Owning an older or historic building can be extremely rewarding. These buildings have lasted for generations, and if maintained properly, can survive for generations more. In most cases, they were built with quality materials and craftsmanship, were designed to take advantage of natural light and ventilation, and can be adapted to a mix of uses. Unfortunately, many older buildings have been neglected or inappropriately altered over the years. Some owners were following the latest trends; others had the best intentions but insufficient resources required for upkeep.
Many inappropriate or ill-advised alterations were made years ago, especially in the decades following World War II. Modern, streamlined, suburban, automobile-oriented design was in fashion, and historic architecture was deemed old and outdated. Shortly after, early attempts at “energy efficiency” were encouraged and even incentivized across the nation, resulting in downsized windows and dropped ceilings. Then the advent of cheaper new materials, such as vinyl, resulted in countless original elements being replaced by inferior substitutes.
Even today, some fashion trends seen on home renovation shows can be detrimental to the historic character of buildings. Examples include painting exterior brick—which is not recommended in Wisconsin’s climate—as well as replacing original windows, adding elements from different building styles, gutting original interiors, and more.