Stevenson Hall: Why Windows Matter in Sitka Summer Music Festival’s Plans for this National Historic Landmark Building


The Sitka Summer Music Festival is rehabilitating Stevenson Hall, one of the iconic buildings on the Sheldon Jackson School National Historic Landmark, This designation is for properties significant to our nation’s history. It is wonderful that the Sitka Summer Music Festival has a home where it began back in the 1970s on the Sheldon Jackson College campus, in this prominent and historically important campus quadrangle. The rehabilitation is a huge benefit to our community, in making this distinctive building a year-round center for the arts. The $4.2 million project includes heat and ventilation and could be one of the most prestigious projects in Sitka.

However, the plan has a major problem: it includes removing all the building’s windows and putting in replacements. I’m a fan of the Festival and have background in historic preservation, so would like to share information about why this is unnecessary, costly, and detrimental to the community, the Landmark, and especially to the Festival itself.

Besides the problem of replacing windows, the windows specified in the plans (Andersen A-Series), an entire “new construction” window unit that installs using flanges from the exterior, are installed in such a way that they need all new trim and look very different from the originals. Replacement windows, when they are necessary, should be as near as possible to the original, so that they have the same look and feel. This is not the case for the Andersen window.

Historic preservation professionals, from the National Park Service to the state preservation office to local preservationists, have flagged the Festival’s plan to replace windows as historically and visually inappropriate. It would destroy Stevenson Hall’s historical integrity, and make this building look different from the four matching buildings in this National Historic Landmark suite, which I’m sure is not what the Festival and its donors want.

The remarkable thing here is that for Stevenson Hall, using historic preservation best practices actually costs less and results in less maintenance, practically identical performance, and more longevity. There is no practical, or historical, reason to replace the windows on Stevenson Hall. We hope that the Sitka Summer Music Festival will do the research and consider alternatives.

What is historic preservation

The goal of historic rehabilitation is to bring buildings into productive use – energy efficient, comfortable, accessible, safe – while saving what it is that makes it historic in the first place.

It’s not complicated, but it is different from working on non-historic buildings. It starts with analysis of what it is that makes the building historic in the first place – defining its “character-defining features.” You analyze what it is that is most important to preserve, then plan your work to accomplish your repair and upgrading goals, while looking carefully for alternatives that will solve problems while at the same time keep as much as possible of the identified historic materials and character.

The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties are common-sense guidelines for working on historic places, so that as we work on a property, we save those features and the overall sense of the place that make it historic in the first place. The Standards are guidelines unless federal resources are involved, or certain other situations. They came out of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

There are four types of Treatment, but the one most commonly applied is Rehabilitation, which is when you adapt a historic property for a new use.

Historic preservation is an approach, rather than a prescription. It boils down to good planning. There is no one right answer to a given situation. It always takes research and consideration of alternatives. Each project will have different considerations, in weighing function, costs, and practicability against permanent loss of authenticity, character and materials.

For example, a modification that easily meets the Standards for Rehabilitation is accessibility (ADA, wheelchair) ramping. This is very important to a building’s function and has little impact on its appearance or character. Another example of an acceptable solution is using architectural asphalt shingles instead of traditional wood shingles. “Architectural” grade asphalt shingles have the same texture as wood shingles, which means little is lost in character. That loss is weighed against the expense of a traditional wood roof, and the difficulty in installing them in our climate so that they last. (Also, on the Sheldon Jackson campus buildings, in 1910 the architects specified either wood or asphalt shingles.) And, roofing is made to be replaced, and asphalt shingles now do not prevent a wood roof in the future, so is reversible.

Are the windows important to the historic character of Stevenson Hall? Yes. A Getty Foundation-funded Historic Preservation Plan from 2004 listed the original windows, which comprise nearly half the surface of the building, as a defining feature. This is often the case with historic buildings. The windows are important and replacing them would mean losing this important architectural feature.

