May 30, 2017

Preserving History, One Window at a Time

  • By: Gwendolyn Purdom
A historic window frame being worked on in the shop.

photo by: Amy McAuley

A historic window frame in McAuley's shop.

Amy McAuley dabbled in politics and retail and worked as stagehand before she discovered carpentry. The Portland, Oregon resident started her own business, Oculus Fine Carpentry, in 2003. While working on her first preservation project—the circa 1856 Alvin T. Smith House in Forest Grove, Oregon—she restored all the windows.

McAuley found the experience so fulfilling that she sold her power tools and decided to specialize in historic window restoration. It didn’t take long for new customers to find her: “People looking to restore historic windows would tell me, ‘Nobody here does it; can you help?’”

Using handsaws, backsaws, and other hand tools, McAuley has since fabricated new window sashes and repaired window rot and loose joints in barns, lighthouses, and other structures. She even helped persuade the Salem Historic Landmarks Commission to save the original windows in the 1883 Oregon State Hospital instead of replacing them.

“I think the public takes for granted the history that’s wrapped up in historic windows,” says McAuley, who has started teaching a growing number of craftspeople at workshops. “As long as my body can keep up with it,” she says, “I want to do this forever.”

This story originally appeared in the September/October 2010 issue of Preservation magazine.

Preservation Tips & Tools: 13 Things You Should Know About Retrofitting Historic Windows

Windows are the most visible components of older and historic homes and buildings, yet also the most commonly underappreciated and misunderstood. The good news: Retrofits for historic windows perform comparably to new replacement windows, and almost every retrofit option offers a better ROI.

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