This is the third post in a series by Clovis Heimsath who offers his tips for preserving a historic inn. The Country Place Hotel in Fayetteville, Texas is owned by Maryann and Clovis Heimsath. The building was completely renovated and restored in 2003 and now, with many years of success, the hotel is an established institution.
Tip #7: Bring the general contractor into the process early.
The contractor can be an incredible resource in the planning and design stages. His or her ability to provide pricing and to discuss practical issues of construction can save time and dollars during construction. Often, the contractor will consult special craftsmen or subcontractors who may weigh in on particularly challenging items. For example, we tested the plaster to estimate how much was damaged and to verify that our patching solution would work.
Many general contractors will consult in the pre-construction phase and share the bidding information as they get costs from their subcontractors and suppliers. This form of open book bidding is also referred to as a "negotiated contract." We pre-selected the best contractor for our hotel renovation and then worked with him as a partner throughout the process. This arrangement gives the owner a great deal of control and helps foster a sense of teamwork that continues throughout the construction process.
Tip #8: Keep the original building intact wherever possible.
The Texas Historical Commission gave us good direction for the renovation, which allowed us to receive a partial tax credit on the cost of the renovation. The aesthetic result of working within the guidelines far outweighed the occasional additional costs.
Sometimes, to preserve one area, you must be flexible in another area. For example, we had considered sloping the walk in front to make the front doorway accessible, but the Commission's reviewer was concerned that by raising the sidewalk, we would destroy the historic metal sills at the entry doors. We all agreed that the better option was to add a new door just around the corner. The new door was placed in a window opening, and became an alternate way into the parlor.
This new entry fully meets ADA accessibility standards. The two existing street entries remain intact and preserve the special metal steps that were cast for the original building. We agreed with the Texas Historic Commission that retaining the side window was much less important than keeping the main entry doors and steps intact.
Tip #9: Place furniture from the beginning.
Work with your architect and/or an experienced interior designer to be sure each item fits in size, location and design. Provide enough room for groups of people to mingle and move about. This is particularly important in the dining area. If people can't move about easily, even when the tables are full, they may feel cramped and hemmed in. What is often overlooked is the fact that furniture placement determines to a large degree the electrical layout. Don't forget outlets for lighting and even computer and phone chargers.
If it is possible, get creative with the materials removed during renovation. We reused the wood from a demolished wall to make tables for the dining room. These beautiful planks are a small, but well-appreciated detail that reconnects with the building's long history.
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