When it comes to the 144 year old Twin Sisters Dance Hall, choosing glass, glazing, sills and sash cords, it hardly had it made in the shade. Now the refreshed windows provide a great view, whether you’re looking outside or in.
Members of two boards, the Twin Sisters Dance Hall and Blanco Historic Preservation Commission, worked hard on Saturday, June 8, to make much needed repairs on the old wood windows.
These historic wood windows were handmade over a century ago and needed to be saved. The call went out, and members of the community came by car and pickup trucks to help. There were a few pros, and many novices, that arrived wanting to learn a skill that, for the most part, is lost. They worked hard with the once precise and tolerances tight wood windows. There had been a time when there were no gaps in the joinery and all were constructed of old-growth wood.
The class learned how to remove old paint safely by means of steam; where the sash, the frame, was placed inside a steamed box, whereby it softens the paint film so it can be more easily scraped away and disposed of properly. They also learned to replace missing glass and how to glaze it correctly. They were taught on the proper way to install the weights back on either sash cords or brass chains.
One of the key trainers was Patrick Sparks, P.E., president of the Texas Dance Hall Association, a non-profit organization. Patrick said, “Over 500 dance halls have been identified to this day in Texas.” He continued by saying, “There are two places that you take visitors while in Texas and that is the Alamo, and a Texas dance hall.” He also mentioned that the Texas dance hall’s roots go back to Europe in Czech Republic (now Czechoslovakia) and Germany.
Did you know that replacement windows – wood, vinyl, metal – are generally warranted from 5 to 20 years depending on the window manufacturer? The replacement window industry says that wood with a single-pane glass cannot be energy efficient and they must be replaced. Yet nationwide the towns and cities historic district design guideline says that historic windows must be retained. As a homeowner, I wonder, are we caught in the middle without the facts?
The truth is that old wood windows are a natural insulator material and attractive material. Wood is the standard material for residential windows. It can be painted or stained, and is strong and easy to work with. With regard to energy efficiency, few sash and frame materials are better insulators than wood.
Homeowners with historic homes and Blanco’s Historic District downtown business owners should consider to first attempt to repair old wood windows. Owners can try replacing the glass in the windows and leaving the original frame. Replacing the glass is called re-glazing. The sashes and stool or sill of the window are not hard to fix. If the problem is minor, and exterior, which is where it usually is, then a little outdoor spackling and some new paint may solve it. If the problem is worse, you might think about hiring one of the skilled students, because it may not be a good ‘do it yourself’ weekend project.
Historic District downtown business owners are supposed to get the board's approval to make sure their renovations are historically accurate. Today’s replacement windows don't match the historic windows that were originally in place. The board's guidelines say that when replacing windows, the owner must use those that match the historic ones in size, shape, materials and overall appearance.
Opened to the public in January 1870, the Twin Sisters Dance Hall still serves to this day as a community center for weddings, family functions, fundraisers for charities, and other activities. Live bands still keep this hall hopping on the first Saturday night of each month.