Replacing windows with the Andersen windows also requires replacing all window trim with new, that would have a different profile. Siding and trim are also listed in the Preservation Plan as defining features.

If you have a National Historic Landmark building, it’s natural that you will use a historic preservation approach, to do what you can to preserve its special historical character and materials.

If a part is too damaged to save, and you have to replace it, you replace it “in-kind,” with something identical. We also want to get historic buildings into reuse, so we have to make modifications for energy efficiency, accessibility, comfort, and security. We work to make sure that modifications do not destroy historic features. Wholesale replacement is avoided if possible, and even then, replacement is with something close to or identical with the original.

Is free help

When you are working on an old building, even one that is not historic, the National Park Service and the State Historic Preservation Office, as well as the National Trust, have abundant, free resources, and even consultation. What’s better than free? These professionals want to encourage historic preservation, and to help the public learn about the ins and outs and best practices, and latest technology.

Girls in front of Stevenson Hall, the Small Girls Building, early 1910s. E. W. Merrill photograph, Sitka National Historical Park Collection.

History is Important

From the Architectural Character and Design Guidelines in the Sheldon Jackson School Preservation Plan:

b) Windows are as important to the building’s appearance as the exterior sheathing. The windows cover roughly half of the exterior façade. It is important that all windows contribute to the feel of the building and thus should not be altered. The original windows constitute the main character of the building.”

People in Sitka care about authenticity and history. It is part of our identity as Sitkans, and part of our economy. Visitors come to Sitka to experience authentic culture and history. When we have a National Historic Landmark building, we do what we can to preserve what is authentic and historic about it. This place is important.

This Building is Historically Significant

This is a National Historic Landmark for its association with Alaska Native education, and the Founders of the ANB. It includes the suppression of Indigenous language and culture, and the strength of men and women who used the tool of education to fight for civil rights. It’s important and difficult history that should not be forgotten. Standing in the place, experiencing authentic spaces missionaries and students did, connects us and helps our understanding of those times and those people, like nothing else can.

The other reason is the remarkable architecture, and the intact survival of the entire suite of distinctive buildings. It is the only formal campus quadrangle in Alaska. It would really be too bad to lose the architecture and symmetry now when it’s survived more than 100 years.

I’m sure musicians and other visitors would much rather experience an authentic space, with the actual varnished windows and wood that was there when students used the building, and not the all-new surfaces that could be anywhere in the world, especially when they can have those surfaces and also enjoy comfort and acoustics.

Panorama above by James Poulson, 2016, below, shortly after construction in 1911 by E. W. Merrill. Collection Sitka Fine Arts Camp. Stevenson Hall is on far left (West).

Technical Reasons for Restoring vs. Replacing

There are many reasons why restoration is better than replacement, even on ordinary buildings.

Restoration of windows achieves all the Sitka Summer Music Festival’s goals – protecting musical instruments, comfort and energy efficiency, while retaining Stevenson Hall’s historic character, and does it at less cost. Restored windows last longer and look better.

Links and documents about the economics and technology of preserving historic windows can be found on the Documents page on this site.

Reason number one: Replacing wood windows is not cost effective.

Every study concludes that you never pay for replacing windows with money saved from using less energy. That is because windows don’t insulate. Even a triple-pane window does not offer much insulation compared to what you get from the rest of the building envelope. Restoring windows and adding interior glazing (interior or exterior storm windows are inexpensive to buy and install) gives the same benefits as replacement, at much less cost.

Isn’t keeping windows too expensive? No. Replacing windows is too expensive – especially when you take into account their relatively short lifespan, and the difficulty of replacing, compared to traditional wood windows.

For a regular house, the costs of tearing out all the windows, and buying and installing replacements, which involves getting down to the sheathing (the layer under the siding) and buying or making and installing all new trim, quickly adds up, even if the replacement window is a cheap one, because of the amount of labor involved.

The costs of replacing are even higher if you want a window that will look correct in a historic building. A replica window for the large units on Stevenson Hall are in the neighborhood of $4000 apiece, even before adding in labor costs. Stevenson Hall has a lot of very large windows.

