Windows join endangered list

May 4, 2009
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Bush StadiumThe Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana has added four new structures and an architectural feature to its annual list of the 10 Most Endangered Hoosier landmarks. Additions to the list include the Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home in Knightstown, Jacobs Wild Animal Circus Barns in Peru, the Old Perry County Courthouse in Rome and the Snow Hill Covered Bridge in Franklin County. The only Indianapolis structure to make this year's list is Bush Stadium (shown above), the former home of the Indianapolis Indians, which also made the list last year. One of the Top 10 was not a building but rather an architectural feature. The Foundation says historic windows are being replaced at "an alarming rate" mainly due to attempts at energy efficiency. "Well-maintained original windows will last much longer than vinyl replacements, sparing landfills of both the originals and the replacements," the Foundation says. "In this era of necessary thrift and conservation consciousness, Historic Landmarks suggests returning to the save-and-repair ethic of earlier generations rather than falling for sales pitches that result in waste and drastic loss of architectural significance." The Foundation removed three structures that appeared on last year's list— Indianapolis Public School #97, the Colgate-Palmolive factory complex and giant clock in Clarksville and the Jennings Building in New Castle.

Here's the full list:
1. Historic windows, statewide
2. Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home, Knightstown
3. Jacobs Wild Animal Circus Barns, Peru
4. Old Perry County Courthouse, Rome
5. Snow Hill Covered Bridge, Franklin County
6. Bush Stadium, Indianapolis
7. Old Lowell School, Lowell
8. Maple Grove Road Rural Historic District, Bloomington
9. Syracuse Depot, Syracuse
10. Washington Avenue Historic District, Evansville
  • Kudos on the windows! The replacement window industry has duped the public for long enough. Each year I see more and more home owners in my neighborhood throw out their beautiful old windows that just need a little TLC for ugly vinyl units that *might* last 10-15 years. They will never recoup their replacement cost in energy savings. What a waste; someone is getting rich and it certainly isn't the home owner. The better solution is caulk and a good storm. Also, Indianapolis has several craftsman who will restore windows to perfect functionality for a lot less than it costs to replace. The throw-away mentality that permeates our society isn't good for anyone. I wish HLFI could counter the endless commercials for replacement windows with some PSAs--people just don't know better.
  • Perfect functionality? Give me a break! Perfect functionality should be a combination of features vs. benefits, not just having the sashes actually MOVE up and down. There are many valid issues to debate about this topic, none of which are really worthy of this forum.

    The point is that we should be more forward thinking, and stop valuing old stuff just because it is old. While vinyl windows may not be one of them, occasionally, new products actually exceed EVERY performance standard met by a historic product. And the window market is no different. Each situation warrants an appropriate solution, but there is no catch all fix for the window issue.
  • I agree with Wheat... Homeowners don't realize that replacing windows usually does NOT increase their property values. In many areas, like Meridian-Kessler, Butler-Tarkington, and so forth it can actually DECREASE their property values. That said, I don't want to put the new window people out of business. If only they could open an efficient Window Refurbishing Department. Most people think it will be too expensive to repair/refurbish their existing windows. If the window companies could also make money doing the refurbishing, there wouldn't be this unseemly problem.
  • Please wipe Bush Stad off the face of the earth and plan for something on the site that will be the catalyst for redevelopment of the entire area!
  • BUSH STADIUM: The area has been eyed by IUPUI and several groups as an area for technology and R&D business parks - possibly student housing or recreation purposes as well. I can't think of better uses for the space. I don't think Bush Stadium is preventing this, and if feasible, reusing a historic landmark for new uses is inspiring and smart. Potentially keeping the exterior walls of the grandstands and building into the infield for office or lab space could accomplish this. What cannot happen is another 10 years of blight and neglect.
  • As a recent purchaser of replacement windows for my 98-year-old home, I went to great pains to find some that look, from both inside and out, similar to my old wood windows (which were rather plain as far as old windows go). You can debate cost effectiveness of the energy savings all you want, but in my mind the replacements are worth it because a) not only do they all open using only one hand, but they have screens! and b) I'm not on a ladder trying to clean the outside of the windows myself, or paying someone else to do it, because them fancy things tilt in from the inside!

