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Birmingham Museum to briefly close for repairs

The Birmingham Museum will close from June 14 through August 9 to completely restore the Allen House’s historic windows on the upper level.

Leslie Pielek, Birmingham Museum Director, said the construction project, which has been in the works since before the pandemic, will completely restore the Allen House’s historic windows on the upper level. Each double hung window will be taken down to the wood, repaired, re-glazed, and properly repainted before original hardware is re-attached and the windows are re-installed.

While the major restoration project will close the Birmingham Museum to the public for eight weeks, staff will be actively maintaining social media, assisting patrons with research, working with the museum collection, and developing a new exhibit from a temporary office at the Baldwin Public Library during the closure.

“The project is a labor-intensive effort that must be handled by specialists,” said Pielack. “When it is done, it will provide significant energy cost savings and preserve one of the most important architectural features of the historic house. We are excited to see this fantastic preservation project underway, but it involves considerable disruption of our normal operations and intensive coordination to get the job done while protecting staff and the museum collection, We’re grateful to the Baldwin Public Library for their gracious offer to provide staff workspace during the construction.”

The 1926 Allen House, which is in the process of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was designed by Rupert Koch in a unique take on the Colonial Revival style popular at the time. Its 49 windows and many doors were designed to take advantage of breezes and the view on its hill overlooking the Rouge River valley. But the large number of windows have created a challenge for its restoration, and deferred maintenance over the years has added to the technical aspects of the project. Another challenge to the project is the ubiquitous use of leaded white paint when the windows were originally installed almost 100 years ago. While safely encapsulated when re-painted over the years, restoring the windows will temporarily disturb the under layers, requiring lead mitigation measures during the project and the relocation of staff and artifacts.

“I can’t emphasize enough how important this project is as an example of top-notch historic preservation that we strive for as a city,” said Nicholas Dupuis, Birmingham Planning Director. “Every step of the way, the Allen House window restoration project is a model for what can be done to preserve valuable historic features that simply cannot be duplicated with modern materials.”

The project, which has been in the planning for several years, was hailed by the Historic District Commission as “an invaluable, comprehensive and replicable resource for historic preservation projects across the city.”


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