Last year’s Old House Fair in Boston drew thousands of New England homeowners. This year’s fair is Feb. 2 and 3 at the Boston Center for the Arts on Tremont Street.

Owners of older and historic homes can always head to the library or bookstore to get information about maintaining their residences.

But this weekend at the Old House Fair, homeowners will have a chance to come face-to-face with special craftsmen who have all the cures for their old-home ailments.

The annual two-day fair, organized by the Boston Preservation Alliance, will take place Feb. 2 and 3.

Geared mostly to homeowners and people who are considering purchasing an older home, the fair will feature about 70 exhibitors and lecturers who specialize in renovating, restoring and preserving older homes and buildings.

This year’s fair is expected to draw nearly 4,000 people from the New England region. Exhibitors and speakers will come from as far away as California, Illinois and Virginia to share their expertise in everything from removing wallpaper to restoring stained glass and rebuilding 18th century fireplaces. Many of them have been featured on the public television program This Old House.

While the fair addresses complex renovation and restoration issues surrounding homes and buildings constructed before 1925, even people with homes built in the 1950s will find the event helpful, according to the fair’s organizers.

We have an enormous amount of housing stock that’s over 50 years old, and a lot of people have questions about the care and feeding of their old houses, said Susan Park, president of the Boston Preservation Alliance board. The Old House Fair brings craftsmen together all under one roof who will help teach the novice and answer the most sophisticated questions.

In addition to the exhibitors who will be displaying their products and services, the fair will feature lectures on lead detection and abatement, home insurance, window construction, moisture problems and driveway and outdoor path beautification. There also will be discussions on bathroom and kitchen restoration.

A preservation plasterer from Vermont will be available to answer questions, and this year’s fair will also feature some high-profile names, including Richard Nylander and Patty Poore.

Nylander is the director of collections and chief curator of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, a regional organization with headquarters in Boston. He is considered the world’s expert on wallpaper, explained Barbara Cameron, manager of the Old House Fair.

Poore is the editor of Old-House Journal, an interior design and home maintenance magazine published in Gloucester. She will talk about traditional kitchens.

Popular Phenomenon
A slide presentation on stained glass restoration for homes, commercial buildings and churches will be given by Brian Roche of Lyn Hovey Studio in Boston.

Also popular are the old-house doctor clinics that take place at the fair. Participants can sign up for free 15-minute consultations with experts, or doctors, on a first-come, first-serve basis, to discuss everything from masonry to windows to paint.

At past fairs, homeowners have showed up with photographs of their homes to show to doctors and seek their diagnosis and advice.

People take [the clinics] very seriously, said Parks.

The fair’s exhibitors and speakers are committed to showing people how to preserve the integrity of historical structures, said Cameron.

We feel it’s important to maintain the integrity of the older buildings in Boston … because it’s part of the flavor of the city, she said.

We’re not New York City, and we don’t want to be New York City, she said. Most of the tourism that we get is because of the city’s history.

There are only a handful of successful events across the country similar to Boston’s fair.

Jennifer Goodman, the former executive director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, said old-house fairs have become a popular phenomenon on the East Coast, where people are very interested in caring for older properties

The fairs attract homeowners who are searching for affordable ways to preserve their properties.

It’s resonated with homeowners across the county, said Goodman, who helped organize Boston’s first fair about six years ago.

The fair was designed to meet a real need of owners of old homes in Boston, and it’s evolved and expanded to continue to provide a valuable service, said Goodman, who is currently the executive director of the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance.

Several years ago, Goodman helped put on a similar fair in Philadelphia, one of the first cities to organize an old-house fair.

Last year, Goodman’s group organized the first Old House and Barn Exposition in Manchester, N.H., which drew as many as 2,500 people.

Goodman said the fairs are great for homeowners, but they also provide a good networking opportunity for people who are in the trades.

I’m pleased that [the Boston fair has] continued to be such a success, she said.

The Old House Fair is from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont St. Tickets are $10. All proceeds will go the Boston Preservation Alliance.n

BPA’s Old House Fair Provides Tips on Maintaining Properties

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 3 min