Saving the Windows, One at a Time

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Valley Painting Making Old New Again 

What’s in a window? More than you probably think.

When it comes to historic buildings such as those that occupy much of the Boneyfiddle and downtown districts of Portsmouth, Ohio, windows hold a unique place in the character of a building. Not only are they beautiful examples of the craftsmanship of a bygone day, they also have the practical benefits of providing ventilation and serving as portals to the outside world.

3-cyrusYet, older windows often get a bad rap. They are an easy target to blame for energy loss. People are quick to replace historic windows because they are told replacement windows will save them time and money, and it’s the “green” thing to do. Replace, not restore, is the trend.

But people like Tim Cyrus and his company, Valley Painting, are doing what they can to show people that keeping the old windows is a viable and beautiful option.

Cyrus got into window restoration about four years ago and has refurbished several of the historic buildings on Second Street. He and the other three members of his team work closely with customers to make sure their wishes and the city’s design guidelines are met. “We can rebuild a window to look and operate the same way as it did originally.”

The work is painstaking, he said, but well worth it. “It takes a bit of patience. Every window that you come across, even in the same building, is going to have a different problem than the others. You have to evaluate each one in deciding the best way to restore.”

For example, the Valley Painting crew recently restored all of the windows on the second and third floors of the former Elks building at Second and Washington streets. Plans for that building include rooms/apartments for Shawnee State University students on the upper levels. “In order to have occupancy in that building, all the windows have to work,” Cyrus said. “We took them all out, put in new pulleys and weights, and replaced the trim. There were 24 single windows and six double (bay windows).”

Valley Painting, a three-generation family business started by Cyrus’ grandfather, Thomas William Cyrus Sr., in 1956 in Portsmouth, also recently redid the windows on the front side of the Raymond James Financial Services building on Second Street. The double-hung windows, each seven-feet tall, were a challenge, but that’s one of the things Cyrus enjoys about his work. “At the end of the day, you can look back and see that you’ve accomplished something. I like that feeling.”

The staff at Valley Painting not only restores windows, but entire historic buildings, including painting, trim work, baseboards, drywall, plaster and other features unique to older properties.

Cyrus’ knowledge of historic color palettes helps property owners select historically accurate interior and exterior colors, said Scott Moore, an architect who heads up the Building Improvement Grant Program for Main Street Portsmouth. The program has provided more than $125,000 to owners of historic buildings in town since 2008.

Cyrus said he does a lot of online research to help answer property owners’ questions or give them advice. When it comes to color, historically, there wasn’t much variety.

“In those days, the outside of buildings were brick and stone with black windows. That was about it. So, I tell people when selecting colors that the important thing is getting the right base color and working off of that.”

Qualified contractors like Cyrus, with experience in historic rehabilitation, preservation and restoration, are hard to find, Moore said, and Portsmouth is fortunate to have his expertise.

“Experienced historic contractors are familiar with the city’s design guidelines for historic properties and understand that following the guidelines will result in increased property values,” Moore said.

Cyrus said the payoff to him is seeing more people enjoying the downtown.

“The building owners are taking a big interest in maintaining the historic aspects. They really want to restore and preserve that area, and that’s exciting to me.”

Valley Painting doesn’t advertise its historic preservation work, but word is getting around. “I have people stop at my job sites, asking me to come look at their property,” Cyrus said. “I’m blessed to have plenty of work that I enjoy doing.”

 

Photos Ashley Gallaher Quinn

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Amanda Gilmore

Amanda Gilmore of Wheelersburg, Ohio, is a professional editor for Wastren Advantage Inc. of Piketon, Ohio. She spent 10 years as the community relations coordinator at Boyd County Public Library (another great place featured in this magazine more than once) and another 10+ before that as a writer and editor for The Independent in Ashland. She's a part-time teacher at Ohio University Southern, and loves to travel, eat and hang out with her two awesome kids, Pierce and Kate. You can contact her at ajosephinegilmore@yahoo.com.

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