Historical Society’s restoration project complete

The Warren County Historical Society serves as the repository for our community’s history.

Part of that mission is preserving the Society’s Fourth Ave. office, which is a National Register of Historic Places site in its own right.

And a $165,000 project to rehabilitate that structure has been completed.

“The Struthers-Wetmore-Schimmelfeng House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, had begun to show its age in the early part of the new century,” Managing Director Michelle Gray explained. “The structure was leaking in several locations, mostly due to the building’s flat roofs and inefficient drainage systems.

“The historical society, being the preservation agency for Warren County’s artifacts, images, textiles, and documents, needed to take action in order to maintain a dry environment.”

A historic preservation plan was completed in conjunction with local individuals as well as representatives from the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission and the state’s Historic Preservation Board.

The entire project has been a decade in the works.

Gray said the plan was completed in 2019 with the preparation of a house assessment report “that developed a disciplined approach to the care of the historic building.” Phase two was architectural drawings in 2013 by Jeff Kidder, a historic architect.

Phase three in 2013 brought “necessary repairs to maintain the structure’s integrity,” Gray said, “specifically the west chimney, the slate mansard roof and a new accessible hatch to the roof’s service. The west chimney had imploded and was allowing water to leak through the interior of the west wall.”

Phase four in 2017 replaced missing slate, improved the drainage system and repaired the structure’s flat roofs.

The WCHS was then awarded $25,000 in matching funds in September 2018 from the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission Keystone Construction grant program. Matching funds, Gray said, were provided by the Betts Foundation, the Community Foundation of Warren County and the Warren County Commissioners.

And that’s where the work moved inside.

The fifth phase, completed this year and totaling $50,000, “included the repair of interior areas where the horsehair plaster and lathe had deteriorated to the point of crumbling, creating additional preservation challenges for the staff,” Gray said. “All three floors received plaster reconstruction and fresh paint to the southwest wall, the second-floor northeast water damaged area was restored, and two other locations that had been identified during a normal fire inspection, as allowing potentially hazardous airflow, were also repaired.”

With the building project completed, staff have moved into an inventory phase.

“The historical society staff and volunteers are diligently working to inventory the artifacts and framed images as they are pulled from temporary storage and returned to their newly renovated, clean, preservation-friendly location,” Gray explained. “The inventory will take approximately three months to complete.”


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