Masonry Stories: How Two Historic Preservation Projects were Restored After Devastating Hurricanes
The environment in which a person grows up is essential to their development. Growing up in a historic home on the eastern side of Pennsylvania taught me a lot about life. Everything from the handmade ornate wood trim to the charming wavy glass gave me an extraordinary window through history. After my father purchased a circa 1750 stone farmhouse in Spinnerstown, Pennsylvania, we were introduced to life full of appreciation for vintage styles of life, creaky and wobbly steps, the history of families from past eras, and the power of going green. Project after project, we took every dark corner in the house and brought it back into the light. Finding historically accurate materials and artisans who know how to work in historic architecture is quite the challenge, especially after all your progress on the house getting demolished from a large tree.
I can still vividly remember the day after Hurricane Sandy. The storm plowed through the Northeast with hours of pounding rain and furious wind in the fall of 2012. At that time, I lived with my father in our farmhouse, about 12 miles north of the Dierstein Millhafen Farm – home of LimeWorks.us and The Craftwork Training Center. It was a beautiful farmhouse made of stone from local old lava deposits, handmade ornate wood trim, and multiple large fireplaces. The original mason perfectly pointed the walls with lime mortar. One of my fondest features of the house was the overly opulent lightning rod that stood almost four feet above cedar shakes. As soon as we walked outside the following morning after Hurricane Sandy, we spotted our large pine tree across our house and the lightning rod on top of it. The tree fell right into our roof, bouncing off and slamming into the side of the building and nearly ruining the freshly restored sash windows.
The sound of timberlands marching on the roof above me woke me up most mornings. The restoration took numerous months to complete. Without my father’s passion for historical restoration, a typical homeowner would have wrapped the project up in a few months. He wanted to repair our house using historically accurate materials and reassembling them with period-specific techniques. He wanted the home and property to be loved beyond our family and numerous future generations – something I still reminisce about today.
1098.3 miles south in Clearwater, Florida, a LimeWorks.us customer named Todd Williams was just like my dad and wanted to repair his home in the same historically accurate way. Todd asked his project manager Nick Olson of Specialized Property Services, first, “Do you know about lime mortar?” The perfect question to vet someone who is about to repair and restore a historic property.
At the age of 29, Todd made a significant commitment to purchasing a 1914 craftsman-style bungalow located in the historic Harbor Oaks Residential District in Clearwater, Florida. American real estate developer Dean Alvord and his son Donald built his home. Dean moved his family to Florida in 1913 to retire but ultimately continued his prolific career as a developer with his son until he died in 1941. With this house, the father and son team brought California’s Greene Brothers style to Florida. They brought with them honesty, utilitarian, and charming features. These craftsman bungalow homes are intricately designed, commonly paired with low-pitched roof lines, gabled or hipped roofs, exposed rafters, or deeply overhanging eaves with decorated brackets underneath. These houses were a darling of middle-class families and dominated the American style from 1905 until the 1930s. They quickly faded from favor, and many of these homes fell into disrepair in the following years.
Over the last 19 years, Todd has been remodeling and restoring his olive green and brick bungalow to return it to the original beauty that Dean Alford intended. Todd did much to the gorgeous property, including a significant garage remodel and pool addition in 2017. He built a house-matching two-car one-story garage that replaced an apartment-topped garage slowly crumbling on top of a flimsy dirt foundation. Todd has made some stunning interior renovations as well. Blue tiles can be found in the downstairs bathroom, and a pedestal sink and a modern clawfoot bathtub upstairs complement white tile walls. The bedrooms have felt the love, too, with the restoration of pitched ceilings, freshly plastered walls, and fully restored windows.
Unfortunately, just like my father and I, Todd’s house was destroyed by a hurricane. In 2017 a category 5 Hurricane, Irma, tore through Florida, damaging most coastal cities. Todd’s bungalow wasn’t left unscathed; a massive 50 ft oak in the backyard was whipped down by the over 100 mph winds, crushing the rear upper floor before buckling into the brickwork done on the lower floors.
Using Ecologic™ Mortar, Todd had his project managers, Nick and Derek Olson, repointed the damaged brick to its original state. The strong American-made, vapor-permeable mortar should keep this craftsman bungalow together for many years by allowing water to escape. If Todd used cheaper Portland cement, his brick wall work would crumble in a few years. Now, this 1914 craftsman bungalow will last for many years, so many future generations will use and enjoy it – just how my dad would have liked it.
Having LimeWorks.us as a resource is valuable in this historic restoration process for my family, Todd Williams, and countless other projects. Using accurate historical materials such as Ecologic™ Mortar, Ecologic™ LimeWash Platinum, the Ecologic™ PLASTER TAKCOAT™ Platinum, and Ecologic™ PLASTER TOPCOAT™ Platinum plaster system preserves the history of the structure, increases its lifespan, and reduces the overall carbon footprint in construction. LimeWorks.us also offers numerous incredible classes through the Craftwork Training Center to connect talented artisans with students to teach valuable knowledge and trade skills so that you, too, can have the proper know-how for your historic restoration project. LimeWorks.us also has an Architectural Conservator in our laboratory to provide specific testing and technical help for historic restoration projects. So if you or your business requires guidance on where to start for your next historical restoration project, the team at LimeWorks.us will be there to provide you with the materials, tools, technical help, and classes you may need to know how to restore and preserve your project correctly.
About the Author
Nic Rubolino is the current Communications Editor at Large for LimeWorks.us. Nic graduated from Penn State University in 2020 with a Film/Video Degree and has since specialized in writing, editing, and web design. After college, Nic found a passion for traveling and visiting all the beautiful National Parks across the United States. When he’s not writing or traveling, he likes to wander in nature, read Frank Herbert’s Dune Series, listen to Doc Watson, or dabble in the vast world of mycology. You can find Nic on all social media platforms as @NicRubolino.