Even the Andersen windows proposed by the Sitka Summer Music Festival – $2300 each – cost more than restorating originals. That’s before labor costs of removing all siding and trim, adding framing to the wall, installing the new unit, then buying, fabricating and installing all new trim. Labor and materials for trim is a big cost item in construction. You are talking tens of thousands of dollars.

Historic Window Restoration Makes Them Literally Good as New

These windows are repairable, and in remarkably good condition. They can be repaired by the contractor: the Fine Arts Camp has been restoring windows on the neighboring buildings, using a steam box to strip the windows then making repairs and refinishing, so the windows are good for another 110 years. It is important to use lead-safe practices, which is the case for work on all buildings from before 1978.

All of the windows have been easily repairable, which is remarkable when you consider their great age (109 years) and lack of maintenance, especially in the last decades of the college. The most that has been required is the replacement of the bottom rail. That is because these windows were made to last, out of high quality, old-growth wood.  

A better solution is to use one of the professional window restoration business in the Seattle area.

The cost to fully restore the largest of the original windows on Stevenson Hall is estimated by one of these window restoration companies (Prime Sash) at $1200 to $1400 apiece. Windows could easily be shipped south in a container van. Prime Sash returns the restored window with a clear finish ready to be varnished on the interior. That price includes metal weather stripping and replacing any soft parts with new wood.

The money saved by not replacing is more than adequate to fully restore the window frames and original trim.

Even if you had windows restored by the general contractor at $80 an hour, it would be close to a break even. If you have the windows restored professionally in Seattle, you are looking at a fraction of the price of replacing, saving tens, possible hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings.

In addition, making one change to an old building often means other changes have to be made, that you didn’t anticipate. You aren’t saving money.

When you add up the cost of replacements, the choice is clear, just from a cost standpoint.

Reason number two: Windows don’t insulate.

A properly repaired window, with the addition of interior glazing, gives essentially the same benefits of comfort and energy efficiency as a replacement window.

Don’t you have to replace windows for energy efficiency and to support indoor humidity control for protecting delicate musical instruments? No. All the benefits of double-pane windows are gained by installing a modern interior storm window insert.

Windows don’t insulate, and it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of money for a tiny amount of insulation improvement: even on a regular building, you do not recoup your costs in heating efficiency. Before you recoup your costs in energy savings, the windows have had to be replaced again.

The critical factor is air sealing, which is gained just as well by installing window inserts and sealing cracks.

You get the same benefits – insulation, air sealing, and better acoustic performance – by adding interior storm windows, at a fraction of the cost. This is well documented in many studies, by states, universities and other entities. Some references and studies can be found on the Documents page on this site or at

Most manufacturers offer operable storm windows, with a part that opens. You can then leave them on and still open them for cross ventilation or egress. There are some of these in the Laundry Building on the Sheldon Jackson School NHL.

Look at energy holistically:

What about the uninsulated part of the wall containing the window counterbalances?

The plans call for an efficient heat-pump heating system, state-of-the-art mechanical ventilation, complete air sealing, and 1 1/2 inch Styrofoam insulation lining the interior surface of all the walls. The main room has two systems for ventilation – one kicks in when there are large numbers of people gathered and the humidity gets too high. All things considered, the lack of insulation in this part of the wall will have no impact on heating costs, comfort or anything else.

Allen Hall, the centerpiece of the Sheldon Jackson School campus has all its original windows and has interior storm windows, is extremely energy-efficient. 

Reason number three: Replacement windows are not made to last.

Replacement windows may be “maintenance-free” but that comes at a cost: they are not made to last. The glass seals are warranted for 20 years, the rest of the window only 10. “No maintenance” vinyl and fiberglass deteriorate, insulated glass seals fail, and you end up with a 6-figure bill to replace them all again. (The exterior of the windows specified (Andersen A-Series) are Fibrex, which is 60% vinyl and 40% wood flour filler, with painted fiberglass (polystyrene) on the sash.)

