Stevenson Hall forms part of the quadrangle included in the Sheldon Jackson School National Historic Landmark. (Photo/Sitka Summer Music Festival)

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The Sitka Summer Music Festival is rehabilitating Stevenson Hall, part of the Sheldon Jackson School National Historic Landmark, in an exciting, $4.2 million project to make this distinctive building a year-round center for the arts.

Rebecca Poulson

 However, the current plan includes removing all of the windows and putting in plastic-clad replacements, and replacing nearly all of the exterior siding and trim. This would permanently degrade the Landmark and the look of the campus.

I’d like to share how using preservation best practices will achieve all the goals for the building, while preserving this historic site, and save substantial costs.

A top goal of the rehabilitation is to provide efficient heating and comfort year-round, and climate control to protect valuable musical instruments.

The good news is that all of the benefits of replacing windows — air sealing, climate control, comfort, and energy efficiency — are achieved by adding an interior storm window. This is easily verified, with decades of studies across the US, Canada and Europe. You can also get models that open.

Allen Hall/Odess Theater, on the Sheldon Jackson campus, has all its original windows and siding, with interior storm windows, and is extremely energy efficient.

Replacement costs more than restoration: the replacement Andersen window itself ($2,300) nearly twice the cost of professional window restoration ($1,300), plus, replacement requires substantial additional work – including removing siding, and making all new trim, because the old won’t fit.

The existing wall assembly functions well. Restoring siding and trim in place saves history and money.

Replacement windows do not look like the originals. They install flush with the outside wall; dividers are fake; all the exterior surfaces are plastic; trim protrudes. They don’t look right, especially next to this suite of intact buildings.

Replacement windows don’t last – manufacturers say a few decades at most, with seals failing and parts breaking down on an exponential curve. Replacement is absolutely not a long-term solution.

Professionally restored windows last and take no more maintenance than wood siding.

It is probably hard to imagine a historic building that is also modern in its function, but this is readily achievable with modern preservation practice. There is no conflict between modernization and preservation.

When they purchased Stevenson Hall, the Sitka Summer Music Festival accepted the responsibility to preserve what makes this place worthy of national recognition. Restoring windows and siding will put the Festival right with the mandatory plat notes and with a 2014 Covenant on this property.

Stevenson Hall can be a showpiece of how to do preservation right. A bonus is dramatic cost savings, now and in the future, because the next board won’t have to be replacing the replacements. Genuine historic places are an important connection to our past, and a magnet for supporters, even those who don’t (yet) have an interest in classical music.

Stevenson Hall can be a proud legacy of the Sitka Summer Music Festival for generations to come.  This has been Rebecca Poulson.

References and sources are at