How Preservationists Are Cooling 7 Historic Landmarks

The summer months can turn charming older homes into hot, sweaty, uncomfortable places. Installing central air would bring relief, but remodeling to accommodate ductwork would ruin much of what makes the home so special in the first place. It's a dilemma faced by preservationists, too. But in these 7 historic buildings, the teams in charge discovered that modern comfort doesn't have to mean sacrificing architectural integrity.

  1. The Little White House, Key West, Florida

    The Little White House, Key West, Florida

    Though it was built in 1890, some years before his birth, it was Harry S. Truman who made the "Little White House" famous. In 1946, he established the home as his winter retreat. Nowadays, when it's not hosting government officials, the building serves as a museum. The recently installed Unico System protects the structure, its original furnishings, and its document collections from the tropical humidity—all while remaining virtually invisible due to its small-diameter, flexible ductwork that routes above ceilings and behind walls.

  2. Orrin Hoadley House, Branford, Connecticut

    Orrin Hoadley House, Branford, Connecticut

    Dating back to 1736—decades before the signing of the Declaration of Independence—the Orrin Hoadley House has been standing longer than America has existed. Considering its age, the home has been beautifully preserved. After weighing all the options, the current owners chose the Unico System, primarily for its minimal impact on walls and ceilings, but also for its energy efficiency. Indeed, living in an old house doesn't have to mean living without the comforts of the modern world.

  3. President Lincoln’s Cottage, Washington, D.C.

    President Lincoln’s Cottage, Washington, D.C.

    Throughout the peak years of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln spent time off and on in what has become known as Lincoln's Cottage. Before opening it to the public, the National Trust for Historic Preservation spent years restoring the home to its appearance when Lincoln resided there. To be as respectful as possible of the historic building—and to avoid costly remodeling—the preservationists installed the Unico System, which operates quietly and stays out of sight.

  4. The Petersen House, Washington, D.C.

    The Petersen House, Washington, D.C.

    The National Trust for Historic Preservation chose the Unico System to keep visitors comfortable in this 19th-century Washington, D.C., row house. You don't recognize the place? This is where Abraham Lincoln died. He was carried here, to the Petersen House, after being shot in Ford's Theater across the street. Today, the building serves as a museum, with the Unico System providing all-season comfort through ducts that snake behind walls and underneath flooring.

  5. The Hempstead House, Sands Point, New York

    The Hempstead House, Sands Point, New York

    The stately Hempstead House has overlooked the Long Island Sound since 1912. In its heyday, when the mansion belonged to the Guggenheim family, the rooms were filled with countless European antiques and priceless paintings. Today, when it's not a filming location for TV shows and movies (Boardwalk Empire, Scent of a Woman), the 50,000-square-foot estate hosts special events. Recently, to replace an older, inefficient system, the Unico System was added to quietly and invisibly maintain a comfortable temperature in the portion of the building where wedding parties prepare prior to the ceremony.

  6. Happy Days Lodge, Peninsula, Ohio

    Happy Days Lodge, Peninsula, Ohio

    In Cuyahoga Valley National Park, in Ohio, the Happy Days Lodge now hosts weddings and other special events—but it didn't start out that way. The lodge was constructed in the 1930s under the New Deal by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Of course, the original builders had not accounted for temperature control, and even 21st-century HVAC mechanics thought there would be no way to heat and cool the building without undermining its character. Then they found the Unico System.

  7. The Hemingway Home & Museum, Key West, Florida

    The Hemingway Home & Museum, Key West, Florida

    Key West is famous for many reasons, not least of which is that Ernest Hemingway lived there for a prolific decade-long period of his career. Of course, people also know Key West for its humid tropical weather. So when the Hemingway Home & Museum installed the Unico System, it was for its low-impact design, but also for its special capabilities. Unico reduces humidity 30% more than traditional AC systems, and that helps keep utility bills low.

  8. For More...

    For More...

    For more on HVAC and historic homes, consider:

    Add Central AC to Your Old House—Without Erasing Its Charm

    Small Duct, "Invisible" AC Cools Any Home, New or Old

    10 National Trust Properties to Visit This Summer

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