Friday, September 26, 2014

Why Old Windows Matter, Part 1

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Old windows are often targeted for replacement in our homes, and once gone, the visual evidence of a home's past life becomes a long forgotten memory. There are many arguments out there for why historic windows should be replaced however The National Trust for Historic Preservation argues differently. Beyond the arguments for energy loss, lies another less known fact - that window design offers critical information about a home that can identify its origin. So, why do old windows matter?

Traditional three-part, Palladian window with two multi-pane
double-hung windows flanking an arched central window

From an architectural history perspective, historic or "old" windows are classic identifiers of a building's original design.  The "Palladian window" for example, is a instant identifier in the Georgian and Federal styles of architecture from the 18th century whose roots originated in 16th century Venice. It's creation is attributed to Andrea Palladio who used the design to create symmetry that drew on ancient Greek and Roman temple forms. The same design for which was later carried into the Greek Revival and Victorian periods of the 19th and 20th centuries, and all of this information comes from a single window.

This Victorian Era home in Detroit features its
original one-over-one pane double-hung windows
Source: 1899 Victorian Restoration Blog
If using a Palladian window as an architectural identifier isn't convincing enough, take the simple one-over-one pane double-hung window. It seems rather plain compared to a Palladian window however, even with its simplistic design it is an indicator that a home was built in the post-Civil War period when advancements in glassmaking allowed for larger panes of glass to be installed without obstructive muntins blocking the view outside.

As replacement windows are becoming an ever-present fixtures on historic homes the exterior look of the structure changes, leaving no traces of its previous life. If all it took was one window to help identify the origin of your home, would you consider keeping that window, or replacing it? The next time you see a historic home consider the information that is already there, the windows. Then ask yourself this, "is it really worth losing all of that information for a new window?"

              1899 Victorian Restoration Blog
              Buffalo Architecture and History

1 comment:

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