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Enhancing the economic, social, cultural and environmental well-being of historic downtown business districts in Missouri.

Public and Private INVESTMENT


Net new businesses


Net New jobs


volunteer hours


Designated Missouri Main Street communities report economic impact in their districts each quarter. Cumulative totals for the program.



Missouri Main Street Blog Section

The Downtown Strong: Building Resilient Economies program is provided through a grant by the U.S. Economic Development Administration to Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) that continues to impact 20 Missouri communities. In these 20 communities, there are 62 businesses and 16 organizations that have been and will be impacted as this grant continues to work with awardees. The Dutchtown neighborhood of St. Louis is home to the Neighborhood Innovation Center (NICstl) who applied and was endorsed by Downtown Dutchtown, a St, Louis Main Streets program.

NICstl is a startup 501c(3) nonprofit that was created in 2019. Formed from the founders' desire to put a vacant bank building to productive use, it provides a place-based innovation community in Downtown Dutchtown. Innovation communities are places where groups of entrepreneurial minded people can come together and share their thoughts, ideas, struggles, and resources in the pursuit of their goals of innovation.

The Dutchtown neighborhood is a small neighborhood commercial district on the south side of St. Louis. It is surrounded by residential and a growing base of local businesses. The commercial district is part of Missouri Main Street Connection’s St. Louis Main Streets program. Unlike other areas of the St. Louis Metropolitan area, the area has no business incubator, maker space, workforce training center, or other entities that offer similar services to the NICstl. Thus, the NICstl provides this resource desert with an oasis for the residents and businesses in the area.

NICstl requested assistance in updating their business plan to achieve the three pillars of innovation, excellence, and ownership of their building through identifying suitable financing options. The three pillars would allow NICstl to:

  1. Become a center of digital training & cloud certifications for residents while preparing them for quality jobs and supporting local businesses.


  2. Become an incubator for small/micro/nano/solo enterprises and an accelerator for existing small business or nonprofits in digital transformation.


  3. Provide direct business support programs - matching local talents and global network of professional volunteers to Downtown Dutchtown businesses (Neighborhood Talent Pool and Small Business Help Desk).


Jon Stover & Associates, LLC worked to address the pillars and help NICstl define and articulate their mission, update their business plan, and evaluate funding options.

The funding was a critical piece for NICstl.  In October 2019, they entered into a 3-year lease agreement with an option to buy their building at the end of the lease. But, just six months later the pandemic changed everything and the operation of NICstl became even more critical to the neighborhood. During the beginning of the pandemic and still today they act as the center of collaboration among all main community eco-system partners. They needed to purchase the building by the end of their lease, or they could lose the building and their ability to provide these services.

Together, Jon Stover & Associates, LLC and NICstl narrowed their funding options and prepared NICstl to apply for the Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credit Program through the Missouri Department of Economic Development. Through donations for tax credits, the program would allow NICstl to raise funds for the purchase and renovation of the building. The application was submitted by NICstl and successfully awarded in July of 2022, in time to complete the sale by the deadline. There is still a lot of work to do, but not only is this a success for NICstl, it is a true success for the Dutchtown neighborhood. A win-win!

The services included in this article were prepared by Missouri Main Street Connection, Inc. using Federal funds under award 05-79-06056 from Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Development Administration or the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) launched St. Louis Main Streets as a pilot program in late 2019 and accepted the first district in February of 2020, before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dutchtown was the first district, followed by Laclede’s Landing in August of 2020, and Delmar in June of 2021. Each attended a workshop prior to applying for the pilot program and were selected through a competitive application process. 

Each district reflects the unique qualities of its history, layout, and residents making them very different – Dutchtown is more of a neighborhood commercial district with a large amount of diversity from various backgrounds. Laclede’s Landing is where St. Louis began and the district only encompasses a few blocks with about 50 residents. Delmar is a linear district that is very automobile-centric with Delmar Boulevard and its long history of dividing the district, and even the city, to the north and south.