Manufacturers estimate 35 years at the very most before they need replacement again – companies recommend replacing at 15 to 20 years. You are replacing a permanent, historic window with one with seals that will fail, and plastic and mechanisms that will break down.

Under ideal conditions, an industry study found that 1% fail at ten years, and 3% at 15, and so on. That is an exponential curve. As anyone with this type of window in their home knows, at 15 to 20 years is when you start seeing fogging of the panes, and the window has to be replaced. The warranty on the Andersen windows is just for the window, not for the labor for installation.

By contrast, the existing windows were made to last. They are over 100 years old. Professionally restored windows are as good as new. All soft wood is replaced with new wood. They were made with high-quality old-growth wood, and after restoration, can be expected to last literally another 100 years.

But don’t old windows require too much maintenance? No. The existing windows would be thoroughly restored, by stripping them down to the wood, repairing any decay with new wood, and refinishing so they are literally as good as when they were first built. (New wood windows are made from fast-growing pine, so the restored, old-growth, wood windows may actually be superior in durability. Fiberglass deteriorates quickly in uv light, so the fiberglass parts of replacement windows have to be coated, which would eventually have to be recoated.) Yes, you have to paint wood windows, but no more often that you paint your siding.

The windows on Allen Hall were restored in the early 2000s and are still good, nearly 20 years on. Interior storm windows help make this building extremely energy-efficient. By contrast, the double pane windows on a new addition to Allen Hall, put in 20 years ago, are fogging up with failed seals.

Restoration is a long term investment, saving beauty and character and saving the cost of having to replace the replacements within a few decades.  

Reason number four: Replacement windows look wrong.

Andersen type replacement windows in a historic building can never look like the original, and they never look right. This will be an especially obvious contrast next to buildings that are intact.

The entire new window assembly exterior, not just the sash, is molded plastic (“Fibrex,” which is 60% vinyl and 40% wood flour, and painted fiberglass (polyester) on the sash); the glass dividers are fake; and they install flush with the outside wall, so they have less depth.

“New-construction” windows like the Andersen A-Series install from the outside of the wall with a flange against the building’s sheathing. The jamb (window frame) actually protrudes from the wall, so the trim will have to be reinstalled with a spacer behind it and will stick out past the shingle surface of the wall.

Installing these full-frame (“new construction”) replacements requires removing the old window and its frame and windowsill, adding studs (framing) in the wall for the opening and all new trim, so that once you replace windows, there is no going back. They have their own, plastic windowsills. They can’t match the craftsmanship or the aesthetics, or the dimensions of the original windows.

It requires all new trim, which is a substantial part of the architecture of Stevenson Hall. Installing all new trim might not be an issue on an ordinary building. On this building, it is serious loss of most of the exterior. Making and installing new trim is expensive, with many hours of contractor labor, and would eliminate most of the remaining historic material. You have a cascade of costs and loss of material that you would not have if you just kept the original windows.

Everyone who sees the building with these plastic-clad replacement windows with their flat, fake-divided glass and protruding trim next to the authentic, historic buildings of the Landmark will notice it looks wrong, even if they can’t put their finger on exactly what it is. That reflects badly on the Sitka Summer Music Festival.

In addition, on Stevenson Hall the trim is unique and complex. There is a question as to whether you even could install this type of replacement window without substantial modification to the way the trim is put together.

Another problem that does not seem to have been considered is that when it comes time to replace a “new construction” type window, all the exterior trim has to come off in order to get it out. This kind of window (with a flange for mounting from the exterior of the building) is not designed or intended to have elaborate and continuous traditional trim, as on Stevenson Hall. (You’ll notice on buildings with Andersen-type windows, that the trim is simple, narrow, or nonexistent.)