    My point is, there's a quality of life factor in the cost of those replacement windows. And having had an interior leaded-glass door reworked, I'm going to guess getting old windows refurbished ain't exactly cheap either.
  • Ivo, why not incorporate Bush Stadium into the redevelopment plan?

    If done correctly , it could be the centerpiece amenity of a one-of-kind neighborhood with more character and appeal than a developer could ever hope to build from scratch.

    I'll also just point out that Indy is adept at tearing down great structures, but not so skilled at replacing them with anything worthwile.

    Half of downtown's gone and been replaced with beautiful parking lots, for pete's sake. And all in the name of civic improvement. :-)
  • Question from a reader: Does anyone have suggestions for people to hire to restore old windows?
  • Landmarks made a good decision with the Windows issue. The issue is one of simple ignorance, at the risk of alienating a certain demographic. Replacing windows is almost always a bad idea, especially if the house was built before 1970. Please don't do it. Spend that money on insulating your attic and crawl space. That's where real energy dollars are lost, not through the walls.

    And yes, vinyl replacements are ugly. I have seen them all. If you can't see the difference in details, shadow lines and profiles, walk around your neighborhood. Many of your neighbors can. My own street is a mess and the old-timers here aren't happy when vinyl people move in and ruin another house.

    On the lighter side, it's sad that people don't realize that having a real carpenter disassemble and re-pack leaky double-hungs to new condition is almost always less expensive. My guess is that it's just easier to find contractors who know how to replace windows than it is to find carpenters who know how to fix wood windows. We're just a lazy society.
  • Cory, that's a good question. The IHPC cannot make contractor recommendations because they are a governmental entity, but I hear that HLFI maintains a directory of acceptable contractors which they share with the public.
  • Cory, HLFI keeps a list of contractors who self-report that they have experience in window restoration; of course, you should always check out the contractor yourself before hiring anyone and be sure to ask for recommendations. One well-known restorer is:

    For those belly-aching about having to clean old windows, there's even a system for converting historic windows to tilt in; though it makes much more sense to me to just hire someone to clean them. You could hire someone for the next 50 years to clean your windows and not spend what you would on replacements.

    Even simple windows are of a quality that can't be reproduced today. Old windows are made from old-growth wood; not the farmed, fast-growing wood that you get today. There are decent replacements, but I'd argue they don't compare to that old-growth wood. And the fact of the matter is, most people who are replacing their windows aren't buying the better replacements; most are buying the bargain-bin units at Lowe's, even if the window doesn't fit their opening.

    I'd urge anyone considering replacing their windows to not rule restoration out without looking into it first. I've seen time and time again that it is the less expensive alternative. You can also feel good about supporting the local economy by hiring a local craftsman to carry out the restoration work. Restoration always generates more for the local economy than replacement because it's more labor-intensive.
  • Windows are something I'm passionate about (if you can't tell!) because I hate, hate, hate that people are being cajoled into buying a product (replacement windows) that they just plain and simple don't need. Restoring old windows is not just good for the old house lover, but it's good for the earth. Every window that is torn out ends up in a land fill and all the embodied energy within that window is thrown away, just like that. And unfortunately, vinyl has become the most common material used to construct replacements and PVC happens to be a very toxic compound!

    The National Trust has some good reading on this topic, if anyone is interested:

    You can also do a search of their website for much more.
  • I attempted to have some historic steel windows refurbished about 2 years ago. I contacted 4 firms listed in yellow pages, only got 2 to return my calls. 1 later dropped off the earth, and the other did a site visit only to tell me he was too busy for the job. I can't imagine many homeowners would go through that experience without giving up.

