Old houses are
At Worth Preserving, we identify properties in need, rally the resources to rehabilitate them, and return them to productive use. Are you ready to do this? We’re here to help!
On The Boards...
I couldn’t do this project without Kate. The team she’s built is incredible. Kate is so patient and considerate in how we deal with the different agencies involved and everyone who has to come together for a project like this.
~ SS, depot owner
1876 Train Depot
Copake, New York
CLIENT: A software engineer whose fascination with trains and the possibilities of this abandoned building magnified every time she drove by until she knew she had to buy it. Such is her vision that she also purchased a caboose and moved it to the site! One word for this client: intrepid.
ASSIGNMENT: The client followed Worth Preserving on Instagram and, trusting her instincts, hired us to develop a rehabilitation strategy for the building and reprogram it for residential use, specifically short-term rentals to share the experience of living in a historic train depot with as many people as possible.
CHALLENGES: Since we specialize in whole-house rehabilitation projects, structures suffering extreme neglect and in need of pretty much everything don’t faze us at all. Still, this building was a horse of a different color. In fact, most people (including contractors we consulted) thought it should be torn down and rebuilt from scratch. The to-do list is…extensive. But the main challenge is, how to get electricity, running water, plumbing, HVAC and insulation into a building that never had any—and doesn’t have a basement to put it all in—while also preserving as much historic fabric as humanly possible. And it’s in a flood plain and environmentally sensitive wetlands buffer zone.
SCOPE: Worth Preserving is helping the client navigate a permitting process that involves in-depth review by town zoning and planning boards; the county planning, highway and health departments; the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; and the State Historic Preservation Office. As we receive the agencies’ feedback, we are working with the client’s architect and engineers to adapt the rehabilitation design accordingly. Once approvals are secured, the plan is to begin site work to install a septic system, well, and electrical, and excavate for necessary foundation work as all the new systems are brought into the building via a discreetly designed mechanical space. In order to quality for historic rehabilitation tax credits, the adaptive reuse of the depot must strike a careful balance, enhancing it with 21st-century residential features (bedrooms, kitchen, bathrooms), addressing current building and energy codes, raising the structure up out of the flood plain as much as possible while preserving the essential character of the historic building and its setting.
TEAM: We’re excited to work with Marilyn Kaplan, principal of Preservation Architecture New York; Thomas Cummings (structural engineer); Patrick Prendergast (civil engineer); and the various officials and agencies guiding us along the way. As we assemble the team of contractors with skills matched to this unique project, we look forward to working with a range of experts at the top of their games.
Kingston, New York
featured in House Beautiful, Veranda, Designers Today, Inside + Out NY, Chronogram, Brownstoner
CLIENT: Since this project was a design showhouse and fundraiser for Ulster County Habitat for Humanity, we were encouraged to let our creativity run wild. BUT…we also kept in mind the fact that this ca-1901 Queen Anne was home to a family, three generations living under one roof, that needed comfort and function.
ASSIGNMENT: Worth Preserving partnered with Quittner to dream up “A Room of One’s Own,” an homage to the three spinsters for whom the house was originally built. We envisioned the women using the space for intellectual pursuits and quiet contemplation, away from the demands and expectations of the world.
CHALLENGES: Originally a small bedroom, the space had been converted into an insurance office and a kitchen at various points in its history. One original double-hung window remained (with broken sash cords) but the other window had been altered to accommodate a counter and cabinets. Layers of wall-to-wall carpet and other flooring had to go, along with a fluorescent ceiling light. The plaster was failing—obvious by sight but proven when one false stroke of a utility knife brought about 100 lbs. of ceiling down on top of Ben Davidson (he was ok!).
SCOPE: While repairing the ceiling and pulling up the carpet, etc., to reveal gorgeous oak floors with their original finish intact, we explored the possibility of replacing the room’s existing closet with a reading alcove, a preservation question none of us took lightly. We decided the pros of gaining more usable space plus historic molding that could be recycled to trim out the altered window outweighed the cons. We restored the operability of the other (unaltered) window with brass sash chain that we also used to hang art from a new, eminently functional picture rail. We chose Audubon Russet, a glowing terra-cotta color by Benjamin Moore, one of the showhouse sponsors, for the walls and designed a decorative paint “cornice” to draw the eye upward and highlight the interesting shape of the room. Over a dozen local artists and makers contributed furnishings and accessories.