By the beginning of 2022, each district had formed their non-profit Main Street program with a board of directors and Main Street committees. Through this process, MMSC has helped them assess their district with the various stakeholder groups, gathered information from the residents, provided training on Main Street principles, and recommended Transformation Strategies (priorities) for each district. 



Dutchtown Main Streets has adopted two Transformation Strategies: serving the neighborhood and entrepreneurship development. Their district has a lot of families and they want activities, businesses, and services for the young and old. With the Neighborhood Innovation Center in the heart of the district, the entrepreneurship strategy made sense to help support those already in the district as well as to help grow small business owners within the district to fill the commercial vacancies and increase building ownership.



Laclede’s Landing Main Street is considering the strategies of riverfront activation and neighborhood goods and services. Building owners and developers have been working on upper floor housing for a few years because the district wants to be a neighborhood, not just a place to work or visit. To support this housing initiative, the strategy of neighborhood goods and services will cater to those new residents with places to eat, buy groceries, relax in the evening, or stroll with their dogs. The riverfront activation is a strategy to leverage the beautiful and under-utilized Mississippi River area. The Main Street group wants to add event space, both indoors and out, promote a bike rental business, add a marina, and create a river walk.




Delmar Main Street is reviewing their Transformation Strategy recommendations of people-centered places and entrepreneurship & equitable development.  There are several spots along Delmar Boulevard to create people-centered pop-up shops or food truck villages to test the market for future, more permanent businesses.  Delmar Main Street will now consider whether art and placemaking amenities can extend along the boulevard to bring people to the district from the adjacent neighborhoods to support the local businesses. There are already many small business owners in the district and the Main Street program will need to support those early entrepreneurs while attracting and equipping new business owners for success. These are some of the areas of work for the Delmar Main Street group.


Future work by MMSC and the St. Louis Main Streets districts will include diving into market and demographic data to help with decisions about retention and recruitment of new businesses, marketing properties for development, and supporting entrepreneurship through a partnership with Main Street America and the Kauffman Foundation.  Stay tuned for future updates on these three districts. 

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Ben White »

Regular maintenance allows building owners to protect their building investment and to prevent larger, more expensive problems in the future. Summer brings excessive heat, storms, and vegetation growth that can compromise the structural integrity of unprotected buildings if not dealt with in a timely manner. Here are some steps that building owners can take for these summer months:


Summer Heat & HVAC Systems

Check and service HVAC systems to prevent failures (30 min).



Summer Storms & Water Damage

Check the grading around the foundation to make sure water will drain away from building and not pool (15 min).

Inspect the interior of the building for leaks during first heavy rain of season (30 min).

Inspect basements or crawl spaces for excessive water during wet weather (30 min).

Examine roof slope to make sure water is not pooling in any areas on the roof (15 min).

Make sure water can flow freely through the gutters and downspouts. Clean out if they are clogged (30 min).

Sweep debris from flat or low sloping roofs (30 min).



Vegetation Growth & Property Inspections:

Remove plants growing on or close to walls and foundation (30 min).

Visually check for moss or lichen, especially around parapets, sills, and downspouts (30 min).

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It takes a community to accomplish successful downtown revitalization work. With the many events local Main Streets put on and the committees that put in the time to strategically implement the Main Street Approach™, Main Street can never have enough volunteers. The good thing is each Main Street district has a community full of people that are proud of their downtown, want to see it thrive, and be a place to spend time. Volunteer recruitment is easier said than done with many challenges arising including lack of time and interest of community members. Don’t be discouraged by the challenges as some may need only a little nudge or personal invite to participate and join Main Street as a volunteer. There are many ways for organizations to recruit volunteers from innovative campaigns to partnership or relationship requests to booths at events manned by current board and committee members to personal invites. If you are lucky you may even get that outgoing person who shows up at your office asking what they can do to help!

