Hurricanes and Historic Properties

With Hurricane Season in mid-swing there are many properties that are in harms way.  While it is heartbreaking to see historic properties affected by a hurricane it does happen.  I can think first of New Orleans and the surrounding areas when Hurricane Katrina devastated an entire region.  While a catastrophic storm brings a whole set of it’s own issues even a tropical storm can cause damage.  Here are some things to know if your historic property is subjected to a storm.

  • Each SHPO should have a “Damage Report” that can be filled out and sent in.  Some basic questions that you may find on the report are:  Name and location of your property.  Historic District your property is located in.  What kind of damage did the building sustain?  Will all of the damage be covered by your insurance?  If not, how much money do you anticipate having to spend out of pocket?  Can the SHPO be of assistance in assessing the damage and advising you on repairs?
  • Your state specific HPO can provide technical restoration assistance such as vital records regarding your property, guidance in seeking qualified restoration architects and contractors, on-site inspections and free phone consultations. 
  • Your home does NOT have to be on the register (but must be at least 50 years old) however, special consideration will be given to properties that are already on the register.
  • The Office of State Archeology can be invaluable when assistance is needed with exposed once-buried features such as old wells, foundations, privies and cellars.   (Preceeding link is for North Carolina)
  • Emergency Procedures for State Tax Credits following a natural disaster are usually implemented in each state.  In North Carolina there is a 30 day window once an area has been declared as a disaster area in which a historic property owner can receive verbal approval for emergency repairs provided the property qualifies for rehabilitation tax credits.  Be very careful – very detailed information is needed following the verbal approval.  Photographs of damage and detailed damage information is a MUST!

While I sincerely hope that your historic property is NEVER affected by a natural disaster it is always good to be prepared for the aftermath.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to call me or email me anytime!

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Inspectors and Architects for Historic Homes

Glen Royall Mill

Glen Royall Mill

When purchasing a historic property, whether commercial or residential, it is important to seek out those that are well versed in the nuances of Historic Properties.

For instance, when the time comes to have your Historic Property inspected you will need to find an inspector that is familiar with the all the variations and uniqueness that is present.  A historic property present a set of issues that will need specialized attentionDifferent materials were used when the property was built, different designs were present at the time, and building methods were different.  If would be confusing to have an inspector NOT acquainted with those details have a report full of issues simply because they didn’t know better.

Architects are another resource that you will most likely need to utilize.  Again, it is imperative that seek out architects that specialize in historic properties.  While there are fabulous and well-established architects out there you want to find the ones that know code specific to historic properties.  They need to know the intimate details of the materials that were used and what is available in the present day that will adhere to the guidelines set forth for restoring and altering the property.

The task is not easy to discover these specialists but there are resources that can help!  A few avenues to explore which I highly recommend are:

  • Does your city or town have a Historic Preservation Committee or Advisory Board?  Most likely they do.  I would call them and ask for recommendations.  This Committed/Advisory Board should also have Guidelines available (may or may not have a fee associated) by which you must abide.  These will be vital for the architect to ensure that they know the parameters with which they can operate within.  This could potentially avoid costly mistakes for you, the owner!  While it is the architects duty to provide you with drawings and contract out the work it is ultimately the property owners resposibility to ensure that the guidelines are being adhered to.  Likewise, you local Historic Preservation Committee/Advisory Board may have suggestions for Property Inspectors. 
  • Another great resource is your SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office).  There is a wide variety of positions within the SHPO such as Administration, Restoration Branch, Environmental Review Branch, Survey and Planning Branch.  I would suggest that you explore the Restoration Branch and seek out a professional that could possibly be titled “Restoration Specialist”.  This is their field!  They will have much information to share and should be able to provide you with ample information.
  • Speaking specifically of Architects you can visit AIA (The American Institute of Architects).  They have a fabulous feature that allows you to search specifically for architects that specialize in Historic Preservation.  Be cautious when using this tool.  While the architect may include that on their submission to the AIA it may not be a field that they do much in.  Conversely, I have found architects that do not list that as a service yet do specialize in historic preservation.

Another important element is to ASK FOR REFERENCES.  You are well within your rights to ask an inspector what other properties they have inspected that were historic and ask for references.  Ask to see an Architects portfolio.  If they are well versed in historic restoration/preservation they will have no problems with showing you their work.  Don’t forget to ask them for references!

Good luck with your project!  If you are in the Wake Forest or Raleigh area and need assistance please do not hesitate to give me a call or email me – I already have a list of contacts for both and I will be happy to help!