    I searched for hours for information online and asked everyone I knew for additional contacts, but there just isn't anything reliable out there. From what I can see, the only projects actually reusing historic windows are the ones forced to for historic registration or tax credit purposes. Or very committed historic preservationists. Historic windows are the best, but they are not very convenient.
  • Perry Stadium is a jewel that shouldn't be torn down for some stupid parking lot. You can't build stuff like that today. Indianapolis can easily support a second minor league baseball team. IndyParks is the wrong agency to control this place though, ownership should be transferred to the CIB, operating venues like this is what they do.
  • Surely you are joking about CIB. Do you not read the newspapers? What they seem to be good at is tearing down still-usable but no-frills stadia and building new deluxe ones. Whether they can actually operate the new ones within their means is still a matter of considerable debate locally.
  • As has been stated, HLFI has a list of contractors for various work on historic properties. I have used Ron Zmyslo, Reserve Restore Maintain Indy is the name of his company(317-987-8912), for the restoration of the windows at the 1875 Wilbur School, in Morgan County. He used to work for HLFI as their Director of Restoration, or something like that. There are many ways to repair or restore old windows and I'm sure he can help any homeowner discuss the options and determine the best direction for both the building and the owner. Like so many other things in life, keeping the value of historic windows in a property requires an effort. So often we take the easy way out and throw-out the old and buy new. That just deteriorates the historic character of a property, one of the things that makes living or working in a historic home or building enjoyable; and it gives me a certain level of pride.
  • Graeme--steel windows are a bit tougher since it's harder to find tradespeople who can/will take on smaller residential jobs and it may require hiring someone out-of-state. Some steel restoration folks that have been recommended by professionals posting on the National Trust's listserve include:
    Lewis Brothers, Inc., Viper Ky (606) 439-4618
  • TEM: I admire your support for an additional sports entertainment in INDY, however I truly suspect a second baseball team could not be done profitably. And maintaining Bush Stadium for such purpose could be extremely expensive if fans did not turn out.

    Consider the arguement for preserving much of the original grandstand and expanding and converting it to other purposes (office, labratory, possibly residential.) These projects are always controversial but still superior to demolish.
  • Thundermutt, I am not joking. And don't call me Shirley. Your problem is you are reading the newspapers. They are worthless. The IndyStar simply can not write anything you can trust about the CIB. Sorry to say but that is true. They thought they could sabotage the CIB by making up this deficit nonsense but after the legislature came and went nothing got fixed because nothing is broke.

    JG, I am not talking about sports entertainment, whatever that is, I am talking about baseball. Yesterday I tried to listen to a baseball game online between two teams that are now controlled by the corporate entity Major League Baseball. I couldn't do it. They are ruining their own business preventing the world from hearing baseball games. Perry Stadium isn't controlled by Major League Baseball, thank God. Play baseball there without Major League Baseball involved and you have a worldwide audience immediately both audio and video.
  • I'm really shocked that the 1819 courthouse in Rome could be demolished.
    1819! French was still being spoken in Indiana at that time!
  • TEM: Sports entertainment are things in which people watch sports and are entertained - very simple, you were talking about that. Baseball fits nicely into that. Still I like your idea for more options to watch and listen to baseball, though even a not-for-profit team or league requires revenue to operate through ticket sales, media rights, merchandise, etc. The stadium itself would require expensive maintenance, and I doubt you can make a compelling arguement that INDY would be able to support such.
  • Wheat 1 - Thanks for posting a list of resources, that will definitely help. However, I think a lot of people try to give the impression that restoring old steel windows is a slam dunk, you just have to make the decision to restore and that solves all your problems. But in reality, you need to be fully committed, you have to work very hard on this issue to make progress. In the end, you will be spending a huge upfront cost to remove, ship, and restore the windows out-of-state, then paying again to re-install them.

    In the end I think the authentic, historic windows are worth the cost, they add too much historic value to the building to replace. But it is not as easy as people say.
  • tem, to put it rather bluntly, baseball is like newspapers. Nobody cares anymore. Kids play soccer, basketball, football.
  • Historic Landmarks Foundation is a private not-for-profit foundation, not a government agency, no powers, except what they assume and would have you believe

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