Warrensburg Main Street submitted two nominations for the “I Spy… Great Work” award that show, despite the challenge in recruiting volunteers, it is possible if you look around your community because you never know who will say yes unless you ask. In appreciation for their work, Warrensburg Main Street has nominated the Whiteman Air Force Base for “I Spy…Great Work”. This nomination enters the base into the running for Volunteer of the Year at the 2022 Premier Downtown Revitalization Conference in August. The nomination was submitted by Jill Purvis, Executive Director from Warrensburg Main Street:


“In 2019, Warrensburg Main Street began working towards a stronger relationship with our neighbors, Whiteman Air Force Base. There are approximately 3,800 active duty member and 5,000 family members that call Whiteman home. Located about 15 minutes from Warrensburg, this ever-changing group has historically been very challenging to engage. Through various connections within our organization and utilizing connections from community members, we have been able to increase our name recognition and support at Whiteman AFB. Since 2021, Whiteman Air Force Base has become a HUGE volunteer hub for Warrensburg Main Street! Our goal is to connect the community members on the base to our downtown for events, shopping, services, and volunteer opportunities. The Whiteman team has helped volunteer at Burg Fest, Piccadilly, Farm to Table, Downtown Clean-ups and our annual Dickens' Christmas event. Whether we ask for 4 volunteers or 30, they show up ready to help and get work done for our organization. They have become such an important group to our organization as a volunteer base with their willingness and the enthusiasm they bring when they come to volunteer. In 2021 alone, they contributed over 450 volunteer hours for Warrensburg Main Street. We have also been able to identify leaders on the base to join committees and our board that brings much need diversification to Warrensburg Main Street. We are excited to see how this relationship progresses in the future and are continuing to find ways to engage this important group of community members.”


Warrensburg Main Street also submitted a second nomination for “I Spy… Great Work.” This nomination nominates the youngest Main Street volunteer in Warrensburg and maybe even Missouri, Emerson Elkins:

“Emerson and the Elkins family are residents of downtown and live in a beautifully renovated loft. As Emerson frequently walks in downtown and often visits the Farmers' Market and Main Street events, he started to notice an increase in trash downtown especially during the winter months.  We recently spied Emerson doing his part to keep downtown beautiful and vibrant by taking it upon himself to pick up trash on his frequent walks downtown.  He can be seen on his gator driving around the streets of downtown picking up trash in the alleys, parking lots, and streets. Emerson is doing his part to keep his community and our downtown clean and tidy for all residents and visitors. The best part is Emerson is only 4 years old and the youngest Main Street volunteer!”



The Whiteman Air Force Base and Emerson are not the only volunteers with Warrensburg Main Street. They reported 2,671 hours of volunteer time in 2021 equating to $72,677.91, which is a huge community investment in downtown! The Independent Sector values volunteer time in Missouri at $27.21 an hour (as of April 2022).

Missouri Main Street Connection recognizes the time and sacrifices it takes to volunteer at a nonprofit. Along with our local Main Street programs, we thank everyone who has volunteered with Main Street. Nominations for this year’s “I Spy…Great Work” have concluded, but if you see individuals in your community that are completing great work by volunteering for Main Street, contact your local Main Street program and recommend they be highlighted in the future.


If you want to find resources on how to recruit, train, and recognize your volunteers, look through our resource library which is open to MMSC investors. Not an investor? Email Staci at staci@momainstreet.org to find out how.

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A core component to a strong local Main Street organization, that is recognized by Missouri Main Street Connection and Main Street America, is having a diversified board of directors. This comes from a mix of different skills and experiences, personal characteristics, the 4 W’s (which are wealth, wisdom, worker, and worrier), community affiliations, and more. Each Main Street board of directors is a unique mix of these factors that comes from and reflects the community that they serve.


