When you wake up in the morning, what drives you? What makes you sit up, stretch, and embrace the day? At Crosskey Architects, why we wake up energized and eager to get to work is quite clear – to inspire others, transform communities, and have some fun doing it.
The Talcott Brothers’ Mill is undergoing a certified rehabilitation, which means that the project is utilizing State and Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits as one of its funding sources. Rehabilitation is defined by the National Park Service as “the process of returning a property to a state of utility, through repair or alteration, which makes possible an efficient contemporary use while preserving those portions and features of the property which are significant to its historic, architectural, and cultural values.” Therefore, all work must comply with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. The ten Standards were designed to protect a property’s significance through the preservation of distinctive material features.
As discussed in our blog post on January 16, 2017, the bell tower is a local icon. According to Laura Knott-Twine, project manager and historic administrator for the building’s owner, the ringing of the bell was the way workers were called to work at the woolen mill. Rarely, if ever, would mill workers own a clock, and if they did, it was not an alarm clock. The bell also rang at noon for lunch break (much like fire stations still blow their horn at noon) and also at 1pm to call them back to work. At the end of the shift, the bell would signal ‘quitting time.’ Laura also explains that c. 1880, mills introduced the steam whistle, often found in belfries, which could be heard at greater distances. In Willimantic, for example, the steam whistle was blown at 7am, noon, and 6pm until the mill closed in 1985.
Through Laura’s research we are able to understand the important social history associated with the bell tower and, visually, we can see that it is the most prominent architectural feature. In our experience, contractors often suggest replacing deteriorated wood components with modern materials like aluminum and azek to avoid cyclical maintenance; however, this is not an appropriate treatment and does not meet the Standards. Standard 6 discusses the importance of repairing rather than replacing, and replacing in-kind (matching the material, design, color, and texture) where necessary due to deterioration.
One of our roles as architects and historic preservation specialists is to educate builders and the public on historic preservation philosophy, like recognizing the importance of quality craftsmanship over low maintenance, mass-produced products. Starting the conversation about preservation methods provides context to the contractors so they understand the value of restoration and replacing in-kind rather than with substitute materials. While we recognize the value of these materials in the construction industry, historic rehabilitation projects are most often not the right situation to propose replacement materials.
Cutter Enterprises, LLC of Vernon Connecticut, the contractor, is responsible for the restoration of the belfry. Owner and President, Bob Dwyer, took a personal interest in the project and led the team, which included John Marquis, Supervisor, and Dan Fabris, Master Carpenter, with passion and pride. Custom wood carving knives were fabricated and used to replicate all components of the belfry requiring replacement. Everyone involved had great attention to detail and performed the work with care. Cutter was so excited about this project that they took the initiative to have a plaque made that lists the original construction date, the restoration date, contractor, restoration crew and structural engineer. What a very thoughtful idea!
On Monday, March 20, 2017, calm day with clear blue skies and sunshine, the belfry was lifted, guided into place, and secured to a new steel structure on the top floor of the tower. Please refer to the bell tower diagram for a graphic representation of the work discussed. The tower roof will soon be finished, and the spire installed. Stay tuned for pictures of the complete bell tower restoration, as well as the entire building rehabilitation.
By: Nina Caruso, MSHP, James Fiore, and Laura Knott-Twine, MA
The old adage, everything old is new again, holds true in most facets of everyday life. Styles of clothing change reincarnated in different forms, the bold neon colors of the 1980s have reemerged in current athletic wear. Movies are no longer original ideas, but rather remakes of past hits; in 2014 alone, new renditions of RoboCop, Annie, Godzilla, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, among others, appeared in theaters. Old buildings, particularly in downtown business districts, are being rediscovered as an alternative to new construction. This trend is fueled by a desire to maintain an emotional and aesthetic tie to the past and requires the effort of interested parties, which appear in many forms, including community groups, preservation organizations, and municipalities. Often overlooked, however, is the role developers can play in the revitalization of Main Streets across the country, particularly in the rehabilitation of mixed-use spaces downtown.
As housing increased in the suburbs after the Second World War, we also see the emergence of the suburban corporate landscape in the form of office parks, corporate campuses, and corporate estates. The disintegration of the city as an epicenter for commerce, the rise of suburban housing subdivisions, and the social and economic impact of the new suburban corporate structures provides context for why so many city office buildings have been left deserted. The abandonment of Main Street and the subsequent decay of its landscape have provided a blank canvas for redevelopment.
Developers often carry with them a stigma of destruction, of the heartless big business with only financial interests in mind. As seen in countless movies, developers attempt to demolish culturally significant or historic properties, making way for shiny new shopping centers and luxury condos. The portrayal of developers, as any character in film or literature, is often overblown and fictitious. Although some developers do embody this persona of the greedy corporation whose interests lay only in monetary gain, others seek opportunities to revitalize communities by rehabilitating properties with historic or architectural significance. Many resources exist on the subject of historic preservation from a community or organizational perspective, but the role developers can play in rehabilitation and restoration of older properties has been neglected. In addition to documenting the importance and effectiveness of historic preservation to the civic and economic redevelopment of cities and downtowns, this paper will introduce the role that developers can have in bringing these rehabilitation projects to fruition.
