A new way to identify postcards

I have a lot of postcards in my collection that are probably from Springfield, but remain unidentified. From time to time I stumble across a house by complete luck, but for the most part that is difficult because it is limited to areas I frequently travel.

Today, I learned that Google Maps has extended their "street view" to Springfield. This is a remarkable advance in the map world because it allows you to see a street level view of most streets in the city. You can "virtually drive around" and see everything.

Shortly after I started "exploring", I came across a building on Lichfield Street -- in the Forest Park Heights Historic District -- that I knew I had seen before.

Compare to this postcard:

Looks like a match to me, except that the previously-open porches are now enclosed, the house is now sided, and some/most windows have been replaced.

This should be a fun new tool to work with, and to identify more postcards.

That's a great use for

That's a great use for Street View - and a really good catch. It's so sad how siding and the removal of ornament, etc. changes older buildings. A few years ago I drove around Malden MA with my mother and grandmother with a photograph of a beautiful Victorian that my great-great-grandmother had lived in. When we found the house, never in a million years would I have believed that the monstrous house - sided, porches gone, almost all original detail removed, and a few very unfortunate additions - was the one we were looking for - it was unrecognizable. Siding salesmen are my enemies.

Siding vs. Painting

As a reply to the picture of the now sided, once NOT sided multi-family house...Not to sound like a jerk, but siding is a God-send for many of these types of places. The house in that picture is, IMO, way better off with siding. Siding done right can be easily maintained, and coupled with new windows can significantly reduce heating/cooling costs...Don't get me wrong - I LOVE antique homes, and generally despise most of the new homes they have thrown up all over the place, because they are typically just cheap junk.

However - Do you have any idea how much it would cost to regularly paint such a colossal multi-family???!!! I think part of the reason that so many of these end up sided is precisely that - I have been in residential painting for 22 years, running a company that has painted plenty of giant, similar properties, and in almost every case, there is tons of prep work, which is the most expensive part of the job. That particular house could cost anywhere from 12-20,000 dollars ( and usually more) to do right, which includes using high-quality paints at over $35/gallon...Add in the usual carpentry repairs, tons of scraping/sanding, and a whole lot of paint and man hours to apply it, clean-up and disposal of all the cans and paint chips...Ugh!!! and In New England, I don't care who you are, what kind of prep work you do ( with the exception of maybe stripping the whole house and starting over) or what product you use - exterior re-paint jobs last an average of 5 or 6 years before they start to fail again - anyone who claims they can get 20 years or more out of a repaint is simply just lying.

Part of that is also based on the fact that ALL of them at one point were oil paint, which simple doesn't last - it is brittle, and it fades and falls apart easily. Add years of reckless spot-priming, lack of sanding, millions of places for water to get in behind the wood, and layer after layer of typically cheap latex paint over the top, and you have what amounts to a royal PIA to maintain...

Therefore, imagine spending that much money, that often, just to keep your house from looking like crap. Ask anyone in McKnight how much maintenance costs are on their homes, and I bet that if they work hard to keep them looking good, the cost is way up there...I believe that is why so many new homes are so much less detailed - it's just a matter of cost and ease of maintenance...

Believe me, I would love to see older places stay original and keep all their ornamentation, but many, after years of neglect, are just better off being sided. Specifically, I'm referring more to multi-family homes vs single family homes. It would just stink to see most of those beautiful McKnights getting sided...

Articifial siding

I don't think I agree.

My opinion on so-called "no-maintenance" siding is that it promotes the "blightish" look of properties, because after time it gets dirty and faded, but since it isn't peeling it isn't violating any ordinances so nothing can be done. It can't be easily spot-repaired because the colors don't match. So basically, it looks fresh when installed, but it gets gradually worse and worse, and the cost to replace it is much higher than the cost of repainting so no one ever wants to do this.

Color is an important factor too. Vinyl doesn't come in very many colors unless you spring for the more expensive stuff (which no one ever does). Take a drive up Dickinson Street from the X to Longmeadow, you will see most homes vinyl sided -- in white, yellow, tan, or light blue. I drive that stretch of road every week and I always think that it generally looks bad. After a while I realized it was because of front yard fences and nondescript house colors. And they never change -- they are now permanent colors.

Artificial siding also often hides significant problems like rot. You can't cover up a problem, you need to address it. There are also concerns about toxicity, I don't think I'd want to be inside a vinyl sided house if there was a fire, since toxic fumes -- chlorine gas -- get released when it burns. There are recent suspicions that emissions from the vinyl in siding and windows is bad for a house's occupants too.

There seems to be a new push to brand vinyl as a "green" product, but it is far from that when you consider the entire lifecycle including manufacturing.

Vinyl also can't be easily installed without removing a lot of decorative features of a house. Sometimes the elements removed dramatically affect the look of the house -- ridge lines which break up the side of a house, preventing the mass of siding from looking too big. You can't really curve the siding, so people either remove or box in other elements.