This month we are highlighting Eric Osen who was nominated by Downtown Joplin Alliance for “I Spy…Great Work” in appreciation for his work. This nomination enters Eric into the running for Volunteer of the Year at the 2022 Premier Downtown Revitalization Conference in August. The nomination was submitted by Lori Haun, Executive Director of Downtown Joplin Alliance:

“Eric is a Missouri Master Gardener who had dedicated hundreds of volunteer hours towards making the Community Gardens at the Empire Market come alive. He helps tend the garden beds and works to improve the overall quality of our farmers market facility. He has led several projects involving the community and our local Youth Volunteer Corps including building a keyhole garden, beautification of our property, teaching topics ranging from winterizing garden beds to the lifecycles of ladybugs to crafting zombie scarecrows. Eric shows up for us, all of the time. Whether it is helping to launch an adult gardening education series, fixing random appliances, or scraping ice from the walkways, we know we can count on Eric to help make our market, and thus our downtown, a better place to be.”

Eric Osen is an excellent example of an outstanding community member who uses his unique skills, experiences, and personal characteristics to contribute to Main Street and his community. His expertise, leadership, and affiliation with the Missouri Master Gardeners makes him a huge asset to Downtown Joplin Alliance.

Eric is not the only one volunteering with Downtown Joplin Alliance. They reported 1,425 hours of volunteer time in 2021 equating to $38.774.25, which is a huge community investment in downtown! The Independent Sector values volunteer time in Missouri at $27.21 an hour (as of April 2022).

Missouri Main Street Connection recognizes the time and sacrifices it takes to volunteer at a nonprofit. Along with our local Main Street programs, we thank everyone who has volunteered with Main Street. Nominations for this year’s “I Spy…Great Work” have concluded, but if you see individuals in your community that are completing great work by volunteering for Main Street, contact your local Main Street program and recommend they be highlighted in the future.


If you want to find resources on how to recruit, train, and recognize your volunteers, look through our resource library which is open to MMSC investors. Not an investor? Email Staci at staci@momainstreet.org to find out how.

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The Downtown Strong: Building Resilient Economies grant is a grant provided by the U.S. Economic Development Administration through Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) that continues to impact Missouri communities. During the application phase of this grant, the Downtown Excelsior Partnership saw this as their opportunity to apply for assistance, and thought outside the box to consider how they could leverage current activities, additional funds, momentum, and partnerships to get the most out of the Downtown Strong Grant.  As a result, Downtown Excelsior Springs received two unique services that will assist in gaining new businesses, utilizing empty properties, and directing people to all downtown businesses.



Excelsior Springs is a naturally beautiful city, with reminders of the City’s historic mineral water resources reflected both inside the city and in its surroundings. Because of these influences, the street layout is unique resulting in many businesses being located off the main corridors but within the downtown Excelsior Springs district. Downtown Excelsior Partnership’s first service was to find solutions to showcase the downtown businesses located on these side streets. This is being accomplished through developing a Wayfinding Plan that could outline their signage needs and layout, with a strategic focus on making sure people knew where the businesses are and how to get to them. This was due to their current signage’s limitations and narrower focus which didn’t necessarily direct people to businesses and parking. Through the grant, the Downtown Excelsior Partnership and its volunteers are working with Fora Planning and the City of Excelsior Springs to develop a plan that everyone can utilize, and that the city will help implement.

Downtown Excelsior Partnership has also been able to updated their Market Analysis and built a Real Estate Development Strategy including business recruitment ideas with their second service. These services were completed by Joe Borgstrom of Place + Main. Both of these enhance Downtown Excelsior Partnership’s ability to strategically impact their downtown’s economic base by knowing the needs and having a plan to address them. Then, Downtown Excelsior Partnership took these plans and invested, through additional funding with the City of Excelsior Springs’ grant program, in developing the plans further through Joe Borgstrom to provide in-depth market analysis, detail strategies on improving business and real estate development, and finally, provide strategies to develop and recruit business
specifically for some of their high-profile empty buildings.



