One of Warren's historical treasures, one that contains a wealth of other historical treasures, is getting some TLC.
The front porch of the Warren County Historical Society building next to the county courthouse is being replaced. The back porch may be next.
"The building is structurally sounds," Historical Society Managing Director Michelle Gray said. "It's the wood that we have to pay attention to."
Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry
Mike Conklin of Huck Brothers Builders scrapes paint at the front entrance of the Warren County Historical Society on Monday. The rotted wooden porch roof and columns were removed and the 1890s-era overhang rebuilt. The structure’s back porch may be next.
Rot was visible in places on the front porch roof. Huck Brothers of Warren was contracted to replace the roof. Workers found more extensive problems.
"The porch columns were rotted down through," Gray said. "It was surprising it held as long as it had."
Instead of a new porch roof, the building's front entrance will feature an overhang that dates back to the 1890s. "We opted to go back to what is the original porch roof structure," Gray told the county commissioners on Monday.
In addition to the change in the roof, the concrete slab at the top of the porch will be repaired and the old wooden railing has been removed and will be replaced by metal railings that will be a close match to the existing metal railings.
Huck "went out of his way to make sure the new railings will be aesthetically pleasing," Gray said.
The commissioners approved $5,500 for the front porch job.
"I fear we're in as much trouble with the back porch as we were with the front porch," Gray said. Bad spots in the roof have allowed water to fall to the porch and walkway. In the winter, that water often freezes, creating dangerous conditions for staff and visitors alike, Gray said. "It's definitely a liability issue."
"Rot's like cockroaches," Commissioner John Eggleston said. "You see a little... you got a lot."
"The worst-case scenario is a complete rebuild" of the back porch roof, Huck said.
"My hope is to get that back porch fixed while Bob Huck is still here," Gray said.
The commissioners authorized Huck to investigate the extent of the damages.
Payment for his investigation of the back porch will come out of a $1,000 donation from Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead.
"Over the last three to four years I started working on a grant-writing program to get the building fixed," Gray said. "The exterior wood is rotting off the building."
There are maintenance dollars allocated in the county budget for upkeep, but that amount does not cover major repairs. "We are a county-owned building," Gray said. "We are in the budget."
A $25,000 matching grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission will be used for roof work next year.
Gray said the building needs and deserves to be kept up. "It's an artifact of Warren County," she said.