Plat Notes

Back in 2010, the fate of the Sheldon Jackson School National Historic Landmark was up in the air. The Sheldon Jackson College Trustees (the College had closed, deep in debt, in 2007) tried to keep the core campus intact, but were under intense financial pressure, as their efforts to transfer the property entire to another educational organization fell through.

In 2010 Stevenson Hall was subdivided from the rest of the core campus. The City and Borough of Sitka, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the State Office of History and Archaeology worked with the Sheldon Jackson College trustees to add mandatory Plat Notes requiring any major work on the property meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. So in addition to the basic stewardship responsibility of owning a National Historic Landmark building, the Sitka Summer Music Festival agreed to this commitment to using the Standards to guide major work.

Preservation Covenant

In addition, the Sitka Summer Music Festival also has a legal covenant on the property, which also requires major work to comply with the Standards. The 5-year covenant is from a federal grant in 2014 for the foundation repair. This is a standard requirement of historic preservation grants, to ensure work done with the grant is not undone.

SHPO Determination January 2019

In January 2019 the State Historic Preservation Office (which had been reviewing drafts of the plans) accepted the plans for the additions, but  determined that replacing the windows does not meet the Secretary’s Standards.  

Other parts of the Festival’s plan, a two-story addition and new features like a balcony and a large bay window overlooking the north parking area, do not technically meet the Standards, but they were accepted by the SHPO because they are mostly out of sight from the main quadrangle.

The determination by the SHPO mean the Festival’s plans for the windows put it out of compliance with the covenant and also with the plat notes on the property. The National Park Service and the local Historic Preservation Commission also expressed concern about the damage done by replacing windows.

At this point, the normal course would be for the architect and/or owner to work with the State Historic Preservation Office to work out a way for the plans to meet the Standards. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, those discussions have not yet happened.

Here is the letter sent by the Alaska State Historic Preservation Officer to the Festival on May 30 2019, on how the Sitka Summer Music Festival plan is presently in violation of those mandatory Plat Notes, and, with their covenant, and of their responsibility to preserve this National Historic Landmark for future generations.

Their architect did have training in preservation architecture, but unfortunately, the Sitka Summer Music Festival and the architect parted ways in May 2019, after the firm submitted  the 100% Plans, but a month before the construction phase was to begin.

(Interestingly, the architect had recommended keeping the original windows, not for historic reasons but because of the cost estimates done at the 35% and 60% design phases showed restoration would cost less than replacement.)

Perhaps the lack of communication is because the Sitka Summer Music Festival is functioning as a committee, without the benefit of professional guidance or a professional point person to take part in discussions with the SHPO, even as they are in the middle of trying to manage the rest of this complex project. None of the Festival board or staff has experience with historic preservation.

As far as enforcing the Plat Notes, the City and Borough of Sitka does not enforce plat notes (of any kind) and has no precedent or procedure for preservation plat notes, but that does not mean they are not a legally binding document.

Sitka Summer Music Festival representative told the Sitka Historic Preservation Commission that they will wait for the covenant to expire, in October 2019, before removing the windows. That does not make them in compliance. More significantly, the Festival would be violating the intention of plat notes and covenant, which are to protect the integrity of this National Historic Landmark for the benefit of future generations.

Do the Research

Why would you want to replace windows? Perhaps it is a matter of familiarity, and extensive promotion by window replacement companies. It is probably hard to imagine a historic building that is also modern in its function, but this is readily achievable. You don’t have to make a choice between history and modernization. You can have both. But this is a new idea to most people who don’t have background in historic preservation.

This is a large, complex and costly project on a National Historic Landmark building, and none of the staff or board has background in historic preservation. This means it is even more critical for the staff and board to educate themselves, to learn, to do the work of researching and learning about alternatives and best practices, and talking to experts.

Preserving windows is the easy choice. It retains historic character, meets all the Festival’s needs, and saves money. With research, consultation and due diligence, Stevenson Hall can be a prestige project, a model of high-quality preservation, a legacy the Sitka Summer Music Festival can be proud of, a building that musicians will enjoy not just for its comfort but for its authenticity and history.

