Make History

I always have had a deep interest in history. So when I found myself standing in Illinois’ state capitol building last month, I couldn’t help but think about the history-altering decisions that have taken place there. The capitol itself reminded me of where we once were as a nation and how far we’ve come.

For example, looking up at the dome, I saw a stained-glass window that depicts the Illinois state seal. However, in the window “State Sovereignity” [sic] is placed above “National Union,” which is the reverse of what the seal depicts today. During the capitol’s construction from 1868-76, the placement of these values created much debate for obvious reasons: The Civil War had just ended in 1865.

I was in the capitol with a group of remodelers and builders who were attending the Home Builders Association of Illinois’ Lobby Day. We accompanied the association’s two lobbyists, William Basic and Chris Davis, to express our viewpoints about bills being considered by the Illinois legislature that will affect the industry. As a group, we had appointments with three legislators and were invited to request meetings with others through a fairly informal process. Although it may seem intimidating to stand in front of a legislator, it actually was empowering. Nobody was required to speak if they weren’t comfortable doing so; each person could simply show his or her support by being there.

In fact, Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago) reminded all of us how important it was that we were there: “Petition your government,” she said. “It’s your right and responsibility as a citizen.” Her words reminded me of my high-school government teacher. Although the words resonated with me, I didn’t realize how easy it is to “petition” my government until I was standing in front of Currie. I always vote, but I never knew I could set an appointment and just walk into the capitol to share my opinion about bills that affect me. Did you?

In addition, because I was in the capitol with a group of building professionals, I quickly was educated about all the ways the capitol fails to meet code. For example, the stairs’ handrails are far lower than what is required today. I have to admit I felt a little unsteady on marble stairs while wearing heels and bending over to reach the handrail. However, dramatically changing the building to meet today’s requirements could take away from its historic beauty. This reminded me of what Bill Baldwin, HartmanBaldwin Design/Build owner and chief executive officer, said about his firm’s historic restoration project in “Master Design Solutions,” page 30, “The goal was ... to protect as much of the architecture’s integrity without sacrificing comfort, function and energy efficiency.” If you’re interested in preserving our nation’s architectural history, you can learn the basics in our Web exclusive, “Historic Restoration 101,” which is available at

Whether you decide to make history by meeting with your legislators or working on historic homes or both, it’s your responsibility as a citizen to work toward the betterment of our nation. Now I sound like my high-school government teacher.

Editorial Advisory Board Update

Qualified Remodeler is proud to announce the addition of Kenneth P. Skowronski, CR, to its editorial advisory board. Skowronski, president of KS Remodelers, Franklin, Wis., has worked on nearly every type of remodeling project since his firm was established in 1960. Learn more about Skowronski and QR’s other advisors at