Richard Pratt, a lover of old buildings and an architectural preservation buff, shares tips and tricks to preserving historic buildings, among other things, in his book A Guide to the Architecture of Hightstown Houses Book.
During a book signing today at 7:00 p.m. at , 164 North Main Street, Hightstown, author Pratt will present his 166-page guide, which showcases the architecture in Hightstown from 1785 through approximately 1970.
“It’s more of a book for the lay person–it’s not a history book, per se,” Pratt said, “It’s a guide to help the lay person.”
Pratt’s inspiration for the book came from his own endeavors to renovate his Hightstown home. After searching for historic pictures of his house to establish how his porch looked in the past, Pratt began a project to take pictures of many houses in town as a photographic archive for future residents.
That project did not take off, Pratt said, but it sparked the interest of the Hightstown-East Windsor Historical Society. The Historical Society’s interest, coupled with neighbors and residents seeking advice on renovating older homes, ultimately paved the way for Pratt’s book.
Pratt wanted to create an educational tool for building departments, homeowners, and prospective residents alike that would provide an understanding about the different styles of architecture in Hightstown.
“It started out as a living document that was going to be something that I would give to people,” Pratt said. “But it ended up so many people wanted me to add things to it, it evolved into the book.”
Pratt said his book was the beginning of Stockton Street Solutions, his historic preservation consulting company in Hightstown. Pratt has been an architect for 20 years, with a practice in downtown Hightstown, a member of the Historic Society since 1995, and he currently serves on the Hightstown Planning Board.
“Part of it is, as a planning board member, as a resident, as an architect, there are a lot of things that I see that I just think that if people knew more about their house style, that maybe they wouldn’t do some of the things that they have done if they just had a resource or a reference guide,” Pratt said.
A number of historic houses in Hightstown are referenced in Pratt’s book, but his descriptions are of styles of houses that exist in America in general, and they may be used as a reference by anyone, resident or not.
For example, A Guide to the Architecture of Hightstown Houses explains how “Victorian” is not a style of home, but rather an era when Queen Ann style homes were built, and that while it is inaccurate to call a home “Victorian,” the style of house being referenced has been redefined in Pratt’s book as “Victorian Vernacular.”
In order to help readers visualize, Pratt supplies the reader with several images and illustrations, many of which Pratt shot or illustrated himself.
Having grown up in old houses, Pratt spent a great deal of time working with his father, who Pratt described as a millworker and builder. It is from this time spent working with his father that Pratt came to appreciate older structures.
“Old houses have a kind of character and life that you want to make sure that that life continues to carry on and to live and to be something that future homeowners and generations can enjoy,” he said. “Renovating is really about keeping that structure alive for the future.”
Copies of the book will be available at the signing for $25. Those unable to attend the signing may purchase copies at a discounted rate from the author at Rick.Pratt@StocktonStreetSolutions.com or at the cover price through Amazon.com for just under $30.