A rich, architectural history marks Wilmington, North Carolina, with roots stretching back to 1733, and although very few houses from the first half the nineteenth century remain, structures that are more recent dot the landscape.
Caring for homes built in the Georgian era (1740 to 1819) or the Federal style of the early 1800s requires historically appropriate maintenance and repairs to preserve Wilmington’s vital architectural history.
As is the case with many towns that feature historic buildings, there are local rules in place to guide the care and refurbishment of structures deemed important to the town’s history. In Wilmington, the group is known as the Historic, and guidelines based on the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation as well as decisions made independently by the commission.
Refurbishment and Change to Historic Buildings
Damage, age, and other factors may require that the owner of a historic home obtains permission to make certain improvements, and the Historic Preservation Commission publishes an extensive list of categories for this purpose. General maintenance and “in kind” refurbishment (where replacements are made that do not change the structure or its accoutrements) do not require approval.
Historic Doesn’t Mean Inefficient
Although Wilmington residents may be bound by city design rules that guide improvements and changes, the owner of an older home should be able to make a variety of improvements to reduce energy use. Homes that are over a hundred years old and which were originally built prior to the Civil War were constructed quite differently than the homes of today but may already feature energy-saving designs.
A home built in 1840 would not have a heating and air conditioning system, so builders used other techniques to cool and heat the home. Before gutting a home to install modern energy devices, consider working with the designs already in place.
Maintaining Historically Appropriate Designs
It is simple to use common sense when improving or refurbishing certain areas of the home. For example, when a fence needs replacement, a vinyl or chain-link fence likely would not be appropriate surrounding a home built 150 years ago. Likewise, hanging a satellite dish on the side of the house might not be an appropriate way to keep the character of the house and neighborhood intact. Such installations should be hidden from street view as well as camouflaged as much as possible.
Health and Safety Improvements
One essential area regarding the upkeep and maintenance of an older home is making sure that there are modern designs in place to keep the family or resident safe from issues like fire, asbestos, and lead paint. Testing the home for the presence of lead paint or asbestos installation is important so that steps may be taken to remove the hazard from the home.
Sometimes asbestos abatement (removal) may be necessary. The best way to deal with lead paint is to clean peeling or cracked paint and keep areas like windowsills clean and in good condition.
A historic home requires all of the standard maintenance of any modern home, yet projects must be undertaken with extreme care and attention paid to standards for historic upkeep as well as preservation of the visual appeal of the home. When in doubt, always consult with the Historic Preservation Commission to make sure that changes, upgrades, and refurbishment are appropriate.
To view a list of currently listed homes in the Wilmington, NC area, click here.