9. Historic Windows and Doors
The number, location, size, and glazing patterns
of historic windows and doors should be preserved by means of repair and
restoration. Any unique features of historic windows or doors such as stained
glass, leaded glass, fanlights, and sidelights should also be preserved
or restored. Where the severity of door and window deterioration dictates
replacement, any new units should match the historic units in design, dimensions,
and pane configurations (Figure
50). Replacement windows and doors should have either true divided lights
(muntins that penetrate the glass) or simulated divided lights (permanently
affixed muntins applied to both the exterior and interior sealed insulating
glass unit). Removable or snap-in muntins on glass panes and muntin grids
that are sandwiched between layers of glass are not recommended. The restoration
of missing, obscured, or modified original window or door openings is encouraged.
Replacement of missing doors and windows shall be substantiated by physical,
documentary, or pictorial evidence. Replacement vinyl and stock aluminum
panning windows are not recommended on primary facades. Aluminum entrance
doors are not recommended in shopfronts except where the existing shopfront
framing is metal.
Glass used in new windows and doors should be clear glass. Tinted glass,
reflective glass, opaque glass, and other non-traditional glass types are
not appropriate in the Historic District.
Several window manufacturers offer one or more lines of replacement
windows, which may be wood, clad wood, aluminum, or vinyl. Replacement
windows usually refer to new windows that mount within the frame
of the existing wood window. They are typically made without a structural
frame; instead, they rely on the strength of the original window for support.
Wood replacement windows are offered in a range of qualities,
design features, and costs. The best ones may be ordered custom-sized
to the sash opening of the original window. The sashes may be ordered
with genuine muntins or with muntin grids that are applied to the interior
and exterior face of a single panel of sealed insulating glass. This type
is marketed as a simulated divided light window.
Aluminum replacement windows are available with panning,
that is, extruded aluminum sections that cover the exposed face of the
original wood window frame and window sill. Panning is used so that the
entire window assembly requires no field painting. Several manufacturers
offer a range of historical profiles, that is, aluminum extrusions
that are similar in shape to the outside face and brick mold of a traditional
wood window. The panning is also available in custom extrusions that replicate
historic wood brick molds very closely, but are economically feasible
only on larger projects (more than 50 windows).
Vinyl replacement windows are typically the least expensive
of the three basic material types. Because of the low strength of vinyl,
sash components such as stiles (the vertical members) and rails (the horizontal
members) are thicker than they are in either wood or aluminum.
With such a range of options, the following guidelines
apply to the West Chester Historic District:
Replacement windows should be considered only as an option
to replacing severely deteriorated historic wood sashes. Replacement windows
are not a panacea to avoid future painting and maintenance of exterior
Replacement windows are not justified in the Historic
District as a method of improving the thermal performance of windows.
Storm windows are the appropriate method of achieving that goal.
Vinyl replacement windows are not recommended in the
Aluminum replacement windows with historical or custom panning
are appropriate only on large buildings.
Any proposed replacement window should be custom-sized
to the original sash opening. Applying filler strips around the perimeter
of a replacement window reduces the size of the glass area, makes the
frame members awkwardly wide, and is not appropriate in the Historic District.
For original sashes with multiple panes, the replacement
window should match the existing pane configuration. True or simulated
divided lights are recommended in the proposed replacement window. Snap-in
grids, whether interior or exterior, are not appropriate. Muntin grids
applied between layers of sealed insulating glass are also not appropriate.
and Door Hardware.
Visible window and door hardware should be compatible with the architectural
character of the building. Buzzers, intercoms, and mailboxes should be
located to have minimum visual impact on the building or located within
a recessed vestibule if possible. Modern devices should be painted to
match the background material on which they are mounted.
10. Storm Windows and Doors
Improving the thermal performance of historic wood windows and doors is
often desired by owners of historic buildings. The specific solution to
each thermal upgrade problem depends on numerous factors, and no single
approach is applicable to all conditions. Traditionally, storm windows
were constructed of wood and glass. Many house owners had two sets of
removable panels: wood-and-glass storm windows for the winter season,
and wood-and-screen panels for the summer season. Cleaning and changing
the screen and storm panels were spring and fall rituals. Few houses retain
their wood screens and storm windows, and fewer still are changed seasonally.
Many residences are now equipped with triple-track storm windows that
allow for a complete layer of glass over the entire original window or
an insect-screen panel over half of the window.
10.1 Triple-track Storm
For buildings with double-hung sash wood windows, aluminum triple-track
windows with a factory color-coat matching the window trim are appropriate.
While at first thought this may be surprising, the metal storm window
preserves the original wood sashes as well as improves the window thermally,
and at the same time is entirely reversible. Mill-finish aluminum is not
an appropriate storm-window finish. The storm panels should be glazed
with clear glass. The horizontal rails of the storm window should align
with the meeting rails of the original window. Storm windows should be
sized exactly to the historic wood window.
