but that it has covered up types of shingled siding that is not found with the new vinyl siding.  As stated in the first post about A Broken Preservation Ordinance, Center Street was put on the National Register of Historic Places because it was a textbook of architectural styles.  By applying vinyl siding over these unique shingled sided homes, the historic appearance has been altered, and potential damage has been done to the original shingles as nails tack in the vinyl causing irreparable damage to the home itself.  One homeowner in the Center Street Historic District was told that the back of the home didn’t matter and neither did the garage, yet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards would disagree.

Above - The original wood siding of the Heltman Home
Below - The vinyl siding as seen today
Similar issues can be seen on the Pancoast Home as well.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Broken Preservation Ordinance - Board Membership

Ordinance 51-05 - Ashland, Ohio
The Historic Preservation Board shall consist of five (5) members as follows:
One architect, to the extend he/she is available in the community.
One preservation related professional member, to the extent he/she is available in the community (this shall include history, planning, archaeology or related disciplines).
Two property owners from within the district and also, to the extent possible, from within the community.
One resident of the City, generally.

Members shall be appointed by the Mayor and approved by Council and shall serve for four-year terms, except that the initial appointments shall be one for one year, one for two years, one for three years and two for four years.”

During the Revolutionary War colonists protested taxes being levied without the consent of those governed.  Taxation without representation was a fundamental cause for the break between England and 13 of her American colonies.  Today, I see the similar issues as only two of the members of the Historic Preservation Board in Ashland are property owners within the district.  When the Board was first created, one other position was held by a homeowner, but the mayor has not reappointed this man back to the Board, even though that person is more qualified than anyone who has held that position since.  Chris Buchanan not only has an appropriate university degree, but ran his own restoration/rehabilitation business.  Chris currently currently works as a Restoration Project Coordinator for the Ohio History Connection, formerly the Ohio Historical Society.  Chris recently coordinated the restoration of the Rankin House in Ripley, Ohio and had many other projects in the works.  Even I have a B.A. in History but I doubt the mayor will appoint me to the board because I have been too vocal about Ordinance issues. With a mayor appointing members to the Historic Preservation Board, he or she can project their influence without any check to their power by the citizens of the historic district.  So, the mayor could appoint individuals with little desire or interest in preservation and that Board will make decisions for the Center Street Historic District, even though less than half the members of the board actually live in the district.  The citizens in the Historic District deserve the right to vote for their representatives.  We deserve to have our own residents on the Historic Preservation Board.  Just as residents in Ashland would not want the people of Mansfield or any other community making decisions for our city, the citizens of the Center Street Historic District deserve to create our own path.  If other property owners in the city opt into the guidelines of the preservation ordinance, then they too deserve their representation.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Broken Preservation Ordinance - The Intended Purpose

As stated in Ordinance 51-05 of Ashland, Ohio

“Council, being mindful of the proud history of this community and of the importance of beauty in the everyday lives of our residents hereby declare as a matter of public policy that the identification, evaluation, designation, and protection of designated historic and prehistoric resources within the boundaries of Ashland be provided for and preserve and rehabilitate eligible historic properties within Ashland for future generations

A. Safeguard the heritage of Ashland as represented by those buildings, districts, objects, sites and structures which reflect significant elements of Ashland History.

B. Foster civic and neighborhood pride in the beauty and accomplishments of the past, and a sense of identity based on Ashland history.

C. Stabilize or improve the aesthetic and economic vitality and values of such sites, improvements and objects.

D. Assist, encourage and provide incentives to private owners for preservation, restoration, redevelopment and use of outstanding historic buildings, districts, objects, sites and structures.

E. Promote and facilitate the early identification and resolution of conflicts between preservation of historic resources and alternative land uses.

