Historic house healer in Vermilion

VERMILION Yes, there really are doctors who still make house calls. But "Doctor" William Palmer specializes in aging a
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



Yes, there really are doctors who still make house calls.

But "Doctor" William Palmer specializes in aging ailments of architecture, not with humans.

Palmer is a "house doctor" of sorts with the Ohio Preservation Office of the Ohio Historical Society. His rounds take him all over the state to historic structures, most of which have seen better days.

His most common diagnosis is moisture.

Palmer prescribed several doses of therapy in the form of epoxy, paint and sealant Friday in Vermilion, where he and the society have spent the last several days speaking to residential and commercial property owners at an evening seminar.

He also made a few house calls.

On Friday afternoon Palmer visited the St. Mary's train depot, where parishioners were looking for direction on how to start restoring the century building.

St. Mary's has taken initial steps, including treating the wood structure for termites and doing preventative termite treatment. The church has also replaced some of the structure's beams, which were already eaten up by the parasites.

Roland Thomas, church maintenance engineer, and R.J. Horan, pastoral council member, want to stop any further deterioration first and form a committee to research restoring the depot to its original splendor.

"It's time to repaint. There are quite a few layers here," Palmer said as he examined a paint chip. The chip revealed the building has had many colors of paint throughout the years including gray, green, red and its current color, white.

"I would caution you against sanding this down to bare wood unless you absolutely have to. It can be damaging to the detail of the woodwork," Palmer said.

Palmer recommended covering bare wood areas, where paint has chipped off, before winter -- something Thomas hopes to accomplish.

Across town at Vermilion-on-the-Lake, Palmer gave building volunteers recommendations on how to restore the log lodge. The logs for the building were milled where the lodge sits today.

Palmer explained epoxy can be injected into the wood to fill in gaps and holes that tend to draw moisture, and then a secondary layer of epoxy can be used to sculpt the log back into its rounded shape.

The only drawback to that approach is the inability to restore the logs to a natural wood finish, he warned Barb Brady, councilwoman for the Vermilion on the Lake ward.

A new roof was put on the lakeside dance hall lodge two years ago and some repairs have been made, but more structural work is needed.

Moisture has become the building's biggest foe.

Surprisingly, the building's lack of gutters is better than having ineffective gutters, Palmer said, but the basement and foundation of the lodge, built in 1919, should be dried out.

House calls were also made to several residential homeowners in the community.

All the doctor's visits were made possible by the Ohio Historical Society, Main Street Vermilion and its historic preservation committee.

Margaret Wakefield Worcester, a committee member, said she was pleased by Vermilion's desire to preserve its history.

"If we don't save our historic pieces, they're all going to disappear," she said.