April is one of the busiest months in Athens. There’s so much to do: BrewFest, G-Day, Twilight. However, one of my favorite April activities is Hands On Athens. The Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation provides free maintenance, repairs and landscaping improvements for low-income homeowners in historic neighborhoods. Hands On Athens will take place Apr. 5–7 and is open to volunteers of all skill levels.
Hands On Athens plans to work on a dozen houses, doing everything from basic maintenance, such as painting, to more advanced repairs like roof replacement, porch repair, window and door repair and much more. While the volunteer program is the main force behind Hands On Athens, a Community Development Block Grant provided by Athens-Clarke County Human and Economic Development and sponsorships from local businesses are used to hire contractors for the skilled tasks of electrical work, plumbing and roofing. This year, six houses are undergoing much-needed roof repairs.
For the first time, workers and volunteers will be removing non-historic siding this year, starting with the house at 170 Lyndon Ave.—the home of Jaclyn Mattox, her daughter and her grandchildren—in the Boulevard Historic District. Since this project is too much for one weekend, a team of University of Georgia historic preservation students led by UGA historic preservation planner Scott Messer and carpenter Tosh Lickliter (who is always bouncing around doing a juggling act with many HOA houses) began work on the project two weekends ago. A team led by Ben Liverman will resume work on the home during the official Hands On Athens weekend. (Full disclosure: I’m on the team and very excited.)
The historic Mattox residence was covered in asphalt and fiberboard siding to insulate it at a time when installing insulation was not an option. Times change, and insulating a house is not as difficult as it used to be. Lickliter says the process involves drilling several holes in the walls and pumping in insulation. The newly insulated home is then ready to undergo siding removal to expose the original historic weatherboard siding underneath. Once exposed, Liverman’s team will then prep the original siding for painting. In addition to restored siding, the home is also receiving custom, historically accurate trim crafted by Lickliter. Other repairs will be carried out at this house during the HOA weekend, as well.
Beyond improving the appearance of this house and providing better insulation, HOA Administrator John Kissane believes “this effort is important because it will, we hope, demonstrate the possibilities of removing artificial siding and then properly painting the exterior of a house. It will also help us point out that covering the original siding can be detrimental to the original, historic materials. And that painting is better for the house and can, in many cases, be more cost-effective.”
Keep in mind that Hands On Athens operates under the aegis of the ACHF, and while their primary concern is providing home repairs for deserving folks, maintaining the historic integrity of Athens is a major part of their mission. Restoring the historic integrity and accuracy of 170 Lyndon Ave. adds value not only to the home but to the Boulevard neighborhood, while only blocks away, the titanic rear addition at 321 DuBose Ave. is having the opposite effect.
While on the topic of maintaining historic integrity, the ACHF is seeking nominations for its 2013 Preservation Awards, including Outstanding Rehabilitation, Excellence in Community Revitalization, Grassroots Preservation Efforts and more. Submit nominations at www.achfonline.org; they’re due Saturday, Apr. 20. I’m not sure what my nominations will be yet, although if there were a prize for worst demolition, it would go to the ranch house at 232 University Dr., unless someone decides to front the cost of removal.
Winning projects will be showcased Monday, June 3 at the 44th Annual Preservation Awards at the Morton Theatre. Projects that have been or will be completed between June 1, 2012 and June 1, 2013 are eligible.
So, get off your barstool, look around Athens and nominate some great architecture for the ACHF Preservation Awards. And take some time this weekend to volunteer for Hands On Athens. It’s three days and six shifts, so even if you can only manage one shift, it would be beneficial to both you and a deserving homeowner around town.
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