TEAM: This project was such an extraordinary, not to mention fun(!), collaboration for a great cause.
Design: Worth Preserving and Quittner
Carpentry, repairs and painting: Ryan Virag
Decorative painting: Katherine Moore
Research: Marissa Marvelli
Artists, makers, growers: Finding Form Design, Aleman / Moore, Firehouse Pottery Co., Jamie Lyn Kara, Dashing Star Farm, Clay Pond Studios, Eznic Karakashian, Beacon Candle Company, Hand to Mouth Weavers, Studio Teppi, Marieken Cochius, Robin Rice, Barbara Beebe, Bear Creek Farm
Materials: Benjamin Moore, House of Antique Hardware, Fabricut
Photo by Em McCann Zauder
Staatsburg, New York
CLIENT: A research professor who grew up in New York City and dreamed of a quiet place upstate to write and be with family.
ASSIGNMENT: The client had rented our “19th-Century Farmhouse” in Germantown (see below) and said, “I want to do that!” House-hunting together through the heat of July and a crazy COVID-fired market rewarded us with this circa-1900 beauty.
CHALLENGES: Virtually untouched for decades, the house revealed its evolution from simple farmhouse to stately Arts-and-Crafts home, with many of its original features intact—two-over-two double-hung wood windows (behind shabby aluminum storm windows), wood clapboard siding, oak floors and staircase, delightful (and practical) built-ins, paneled doors and distinctive hardware. It suffered from deferred maintenance, dated kitchen and bathrooms, awkwardly configured spaces upstairs, and functional but inadequate mechanical systems.
SCOPE: Our project touched every corner of the house, inside and out, basement to attic. We updated the heating and electrical systems; made foundation repairs; reworked the upstairs layout to create three comfortable bedrooms with generous closets, a home office and two full bathrooms with locally sourced vintage fixtures; designed a modern but period-appropriate kitchen; installed new plumbing throughout; repaired woodwork and refurbished original floors; laid new oak wideboard floors in place of wall-to-wall carpet; insulated; restored the wood windows and installed new storm/screen units; repaired plaster; scraped, polished and painted. We also furnished the interior and coordinated landscaping.
TEAM: Partners on this project included trusted contractors and vendors from previous collaborations, plus some new additions. Once more, friends from the New York State Historic Preservation Office guided us in qualifying for a Historic Homeownership Rehabilitation Credit. Em McCann Zauder captures the spirit of the place in her ravishing “after” photography.
Rehabilitation strategy, design and project management: Worth Preserving
Carpentry and electrical: Spectrum Construction & Electric
Plumbing and heating: Going Green Plumbing & Heating, with help from Rich Harkins
Masonry: Greg Blum
Structural engineering: Taconic Engineering
Custom kitchen cabinets and black walnut island top: Samuel Moyer and Peter Wagner
Lighting: Quittner (custom), Fed-On Lights Antiques (vintage), Hammertown Barn
Vintage bath fixtures: Hudson Valley House Parts, Zaborski Emporium, Fed-On Lights
Shower tile: Heritage Tile, Hudson River Tile & Stone
Kitchen floor: Marmoleum from Foster Flooring
Soapstone countertop: M. Teixeira Soapstone
Window repair: Andrew Shirley
Custom trim (to match original): Erich’s Fine Woodworking
Hardware: Van Dyke’s Restorers, Classic Accents
Appliances: Earl B. Feiden Appliance
Painting: Millus Brothers
Landscape: Rise & Run Permaculture
Furnishings: Quittner, Copake Auction, Mooney’s Auction Service, Hammertown Barn (among many others)
Photo by Tim Hout
Germantown, New York
CLIENT: Our second project for my mother—together we saw the opportunity to rehabilitate another highly visible but sadly neglected historic house and defray the costs by making it an income-producing rental.
ASSIGNMENT: We had all noticed this little gem right up close to the county route that turns into Germantown’s Main Street. To most eyes, it was the ramshackle “eyebrow Colonial” or “that old place up by the cemetery”. Inside, it looked as though its owners had thrown up their hands one day and simply left. Friends from the New York State Historic Preservation Office came to evaluate the place’s significance, declared it a fine circa-1800 example of “New World Dutch Vernacular” architecture, listed it on the State and National Registers of Historic Places and guided us as we put together a Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit project.
