It was a year ago, January 2010, that a team from the U.S. measured, photographed, profiled, and documented the multitudinous problems that haunt our historic structure. Visible to the layman are problems of water absorption and saturation, cracking, settlement, mold. To the experts who came to Tangier one year ago, these problems – and more – are measurable. They even produced some, to my mind, art quality building cross sections, showing a view of our interconnected medina buildings impossible to see with the naked eye. Some of the other cross sections (I don't have the electrons yet to be able to show you) even portray some of the major cracks developing in our venerable walls.
While all of this is interesting, here's the rub: as of this month, we are entering the second year of report preparation. Like a download progress meter on your computer monitor, sometimes it seems interminably stuck at the 50% stage. And while we await the report and the informed decision-making it will then facilitate, our historic structure continues to deteriorate.
To Americans used to shutters as ornamental objects, the utility of shutters to keep rain out may be a concept that went out with the 19th century. In the States, as far back as I can remember, shutters were things that didn't open, didn't close, and were in fact permanently attached to either side of a window as decoration. In a place as rainy as Tangier, they are essential protection against the elements.
The shutters at right, rotten to the point of falling apart, should perform a vital role in keeping rain out of windows (here, on our staircase; ever try to negotiate 4 flights of rain-slippery stairs?). The windows themselves are not watertight, so any help from the shutters is welcome.
What does this have to do with Historic Preservation? Well you might ask.
Our request to have shutters like this replaced with identical new ones, repecting style, color, etc., has been languishing because of the pending Historic Structure Report.
I am a firm believer in respecting the historic integrity of buildings (which is why I want to remove from public view an anachronistic air conditioning compressor in a 19th century courtyard). But imagine what our historically-rotten shutters will look like when this and other facades are refinished and painted, hopefully in the next few months?