In 1977 Historic Salem released the Salem Handbook, as prepared by the architectural firm Anderson Notter, Inc. (now Finegold Alexander). At the time this book was one of the few published resources that provided homeowners with tangible advice on conserving the architectural history and materials of a residential building. Forty years later hundreds of books on home maintenance are supplemented by websites and TV shows with hacks and trends that cover the entire spectrum of rehabilitation. Yet this Salem Handbook, in addition to its nostalgic charm, continues to provide clear, easy to understand information on how to care for a historic home, free from trademarked product links or celebrity branding.
Historic Salem, therefore, presents an ongoing series of posts that will “re-print”, online, the 1977 Handbook, with relevant updates. Information presented is specific to Salem (that’s part of its charm!) but pertinent to any historic homeowner.
Much of the pride we share as residents of this city comes from living in or near old buildings. Our older neighborhoods bring the past alive for residents and visitors alike, creating a legacy to pass on to future generations. We appreciate Salem’s architectural diversity and realize that if it is removed it is unlikely to be replaced. And while taking care of a historic home can be problematic we subscribe to the preservation maxim, espoused by the National Park Service:
“Generally, it is better to preserve than repair,
During home repair and renovation there are often questions about a building’s style, design, upkeep, and sustainable methods and materials. This Salem Handbook web-series will address these major concerns of preservation. First, we want to assist in identifying the stylistic features of Salem houses so that homeowners will take them into consideration before starting renovation and maintenance projects.
Second, we provide design guidelines by suggesting ways a homeowner can treat architectural details, yards, parking areas, and sidewalks so these visible elements will enhance their home and the rest of their neighborhood. Third, we direct attention to the basic structural problems that must be treated to avoid unnecessary deterioration of otherwise sound buildings. Fourth, throughout the series we will address sustainability. Historic buildings have an inherent sustainability and materials and methods used in maintenance and upgrades can further improve this quality.
We are glad you are here. Remember that the future of the built environment depends on what you do to maintain or improve it. Look around you, consider what you see, and work with your neighbors. Salem has been here for nearly 400 years. She has something to say. (This applies to other historic cities and neighborhoods; the beauty of a historic place is that each one has a unique history and therefore message – what is your neighborhood telling you?)
We look forward to sharing these chapters with you in the coming weeks:
A Guide to the Styles
Maintaining Your House
How to Get Things Done in Salem
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