Restoration at Old Economy landmark site in Ambridge continues

Wednesday, July 11, 2018 | 10:51 PM

Dennis Lapic and the nonprofit Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation have one major goal in common: the preservation of historic buildings.

So it almost seems natural that Landmarks Community Capital Corporation, a lending subsidiary of PHLF, would provide Lapic with a loan to assist a home restoration effort he is overseeing. Landmarks Community Capital also has a lot of experience in historic tax credits, according to senior loan officer Rob Wagner.

Lapic’s plan to restore another former Harmonist house in Ambridge’s Old Economy National Historic Landmark District has already earned him approval for this incentive program.

“We try to preserve as many buildings as possible through different means. Lending is one of these means,” Wagner said. This particular house, located on 13th and Church streets, was constructed in 1827 by the Harmony Society, a German communitarian sect that settled in Economy in the mid-1820s.

“There have been quite a number of buildings that have been restored over the years,” said Michael Knecht, site administrator at Old Economy Village. “It’s really exciting to see that and to keep that history alive.”

When complete, the house will contain retail space on the first floor and lodging on the second and third floors. Construction began last June and is expected to wrap up by the end of the year, Lapic said.

Although Lapic wouldn’t disclose the loan amount, he said he is grateful for the financial assistance.

Lapic has been coordinating the restoration effort. He trusts his team, which includes architect Lisa Whitney, contractor Jason Korvick, two masons, two electricians, a heating and air conditioning technician and a handful of volunteers from his neighborhood.

“When we redo these things we keep all the original historic fabric of the structure, so if there’s a mantle, we’re keeping that mantle. If the mantle’s damaged, we’re going to try and restore the damaged part of the mantle,” Lapic said.

The same goes with the rest of the house — when Lapic’s team does need to replace something, they try to replicate the original work. They’re also adding modern lighting, climate control and plumbing to make the house comfortable.

Once complete, the lodging portion will have three rooms, each one containing an on-suite bathroom and kitchenette.

“Most of our (future) guests can easily afford a nice hotel room, but they don’t want a hotel room, they want to talk about the community, they want to interact and talk about the history,” Lapic said.

Lapic has earned recognition for a recent restoration. His Heslet House Bed & Breakfast restoration received a regional win in the 2016-17 Renovation Inspiration Contest.

Still, Lapic’s passion for historic restoration is larger than himself.

“It’s been proven that restoration of structures increases the values not only of the properties but of the neighborhoods,” Lapic said. “It’s just a generator for economic development.”

Sam Bojarski is a Tribune-Review staff writer.