F. Conserve valuable material and energy resources by ongoing use and maintenance of the existing built environment.”

The irony of the purpose statement of this preservation law was accentuated when the A.N. Myers home was destroyed by the Ashland County Historical Society. One member of Ashland’s City Council served on the board of the historical society. Council and the historical society didn’t “Safeguard the heritage of Ashland as represented by those buildings...which reflect significant elements of Ashland history”, “encourage and provide incentives”, or “Stabilize or improve the aesthetic and economic vitality and values”.

The National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Center Street Historic District referred to the street as a “veritable textbook of architectural styles”. As more historic structures in the district are destroyed, the historic architectural primer loses the vitality that made it so great. Safeguarding these properties is essential to what caught the eye of the US Department of Interior, leading to the distinction of a Nationally Registered historic district. Traditionally, historic district property values have been higher than other neighborhoods. Without safeguards and incentives to provide stable property values, sale prices for properties in the Center Street Historic District may not recover. During conflicts over the demolition of 408 Center Street and 309 Center Street, Ashland City Council did little to promote and facilitate a resolution of conflicting parties. This opportunity to display leadership was lost.

The foundation and purpose of Ordinance 51-05 is solid. While some verbiage must be transformed, it is the metamorphosis of the minds of leaders to fully comprehend the assets that lay before us in the Center Street Historic District that is needed most.

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Broken Preservation Ordinance

When Ordinance 51-05 in Ashland, Ohio was created eleven years ago, no homeowner in the Center Street Historic District expected the law to be challenged.  The ordinance was the desire of the homeowners to preserve the district as a veritable textbook of architectural styles, the reason the reason the district was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Since the establishment of 51-05, two demolition permits have been granted, numerous violations have been committed, and although law, the ordinance has not been sent on to the Ohio Historic Preservation Office.  Over the course of the next two weeks, I will document the ineffectiveness of the law.

A Broken Preservation Ordinance - The Intended Purpose

A Broken Preservation Ordinance - Board Membership

A Broken Preservation Ordinance - Design Guidelines

A Broken Preservation Ordinance - Application Procedure

A Broken Preservation Ordinance - Demolition of Historic Properties

A Broken Preservation Ordinance - Enforcement of the Ordinance

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Why Not to Vinyl/Aluminum Side Your Old House By Chris Buchanan

Since the enactment of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966, the concept of historic preservation has made remarkable advances in America. Visiting the cities and neighborhoods where it has taken hold is a rich, rewarding experience, and our country’s cultural heritage has been forever enhanced. Unfortunately, for many smaller towns and less affluent neighborhoods in America, many of which have in recent decades been faced with profound economic challenges, the idea that our old buildings are important and worth investing in, is only very, very slowly trickling down. In the meantime, America’s old neighborhoods are being stripped of their historic character, one house at a time, at an alarming rate due to the proliferation of “home improvement” contractors. These types of contractors, the number of which have increased threefold in the last ten years, are contractors who specialize in quick installations of high profit materials. The products they push the hardest are vinyl siding and replacement windows, and their involvement with old houses and historic neighborhoods is often devastating.

The old house at left has been vinyl sided and entirely stripped of its historic detail and character. Compare it to its neighbor whose owners have retained its original siding and details, and accentuated them with a three color paint scheme. Note that this house has no fantastic architectural features, just many common period details. It’s their collective effect, however, that give the house its historic charm. Unfortunately, in many towns and neighborhoods in America, well cared for houses like this are becoming rare, while stripped-down, vinyl boxes like the one at left are becoming the norm.

I’m not writing here about the old practice of ripping off architectural components to make the vinyl siding process easier. I’m assuming that anyone taking the time to read this probably values their historic house, and would communicate to their contractor that removal of trim features is unacceptable. Be aware though, that home improvement contractors generally don’t like dealing with old wood trim because it slows them down, making the job less profitable. They would much rather pry, saw, or hack it off, usually telling the homeowners that the trim is rotten and “can’t be saved”. I wish I could say that this was only true among the worst cases, but I still see it happening all the time.


