Hands-On History: Teaching the Trades of Preservation

This article originally appeared in Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine
Volume XXXVII, Number 3 - Summer 2011

Angelique Bakalyar, of Hayles and Howe, Baltimore, Maryland, demonstrates scagliola, a type of decorative plaster imitating marble or granite.

Among the many responsibilities with which the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) is tasked are the preservation and interpretation of historic sites and museums along the Pennsylvania Trails of History®, educating both residents and visitors about the Keystone State's history and heritage, and enhancing the cultural environment for all residents. The State Historic Preservation Office, in PHMC's Bureau for Historic Preservation, administers the National Register of Historic Places and federal tax incentive programs for the rehabilitation of historic properties.

This year PHMC is a lead partner sponsoring the fifteenth annual International Preservation Trades Workshop (IPTW), which will be held on the campus of Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster from Tuesday through Saturday, August 2–6. This is only the second time the conference has been held in the Commonwealth.

Each year IPTW, coordinated by the Preservation Trades Network, convenes hundreds of the best preservation trades practitioners and individuals interested in the preservation of traditional trades and crafts to showcase their work through demonstrations, exhibits, and lectures. Tradespeople from throughout the world share techniques, tools, materials, and technologies of crafts and trades, including masonry restoration, decorative painting, preservation carpentry, timber framing, blacksmithing, plaster restoration, stained glass repair, and slate, wooden shingle, and metal roofing.

The theme of this year's IPTW, "Hands on Heritage: Trades, Knowledge, Community," is designed to attract architects, preservation consultants, contractors, and craftspeople who work or intend to work on older and historic buildings and structures. Attendees will enjoy the opportunity of seeing some of the world's finest tradesmen at work and learn how historic building preservation techniques and technologies can be incorporated in both large and small projects.

Keynote speaker Donovan Rypkeme, an internationally known historic preservation consultant, writer, and lecturer, will discuss the significant contributions that preservation trades contribute to a local economy and the role of historic preservation in comprehensive sustainable development. More than fifty presentations and intensive hands-on demonstrations will be given during the five-day event. A pre-conference tour entitled "Enclaves of Craftsmanship in the Oley Valley" will take registrants on a tour of PHMC's Daniel Boone Homestead near Birdsboro, where they will see the circa 1810 Bertolet Sawmill in operation; Paoli's Wharton Esherick Home and Studio of the acclaimed twentieth-century sculptor who worked mostly in wood; and the plant of Ball and Ball, Exton, a firm known for its finely crafted reproductions of lighting fixtures and clock, furniture, and door hardware, such as finials, escutcheons, and locks. A second tour, "The Legacy of Henry Chapman Mercer," will guide participants around the charming Bucks County community of Doylestown where they will visit the eccentric archaeologist, collector, and tile maker's Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, his unusual poured-in-place concrete residence, Fonthill, and the Mercer Museum, built to house his extensive collection of eclectic objects and artifacts.

To learn more about IPTW or to register, write:
Preservation Trades Network
P.O. Box 151
Burbank, Ohio 44214
telephone (866) 853-9335
e-mail info@ptn.org
or visit www.iptw.org

Hands-On History illustrates the importance of applied history and PHMC's commitment to educating staff, volunteers, students and teachers, and the general public about traditional skills and crafts, often in partnership with other state agencies, educational institutions, cultural organizations, libraries, and museums and historic sites.

Timothy Wilkinson, Christian and Son, Burbank, Ohio, at work on timber framing.
An employee of Virginia Lime Works, Madison Heights, Virginia, shows how to run a plaster cornice.