Leveraging their resources and building partnerships allowed the Downtown Excelsior Partnership to multiply their results from this grant! These plans will realize results into the future as they continue to be utilized by every entity involved. Leveraging, diversified budgeting, and utilizing available resources is integral to how local Main Streets continue to have extraordinary and long-lasting impacts in their communities. Without opportunities like the Downtown Strong: Building Resilient Economies grant and many others, that 501(c)3 nonprofit main street organizations can apply for, many communities would not have the capitol or equity to access community-saving services or implement community revitalizing strategies.

The services included in this article were prepared by Missouri Main Street Connection, Inc. using Federal funds under award 05-79-06056 from Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Development Administration or the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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The City of Canton, Missouri and the local Main Street program, Canton Main Street, boldly joined forces to enhance their community economically and socially.  Canton is located in the northeast corner of the state on the Mississippi River with a population of 2,455 and is home to Culver-Stockton College.  It is a rural community with farming as one of the main industries, which serves as a port for grain distribution using the river and railroad. 

The local Main Street program began in late 2013 with a group of downtown stakeholders wanting to improve the trajectory of their downtown.  Like many downtowns, Canton saw years of deferred building maintenance, absentee property owners, and increased storefront vacancies.  Other issues were commercial retail space used for storage or part-time or hobby business owners with very limited store hours.  The goal of the small group was to start a Main Street program and turn that situation around. 

Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC), using the Affiliate Grant Program (now called the Community Empowerment Grant), partnered with city officials and district stakeholder to form a not-for-profit Main Street organization using the 40-plus year template of the National Main Street Center to form a board of directors, utilize Main Street ApproachTM committees, and implement projects and initiatives using economic development-based action plans.  This partnership and implementation of the Main Street Approach™ created Canton Main Street. Canton Main Street utilized additional grants and services from MMSC to gather economic and market demographics, provide board training and support, assist in developing a list of priorities, and strengthen stakeholder relationships.  All of these activities lead to the community wanting more.  The leadership in downtown and throughout the city wanted to use the Main Street ApproachTM to provide a focused direction for the future of the entire community.  That is where the idea of a community-wide master plan was born. 




Through a partnership with the City of Canton, Canton Main Street, community stakeholders, and Missouri Main Street, the process of planning began in February of 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic began.  This first meeting set the foundation for the Master Plan by meeting with various stakeholder groups for a larger community input session to gather viewpoints of the current community assets, what the community would like to see in the future, and how the community and downtown can be activated.  The consultants, representing the Main Street comprehensive approach to vibrant community development brought their expertise to the input sessions but also began formulating themes or focus areas.  Main Street calls these focus areas Transformation Strategies which help guide the community development activities from brainstorming to funding to implementation. 




Future visits both virtually and in-person helped to refine these strategies and put more detail to the plan with the outcome being a 96-page document with visuals for potential projects, guidelines of how to implement, and recommendations on potential funding sources.  The report was presented in November of 2021 to a packed house at the new City Hall building.   Wayfinding signs, building renderings, new branding for downtown and the community, and business recruitment tactics were included in the plan and were featured during the presentation. 

Following the adoption of the plan, MMSC checks in with the leadership of Canton on their implementation progress, helps to remove obstacles, or assists with partnerships as the community moves through the timeline of implementation as outlined in the plan.  


MMSC provided 60% of the overall costs for the City of Canton Master Plan and the community contributed the remaining 40%.  MMSC provided a team of professionals to lead the community vision and provided the technical resources and trainings throughout the implementation of the plan’s goals and objectives.  If your Main Street community is interested in a community-wide Master Plan, please reach out to 
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This year at Missouri’s Premier Downtown Revitalization Conference’s ShowMe Bash & Pitch Party, Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) will be awarding the Creative Space Activation Grant to one local Main Street organization. As Missouri communities continue to evolve in response to the changing circumstance of the COVID-19 pandemic, MMSC sees a continued need to activate outdoor spaces through placemaking projects in historic districts as a way to support small businesses, local citizens, and community vibrancy for all ages.