A “home improvement expert” preparing a house for vinyl siding by tearing off the ornamental wood window tops. This picture wasn’t taken in the 1950’s, but in 2004., and the house he’s working on/over sits in a district listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Unfortunately though, in this instance there is no local protective legislation prohibiting vinyl siding.

As an owner of a vintage home you should avoid covering it with vinyl and/or aluminum siding for three main reasons, and they’re very important reasons. First, from a practical standpoint, it can be unhealthy for your house, and second, from an aesthetic standpoint, it undermines the visual properties that attracted you to your old house in the first place. Lastly, the “maintenance free” promise of vinyl siding is simply not true.

From a practical standpoint, vinyl siding eliminates a wood frame house’s ability to tell you when something’s gone wrong. When unwanted water finds its way into the walls of an old house, through roof leaks, poor interior ventilation conditions, or any other source, there will be a concentrated area of peeling paint which appears on the outside of the house. As long as the source of moisture is identified and eliminated promptly, the wood will dry out quickly, and can generally be repainted before serious deterioration occurs. When the house is covered with vinyl or aluminum, materials that are unaffected by water, the warning signs are concealed and the deterioration continues unnoticed within the walls. Because the house’s exterior has been officially declared “no maintenance”, nobody’s looking too closely.


This view shows the corner of the porch of a recently sided circa 1900 Queen Anne style house. Every surface, with the exception of the original columns, has been covered with aluminum or vinyl. If there’s ever any water damage occurring inside these boxes, it will be a long, long time before the owner knows about it.

As part of the vinyl siding process, some of the home’s elements, most often window surrounds, are wrapped in what is known as “break metal”. It’s called this because the contractor uses a big tool called a “break” to bend aluminum into box shapes. These site fabricated pieces of aluminum are then used to cover up any original wood pieces that can’t be covered up with vinyl siding. Vinyl siding can only be used over the flat areas of the house. Using break metal as part of the process is a way of getting a highly standardized product, like a vinyl siding system, to work on a non-standardized background, like a well crafted old house. The problems arise at the joints where the pieces of break metal meet. This is where the contractor uses a quickly applied bead of caulk to form a seal to keep water out. Home improvement contractors love caulk and use it freely as a quick and easy substitute for properly dealing with how materials come together. The problem is that the bond between the caulk and the break metal can quickly open up, often soon after the siding job is completed, allowing water to enter the wall cavity. The vinyl siding then prevents the underlying original wood trim and structure from drying out, and the deterioration continues unnoticed due to the water-impervious nature of the vinyl covering. Once again -out of sight, out of mind.


This photo shows how the vertical and horizontal pieces of brake metal meet on a recently sided over 1885 Victorian. Note the sloppy caulk joint, which is the only thing keeping water out of the original window sill beneath. Notice also how the caulk joint at left has already opened up completely. Should we wonder where all that rain water is going?


This old house, shown during its “improvement” by vinyl siding, illustrates the tragic, but still all too common, details of the process. The projecting window tops and horizontal decorative moldings have been torn off, the window surrounds have been covered by break metal, and the vinyl corner pieces and J-channel have been nailed on in preparation for the imitation siding.

Other physical problems which come up when installing vinyl siding over old houses are the “creative” use of J-channel and the need to nail through the original siding. Vinyl siding contractors use a standard “accessory” piece known as “J-channel” at places where the horizontal siding meets a vertical element. The long, rear leg of the J shape is nailed to the house, and then the siding pieces are slipped in. The front, short leg of the J shape conceals the end of the siding. The J-channel is necessary because vinyl expands and contracts with outside temperature variations far more than wood, and without it, gaps would open up at all these joints.

If a homeowner insists on saving their original trim, the contractor will install J-channel around it. Getting the J-channel to fit around anything but the plainest and straightest trim usually results in a great deal of clipping, patching and scabbing, adding to the ugliness of the whole affair. Since the new siding is usually applied over top of the original siding, the projecting moldings, window casings, etc, look half submerged in the new vinyl siding.