Interior Storm Windows.
Interior storm windows, usually fabricated with a narrow white aluminum
frame and clear plastic (acrylic) glazing and mounted on magnetic strips,
are suitable for applications where the building is fully air conditioned
and windows are not opened for ventilation. Interior storm windows are
especially desirable for buildings with multi-pane sashes, because the
pattern of broken light on multi-pane sashes is an important visual feature
that is lost when covered with one-over-one triple-track storm windows.
10.3 Storm and Screen
To avoid the need for a storm door, most historic houses in the district
have interior vestibules to buffer the winter cold. The paneled front
door was a symbol of hospitality and security. Concealing the original
front door by a storm door or screen door is not recommended. On secondary
facades, however, storm and screen doors are appropriate. Storm or screen
doors should be as simple as possible, with a plain glass or screen insert.
While wood storm and screen doors are preferred, simple aluminum doors
that are finished with a baked enamel finish matching the historic wood
door paint color are also acceptable. Scalloped edges and cross-buck patterns
on aluminum storm doors are not appropriate.
11. Shutters and Blinds
Historic shutters (solid panels) and blinds (louvered panels) should be
51). Historically, shutters and blinds were employed to provide night
security and shading from the sun. Paneled shutters were used on the ground
floor and louvered blinds were used on upper floors. Where historic exterior
shutters and blinds survive, they should be carefully preserved and repaired.
If no shutters or blinds are present but there is evidence that they once
existed (as evidenced in either historic photographs or surviving pintle
hinges), their replacement as part of any proposed rehabilitation project
is encouraged. If no vestige of shutters or blinds exists, they should
not be added to a building.
Replacement shutters and blinds should be painted wood,
properly sized, and appear operable (Figure
52). Plastic and metal shutters are not recommended. Shutters should
measure one half the width of the historic sash, and match the height
of the opening. Shutters and blinds should be mounted on hinges or pintles
and held open with shutter turns or shutter dogs (see
Figure 51). Mounting shutters or blinds directly onto any historic
wall material is not appropriate.
12. Street-Address Numerals
Street-address numerals should be simple in style, with characters not
more than 4 inches high. Script styles and the spelling-out of the address
should be avoided (Figure
13. New Openings in Existing
Creating new openings in a principal facade is generally not appropriate.
New openings in secondary facades are discouraged but may be acceptable.
The conversion of an existing window to a door opening or a door to a
window opening will be considered only on secondary facades, except when
the modification of the element reconstructs its historic form. On secondary
facades, allowed proposed new openings in walls should be compatible with
the historic character of the building. Large-paned, sliding glass patio
doors are not appropriate (Figure
54). French doors with divided lights, bay windows, and oriel windows
will be considered only on secondary facades.
14. Historic Storefronts
Storefronts are a prominent part of the character of the Historic District
55). On narrow streets, the first-floor character of buildings largely
defines the visual experience of the pedestrian. Storefronts are vital
to both the visual character of the streetscape and a successful retail
shopping environment in West Chesters downtown. The scale and architectural
detailing of historic storefronts create a richness and sense of visual
satisfaction that is lacking in automobile-oriented retail settings (Figure
Historic storefronts in West Chester date from 1870 to
1930. Earlier shop windows were essentially large house windows, with
sashes fabricated from many small panes of glass. The development of plate
glass in the 1850s coincided with changes in retailing brought about by
the industrial revolution. As more manufactured goods became available,
competition for customers led merchants to increase their storefront display
area. Existing buildings were altered to make the ground floor as transparent
as possible, and new buildings were constructed with iron columns and
beams that supported the upper-floor masonry walls without reducing the
14.1 Preserving Historic
Existing historic storefront windows and doors should be retained and
repaired. In addition to many historic late nineteenth century wood-and-glass
storefronts, the West Chester Historic District has numerous early twentieth-century
metal-and-glass storefronts. These latter storefronts were built during
West Chesters retail heyday the second quarter of the twentieth
century and often featured complex plans with recessed entrances
that maximized shop-window display space (Figure
14.2 New Storefronts
in Existing Buildings.
In existing buildings, new storefront design
should be based on the historic storefront that formerly existed at that
location, as evidenced by surviving physical evidence and historic photographic
58). Where no evidence exists, the new storefront design should be
appropriate to the construction date and style of the building. The detailing
of new storefronts should be traditional architectural woodwork, with
genuine stile-and-rail doors and bulkhead panels. Pent roofs and plywood
panels with applied moldings are not appropriate (Figures
59 and 60).
15. Historic Porches and
Historic porches and stoops are important character-defining features
of the streetscape and architecture of West Chester (Figure
61). Porches were often added to earlier structures, and are significant
additions warranting preservation. The original materials, configurations,
details, and dimensions of a historic porch or stoop should be preserved
or restored. Where components are severely deteriorated and require replacement,
new components should replicate the original in material and design. Replacement
porches and stoops should be based on physical or pictorial evidence.
