A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

On vinyl windows, another skirmish looms

Written August 11th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

The old Albany High School on the evening of Aug. 10, facing Third Avenue.

Wood or vinyl? When it comes to replacing old windows, that has been a recurring battle between owners and regulators in Albany’s historic districts for decades. The latest skirmish takes place Sept. 1, when the city’s Landmarks Commission holds a public hearing to review the use of “substitute materials” at the old Albany High School, 420 Third Ave. S.E.

Built in 1909 and expanded with a gym and an auditorium in 1930, the old high school is one of Albany’s most historic structures. The First Baptist Church bought it in 1964 and has maintained it since. The building houses the church, begun in Albany in 1867 and now called Willamette Community Church, as well as the Albany Christian School.

The building has 242 windows in all. Twenty years ago, the church started replacing the 156 that stuck, leaked or otherwise needed replacing. Now they are in the third phase of this long project, replacing the last 34 with thermo-pane glass in PVC vinyl sashes. The wooden frames remain.

This vinyl venture, however, has come to the attention of the city, which stopped the work on July 16 with 11 windows still to be done. The church now is asking for approval in retrospect so the window contract can be completed. The church says the contract was for $55,000, 80 percent of which it has already paid.

Cost is always a factor in the wood-vinyl debate. The church says the replacements have averaged between $1,550 and $1,650. The installer has told them that comparable wooden windows would run around $3,150.

In its application, the church makes several points.

One of them is that the three ornate windows above the entry are not among those being replaced. Nor is the arch-shaped window in the attic.

Another is that the replacements imitate the three-panel window design of the auditorium and gym.

You can look up the application in the notice of the public hearing, which the city posted on Aug. 9 and where I got the information for this story.

I can’t predict how the Landmarks panel will react in this case. I do know that every time I’ve admired this venerable old school, I never noticed what the window sashes were made of, and I’ve always thought it is among the most handsome buildings in town. (hh)











18 responses to “On vinyl windows, another skirmish looms”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    If historic authenticity is the absolute standard, then force the church to tear out the cement steps, walkway and sidewalk.

    Heck, if the city wants to impose the allusion of a 1909 building, then tear out the paved street too. In 1909 Albany didn’t have many paved streets. Dirt and mud was the norm back then.

    Let’s be real. This issue is less about vinyl v. wood and more about power & control.

  2. hj.anony1 says:


  3. Al Nyman says:

    You should apply for that ridiculous board so they have at least one sane individual. Beautiful building and vinyl windows will not even be noticed.

  4. James Engel says:

    Way, way, way out of line for the Landmarks Comis to even think of making a rule. That’s one comis that needs to GO!! A Government agency/body making a decision regarding a religious group. Way outta line!

    • Rick says:

      “And the Lord said; Thou shalt leave the materials used for windows to me and to me alone”.

    • Rick says:

      “And the Lord said; Thou shalt leave the materials used for window replacement to me and to me alone”.

    • HowlingCicada says:

      “””Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”””
      United States Constitution, Amendment 1.

      Where in here does anyone see how a religious organization can be treated differently by law than a comparable secular organization? If you don’t like the First Amendment, maybe it’s time for a new amendment to remove the separation of church and state. With increasing political overrepresentation of rural America, that might be doable one day. Then we can go down the same path as Iran and Afghanistan.

      That said, “substitute materials” restrictions seem too high a cost for too little benefit and should probably be scrapped. The church should be allowed to proceed, but not BECAUSE it’s a church.

      I’m undecided on the overall Landmarks and historical preservation debate.

  5. avidreader69 says:

    I agree with Gordon!

  6. Francois DeLacroix says:

    No favoritism for alleged religious organizations. These groups already receive fire and police protection without paying-up. If this organization wants more privilege than what already exists for them, then let the Court Battles begin. I am tired of subsidizing religious groups who make grandiose claims about morality, yet refuse to pay their own way.

    • Al Nyman says:

      You must be a zealot. The churches do more for the homeless than the government. which wastes billions nationwide and does nothing to solve the problem. I am not a church goer but give credit for what they have done in feeding the homeless.

      The vinyl window issue comes up over and over again and Gordon’s right in his comments above. They should change the ordinance to one that requires looks to be maintained, not building materials unless they change the appearance of the building.

  7. Sid Cooper says:

    Putting aside all the usual political claptrap, this is, as Hasso said, another skirmish in a battle that historic buildings nationwide have faced when windows come up for replacement. Historic Preservation is an industry unto itself and their rules are as rigid as an old brick.

    The governing body is the Department of the Interior through the Standards of Rehabilitation handbook, which abhors all materials and methods which do not replicate the materials and methods used in the original building construction.

    There are buildings that have ignored these guidelines and then must pay for repair and renovation from their own coffers. The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) uses these guidelines and insists that local committees follow suit, so the Landmarks Commission has their hands tied on this, as do the thousands of other local boards throughout the nation.

    While serving as the Facilities Director in a small Colorado county some years ago, I worked with the Colorado SHPO and the county commissioners to try and negotiate a similar project for the county courthouse. A running battle lasting 18 months ensued. When it was certain we were about to lose project funding, we agreed to their guidelines with minor changes. No more 70 year old court clerks getting their hands trapped under window sashes trying to open or close them. The courthouse looks wonderful and no one outside the project had a clue the windows were even replaced.

    The top three most conflict ridden types of renovation projects are about windows and methods of cleaning building exteriors. The exterior elevations are where the rules are most rigid. Much the same will likely happen here. It all boils down to agreeing on methods and materials. I wish them success for it is a wonderful old building.

  8. Gerald R Berndt says:

    Thumbs up Francois!

  9. Bob Woods says:


    Vinyl is cheaper, made from oil and salt, and doesn’t take well to being painted if you want to change color.

    Wood is from renewable trees, better insulates, is paintable, lasts longer and costs more.

    If it’s historically wood, keep it historic.

    Buying the cheapest product is rarely the cheapest over total lifetime.

    • Scott Bruslind says:

      Thank you @Bob Woods for the Spruce link.
      Check out a compelling wood-vinyl composite from Andersen.
      What would have happened with a product that contains wood, but less than 100%?
      The money has been spent and the optics will be ugly when new windows are pulled out. We’re all diminished by the missteps. I know the limitations of vinyl. I’m pulling vinyl windows that I got from Palm Harbor close-outs, so there’s a life cycle to everything.
      Here’s the thing,we’ve lived here for over 25 years and the Landmark Commission is always a flash point. Nothing’s changed.
      In that time we could have been reading Albany Landmark Commission stories- innovative, cost-effective, quality solutions that honor the past and invest for generations to come.
      Not there yet.

      • Bob Woods says:

        Actually, my windows ARE fibrex. So far, so good but they stuck a lot until I sprayed silicon lubricant on the jambs.


        That has nothing to do to keep historic buildings true to their history. They get tax breaks, after all. So spend some more for wood, and they last 25-30 years or more instead of 15 – 20.

  10. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    On 5 Mar 1909 the Albany Democrat reported that voters approved a $50K bond issue to build the new high school. The vote was 310-31. The school would be located right in the “middle” of Albany. Community pride was evident.

    Much has changed since then.

    One hundred twelve years later the building still stands, but in private hands. Yet an unelected government body called the Landmarks Commission wants to impose its will on what window materials must be used during a renovation that is being paid paid for with private dollars.

    Given this history, I’m smiling and upset at the same time.


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