The Missouri Main Street Connection Creative Space Activation Grant has been designed to support one local Main Street organization in activating their historic district’s public spaces to build community connections and create activity that encourages customers to support local small businesses. Creative solutions to promote places and fill them strategically with opportunities for citizens to enjoy their community, enhance civic and community pride, and create a place for visitors to linger and to enjoy local businesses and restaurants at their leisure has a huge impact on your community’s economic vitality as well as sense of place. From small to big, every project matters when it comes to creating a vibrant community for all ages.

Applications are being accepted for this grant opportunity until July 8, 2022. If you are a Missouri Main Street program that has an agreement with MMSC, and are in good standing, you are eligible to apply. Five communities will be selected as finalists to attend the Pitch Party where they will have time to present their project to the live audience and a panel of judges. Each of the five finalists will receive a box of placemaking materials that may include lawn games, paint/chalk, signs, lights, placemaking educational materials, etc., but only one will walk away with the grant of $10,000 to implement their project!

If you are eligible to apply and interested in getting the application email info@momainstreet.org

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Ben White »

Cleaning exterior masonry walls not only improves the overall appearance of your building, but also helps maintain the wall's structural integrity. Embedded dirt keeps in moisture and hosts harmful microorganisms, both of which damage a building's surface over time. However, inappropriate masonry cleaning can also cause irreparable damage to the masonry, so the decision to clean the masonry comes with these considerations: 

1. Mortar | The mortar between masonry units may need to be repointed before any cleaning method is undertaken. Otherwise, water will seep through deteriorated mortar, damaging exterior surface, inner metal support, and wall finishes. Infiltrating water can additionally cause salt deposits on or below a wall's surface upon evaporation, known as subflorescence and efflorescence, respectively.  Water itself can contain minerals which discolor or stain masonry, as can dissolved de-icing salts from adjacent sidewalks. An expert can help you determine if such salt deposits on your building are indicative of a need to repoint.

2. Masonry Type | The term "masonry" encompasses a multitude of building materials (i.e., brick, limestone, granite, cast concrete, glazed terra cotta, etc.), each with their own respective cleaning methods. Knowing the type of masonry is important because certain cleaning agents are incompatible with certain types of masonry. Ideally, multiple methods should be patch-tested to assess compatibility with your building's geological composition.

3. Building condition | Do you know what has changed since your building's construction, or prior treatments? What exactly needs to be removed, and where did it come from? These answers affect the type of cleaning agent is the best fit for your building and preventing future deterioration depends on the nature of the building's damage. Other potential cleaning prerequisites include replacing damaged masonry units, sealing doors and windows, investigating your building's architectural history and assessing environmental conditions.

4. Paint | As a rule, unpainted brick should remain unpainted. Paint is notoriously difficult to remove from bricks to the point where it is generally more practical to leave it on. Reasons for having painted a building range from design choice to protective coating; in some cases, buildings were painted later on to cover repairs and alterations. More information can be found in our one-pager, "Painting Your Building".



The importance of identifying your building's history, environment, and materials cannot be overstated, along with doing test patches. Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that some stains remain impossible to remove, and environmental conditions can impact the effectiveness of many cleaning methods. Resources exist to help you determine appropriate cleaning methods. The Technical Preservation Services (National Park Service) website, local historic commission, independent preservation consultants, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Main Street Center are among many that can provide guidance. 

Ultimately, the goal is to clean as gently as possible, and that means different things for different materials. As a rule, abrasion is an inappropriate cleaning method for historic materials because of the irreparable damage it will cause to the surface of the masonry; sources of abrasion include metal bristle brushes, high pressure washing, and sand blasting (as well as blasting with other mediums, such as pecan shells, dry ice, crushed glass, etc). Seek verification from reputable resources before attempting anything more than a simple low-pressure water cleaning to ensure masonry surfaces remain intact and pollutants stay out of the environment.  