If this evidence is not available, a simple design that avoids elaborate
detail should be employed. Replacement vinyl railing systems, and railings
fabricated from unpainted pressure-treated wood are not recommended.
16. Building Accessibility
Building accessibility for individuals with disabilities should be achieved
without compromise to historic materials or to character-defining features
of a historic building or site. A ramp or vertical access lift should
not be placed on the front or prominent side facade of a historic building
where it can be avoided (Figure
62). If the only feasible placement of a ramp or lift is on a front
facade, efforts should be made to minimize its visual impact on the facade,
and the building owner should work with the HARB and the Borough Zoning
Officer to achieve accessibility without visual intrusion. Accessibility
devices can sometimes be effectively concealed within a traditional building
element. For example, a vertical platform lift could be built within what
appears to be a traditional porch, or a ramp can be integrated into an
Signs should be compatible with the scale, proportion, form, and architectural
detailing of the building to which they are applied (Figure
63). Projecting signs (hung perpendicular to the wall on a decorative
bracket) and wall-mounted signs that are rectangular, square, or oval
are appropriate to the majority of historic buildings. Free-standing signs
are appropriate for buildings that are set back from the front lot line
and fronted by landscaping. A traditional sign type such as wood with
either carved or painted lettering is highly encouraged. Signs should
not obscure any architectural detail. Appropriate colors for signs were
traditionally intense versions of building colors high-gloss bottle
green, olive, golds, and burgundies. Black lettering on a white background
is not recommended, nor are metallic paints other than gold.
On commercial buildings with a storefront, signs should
be placed in the signboard area located above the storefront windows and
below the upper-story windows. Where historical photographs indicate that
a building historically had a larger sign than is currently allowed by
the Zoning Code, and the proposed building sign is based on the general
size and design of the historical precedent, the HARB will consider the
merits of the application without regard to its conformance with size
limitations of the sign ordinance. If approved, the HARB will also support
the application in the owners appeal to the Zoning Hearing Board.
Corporate logos and standard corporate lettering styles
that are non-traditional should be de-emphasized in the signage design
for a historic building. While it is recognized by the HARB that corporate
identity is important to the historic commercial building user, the visual
dominance of corporate logos that are visible in automobile-oriented strip
shopping malls is not appropriate to the Historic District. Creative graphic
solutions, in which the corporate logo or corporate lettering style is
a secondary element, are encouraged.
Where signage lighting is required, small gooseneck or
hidden lights are recommended. Internally illuminated signs are not recommended,
except for channel letters at appropriate locations.
Awnings should be appropriate to the design of the storefront or building
facade. Awnings traditionally provided protection from the weather for
shoppers and shaded the shop windows from direct sun (Figure
64). Nineteenth-century awnings in West Chester were often wood-and-metal
canopies that extended from the top of the storefront to the street curb,
where the front edge was supported by iron or wood posts.
New awnings should be designed to relate to the architecture
of the storefront or building facade (Figure
65). Building features such as arched transom windows should not be
obscured by the awning design. Awnings should be constructed of suitable
fabrics supported by metal frames. Fabric design should be striped or
solid color, using colors appropriate to the period of the storefront,
and should avoid non-traditional effects. Awnings should not be internally
19. Hardware, Electrical,
and Mechanical Devices
The mounting of ventilation louvers, registers, exhaust fans, alarm devices,
cable boxes, utility meters, satellite dishes, security cameras, and other
mechanical, electronic, and/or electrical devices should be avoided on
principal facades. To minimize their visual impact, devices mounted on
secondary facades should either be painted to match the color of the material
on which they are mounted or screened by landscaping features. Air-conditioning
condenser units should be screened from public view.
Where historic light fixtures survive, they should be preserved. Reproduction
exterior lighting on historic structures should be simple in style, in
scale with the building, and appropriate to the character of the building.
Polished brass, colonial style, and other overly ornamental
light fixtures are strongly discouraged. Simple period fixtures or unornamented
modern fixtures such as wall sconces, pendants, and post-mounted lamps
can be compatible in the Historic District. If exposed conduit cannot
be avoided, it should be painted to match the background material on which
it is mounted. Exterior floodlights and spotlights should be avoided on
principal facades. Lighting for signage on historic buildings should be
inconspicuous and should be restricted to reasonably low light levels.
Yard lighting and parking lot lighting should be post-mounted on maximum
12-foot posts, or mounted on the building. Industrial light fixtures that
produce yellowish or pinkish light are not appropriate. Low-wattage metal
halide or mercury-vapor sources are acceptable, subject to the general
requirements contained in this paragraph.
Copyright © Frens and Frens, LLC 2002.
Visit the 'About this Site' page for other information.
the 'Acknowledgements' page for other important notes about contributions
to this project.