Site Interpretation

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Wise Preservation Planning LLC
      1480 Hilltop Road
      Chester Springs PA 19425
      Phone (484) 202-8187
 

Wise Preservation Planning LLC is a full-service historic preservation planning firm. We research, document, analyze and ultimately help protect historic resources and our cultural landscape. Our firm serves a variety of clients, including municipalities, engineers, architects, historical societies, and owners of historic resources.

The firm was founded in 1997 by Robert J. Wise Jr., who has 20 years of experience in the historic preservation field. He is assisted by Seth Hinshaw, Senior Planner, who has been with the firm since 2001. Both planners have M.S. degrees in historic preservation from the University of Pennsylvania and exceed the 36 CFR 61 Professional Qualification Standards established by the National Park Service for architectural historians.

Overview

Wise Preservation Planning LLC produces site interpretation recommendations for owners of sites of historic interest. Interpretation projects include an examination of the significance of the site, an evaluation of the surviving historic fabric, and providing avenues for conveying how the surviving historic fabric reflect the site's significance. Site interpretation projects may be completed for the location of a standing ruin (such as Bondsville Mill below) or for the interpretation of a building or structure.
 
Interpretation recommendations vary in scope. Self-guided tours of sites such as large standing ruins may be facilitated either with brochures or with signage that includes historic photos to convey a sense of the historic appearance of the property during its period of significance. For buildings, Wise provides materials for tour guides to explain the significance of the building, the significance of property owners or other residents, and information for guided tours that focus on architectural features of interest.

Bondsville Mill

Task Elements
East Brandywine Township, Chester Co., purchased the site of a former mill on Beaver Creek for potential use as a Township passive recreation park. The mill had been abandoned for nearly a quarter of a century.
 
The mill, now mostly a ruin, is a multi-additive building. The original section, built in the 1840s, was typical of its time, with multiple small windows lighting two floors of interior space. Two large sections dating to the 1890s retained several period design techniques, including a raised monitor, a partially intact power plant, and a brick chimney. The Township was particularly interested in which sections of the mill should be retained and which should be removed to provide space for passive recreation.
 
Results
Wise produced recommendations to help the Township meet its goals of providing a safe passive recreation area for its residents. Historic sections of the mill were recommended for retention, including the identification of specific features of high historic interest. Two early 20th century sections in particularly poor condition (portions of which had already collapsed) were recommended for removal. Walking trails along the creek were discussed, including one looping around the mill site with recommendations for interpretive signage.
 

Taylor / Frazer Ruins

Task Elements
This was a three-part project in Thornbury Township, Delaware Co. involving the preparation of a Historic Structure Report (HSR), a National Register nomination, and park site interpretative recommendations.
 
Wise was retained by the Township to develop a plan to incorporate the standing ruins of the Taylor / Frazer farmhouse into an interpretive site for a Township park. Wise produced the HSR, which included a detailed history of the famous site and individuals associated with it. The ruins were carefully documented and analyzed for structural preservation. Documentation was used to incorporate the site into the Chester Creek National Register Historic District (Boundary Increase), which Wise also prepared. Interpretative strategies for the site were then presented.
 
Results
The Taylor/Frazer Ruins are now a featured and favored destination in the expanded Bonsall Park. Based on the Wise documentation and recommendations, the ruins were placed on the expanded Chester Creek National Register Historic District, carefully stabilized to preserve the largest and most vulnerable elements of the ruin, and interpreted. The ruins have become a favored destination in the Township’s expanded Bonsall Park, with interpretative signage installed.
 

Hawk Mountain Bird Sanctuary Industrial Heritage Study

Task Elements
A nationally renowned sanctuary was created on the border of Berks and Schuylkill Counties during the Great Depression. Unknown to most people, it was established on the former site of a quarry operation. A rare gravity railroad ran 2300 feet up the side of a steep mountain to bring the quarried stone down to a crusher and awaiting Reading and Northern Railroad cars. The project involved documenting the ruins, assessing historical and archeological significance, and providing interpretive recommendations.
 
With the arrival of the railroad in the mid-19th century, the formerly wooded property was logged, and the logs shipped out by rail. Two historic maps had already identified a remarkably fine white sand on the property. This sand was highly desired by glassmakers in the nearby city of Reading in the latter half of the century. To access the sand at the top of the mountain, a gravity railroad was constructed to transport the sandstone down the mountain to be crushed into sand and loaded onto the railroad. The diagram to the left shows how the two cars on the gravity railroad passed halfway down the hillside. The infrastructure, head house, gravity railroad bed, and several stone buildings are in a state of ruin.
 
Results
Working with archaeologists, Wise documented the ruins on the property, established the extent of the mining operations, and identified areas of high historic interest. Recommendations included forest management in the area of the ruins to prevent additional unnecessary deterioration of the site, relocating smaller items into the existing visitor's center, and the creation of an interpretive program both along the existing walking / hiking trails and in the visitor’s center.