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Historic Restoration

Zinc plays a large role in the renovation of a historical structure

In the late 1990s, the historic Central Presbyterian Church in Huntsville, Ala., faced a common problem: a growing congregation and need for more space. Like many historic churches, Central Presbyterian is located in a downtown area, landlocked with no available real estate to expand. So, the church began to look around the neighborhood for a suitable property to purchase.

Historic RestorationAcross the street from the church is the Cooper House, one of the oldest homes in the Twickenham Historical District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places on Jan. 4, 1973. The Cooper House, one of the very few antebellum structures of frame construction to survive the Civil War, suited the Central Presbyterian Church's need for expanded parking, office space and storage, but needed extensive renovations, all of which would require approval of the Huntsville/Madison County Historical Society. The Historical Society was challenged to balance its mission to preserve the unique heritage of the area, while allowing for the future use and enrichment of the Twickenham Historic District.

Illustrative of this challenge is the Cooper House, which has undergone changes and additions to its original structure since its construction in the early 1800s. The evolution of domestic architectural tastes in Huntsville is not different than that of other numerous historical districts throughout the U.S., and is evidenced by the grafting of one style into another. For example, in the late 1870s, the house appears to have been extensively remodeled in the Italianate Revival style which survives to this day in its hipped roof with small, paired brackets under the eaves, double round topped windows across the second floor façade, and interior wood trim, mantels and doors in that style.

The first renovations to the Cooper House did not require the church to make extensive external changes. Instead, the church graveled the back yard to increase church member parking, painted the exterior, and renovated the inside of the house for office space and storage. Existing apartments in the home were renovated and used by church staff and a displaced family after Hurricane Katrina. By 2009 though, the church found itself again in need of space for an all-purpose meeting room. While the Historical Society would not allow the church to demolish the home and build a new, larger structure, they did allow the conversion of a back porch into an additional space. Now called the Family Life Center, the renovated Cooper House fits the church's goals for expanded ministries, while preserving the integrity of the historical structure.

Historic RestorationA major challenge to the exterior renovation was the need for a new roof and rainwater system, which were required to be both consistent with the Cooper House's historic style and built with quality, durable materials professionally installed to last well into the future. Historically, the roof of the Cooper House was terne metal, painted gray. To maintain the historical look of the house, Huntsville-based Hay Buchanan Architects, the architectural firm managing the site, chose natural VMZINC for its historically correct gray color, strength and durability. VMZINC is an architectural zinc manufactured by Raleigh, N.C.-based Umicore Building Products USA Inc. Hay Buchanan designed a standing-seam roofing system with stainless-steel ridge caps, and specified the European-style gutter and seamless weld downspout manufactured in natural VMZINC by Ornametals Manufacturing of Cullman, Ala. The church and the Huntsville/Madison County Historical Society readily approved the application as consistent with the building's historical architecture.

The entire roofing system was designed to be fabricated and installed in natural VMZINC. The 11,000-square-foot standing-seam roof has numerous valleys, with a chimney cap and stainless-steel ridge vent system. The rainwater system, also in natural VMZINC, consists of 600 feet of 6-inch, half-round gutter and 500 feet of 4-inch, seamless-weld downspouts, manufactured by Ornametals Manufacturing. Accessorizing the gutter and downspout system is a full line of natural VMZINC accessories, including gutter hangers, downspout brackets, elbows, and a unique star outlet design made for easy installation that does not require soldering.

"We are quite proud of the Cooper House," says Lisa Mendyke of Central Presbyterian, "And thank Ornametals Manufacturing for its part in making it such a beautiful renovation."

The goal of all parties involved in the historic renovation of the Cooper House was to ensure that the renovation would be made with both the building's history and its future in mind. By choosing VMZINC, the architects at Hay Buchanan have been able to honor the buildings past-both its structure and beauty-while transforming it for a modern use. And by approving the choice of VMZINC, Central Presbyterian Church and the Huntsville/Madison County Historical Society have honored and preserved an important historical district, ensuring that the past would live on for many, many years to come.

Erika Huber is the CFO/human resources manager at Cullman, Ala.-based Ornametals Manufacturing LLC. For more information on Ornametals, visit To learn more about Umicore Building Products USA Inc., Raleigh, N.C., visit