Now that I live in Pennsylvania, I’ve observed that the houses and barns in this area built in the 18th and 19th centuries are still being used as primary residences and workspaces. That means that the types of structures I have become accustomed to photographing in Wisconsin are not available to shoot in this area. In Wisconsin, it is my experience that when a structure is going to be idled, the family will offer it to the local historical society to preserve and safeguard against disrepair and possible demolition. Those buildings are often moved from their original site to a protected village along with other saved structures. Many times, the family will also donate the contents of the building so that it all stays intact, and more importantly, historically genuine.
In this area of Pennsylvania, structures are either passed down within a family, or sold to buyers intending to maintain the building as a residence. To make them more livable by today’s standards, they will extensively renovate the interior spaces, sometimes while maintaining their historic character, but many times not. The building exteriors are almost always kept in period, but the interior may be unrecognizable. For the work that I do, that means that there are far fewer opportunities to produce the kind of work that I would like. There just aren’t a lot of historic buildings left vacant and needing saving.
It may be at the county and state level, not the local level, that historical properties have been identified for continued preservation or needing to be added to the list. In many cases, while the vacated buildings may be designated for restoration, the contents have long since been removed by vandals and thieves. Now the restoration becomes even more expensive with the need to purchase period pieces that were most likely not original to the actual dwelling.
For my local historical society, the more pressing need is to document changes to the township. Right now, that includes documenting construction sites where a new bank branch and medical clinic are underway. I regret that I wasn’t here before the work began because it would have been good to have a record of what was slated to be demolished just before that work began. Going forward, it should be easy enough to read the minutes of zoning meetings. That would be where plans for these kinds of changes would be discoverable.
If you are aware of locations within the Lehigh Valley area that are slated for demolition and construction, please let me know. I’ll reach out to the parties involved to see what I can do to freeze important moments in time.