Home & Garden

Window treatment Not so hasty on tearing out those windows

The windows at Titlow Lodge have served the public well, allowing everyone from turn-of-the-century hotel guests to Wii-playing kids at day camp to enjoy picturesque views of Titlow Park and, at times, the Narrows.

Now it’s time for their human caretakers to return the favor.

The windows in the lodge are undergoing extensive restoration to return them to their original luster, just in time for the building’s centennial in 2011.

Workers at Bear Wood Windows in Tacoma have spent the past two months meticulously scraping, repairing and reglazing about 90 individual windows and refinishing five sets of French doors from the historic lodge.

“These windows are really not that bad,” said Bear Wood Windows owner Grace Morrisson in the firm’s shop on the Tacoma Tideflats. “For being 100 years old, I think these windows are in really awesome shape.”

They’ll be in even better shape once they’re finished.

The $90,000 window job is part of a project to restore and rebuild key features of the facility in Titlow Park at the end of Sixth Avenue in Tacoma’s West End.

Metro Parks Tacoma is funding the $300,000 initiative through its 2005 bond measure. Besides restoring the windows, separate contractors are installing a new layer of hardwood over the worn flooring, updating the kitchen, and giving the lodge a new roof and new light fixtures. A veranda that was part of the original structure but removed decades later will be rebuilt on the Narrows side of the lodge.

“There’s a whole set of French doors that have not been open for years. They’re wood with glass panes. Now they will open to the veranda,” said Melissa McGinnis, the park district’s historic and cultural resource manager.

The lodge, which closed in September for remodeling, is slated to reopen this spring.

Though the structure doesn’t sit on national or local registers of historic buildings, the park district is working to retain its historic character while making improvements that meet current needs, McGinnis said.

Since windows are one of the lodge’s defining architectural elements, she said, “that’s why it was critical to respect that about the building. ... It’s glass everywhere. Should we nominate the lodge (to a historic register), the windows and doors would be a key architectural element.”

The building includes an assortment of true divided lite windows – large windows made up of panes separated by strips of wood called grilles or muntins – a style that was popular in the early 1900s.

Historic preservationists applaud projects, such as Titlow Lodge, that maintain original windows instead of replacing them with modern vinyl or aluminum windows.

“This is the hot-button issue for preservation commissions. Original windows are disappearing at an alarming rate,” said Jennifer Kenny, historic preservation officer for the City of Olympia. “What makes one form of architecture or one property different are character-defining features. ... Windows are a character-defining feature.”

Publicly funded tax incentives and rebates encouraging energy-efficient features have led to countless property owners needlessly removing historic windows, Kenny said. The loss is greatest from historic homes that aren’t on a historic register.

Even if built to resemble traditional styles, vinyl and aluminum windows look and function differently from their wood-framed predecessors, and even new wood-framed windows might not look the same as the originals, Kenny said.

Morrisson, from Bear Wood Windows, said she finds historic frames often are sturdier than modern frames because they were crafted from old growth, vertical-grain fir, now a prized and costly lumber that lasts well in the Northwest climate.

“Back 100 years ago, the grains were very tight, which makes them really stable and more durable,” Morrisson said.

Historic windows can be made more energy efficient with proper sealants, storm windows and routine maintenance, Kenny said.

“It’s a rare window that can’t be repaired. It’s a matter of the cost-benefit to the owner,” Kenny said. “When you take into account the full cost of the loss of a historic resource, and the environmental cost of replacing the window, one may come to a different conclusion of what’s the true cost of replacing that window.”

Bear Wood Windows specializes in restoring and replicating windows in historic buildings throughout the Pacific Northwest and California.

The firm’s projects have included restoration or replication at Paradise Inn on Mount Rainier, the three-story Alaska Train Depot in Anchorage, King Street Station in Seattle and the 15-story building that now houses the Marriott Courtyard hotel in Seattle.

The Titlow project involved removing the windows and French doors from the building and stripping them of their stain, lead-based paint and glazing putty.

Bear Wood workers repaired broken and loose window stiles and rails (the wooden pieces holding the glass) and the grilles (the lattice-like trim that divides the glass panes) and replaced the ropes that allow the single-hung windows to be raised and lowered.

The project kept intact the windows’ single pane glass, which display the telltale bubbles and uneven waves of historic panes. Broken panes were replaced with machine-made “restoration” glass manufactured to look like antique glass.

To make the windows more energy efficient, workers cut a narrow groove called a kerf on the edge of the stiles and rails, then inserted a weather strip inside that groove. The weather strip will block out cold air.

“When we cut into these (Titlow) windows to do weather stripping, the wood is still very solid and in great condition. There was only one window that had rotted rail and stiles,” she said.

