Given current construction prices, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who needs a new roof and is looking forward to learning how much that will cost.
Tiffany Fisk is definitely not.
She’s the administrator of the 1719 Herr House & Museum in Willow Street where, she says, the precipitously pitched roof on the oldest Mennonite meetinghouse in the Americas must be replaced within a few years. There are 4,600 white oak side-lapped shingles currently up there. Some are starting to curl.
“It’s about getting the right material and having it installed the right way, which on this house is a challenge,” Fisk says.
Welcome to the kind of project that most Lancaster County residents don’t typically need to consider. Sure, many of the homes in designated historic districts must meet standards established by a historical architectural review board. But one-time homes with museum designations can have even more blocks to check.
“I can’t speak to how other small museums do things, because we all have varying … limitations,” Fisk says. “But I can tell you, as the person responsible for the care of the oldest surviving house in the county, I rely on experts in architectural history and historic tradespeople.”
Details and decisions
Workers installed the current Herr House roof about 20 years ago to make it historically accurate. Before that, the house built in 1719 by Christian (son of Hans) and Anna Herr, was for a while sporting the type of roof that might be found on a much more modern structure. It was before her time at the museum, but Fisk says there were some varying theories of what might have been up there to start with.
“Would it have been a red clay tile roof? Would it have been a thatched roof? What would it have been?” she says.
Fortunately, a piece of what’s believed to have been an original oak shingle was discovered within the house, she says. Mystery solved. Material selected.
Stanley White, president of the Southern Lancaster County Historical Society, says he made sure that the state handled as many projects as possible at the Robert Fulton Birthplace before turning that over to the historical society.
That included some old warehouse roofs (one of which protects the society’s archives) that were rebuilt largely with historic Peach Bottom slate. A similar substance was used when that slate ran out, White says.
Some of that slate was removed from a barn on the property, which instead got a new metal roof. White says that decision was made in collaboration with the State Historical & Museum Commission and “seemed like the best way to have the …….