Birmingham Museum temporarily closed for window restoration project

By: Mary Genson | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published June 22, 2022

 The Allen House was designed in 1926 and is now undergoing a restoration project on its historic windows.

The Allen House was designed in 1926 and is now undergoing a restoration project on its historic windows.

Photo provided by the Birmingham Museum


BIRMINGHAM — For eight weeks, the Birmingham Museum will be closed to the public as it undergoes a major renovation project to completely restore each window on the upper level of the Allen House. This project was slated to run June 14-Aug. 9.

Each window on the upper level will be taken down to the wood to repair damage before it is re-glazed and properly repainted.

The 1926 Allen House was designed by Rupurt Koch for Marian and Harry Allen, the first mayor of Birmingham. The house was designed as a take on the Colonial Revival style.

“This is an architect-designed home that was intended to reflect the Allens’ values, as well as some of the popular designs of the time,” Birmingham Museum Director Leslie Pielack said.

There are 49 windows throughout the house, as well as many doors that provide cross ventilation and allow natural light into the home.

“The windows are double hung windows, which was a standard for that time. That means that they have weights and pulleys in each window mechanism, so for every window there is more than meets the eye behind the trim itself,” Pielack said.

The abundance of windows that need restored along with deferred maintenance and the presence of leaded paint have posed challenges through this process.

When the windows were installed almost 100 years ago, the use of leaded white paint was prevalent. This kind of paint is highly toxic and has been banned in the United States since 1978.

The Birmingham Museum has safely encapsulated the leaded paint by painting over it over the years, but the paint will be temporarily disturbed during the window renovation project.

In order to ensure this process is safe, lead mitigation measures will be followed, and staff and artifacts will be relocated.

“It is a major project,” Pielack said. “We are doing a lot of intensive planning to make sure that we take care of staff and protect the artifacts at the same time.”

The funds of the project are provided by the city of Birmingham and add up to about $112,000.

The Allen House is currently in the process of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Birmingham Museum and historic preservation experts from the city hope this project will set an example of proper historic preservation in the city.

“In Birmingham, specifically, it’s important for us to treat our public buildings and the processes and procedures the same way that we would ask anybody else to treat them or handle them,” Birmingham Planning Director Nicholas Dupuis said.

Following this summer’s project, the Birmingham Museum plans to finish the windows on the lower level.

“It is a really great project,” Dupuis said.  “They have done everything they needed to do to maintain and keep that historically significant piece of the building, and we are very excited that it is going this way.”

​​During the closure, staff will still be working from a temporary office at the Baldwin Public Library as they maintain social media, assist patrons with research, work with the museum collection, and develop a new exhibit.