SCOPE: We gathered everything we’d learned from previous projects (see below) and took it to the next level, meticulously documenting every detail of the house, figuring out the least invasive ways to insert 21st-century necessities into a 200-year-old structure with idiosyncratic 19th- and 20th-century additions. We preserved not just historic character, but actual fabric—plaster, remnants of wallpaper, old paint and, of course, wood windows (even though they don’t all match). We removed a relatively modern bathroom downstairs and solved the mystery of how the circa-1800 house originally connected to the 1860s lean-to addition (the steps had been covered over by the bathtub). The house received all new mechanicals, including a septic system, plus a standing-seam metal roof that replaced the old asphalt and could easily last 100 years. This project was our first experience with ground-up new construction—a bedroom/bathroom addition with clean, modern lines and massing that defers to the historic house.
TEAM: This project was all in the family—my mother as client, my brother Stayton as architect, and many of the contractors we had worked with on past projects who now seem like family.
Rehabilitation strategy and project management: Worth Preserving
Design: Stayton Wood, RA, and Kate Wood
Carpentry: Adam Steeneck, Northern Blvd. Restoration (historic house); Spectrum Construction & Electric (addition)
Plumbing and heating: Rich Harkins
Electrical: Ralph Hinkein
Masonry: Greg Blum
Roofs: Gary Arcuri, Greenport Roofing
Plaster: Claude Carrone
Storm windows: James Romanchuk & Sons
Insulation: Earthwise Insulation
Lighting: Quittner (custom), Fed-On Lights Antiques (vintage)
Vintage bath fixtures: Zaborski Emporium, Fed-On Lights
Shower tile: Heritage Tile
Hardware: Van Dyke’s Restorers, Classic Accents
Painting: Millus Brothers
Landscape: Rise & Run Permaculture, Visage Construction Corporation, Pondside Nursery
Demolition and excavation: Krapf Excavation
Septic: Royal Flush
Furnishings: Quittner, Richard Fitch (upholstery), The Antiques Warehouse Hudson (among many others)
Photo by Monika Kratochvil
Germantown, New York
With one rehabilitation project under our belts (see Our House), we were looking for a challenge. This house on Germantown’s Main Street, slightly outside of the hamlet center that was just beginning to crackle with new energy (thanks to Otto’s Market), frankly frightened us. Over 3,000 square feet, broken up into three apartments and before that dentists(!) offices, covered in vinyl siding, languishing on the real-estate market for several years, sitting on a slight rise near one of the primary approaches to town…there would be no place to hide and no option to fail.
Fortunately, Kate’s mother Ethel, equally committed to the goal of rescuing “hinge” properties like this one, stepped up and funded the project. Kate’s brother Chip (the architect) drew up the plans to restore the main floor to a semblance of its original configuration (following ghost lines found on the old hardwood after layers of plywood and carpet were removed), peel back layers of wallpaper and restore plaster where it survived, reveal and repair the exterior clapboard siding, restore all of the double-hung wood windows and 1940s steel storms, replace the asphalt roof with more appropriate standing-seam metal, rebuild and extend the front porch (after finding old footings that suggested its original footprint), reuse existing bathroom fixtures and introduce some vintage fixtures, and open up the house to the back yard with new exterior doorways (the doors themselves are salvage!).
Host to many Wood/Sprouls family gatherings and shared with guests via AirBnB and HomeAway/VRBO, the house now contains two apartments (downstairs and upstairs) that can easily be combined into a single home by opening up the pocket doors in the main stairhall.
Photo by Henrik Olund
Linlithgo, New York
Our Hudson Valley adventures began here in Linlithgo: an abandoned ca.-1900 house, probably built for workers at the nearby Hudson River waterfront, once a busy landing and railroad depot, or the mine at Iron Mountain (now the global document-storage facility). While modest, the house was a time capsule, its layers revealing a history of working-class interior decoration up until the 1960s, when its previous owner—Alice Rockefeller—did one last round of improvements (indoor plumbing and a knotty-pine kitchen with atomic-pattern linoleum).
In our first go at hands-on rehabilitation, we preserved and restored what we could (original doors, box locks and tiger-eye knobs, double-hung wood windows), introduced things we loved (vintage clawfoot tubs and pedestal sinks, a 1946 Chambers stove), replaced the asphalt roof with standing-seam metal, made the agonizing choice to replace the badly damaged plaster with sheetrock (after documenting all of the many layers of wallpaper), and settled for leaving the mid-20th-century asbestos exterior shingles intact, even though we know the original clapboard is underneath. One day…