historic town center in Medfield, Mass

Preserving History with Modern Materials

Since the 1890’s, the James Ord Block has served as a historic town center in Medfield, Mass. The four-story building is architecturally distinctive from neighboring buildings because of its unusual and massive gambrel roofline, known for its upper shallow slope and lower steep roof.

For over 100 years, it has seen its share of businesses: a furniture store, hardware shop, roller skating rink, orchestra rehearsal space and ice cream parlor, to name a few. And to keep this structure a constant in town, architect and Medfield local David Sharff wanted to bring the historic Dutch Colonial Revival back to its heyday.

His vision and execution of preserving the existing features, while enhancing the character of the building won him this year’s HardieDesign Contest. Out of nearly 200 architectural projects featuring James Hardie® fiber cement siding and panel products, the re-envisioning of the James Ord Block most impressed the voters.

“It’s exciting to be a part of a development project that would rehabilitate an older building so central to the history of the town in which I live and work,” says David Sharff.

Preserving the New England historic building came with its challenges.

“The most significant challenge was preserving the overall envelope and original architecture of the building, including the roofline and facades,” Sharff says.

The project started with creating a new foundation and structural framing on the inside to support the development of Avenue—a farm-to-table restaurant known for its rustic New England fare—which resides on the first floor.

From there, Sharff’s focus moved to the façade. For him, it was important to consider and honor the original design details, while using modern materials.

The original wood clapboard was refreshed with HardiePlank® lap siding in Select Cedarmill©. “The 5-1/4” lap siding finishes at a 4” exposure and strongly resembles cedar clapboards used during the Colonial-era in New England, making it an ideal choice,” Sharff says.

For the last decade, the building had been painted a dark, blue color, so Sharff wanted to keep that color.  He chose lap siding with baked on ColorPlus® Technology in Deep Ocean and HardieTrim® boards in crisp Arctic White.

“The rich blue has a very historic, Colonial-era feel and contrasts brilliantly with the white trim work,” Sharff says.

Because the Dutch roof was such a standout aspect of the building, it was critical to pick a visually interesting roof color that worked well with the bold blue siding color and unique roof style.

“The combination of colors (rich blues, grays and whites) create a nice pattern which complements both the façade and building design,” Sharff says.

When preserving and refreshing the James Ord Block, it was also important to consider the New England climate. James Hardie siding and trim is Engineered for Climate®, which means the refreshed siding and trim will resist shrinking, swelling and cracking even after years of wet or freezing conditions and blizzards.

Sharff uses James Hardie siding and trim on many of his architectural projects because he appreciates the authentic style, low maintenance and high technology of the materials—it’s an ideal way to preserve the beauty of New England one building at a time.

“In the past five years so much positive design change has been happening to the buildings within a several blocks of our Town Center,” Sharff says. “It’s nice to be part of a project that contributes to that revitalization.”




About Zuern

Since 1953, Zuern Building Products, through the dedication of now well over 100 employees, has grown to be one of the largest independent, family-owned and operated lumber and building material suppliers in Wisconsin. With four expansive lumberyards with complete showrooms in AllentonCedarburgFranklin and Watertown, Wisconsin, the Zuern team provides traditional lumber, millworkwindowsdoors, and cabinet supplies for homeowners, builders, and remodelers across the greater Milwaukee area.