May 1, 2024

A National Trust Grant Helps the Heurich House Think Ahead

In 2018, the Heurich House Museum in Washington, D.C., received a grant from the National Trust to collaborate with engineer and architect Michael Henry on creating a heritage building reinvestment model. The idea—one Henry has been teaching his students at the University of Pennsylvania for years—is that, like condominium associations do with reserve studies, the owners of historic structures should plan for the costs of their long-term conservation needs. “I started my practice in 1984, and we did all these historic restorations,” Henry says. “It bothered me that we were waiting until a building was in crisis before we intervened. And the interventions were terribly expensive.”

He compares the heritage building reinvestment model—a set of guidelines which, when implemented, is called a heritage building reserve study—to the routine of replacing the tires on a car. “You know they’re going to wear out, and you know they’re good for 40,000 miles; 50,000; or whatever,” he says. “That’s what reserve studies are all about, is having funds set aside for the new set of tires, because you know you’re going to do it.” Henry feels that being able to make smaller investments in a historic building over time is the most responsible approach to preservation, because when done properly, it extends the life of each building component.

After receiving the grant, the Heurich House’s Kimberly Bender worked with Henry to come up with a plan for how the museum’s own heritage building reserve study would eventually come together. “You could look at it all and say, ‘OK, how much money do we need to put in reserves every year to make sure the next time the HVAC system needs to be replaced, I don’t need to do a big capital campaign?’” she says. Bender’s current preservation priority is raising money to conserve the building envelope, a focus shared by many other historic sites around the country. Once that’s settled, the museum will use the reinvestment model to create a heritage reserve study so it can be more financially prepared for its future preservation needs.

Read our full story on the Heurich House Museum.

Heurich House Museum Turret

photo by: Sam Kittner

A non-original copper finial shaped like a salamander was added to the Heurich House sometime during or after the 1970s.

Headshot Meghan Drueding

Meghan Drueding is the executive editor of Preservation magazine. She has a weakness for Midcentury Modernism, walkable cities, and coffee-table books about architecture and design.

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