Most Americans would say a 50 year old building was old, and probably needed – something done. What if the building were part 150-year-old classic building, with 100-year-old additions – and an 80-year-old commercial bathroom? Then what? Send for Bob Vila? Peter, the cemetery president, began researching Italianate form. What did the building originally look like? How was it constructed? On more mundane subjects; how to make the entrance to the bathrooms at ground level, and what type of heating to use? What started as a seemingly simple restoration quickly became The Project of Ten Thousand Decisions.
Tieing the pieces together
This is a building with multiple functions to be served: A visitor center, storage vault, and operations management facility with video systems, computer networks, storage for uniforms, all hidden behind a façade of creaking antique stairs and a mix of architectural “improvements.”
The Internet provided a most unexpected boon in the person of Robert Schweitzer, of Historic House Colors. Aside from his professorial duties, Robert provides advice to designers and contractors who wish to work with historic-period buildings. And it happens he is an expert in Italianate construction, even having written a paper on brackets – those decorative wooden brackets found below the roofline typical in buildings from this era. Rob offered advice on nearly every aspect of the giant restoration, keeping everyone on task for a proper period restoration. He even helped select the interior colors!
Goal & Solution
With the cemetery board’s blessing, Peter Blacksburg the cemetery’s president. Rob and a bunch of really fine craftsman proceeded to restore the entire building top-to-bottom, and in the process recreate a Beyrgen County Historic Mansion. The goal was a building that is used daily for administration, but not a show piece house.
In some ways Peter and the cemetery got the bet of both worlds in the new color scheme. The building is stunning to look at, but does not come off as a painted lady mansion in the middle of a clam, peaceful resting place. The colors are strong, but slightly muted to provide a soft feel, one of welcome and not of show.