Okay, let’s begin with a great song. The video at the top of this post (admittedly rough, but it’s the only one I could find) is of John Prine, one of my musical heroes, singing an old and beautiful song of his called Storm Windows. It’s stuck with me through lo these many years probably because of one great line: “Time don’t fly; it bounds and leaps.” True, n’est-ce pas?
And that done, let’s talk about storm windows for real.
I got thinking about storm windows because it has been another cold, cold day. One recent cold day made me think of mittens on strings. Tonight, though, as I was looking out at the frigid night from a warm and toasty (and largely draft-free) indoors, storm windows came to mind.
Storm windows: does anyone still have them? Does anyone still go to the bother of putting them on in the fall and taking them off in the spring, to protect the house from cold winter weather?
We had storm windows at the Manse in Queensborough when I was growing up there. I can still remember my dad, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, up on the ladder installing them and taking them down, and never particularly enjoying the experience. For one thing, it is a pain in the neck, doubtless; and for another, Dad would always have been happier working in a woodlot in his non-minister time than doing home maintenance.
But today, as the current owner (with my husband, Raymond, of course) of the Manse, I mourn the fact that the house’s old wooden windows have been “improved” with modern energy-saving ones. I cannot blame the Manse Committee for having put in energy-efficient windows; that’s what we’re all told to do these days, and it’s an old house, and without the storm windows (which I doubt anyone has put on since my dad did) it was probably drafty. But I (and many other heritage preservationists) are annoyed about the myths perpetrated about historic wooden windows by those who would have us replace them with something much less aesthetically appealing (or appropriate). Click here to watch a hilarious little video called “The Window Salesman,” in which a vinyl-window guy tries to convince a savvy owner of a heritage property that her wooden windows need replacing. (I like to think I’m her.)
So yes, as someone who has spent a lot of time and energy promoting heritage preservation, I long for the original windows, and the storms. And I am not alone; click here for a good New York Times story (headline: “Old Windows find a Following”) on preserving, rather than replacing, wooden windows.
Anyway, the good news is: maybe we can bring the Manse’s wooden windows back!
First, for all you doubters out there, let me tell you that there is a lot of good evidence about how original wooden windows, looked after and (if necessary) repaired and restored, are not only green (not to mention appropriate for heritage buildings), but also do a good job of keeping heat in and cold out. Google “restoring wooden windows” or some such and you’ll find lots of sites (like this one and this one), how-to advice, etc.
Secondly (and this is the exciting part): some of the old storm windows are still there. Lurking in the rafters of the Manse’s back porch/summer kitchen, and in the old garage, are several old doors and windows and whatnot. We don’t think there is a full set of storms – more’s the pity; and if anyone happens to know where those old storms might have ended up (aside from the dump), please let us know – but there are some, and the ones that there are can be used as models and templates to make wooden replacements for the missing ones.
It will not be cheap to restore and replace the wooden windows. And some people will think we are nuts for getting rid of the “energy-efficient” vinyl ones.
But I feel like I owe it to the Manse. And maybe to my Dad. In honour of his storm-window exertions of four and a half decades ago