How To Clean Masonry Buildings 

1. Make sure all openings are watertight prior to cleaning, caulking around windows and doors. If using chemicals, protect the surrounding flora with a water-resistant material and line up appropriate receptacles to collect chemical runoff, also known as cleaning effluent. Also make sure all automobiles are removed well away from the building to avoid etching their paint finishes since these chemicals can be carried by even a light breeze!

2. Spray building with water using a low-pressure nozzle at least 18 inches from the surface. Pressure should be below 600psi – not much more than a garden hose jet spray nozzle. Research the mineral composition of your city's water supply to understand how it will affect your building, as some minerals have been known to stain.

3. Water is one of the gentlest cleaning agents, often paired with a non-ionic detergent and natural or synthetic bristle brush. This method is often the most economical. For particularly acid-sensitive masonry, steam cleaning is an effective, yet expensive option, but constant misting is a more affordable alternative.

4. Alternatively, use water to soften dirt before applying an appropriate chemical solution, using either a low-pressure sprayer, roller, or paintbrush. 
Leave cleaner on masonry for the time recommended by the manufacturer.

5. Start cleaning at the bottom of the wall and work your way up. Periodically check surface for signs of abrasion - pock marks, rough surface texture, rounded edges, or disintegration.

6. Graffiti removal often requires a cleaning agent separate from traditional paint and tar removal methods. The best product will depend on the type of masonry and graffiti, as well as the surface dimensions. The methods range from paste of inert clays to cellulose products mixed with water or other appropriate solvent. If applying paste, cover with plastic sheet to prevent evaporation.

7. Thoroughly rinse off any chemical treatment with water. Residue left behind can cause efflorescence. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for capturing the run-off to prevent polluting local waterways.

8. Make sure that all cleaning effluent is safely and legally disposed of after rinsing. Masonry walls can take several weeks to dry completely, at which point paint can be applied.


Safety First 

While we’ve highlighted the hazards cleaning chemicals pose to the environment, they can also be dangerous to your health. Airborne particles can enter surrounding buildings and cars, affecting nearby individuals and can badly burn the skin or eyes. It may be necessary to clean during non-business hours, nights, or weekends. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be provided and worn at all times, especially when removing graffiti; cleaning agents of this level must be disposed of professionally. Always check manufacturer's guidelines before cleaning. 


You can download this article as a PDF by clicking this link: Masonry 101: Historic Building & Cleaning Masonry.

This "Masonry 101: Historic Building & Cleaning Masonry" is brought to you by:



You can download this article as a PDF by clicking this link: Shading Downtown: Awnings and Canopies

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Ben White »

Painting can be one of the most dramatic improvements you make to your building. However, only paint a building that has been previously painted to maintain the historic look of the building. Measures should be taken to remove old paint from brick to restore the original brick, if applicable. In addition, if repointing must be done to prep the façade, before painting, consult with a mason experienced with using the type of mortar for the age of your building. If the building is metal or has metal components, we recommend consulting with a  professional company for cleaning and preparatory work. The following steps will help smooth the way for a successful paint job on your historic building:


1. Evaluation. Determine what you need to prepare for painting. Check all the wood. Is it sound or rotting? Does it have insect damage? Repair or replace any damaged areas that you find. If you need to repaint your masonry building, first check the mortar. Make sure the surface is prepped correctly before proceeding, including looking for moisture damage or possible areas where moisture could come in. If the building needs repointing, do that before painting.

2. Timing. Plan a painting schedule. Some times of the year are better than others for painting. Good weather usually ensures a better paint job. Ask your local paint dealer for assistance.

3. Windows. Check the condition of your windows. Glaze and repair windows as necessary. Replace any deteriorated putty with a glazing compound; be sure to put it all around the window. Wait two or three days for the compound to dry before painting.