A good example of the “creative” use of J-channel. Note the frantic clipping required to get the J channel to conform to the irregular and curved outlines of the original woodwork, and the way that the window and pilaster at right seem to be nearly submerged in the vinyl siding. Even if you can live with this look, how weatherproof do you think this kind of detailing really is?

The only real benefit of vinyl siding is that it’s cheap. The trouble is that it also looks cheap. This brings us to the second problem with vinyl siding on old houses.

When viewed from any closer than the curbside, vinyl siding has a flimsy, sterile look. In reality though, we don’t just experience our houses from the curbside. We experience our homes up close, every day, and we enjoy the details that make them special, and very different from new houses. It’s hard to put your finger on what attracts some of us emotionally to an old house, but too many old house owners find out too late that their decision to vinyl side has unwittingly destroyed a big part of what attracts them to their old house. Visit a historic district that does not allow fake siding and you’ll quickly understand the difference it makes. Then go take a good, close look at houses that have already suffered the installation of vinyl siding. The more you look, the clearer it is that visually, it makes an incredibly big difference.

The first impulse of people new to restoration and old house living is often to attempt to turn back the hands of time in order to achieve a state of perfection that, if it ever existed at all, was probably very short lived. Old houses are made of real, natural materials, and, like their owners, they age. People who appreciate and understand old houses, however, develop an often hard to describe attraction and attachment to these signs of vulnerability. Among the words old house owners commonly use to describe this feeling are patina, character, charm, and ambiance. But one word that is seldom used to describe their old house, or their restoration efforts, is perfection. In addition to the special connected feeling they give us, a big part of the attraction of old houses is their appearance and sense of age. If we want perfection, there are thousands of new home developments trying hard to create the illusion.


This historic house, it's simple architectural details lovingly maintained by its owner, is located in a neighborhood gradually being stripped of its historic character by siding contractors. One can only imagine the quality of the streetscape if more people valued the special charm of these homes.

In his book, Creating a New Old House, Russell Versaci does a wonderful job of characterizing the houses being built today. In the chapter titled “The Faux Traditional House: A House Meant for Curb Appeal, he states: “Many of today’s homebuilders seem to have lost touch with the principles of the old way of building. Keenly aware of the attraction of old architectural styles, the faux traditional house has become universal in subdivisions across the country. These are houses built with a veneer of history painted onto the surface like wallpaper. Contemporary home builders on tight timetables tend to shun the old way of building because it requires a commitment to craft and quality. When we see a faux traditional home, most of us recognize instinctively that something about the house is wrong. The mass-produced decorative details look tentative and impermanent. We recognize that they are houses built for expediency and not for beauty, and they were never meant to last”.We’ve all experienced the houses he’s talking about. The wood siding is fake, the brick is only a veneer (and it’s only on the front of the house), the doors look like wood, but they’re plastic too. It is this stage set quality that pervades new houses that most people who have lived in and enjoyed old houses find so unsettling and disappointing.

If you want to see real world evidence of people’s deep, instinctive need and reverence for the authentic sense of place experienced with old houses, take a close look at the settings of TV commercials, sitcoms, movies, etc. It’s amazing – you’ll notice that nearly all of them take place in beautiful old houses, apartments or office buildings. They almost never take place in newer architectural settings. Subconsciously, the people we identify with, and find the most interesting, live and work in comforting old places full of meaningful details and authentic historic character. If you’re one of the small percentage of people who actually do inhabit such a place, value it and protect it for generations to come!


Is it really reasonable to believe someone who is telling you that covering up 75, 90, or even 100 percent of your historic home’s exterior with a modern synthetic material is a good thing, and that it won’t make much of a difference in the house’s appearance?

