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A Hands-On Guide to Preserving Our Nation’s Historic Treasures

June 17, 2014
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A Hands-On Guide to Preserving Our Nation’s Historic Treasures
Mario Tama/Getty Images
The dying art of restoration gets a second life.

The problem facing historic buildings nationwide?

A huge backlog of overdue maintenance that’s in dire need of completion, with an estimated cost of $4.5 billion just for Park Service structures alone, according to the PBS NewsHour.

Adding to the problem is that the workers who perform skilled restoration work are aging. So is there any solution?

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has partnered with the National Park Service and other groups to launch a pilot project, Hands-On Preservation Experience, or HOPE, that provides young people with jobs as it trains them to restore aging structures.

One such project already underway is at Skyland Stables in Virginia’s Shenandoah Mountains, where experienced craftsman David Logan guides students in restoring the structure that was built as a WPA project during the 1930’s. Logan, who owns the restoration company Vintage, Inc., told Jeffrey Brown of PBS NewsHour, “What I have done is guided the team just on some approaches for replacing siding, ways of cutting out the old, and then how to handle the oak to let it move, and just little tips and advice.”

The students earn $10 an hour, compared to $40-$60 an hour a contractor might charge, but also gain valuable skills in the process. Logan said to Brown that he sees fewer tradespeople learning about historic preservation these days.

One of the students is Elijah Smith of Washington, D.C. “I think it’s important to save old buildings, because when you go back, you can see what you did right, what you did wrong, how you want to add ideas to it. And the older something is, the more value it is to it. It brings more people to it,” he said.

Not only does this program shore up some of our nation’s treasures, but it provides youth with a new career path, too.

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