April 30, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

A small town north of Victoria is worth a turning off the highway for a quick look. There’s a main street with modest houses along both sides. A few older buildings have the potential for some nice restoration or preservation in the future. There’s a historic cemetery. A simple wooden church building belongs to the Hochheim Baptist Church.

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This classic wood framed church illustrates a few of the common issues that congregations face with vintage structures. Sometime in the 1950’s or 60’s, the wood siding was covered with what is almost certainly asbestos siding. It’s a bit of a gamble when preserving an older building to remove this material since it is hazardous. Fortunately, there are many businesses that have made the proper disposal of asbestos a fairly routine process, but it still requires additional expense.

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The extra cost isn’t biggest issue, however. The condition of the wood siding underneath is hard or impossible to determine until the asbestos is removed. We’ve worked with several of these types of structures and have, fortunately, been quite lucky. Once the asbestos was off, the old wood siding was in great shape and needed only minor repairs. Of course the old wood siding might be badly damaged or may have actually been removed before the asbestos was put on. If that is the case, then there’s no choice but to replace the entire exterior with new materials.

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Another challenge, accessibility, is quite apparent when you approach the front door of this church. Most likely the original front door was a foot or so above the ground, so someone put two steps in front. Modern codes would require a landing so people exiting could maneuver through the door first before confronting the stairs. But just to complicate the entry, someone later added a ramp. Without a landing, neither the ramp nor the steps meet current building standards. And the two together, right in front of the entryway, certainly make getting in and out more of a challenge than it should be. I would suggest taking these steps and the ramp off and starting again.

Hochheim Baptist Church, City of Hochhiem Road, Hochheim, Texas

Historic Preservation