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Historic Restoration Feasibility Study

Asa Packer Museum Jim Thorpe, PA

Projects

Overview

The owners of the Asa Packer Museum were interested in restoring one of the property’s two remaining original outbuildings, the Caretaker’s House, which dates back to the late 19th century. At one time it served as a residence for the property’s caretaker, but it has laid vacant since the 1990s.

We performed a study to evaluate the current condition of the Caretaker’s House and the feasibility of historically restoring and/or rehabilitating it. After architectural and structural review of the building, we prepared a report outlining recommended repairs and a renovation approach to return the structure to us as a Caretaker’s House. The report outlined costs for the proposed work, which included restoration of the exterior to its original appearance and modernization of the interior. Understanding the costs and scope of work associated with selectively renovating a historic structure was an important first step to enable the owners to make informed decisions in planning their project.

Solution Details

Constructed by Asa Packer in 1861, the Asa Packer Mansion is believed to have been designed by the Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The mansion is an excellent example of mid-19th century Italianate architecture and remains largely preserved in its original condition. Now owned by the Borough of Jim Thorpe, the mansion is open to the public as a museum, and along with the surrounding property, is maintained by the Jim Thorpe Lions Club.

Of the property’s five original outbuildings (greenhouse, playhouse, ice house, apple cellar and pump house), only the ice house and playhouse remain. The playhouse, referred to as the Caretaker’s House, is a six room wood frame structure located west of the mansion.

We worked with the clients to prepare a study evaluating the existing condition of the Caretaker’s House and the feasibility of restoring it for use as a residence while maintaining a historically appropriate exterior. The building itself has little documentation, but it was apparent that a two-story addition and porch were added to the original two-and-a-half-story structure at some point. Structurally, the original portion of the building was in good condition; the porch needed minor repairs; the two-story addition would require demolition and reconstruction to cost effectively retain the square footage and appearance of the building.

The interior finishes and mechanical/electrical/plumbing (MEP) systems of the building were in very poor condition. Between the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and Asa Packer museum staff, it was determined that the interior fabric of the building held little to no historic value, and a complete removal and replacement with modern finishes and MEP equipment, wiring, and piping was acceptable.

The total project scope was then divided into three phases, so the client could choose to make incremental progress on the restoration as funding thresholds are reached. With the study, report, and costs completed, the owners can now make informed decisions on how to proceed confidently with the preservation and restoration of the building.

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