Preservation Rockstars

By Scott Sidler November 28, 2016

preservation rockstarIn my travels, I have been privileged to meet some very talented people and organizations that are changing the face of historic preservation in extraordinary ways.

Preservation is a very local art and most of us are not on HGTV, so you may not have heard of these folks, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know them. They are changing the way America does preservation and shaking things up in a very good way!

I want to take this week to introduce you to just a few of the people and organizations that are disrupting historic preservation and who inspire me to better everyday.

Building Hugger

Based in Detroit, Amy Nicole Swift is a recovering architect who saw a major need for more hands on preservation in her city and took the plunge to become a preservation contractor.

In just a few short years, her company has garnered national attention winning a spot in the Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Competition, which helps women entrepreneurs get incredible training and resources to grow their business.

Building Hugger, does all kind of preservation services from window restoration to historic design and doesn’t shy away from a challenge. Their work is top notch and they are bringing preservation back to the conversation in Detroit with a fresh viewpoint and style.

Wood Window Makeover

Steve Quillian and I have been friends for years and he has always been an inspiration to me, but lately his work has been extra inspiring. His company has always been a workhorse of window restoration in the Tampa area, but over the last couple years, he has refined his sash making process to mythic status.

Simply put, Steve’s team makes the finest historic replacement sash and they can make it faster than anyone else in the country! He uses Accoya, a sustainable wood that is extremely stable and virtually rot-proof, and can crank out a 1-lite sash in less than 10 minutes.

He also has honed his process so much so that his entire operation can fit in the back of an SUV. Mobile sash making, with no bulky machines. What Henry Ford did for the automobile, Steve has done for sash building! Homeowners can even buy sash right on his website.

Restoration Exchange

A lot of cities are rolling back protections for historic buildings or asleep at the wheel when it comes to doing the hard work of preservation. Not Omaha. Founded in 2013, when three other preservation organization merged (realizing they were stronger together), Restoration Exchange has not only saved big buildings in Omaha, but they have changed the conversation.

At their Restore Omaha Conference every spring, they don’t just talk about what they should be doing, they bring in talent from all over the country to share new ideas and techniques with locals. Omahans learn about hands on restoration techniques, how to navigate preservation laws and funding, and leave motivated to take their city back. The conference is one of the best I have seen!

More than any other organization, I have witnessed them mobilize huge crowds to save endangered buildings, of which Omaha has already lost too many. They know how to fight for our built environment better than any other, and that’s why they are preservation rockstars.

Bob Yapp

Bob Yapp’s work is responsible for training and inspiring more preservationists than just about anyone today. From his PBS show back in the day to his Belvedere School for Historic Preservation, he has worked tirelessly to train others in the art of historic preservation.

When he is not teaching one of the dozen or so classes offered each year at the school, Bob loads up his van and spends the rest of the year on the road teaching preservation to communities groups, preservation pros, and even the National Parks Service.

He is one of the founders of the Window Preservation Standards Collaborative, which has finally given us a standardized set of guidelines for window restoration. Chances are if you haven’t learned from Bob, someone you know has.

Wood Window Rescue

Hailing from Oklahoma City and usually found wrapped in flannel, Ty McBride has created a small and growing window revolution in the Sooner state. His company is a young one and they do things a little differently from the rest of the pack.

Most window restorers sit in their shops quietly scraping windows waiting for the next job. Not Ty and his crew, who have laid siege to social media and the web to bring attention to the replacement window problem facing his state.

His weekly live stream “Wood Window Wednesday” where readers can ask questions via social media and get answers right away, is a game changer for preservation. The man also knows how to create eye-catching graphics that bring historic preservation to a younger, more media savvy generation and inspires them to get their hands dirty.

Seekircher Steel Window

I had the chance to meet John Seekircher last year at the Historic Windows Summit. He is notoriously hard to reach, so to have him come out and speak on the work he and his company have been doing in New York was pretty awesome.

And that is the same word I would use to describe what Seekircher does with steel windows- awesome! His company restores steel windows nationwide, handling anything from the average homeowner to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water. They have created the standard by which all other steel windows have been judged because their work is that good.

Are You a Star?

I know I’ve only scratched the surface here, because there are more rising stars in preservation that need to be named. So, if you know of one, please share in the comments below so we can all meet the people who step up day and day out to do the work that needs to be done.

Share Away!

2 thoughts on “Preservation Rockstars”

  1. I would add John Leeke at Historic Homeworks as another old-timer preservation hero. He has frequently partnered with Bob Yapp, including for the Window Collaborative, and has had a website, blog and online videos since the early days of the Internet. He has written numerous articles for Old House Journal, several Preservation Briefs for the National Park Service,including the excellent one on porch preservation and repair, and has authored an excellent series of preservation how-to manuals. He was also one of the earliest and most vocal advocates for wood window preservation. You can spend hours on his website for nitty-gritty preservation how-to information. //

    I second the nomination of Bob Yapp. He is an entertaining speaker and passionate advocate, and knows his stuff inside and out. I have attended several of his workshops, and he and his wife Pat make it a wonderful learning experience, and take good care of their students with their hospitality. They also run a lovely B&B in their home in Hannibal, MO, which alone is well-worth a visit.

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