Harris-Cameron Mansion latest project for Lancaster-based restoration firm
Danielle Groshong-Keperling and her family are not only preserving history, they are living it.
Since 2003, the Lancaster-based firm started by her father, Chuck Groshong, has become a leader in the preservation and restoration of 18th-, 19th- and early 20th-century buildings.
Historic Restorations' portfolio includes Schmucker Hall on Seminary Ridge in Gettysburg; Old Main at Franklin & Marshall College; and the Petersen House in Washington, D.C., the 19th-century house where President Abraham Lincoln died after he was shot in Ford's Theatre.
"We're putting our mark on it for future generations," Groshong-Keperling, the company's COO, said of the projects it takes on.
Earlier this year, the firm wrapped up its portion of a $5 million Franklin Street Train Station project in Reading, an early-20th-century station on the Reading Railroad main line between Pottsville/Shamokin and Philadelphia.
The station was ravaged by Hurricane Agnes in 1972 and sat vacant for 30 years before the Berks Area Regional Transit Authority secured grants for it to be restored. Historic Restorations rebuilt the interior and exterior doors, re-created the coffered ceiling, reproduced railway station benches and restored a long cabinet that was used as a lunch counter in the diner.
"They saved things I didn't think could be saved, which helped us stay within budget by eliminating the amount of new construction," Bob Rimby, the project manager, said in a testimonial.
Historic Restorations has a handful of current projects, including a porch preservation project it recently started at the John Harris-Simon Cameron Mansion in Harrisburg. The firm is a subcontractor for McCoy Bros. Inc., based in South Middleton Township, Cumberland County.
It will be the first extensive exterior project in at least 20 years, said Nicole McMullen, executive director of the Historical Society of Dauphin County, which owns and operates the historic landmark.
"It's part of a larger exterior project," she said, which also will entail window and shutter work.
The porch project should be completed by the end of October.
"No project is exactly the same," Groshong-Keperling said. "It might be the same techniques, but you have to approach each as unique because older buildings were built without a building code."
Another current project is the Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, which is owned by the National Park Service.
When Historic Restorations started in 1995, it did a variety of construction work. But the family's passion was the historical work, she said. That also made it more of a niche firm.
"A lot of contractors that do this work are retired or close to retirement age," she said. "That is going to create a scarcity."
As public-sector work has tailed off from a lack of government funding, private-sector jobs have picked up, Groshong-Keperling said. The company actively markets its services to owners of historic buildings.
Groshong-Keperling and her father also released a preservation primer for homeowners or anyone looking for information on how to avoid common mistakes that could cause irreversible and costly damage to a historical property. It is the first in a planned series of publications, she said.
By the numbers
1995: The company is founded by Chuck Groshong. The firm’s other principals include Danielle Groshong-Keperling, the firm’s COO, as well as her mother, Lois Groshong, and her husband, Jonathan Keperling.
7,000: Historic Restorations is in the El Capitan building on East Liberty Street in Lancaster. The building includes a 7,000-square-foot custom millwork and cabinet shop. The company also teaches classes in woodworking and building preservation.
2003: The company decides to focus solely on historic work on 18th-, 19th and 20th-century buildings. The cutoff is World War II era.
50 percent: While it is best known for its public sector work, about half of the company’s portfolio includes private jobs. The split between residential and commercial work also is 50-50.
$100,000: A typical restoration project for the firm takes about four to six months. The average contract is about $100,000. Its Reading project was about $340,000.