4. Old Paint. Prepare the surface adequately. Be sure to remove all peeling and loose paint. A variety of tools can be used: a wire brush, a scraper, a blow torch, or an electric heat gun. Use these last two devices carefully; employ only enough heat to soften the paint so that it can be easily removed. Do not blast masonry as this can ruin the old brick; instead, use a chemical application to help remove the old paint.

5. Primer. A primer should be used for all bare wood surfaces as it helps the final coat adhere. Mix a little of the finish coat paint with the primer to achieve a richer color. If working with metal, primers need to be chemically compatible with the type of metal material before painting; be sure to choose a paint that is rust-inhibiting as well.

6. Building Material. Determine the type of paint best suited for your building. Stone, brick, wood, concrete block, and metal all require different paints and primers.

7. Oil vs. Latex. Which kind of paint should you use, oil or latex? That can depend on the material!
We recommend reading more about this from Preservation Brief 11 from the National Park Service. There are advantages and disadvantages to each:

8. Shine. Be aware that there are three degrees of shine for paint: gloss, semi-gloss, and flat/matte.

9. Quality. Remember that quality paint will last longer than a cheap brand. It will not fade or peel as quickly and usually gives better coverage.


A Note on Lead Paint

If your building is more than 50 years old, it may contain lead-based paint. If you are removing the existing paint as part of the repainting process, have a sample tested. It is imperative that the testing be done by a reputable company or by a state testing lab. If there is a problem, contact your state environmental department for information on options for removing or encasing the lead-based paint.



An important reminder: Once you use latex, you must continue to use it. It is difficult to switch back to oil. If you have been using an oil-based paint, it is best to continue with oil.

The color you paint your building, window trim, or door is, to some extent, a personal decision. It is an expression of yourself and your commercial establishment. However, there are other people and things to think about. The following procedures can help you decide what colors to use on your building.



1. Look Around! Be a good neighbor and look at your building in the context of the entire block or downtown. The color of your building can affect the overall character of Main Street.

2. Investigate. Decide whether you'd like to return your building to its original paint colors. If you are seeking historical accuracy, carefully scrape a small area to reveal different layers of paint. Please note that over time, the original color may have faded. To get a better idea of the true color, wet the original surface. The base color will appear more accurately when moist.

3. Research. Color schemes for commercial buildings differ by region of the country. They also differ according to the period when the building was constructed. Scrape a small area of the building to determine its historic color. Sherwin Williams also has a line of historically-used colors to choose from. Choose a swatch that fits with the era of your building and what it was historically painted.

4. Sunlight. Think about how the sun strikes your building. The amount of sunlight can change the hue of paint color. Hold a paint splotch against your building on cloudy and sunny days. To be certain about your color choice, invest in a quart of paint and apply it. There is a great difference between a small color spot and an entire wall.

5. White Paint. It is important to remember that white paint was not used as widely during the Victorian period as it is today. White is a glaring color that does not blend in readily with most downtown environments. Historic downtown buildings traditionally used dark colors, especially on the window’s trim and architectural features.

6. Trim. Traditionally, building trim was painted as decoration, often in a contrasting shade lighter or darker than the primary building color. This paint treatment defined the trim, but it was not so overpowering that the trim colors dominated the buildings.

7. Aluminum Frames. Today, aluminum frames have frequently replaced traditional wood doors and windows. The shine and metallic color of the aluminum do not complement historic buildings. Paint them a more neutral color or choose darker, anodized frames if the original window has to be replaced or the original window has previously been replaced.

8. Accent. Paint color should be used to tie together all building elements, including the cornice, upper facade, windows, storefront, and doors. Use at most 4 colors to accent the features of your building that bring character.

9. Express Yourself! With these procedures in mind, express the identity of your business through paint color. It adds to the richness and variety of Main Street.


 You can download this article as a PDF by clicking this link: Painting 101: Historic Buildings & Paint Color.

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