Everything I've read says that vinyl siding does not provide significant insulation value, even though salespeople claim it does. This is just the latest sales pitch.

Shouldn't a good paint job last 7-10 years? How does the cost of vinyl siding compare to the cost of painting? It it's 2-3 times, then I think the cost is a wash, because the siding has about a 25 year lifespan before it starts looking bad.

When I see the current picture I've referenced in this post, my first thought is "that's an apartment building that isn't particularly kept up nicely", primarily because the siding doesn't match the surrounding houses.

I will say that the apartment buildings across from the Forest Park Library, which recently had vinyl siding applied over asbestos, look better today than they did before. I suspect however that in 5-10 years, they will not look good, and for 20 years past that no exterior maintenance will be performed, because the siding is not supposed to be maintained, so no one ever does.

Siding vs. Painting

Bob G. has a valid point; 25 years ago I bought my first house on a shoe string budget. It was a very run down but sound house in East Longmeadow. It needed new everything: plumbing, electric, roof, etc. If I had not sided it, I never could have afforded to fix it up to make it livable. Periodically I drive by there today and it still looks neat and reasonably attractive. In my opinion, affordable siding is better than letting a property remain vacant and deteriorating completely.

Siding more expensive?

Barbara, I was under the impression that siding a house is more expensive than just painting it. Is that not true?

my experience with siding

It's been a long time since I've had a house either painted or sided and I am no expert, anyway; however, if Bob G. is correct (and he does sound like an expert), the frequency with which I would have had to paint my house would simply have out-priced the deal for me. Or, my neighbors would have hated me for the long over due paint jobs down the road. When I bought that particular house, I was not a typical homeowner of the time period. I was young and single with a very moderate income. I came across a fantastic deal in a nice neighborhood. An elderly woman had died and her only two heirs were far, far away with no interest in the house. Someday I intend to write a story about the history of the house using a stack of love letters found in a box on the premises together with old photos found in another box. Valuable lesson: never ever sell an unopened box at a tag sale without first checking the contents. The box with the photos was a jigsaw puzzle box and in it were pictures ranging from tintypes (showing Afro-Americans!) to snapshots of a wedding at the house from the 1940's. I had almost sold the box for a quarter with other jigsaw puzzles.

Back to the siding vs. painting is that I'd personally rather see an old house sided than torn down or simply deteriorated. Eventually, can't someone with resources who is interested remove the siding and restore the original? I confess that I really don't know. I would appreciate knowing. Maybe the Preservation Trust could put together an informative booklet with recommendations to distribute to new owners of old houses in the historic districts or perhaps any neighborhood. Maybe even negotiate special rates with contractors for special financial circumstances in exchange for the seal of artisan approval from the Trust? At the very least, perhaps you could provide an educational post on your website (which appears to be exactly is what is happening).

siding vs painting

The article about the toxicity of plastics ( vinyl, PVC) was interesting - as usual, the powers that be love to provide mass quantities of cheap products that are often terrible for us in every sense of the word...I wonder if humans will EVER figure out how to peacefully co-exist with our natural environment...As far as paint goes, don't think that it's an innocent alternative to vinyl - there are plenty of components of paint, even latex, that are bad for us and the environment. Thankfully, there has been a strong push in the industry to produce less toxic paints and other related supplies, like caulking, joint compounds, etc, but most of them still do have labels with that wonderful disclaimer: " This product contains materials known to the state of California to cause cancer reproductive harm, etc etc..." I often wonder if there are any products people use that DON'T harm us in any way, either during their manufacture or regular use...In Mass and CT, they are banning several types of oils and other high-VOC materials, but the laws are pretty stupid - some lines of paint are only discontinued in gallon sizes, but will still be available in quarts! And there are many solvents needed for various projects that are utterly horrible in almost every way for us and our environment, but that have no alternatives...As a paint company, one big issue we face is the disposal of these solvents which are necessary to our trade - currently, there are very few choices for disposal that aren't outrageously cost-prohibitive...I am willing to bet that many companies end up dumping it out when no one is looking, and the hazardous effects of that are just outright nasty...

As far as paint vs siding, I still believe that siding can create an effective alternative in cases where regular paint jobs are excessively costly and likely to fail quickly. It's all about the maintenance, though...If a property owner chooses not to paint regularly, then the painted surface will look terrible too. And anything built before 1978 likely contains lead, so all those peeling houses we all see are hazardous, too. In April 2010, contractors in Mass and (some other states)are being forced to train and acquire licensing for even small amounts of of lead removal ( i.e., scraping peeling paint) but the laws there are sketchy, too...In the training courses I've taken thus far, there are many rules and obligations we will have to face that are certain to make our job more difficult, but aren't likely to have a great effect on the amount of lead in our lives...The law doesn't even prevent all those paint chips from reaching the landfill - we can still just toss them into the garbage! I don't understand who the people are that come up with this stuff, but it seems to amount to a lot of nonsense that sounds good but achieves very little...

So there it is - my take on it...

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.