And finally, in spite of what the manufacturers and installers will tell you, vinyl siding is not maintenance free. The vinyl siding sales guys will tell you that “It will never need painted….”, but they never tell you the second part of the sentence which is “…if, after one to ten years, you’re willing to live with a dull, washed out looking house”. Old houses often look their best when painted rich colors, and it’s a near universal truth, whether you’re talking about paint, siding, or anything else, that the darker the color, the quicker it will fade. Another real problem is that if the siding is ever damaged it will be virtually impossible to color match the repair because the siding begins to gradually fade as soon as it's installed. The only way to handle this is to repair the vinyl (if your pattern is still available) and then, (guess what!) paint the siding so that it all matches. Ask the guys at your local paint store – paint for faded vinyl is something they’re selling a lot of. Additionally, if you’re after the lowest bid to get your vinyl siding on, you’ll probably be out in your yard picking up strips of vinyl after a storm sooner than you might think.

Sometimes a historic home owner will insist that their contractor not remove any detail and that they cover up only the siding. Any painter or homeowner who’s ever painted their own house will tell you that the siding is the easiest and quickest part of the house to paint. It’s the detailed areas that take up most of the time. So the next time they paint they don’t have to paint the siding, but now they’ve got a bunch of J-channel to carefully paint around. Color by the way, is a highly personal issue with old houses, and homes are often repainted when they change ownership. Obviously, installing vinyl permanently locks a house into a siding color, and can even limit future trim color choices.


It appears that the owners of this house were insistent that their contractor work around all the beautiful original detail. Only the original siding itself has been covered with vinyl siding. What percentage of the painting do you think they’ve actually gotten rid of? And how satisfying will it be to finish a future paint job and see the newly painted detail work set off against the slowly fading vinyl siding?

The truth is that if a person’s primary objective is an escape from the need to do, or pay for, any maintenance work, they should not be living in an old house. New home subdivisions and condominium developments are much better places to look for shelter housing than any old house.

Instead of resorting to covering up their houses historic materials, old house owners should plan a reasonable amount of time and cash into their budgets, and stay current with the technologies that are quickly evolving to make maintaining an old house more manageable. A great deal of the time involved in painting a house goes into the prep work – scraping peeling paint, caulking, sanding and priming the bare spots. By painting on a regular basis, before the peeling becomes widespread, the amount of time required for a paint job can be drastically reduced.

Paint manufacturers, I believe due to increasing competition from siding manufacturers, are actively striving for more durable paints. Let’s face it, it’s not in their best interest to continue to allow houses to be covered over with vinyl. All the paint companies now offer premium house paints formulated for increased durability, and if a historic home owner is investing the time and/or money for thorough prep work, they can be worth the money.


This house is in the process of having its paint stripped by the homeowners, one small section at a time, using an infrared stripping tool to help remove over 100 years of built up paint. The owners have needed to replace only a small amount of wood siding, and the repairs are virtually undetectable.

Paint removal, done without damaging the house’s original woodwork, is a slow process, but it's well within the skill range of the patient and attentive homeowner. Removal of excessive paint build-up, aside from moisture control, is the single most important factor affecting paint duration.

As a historic restoration contractor and student of our architectural heritage, I’m all too aware of the profoundly destructive effect that replacement siding has had on our historic neighborhoods and individual homes. I hope that in writing this it will help convince the owners of historic homes to spend their money on planned and managed maintenance, not on petroleum products molded to look like the things that real houses used to be made of.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Pump House Ministries Water Tower Demolition Delayed

Pump House Ministries Water Tower Demolition Delayed

  •  2/5/2016 10:28:36 AM
  •  Greg Heindel
  •  Local News
The old water tower at Pump House Ministries in Ashland will be torn down at a later date.
The 140-foot tower was scheduled for demolition Thursday, but a mechanical problem with a bulldozer caused a delay.
Removing the tower will clear the way for redevelopment of the Orange Street property. 
The new development will be called Pump House Square, and is being designed by a company in Utah.    
A brick building near the water tower will be torn down next.
No date has been set for the start of construction of the new Best Western hotel and retail businesses.