Historic Property Risks

We joined the world in an outpouring of grief as we watched the fire that tore through the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, causing the collapse of its central spire and much of its roof. The 850-year-old Gothic architectural masterpiece is a symbol of French culture and one of the most visited monuments in Paris (more than 12 million visitors a year).

In the wake of the horrific Notre-Dame fire, the French are now focused on reconstruction with President Emmanuel Macron having set the ambitious goal of rebuilding the Gothic landmark within five years and donations pouring in from around the world. Individuals, companies and institutions have so far donated or pledged 845 million euros, about $950 million, to rebuild the damaged cathedral.

The debate moving forward will be how Notre-Dame should be restored — identical to its older self, with similar materials, or in a newer fashion, with modern techniques. Either way, restoring the cathedral is a complex endeavor. For example, in an article in The Guardian, Bertrand de Feydeau, from the preservation group Fondation du Patrimoine, explained that the wooden roof was built with beams from primal forests more than 800 years ago. “We don’t, at the moment, have trees on our territory of the size that were cut in the 13th century,” he said. So the roof may never be built exactly the same, it will always carry the mark of this era but will have to use modern technology.”

The inestimable loss also underscores the difficulty of restoring a historic building to its original glory because of the unique materials, features and craftsmanship found in these structures. This tragic event is a reminder of the importance of having the right insurance policy in place for historic properties. This includes among other coverage features having Historic Replacement Cost insurance to pay for artisan construction costs, restoration experts, and the expenses to repair and replace damaged property with the same materials, workmanship and architectural features used for the same purpose. A Guaranteed Historic Replacement Cost option will pay the amount equal to the replacement cost of the building without regard to the policy limit. A strong policy should also provide the flexibility to pay for the extra time needed to accurately identify and repair historic features – and the lost income from being closed or impacted for a longer period of time than typical when newer buildings are damaged.

Distinguished Programs is proud to be a valuable resource in helping preserve our historic landmarks by providing a customized insurance program designed for these cherished properties. For more information about our program, please visit here.