What is great is that making preservation a priority and restoring windows on Stevenson Hall does not call for hard choices. It is cost effective, longer lasting, better looking and has all the benefits of full replacement, at less cost to the environment. It would bring the Festival into compliance with the law, and would be a great asset for fund raising and events.

I know that the Festival has the best intentions, and that they are making decisions based on their past experience and understanding of what is best. That understanding might be adequate if it was an ordinary building. However, on this historic structure, they must research and integrate historic preservation expertise, technology and best practices, for a high quality and efficient product. They must do their due diligence, and consult with experts in the field, and listen to what they have to say. They must do their own research, do the math, and learn about how to and why preserve historic buildings.


By replacing the windows on Stevenson Hall, the Festival would be spending more money and would gain nothing in insulation or protection of the interior over interior glazing. They would be replacing permanent, historic windows with plastic-clad windows designed to be replaced. They would lose something genuine and historic and replacing with something new and generic that could just as well be in a subdivision. They would be in violation of their responsibility to the public and future generations to preserve this National Historic Landmark, violating their legal obligations, and creating problems for the future, and it will detract from the rest of the Landmark.

I’m sure the Festival contributors, whether private donors or foundations, don’t want to be associated with the loss of a historic building, especially when the expertise is readily available to do it right, at the same or less cost. Restoration is the responsible, long-term option, for the public and for the Festival. The Festival will leave a legacy it can be proud of.

The entry of North Pacific Hall. E. W. Merrill photo, collection Sitka National Historical Park, SITK_2572.
Sheldon Jackson School student dining room, which was in the west end of North Pacific Hall. E. W. Merrill photo, collection Sitka National Historical Park, SITK_25598.

Other design notes

Additions should be designed to not detract from the architecture. The two-story addition would require removal of a wall and part of a roof, in order to add on 20 feet and build a copy of that wall and roof, that would be designed to look continuous with the original building. The appropriate way to add on to a historic building is to do it so you can still tell what was there originally, which also saves substantial costs when you don’t have to try to tie the old and new roof and foundation together seamlessly. The plan also eliminates the classical symmetry and proportions of the north and west walls.

Most importantly, people will be able to see the original architecture, which was by one of the most prominent firms in the United States at the time. The bay window overlooking the north parking area, the balcony, and back porch are also inappropriate additions for a historic building, since they are not needed to accommodate the new function, and they detract from the architecture. (See Standards for Rehabilitation 9 and 10.)

Another place the plan can be improved is the proposal to take all the siding off and put it back on. Prying off siding and trim will cause damage that could be avoided by restoring siding and trim in place. In addition, the plans call for adding air channel, which would make the wall thicker, which would make it tricky to reuse old trim.

The wall functions well without air channel; there is no need to take the siding off. The Festival can weigh the benefits against the costs of removal, taking into consideration that the plans include an efficient heating system, and air sealing and insulation on the interior of the wall, with 1 1/2 inch “Styrofoam” board lining all the walls.

The interior of Stevenson Hall has been extensively remodeled, with little to be seen that’s original. However, there is a lot of original varnished, clear Douglas fir trim, buried under layers of paint and paneling. This should be salvaged and reused, but plans call for instead putting in all new white-painted beadboard wainscoting and trim is specified. (Update: original trim is being ripped out and thrown away 9/2/19.)

Even if you don’t save any original trim, why not take the original interior trim as an inspiration? Originally these buildings had plain walls and wide varnished baseboard and window trim. This could be less expensive than all that beadboard, and varnished wood would probably be more attractive.

When these buildings were made, bead board was for utilitarian areas like kitchens, and it was finished in a dark varnish. The original wainscoting in the student dining room seems to have been linoleum.

