Rory Krupp has devoted most of his entire adult life to historic preservation. After working on a wide variety of projects for different organizations, he decided that working for himself would allow for a welcome dose of flexibility, thus his company Owen & Eastlake was born.
Owen & Eastlake is a historic preservation consulting firm that provides a range of services related to architectural history and archaeology. Clients range from government groups to the private sector to individual homeowners who are simply interested in learning more about the historic preservation of their own properties.
We recently spoke with Rory for a Q&A session on his business and to find out more about the services that Owen & Eastlake provides.
Q: First, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background as it relates to historical preservation?
A: I’m originally from Wakeman, Ohio, and came to Columbus to attend Ohio State and didn’t leave. I have a bachelor’s degree in Ancient History and Classics with a minor in Anthropological Archaeology from Ohio State and a master’s degree in American History with a certificate in historic preservation from the University of Cincinnati. Technically, I’m an architectural historian and historian according to the Secretary of the Interior’s Professional Qualifications Standards for historic preservation projects. And that is actually a required qualification for many projects.
Q: What got you interested in starting a consulting business for historical preservation?
A: I’ve worked in historic preservation since I was in college. Initially, I worked on prehistoric and historic archaeological excavations throughout the eastern United States. After a while, I began to gravitate back to my original interest in history and architectural history and went to graduate school in that field. And after working for other people I like the challenge and flexibility of doing it myself.
Q: Can you give us some examples of projects you have worked on, either locally or elsewhere in the US?
A: Preservation projects can encompass a pretty wide range of activities. Basically there are two areas – those that are federally mandated, which is usually called cultural resource management, and those that aren’t. Often I work on what are called Section 106 projects which are have some type of federal involvement such as federal funding, a federal permit or license that triggers the Section 106 process of the National Historic Preservation Act. It stipulates that you can’t adversely affect a property listed in or eligible for the National Register. Of course, most properties and sites haven’t been evaluated for the National Register, i.e. no one knows how important it actually is until someone researches it. The other challenge is that almost anything can be in the National Register. It’s not just buildings, bridges, and other infrastructure but also things like boats, gardens, landscapes and just places, even completely unaltered by man, that are important to a group of people. So, it’s important to not just keep your eyes open but also to keep an open mind and then ask around what’s important to people in that area. So that’s a major component what I do.
In the past, I’ve worked on state highway projects doing archival research on the Ohio Shakers; writing for the Corps of Engineers on how to care for their historic properties. I’ve spent a lot of time hiking around looking for historic sites not only in Ohio but also in Florida, Tennessee, and Nevada. Usually somewhere where something is going to be built or the location altered in some way.
Other types of projects that aren’t federally-mandated include writing nominations for placing buildings on the National Register for historic tax credit purposes. I can document buildings, bridges or sites in the unfortunate case that they do have to be torn down. I’ve made a neighborhood walking tour. I can also make design guidelines for neighborhoods or towns as well as advising someone about what kind of porch probably used to be on their house. If it involves history or architectural history I’m just as comfortable working with a homeowner as I am with the Corps of Engineers.
Q: What types of organizations do you primarily work with… other businesses, nonprofits, governments, or some combination of the three?
A: It covers the whole range. I’ve worked with various federal agencies, state government agencies, non-profits, and private businesses such as engineering firms and property developers. And also just regular individuals interested in seeing their property added to the National Register. I’m currently registered for federal contracts and grants and I’m also a pre-qualified environmental consultant for the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Q: Are there other local resource providers that you work with or recommend to your clients to utilize?
A:Besides consulting, I volunteer to help with preservation activities in my neighborhood so I get a good top-to-bottom view of who is “preservation friendly”. If you need a developer that’s open-minded about preservation and rehabilitation I’d recommend Wagenbrenner, who have been very good so far with the entire 11th Avenue renovation. Although he certainly doesn’t need a shout-out from me, Jonathan Barnes works absolute wonders with old buildings that other people might dismiss.
For homeowners, the Columbus Landmarks Foundation has a series of Old House DIY workshops that are excellent. I attended one about historic masonry taught by the Centennial Preservation Group that was perfect for people of every skill level. And by the time it was over everyone was ready to tuck point their house. If your house is old, they’re well worth it. Even if you don’t do the work yourself, you’ll know how it should be done. That’s the best way to avoid contractor disasters in an old house because many of the materials and techniques have changed over time. You’re better off doing it the old-fashioned way.
Q: Are there any exciting projects you’re either currently working on, or have coming up in the near future?
A: I’m currently working on the National Register nomination to make Hanford Village on Nelson Road below Main Street a National Register historic district. It was one of the very first FHA designed suburban subdivisions marketed to World War II African American veterans. Some of the Tuskegee Airmen lived there when the unit was based in Columbus at what was then Lockbourne and is now called Rickenbacker Air Base. A big part of my job lately is to listen to Tuskegee Airmen and the other residents tell stories. It’s pretty exciting.
More information can be found online at www.oweneastlake.com.