Morrisson, 50, spoke as she shaved glazing putty on the grilles of a lodge window. She noted that one of the keys to glazing – the process of applying putty along the pane and grilles to hold in the glass – is the glazing putty. She prefers a natural-colored, linseed oil-based putty called Bedding and Face Glazing Compound from Colorado Steel Sash Co. in Seattle. She finds Dap, a brand that’s popular among homeowners, too stiff.

“It can’t be too hard when you put it on. It doesn’t spread easily. If it’s too oily, you leave it out for awhile till it firms up a bit.,” she said. “You need to have a nice spreading consistency.”

It’s easiest to work with at the consistency of fresh Play-Doh. Using a glazing knife, she applies the putty at a 45-degree angle, doing the straight lines first, then cutting in the corners to make them crisp.

Patience and practice helps, too. The hours of hand labor by Morrisson and her shop will give new vitality to a centenarian that’s played an important role in the West End community.

“I love the fact we can restore and bring back the old,” Morrisson said. “It’s not something everybody does.”

Debby Abe: 253-597-8694 debby.abe@thenewstribune.com

Titlow Lodge, then and now

Titlow Lodge houses community classes, weddings and private gatherings and a summer day camp for children.

It started life a century ago with a different name, a different purpose and two more floors.

Aaron Titlow built the Swiss chalet-style structure as the Hotel Hesperides and resort in 1911. Designed by Stadium and Lincoln high schools’ architect Frederick Heath, the lodge featured an expansive veranda and elegant dining room with beamed ceilings, Tiffany lantern lights, fine china and linens. Each guest room had a bathroom with running hot and cold fresh water and salt water, and a balcony allowing visitors to see steamer ships pass through the Narrows, according to the Metro Parks Tacoma website.

By 1923, however, the hotel was losing money and closed.

In 1926, Metro Parks Tacoma acquired the property and reopened the building as the Titlow Beach Lodge. During the Depression, park district officials decided maintaining the hotel was too costly and planned to raze it. The proposal triggered an outcry from community members who used the facility for gatherings. Officials backed off, and decided to simply remove the top two stories of the lodge. Thinking of tearing out and replacing your old windows to get an energy- efficiency rebate or tax credit?

If you live in a historic home, preservationists urge you to think about restoration and repair before razing. Here are some issues to consider:

 • More heat is lost through the roof and insulated walls than windows.

 • Windows need routine maintenance, including resealing and caulking, to be energy efficient.

 • Storm windows installed on the exterior of existing windows or window inserts attached to the interior side can reduce heat loss.

 • A thin reflective covering called “low-E film” can be applied to single-pane glass to reduce heat loss.

 • If you’re trying to be “green,” remember that vinyl and aluminum windows take more resources, toxins and energy to produce than restoring old windows.

 • Retaining the original windows in a historic home can be an advantage when selling the home to buyers who value authenticity.

 • If you refinish windows yourself, beware of the possibility of lead in the paint and asbestos in the glazing putty. Kits are available in home-improvement stores to test for lead. If you don’t test, assume there are toxins and wear protective masks, a respirator, gloves and other gear.

 • Double- or single-hung windows are sometimes replaced because they no longer open. The problem often stems from layers of paint on the pulley system ropes. Instead of discarding the entire window, replace the ropes. When painting, cover the ropes with masking tape or paper.

 • Different kinds of glass are used to replace historic or antique window panes. Glass with waves, bubbles and other imperfections reminiscent of antique glass is available, but can be costly, particularly if it’s mouth-blown. Sometimes, homeowners opt for contemporary, double-paned glass.

 • If historic windows are replaced, preservationists urge that they be replaced with the same type of materials as in the original window.

 • Window restoration typically involves repairing and refinishing original glass panes and frames. Window replication typically involves building a window with the exact dimensions, styling and materials of the historic window. Either process, however, might include weather stripping or a different type of glass from the original.

 • Homeowners can consult with historic preservation officers in their city or the state to determine whether their home has enough historic value to restore, replicate or replace windows.

For more information on restoring, replicating or replacing historic windows:

 • Go to www. oldhouseweb.com and search for “historic window repair.”

 • Go to www. preservationnation.org and search for “historic wood window tip sheet.”

 • See a video of historic window restoration by EcoWoodworks at http:// ecowoodworks.com. The custom carpentry firm is at 3016 Sapp Road, Tumwater, or at 360-943-3808.

 • Contact Bear Wood Windows, Inc., 459 “B” E. 15th St., Tacoma, at 253-471-1259 or www.bearwood window.com

 • The City of Olympia Historic Preservation program, at 360-753-8031, or go to www.ci.olympia.wa.us and search for “heritage register.”

Sources: City of Olympia Historic Preservation program, Grace Morrisson of Bear Wood Windows Inc.