Below is information shared with the Festival earlier in 2019 (similar information was shared in March 2018):

Here are a few aspects of historic preservation on the Sheldon Jackson School National Historic Landmark, that I’ve gathered over the years. The main point is that the goal of historic preservation is to get buildings into productive use, while saving what it is that makes it historic. There is a large body of research and practical information that makes it straightforward to modernize a building while retaining its historic integrity. And in this case, it will save substantial costs.

  • Replacing wood windows is not cost effective – every study concludes that you never pay for replacing windows with energy savings. That is because windows don’t insulate. You get, for all intents and purposes, the same energy savings (and better sound proofing) by repairing them and adding interior storm windows (such as Indow or Allied), at a fraction of the cost. Links to studies can be found at
  • Replacement windows are not made to last: seals fail, plastic deteriorates, and you end up with a 6-figure bill to replace them all again. (The exterior of the windows specified (Andersen A-Series) are Fibrex, which is 60% vinyl and 40% sawdust filler, with painted fiberglass (polystyrene) on flat parts.)
  • By contrast, the existing windows are over 100 years old. They were made with high-quality old-growth wood, and when repaired, can be expected to last literally another 100 years. In the upgrade of the other buildings on the Landmark we have learned how to restore windows quickly and well, and we would be glad to share that information. Allen Hall, which has all its original windows and has interior storm windows, is extremely energy-efficient. 
  • Replacement windows require tearing out the window jambs, sills and trim. They have their own, plastic windowsills. They can’t match the craftsmanship or the aesthetics, or the dimensions of the original windows. Replacing these windows will leave this building sticking out like a sore thumb, compared to the other buildings.
  • This property is a keystone of a National Historic Landmark, significant to our nation’s history. 
  • The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties are common-sense guidelines for working on historic places, so we save those features and the overall sense of the place that make it historic in the first place. The “character-defining features” on Stevenson Hall have been identified in the Getty Foundation-funded Campus Preservation Plan; the windows are a defining feature.
  • Because a goal is to preserve the distinctive architecture, when you add on to a historic building you make it clear what is original and what is new. An example is the addition to Allen Hall, built to accommodate restrooms and an elevator. A one-story addition that has a line between old and new would give you performance space, and save the loss and the the incredible expense of rebuilding the roof and entire wall with its complex siding, and trying to mate the new and old foundation, walls and roof. (The facade is not what it looks like; the pieces are milled and interlocked and layered, to shed water.) Most importantly, people will be able to see the original architecture, which was by one of the most prominent firms in the United States at the time. The bay window, deck, and back porch are also inappropriate additions for a historic building, since they are not needed to accommodate the new function, and they detract from the architecture. (See Standards for Rehabilitation 9 and 10.)
  • This property has mandatory plat notes, added when it was sold in 2010, that require doing work to the Standards. In addition, there is a property covenant requiring using the Standards, part of the federal grant for foundation repair.


Legal obligations, or having to pay back a grant, shouldn’t be the only reason to save the distinctive architecture, craftsmanship, feel and fabric of this building. The technology is available to make the building comfortable and efficient, and retain important historical features, too, at substantially less cost than the current plan. Restoring the windows will save money, result in a higher quality product, comply with legal obligations, and leave a lasting legacy.
I am willing to provide any other information, and answer questions, provide resources or just chat about methodology and options. Incorporating best practices for working on historic buildings will save hundreds of thousands of dollars, and pay off in a higher quality product – that retains its historic integrity at the same time providing an efficient and comfortable building – that will reflect well on the Festival forever.   

7 thoughts on “Stevenson Hall: Why Windows Matter in Sitka Summer Music Festival’s Plans for this National Historic Landmark Building

  1. Well done Rebecca. I support your efforts to preserve Stevenson as it should be! Thanks for all your efforts!


    1. Hi sorry I missed this earlier! Over the past several years, we’ve restored windows mainly with volunteers, doing the research and holding workshops.

      As far as professional window restoration, there are businesses that do that in Seattle, so what I would do is to ship windows south for restoration. It is much faster, better, and cheaper, because they are so much more efficient than a general contractor would be.


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