By Aileen Bastos, MA
Wellness: the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort
The built environment is a physical, (temporarily) permanent representation of our community and ourselves. We live, work, love, and play in buildings and the space between them, and the organization and character of those buildings reflect the culture and values of our society.
The quality of our built environment can be a barometer for the health and wellbeing of our communities, whether they be the city, town, neighborhood, or the street where we live. When a neighbor moves out, the street may lose a bit of vibrancy, life, and activity, all signs of a healthy community. If the house is left vacant over time, the building itself may by physically deteriorating or even falling into disrepair; the same can be seen in a downtown when a business closes and the storefronts are boarded up.
Our work at Crosskey is often focused on repairing or transforming structures that have lost vibrancy, and achieving this effort takes a community of people working together. Architects are partners in performing the work of design and construction, but we require the inspiration of a group of people and their hard work and dedication to give our projects a reason for being.
Change takes a family deciding to open a restaurant in the building downtown. It takes a developer working with local leaders to bring affordable housing to an abandoned mill or factory. It may take a group of citizens contacting their local government about a property falling into disrepair and it takes persistence to obtain funding, support, and approval from agencies and planning boards to create positive, physical changes. All of this and more are part of the process to work towards the physical wellbeing of our built environments, and it can start with something small.
Last month, Crosskey employees signed a petition to stop the planned demolition of the Reid and Hughes Building in Downtown Norwich, Connecticut. The building, dating to the 1880s, is listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places, yet it has been vacant for many years and has fallen into disrepair. There is currently a proposal by the Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development to repair and convert the Reid and Hughes building into a mix of commercial space and twenty units of affordable housing, with half designated for formerly homeless veterans. If this plan is allowed to move forward the project could contribute to the health and wellbeing of the community in more ways than one.
Building wellness in our communities takes consistent, deliberate effort and we are happy to be a part of the story of transformation in any way that we can.
By: Erin Marceno, M. Arch
Whether new construction or renovation, every structure needs a champion, specifically, a sustainability champion.
Sustainable buildings are often thought of by developers, owners, and architects, as being more expensive than conventional construction. The standard design approach is, “what can be done with the budget available?” However, once a commitment is made to designing healthy and efficient buildings, the design approach becomes, “how can we honor the natural environment of a particular geographic location while enriching the building occupants?”
By utilizing the natural environmental gifts and assisting the process by introducing renewable energy created on the site, we are able to achieve energy equilibrium at the cost of conventional construction. Commitment is the key component followed by simplicity in construction.
We at Crosskey Architects have embraced the healthy building philosophy, with the use of natural environment; air, water, light and heat in conjunction with the adaptive reuse of man-made structures of past generations.
By Silvana Righenzi, LEED AP, BD + C
An architect and a business development specialist walk into the 2016 Connecticut Housing Coalition Annual Conference. These are their responses to the event.
From the Eyes of an Architect
Often in architecture we hear speeches about how important it is that we provide affordable housing, that entreat us to pat ourselves on the back for the hard work that we’ve done, or how the economy is looking brighter. We don’t always hear (or see) the kind of impact we, as architects, have on the lives of people when we neglect our responsibilities.
Alex Kotlowitzs, Connecticut Housing Coalition Annual Conference keynote speaker, however, chose in his speech last Thursday to uncover the raw issues currently facing not only our state, but our entire nation. His honesty awoke us all from a daze to remind us that our war against poverty, drugs, violence, and homelessness is still very real. As he spoke, the room became quiet and full of guilt; but I like to think that we all left that room motivated to go back to our offices and deal with this problem head on.
Yes, we have made improvements. Yes, we have invested our time and tax dollars. But no, we have not resolved this issue. And it is our responsibility to ensure that our work is focused on healing our communities and providing a safe haven, a place where people want to live, to raise a family, to work, to educate, and most importantly, to create a better future for the next generation.
As Seen by a Business Developer
Housing in Connecticut has been undeniably emphasized and improved during the past five years, as much needed advancement for our state as we work to develop the standard of living for each of our citizens. Today, we stand equipped with excellent homes, both completed and in current construction, for the people of Connecticut to establish their lives within. Our next task seems to be to tackle the social, societal, bureaucratic, political, and environmental challenges that face our residents in achieving the highest quality of living.
Last week’s Annual Conference of the Connecticut Housing Coalition touched on several of these related ripples, including housing availability for an aging population of Connecticut residents no longer in need or desire of large homes, the power of zoning in positively shaping a community, chronic homelessness, housing after incarceration, and many other very real and relevant issues.
Open dialogue and education on subjects such as these is absolutely necessary to make the immense housing development undertaken in Connecticut viable, and empower our communities to thrive. It was both informative and invigorating to join a diverse group, reflective, itself, of Connecticut, to speak about these challenges.
By Michelle Bellucci, LEED Green Associate and Carissa Duhamel