Paper bag update: We are so tickled with the paper bag drop off response! Thank you to everyone who has helped out. We are mostly looking for smaller bags at this point – think sandwich bags or small gift bags instead of the grocery store bags. The contactless drop off bin will remain outside on the back porch for your convenience.
Historical program: The Friends of Handley Regional Library System present an informative free local historical program in the Handley Library Robinson Auditorium on September 25 at 2 pm entitled “Judge Richard Parker: A Man of His Times.” Judge Richard Parker was born in Richmond, Virginia and studied law at the University of Virginia. He was elected judge of the thirteenth judicial circuit in 1851. He was living in Winchester when he served as the judge in the trial of John Brown and his men after the raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859.
On-demand training: The National Preservation Institute has a number of of demand online courses related to cultural resource management. There are both free and paid courses available. If you are looking to brush up or learn new skills, check out their course offerings.
Yellowjacket update: The Hexagon House is still inundated with yellowjackets. The board room remains completely unusable at this time. Please be patient, as the interior and porch swarms are more resistant to treatment than the yard nests.
Holiday House Tour sponsorships: There’s still time to reserve a spot in our Holiday House Tour program booklet. Full, half and business card size spaces are still available. If you’re interested in reserving a spot, contact PHW at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The music selection for this installment is “Northfield.“
“Winchester is built on a small hill; it is a collection of brick houses and painted frame houses. Well cultivated plantations, adjoining each other, surround the base of the cone on which the town is situated; on the side of the mountains which form an amphitheater, other plantations can be seen. A black and deep soil, which requires only light tillage, yields abundant harvests. Nature is in all her magnificence there!” –Ferdinand Bayard, 1797
The land grants in the Shenandoah Valley were planned as a buffer between the eastern established settlements of Virginia and the French colonies and Native Americans to the west. German, Swiss, and Scotch-Irish immigrant farmers were recruited to settle the Shenandoah Valley in the 1730s. The vast land grants to settlers like Joist Hite, Alexander Ross, and John and Isaac Van Meter (with stipulations for them to recruit one family for every thousand acres) practically ensured the newcomers to the Valley would not be English elites, like the majority of the Tidewater Virginians, but self-reliant and independent farmers from more modest backgrounds.
The new settlements were located in a travel route designated by the Treaty of Albany for the Native Americans, and unsurprisingly, conflict arose between the two groups. Settlers pleaded to the Colonial government for assistance. In 1738, Frederick and Augusta counties were formed – the first counties created west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The formation allowed settlers to organize and protect themselves with a local militia.
About the same time, James Wood was commissioned in 1734 by the College of William and Mary to survey Orange County, the “parent” county for Frederick. Although his early life remains shrouded in mystery, this surveying commission is his oldest documentation in the colonies. As part of his privilege as a surveyor, Wood claimed 1241 acres in the area that would become his home Glen Burnie and the future site of Winchester.
Wood had already received his commission to be clerk of court for Frederick County, but there was no court to speak of initially. The Colonial government had waited to order the establishment of the county court, reasoning that the people who had settled here were “not yet understanding the English language.” The settlers continued in a state of judicial limbo until tensions between the Iroquois and the settlers forced the issue in 1743.
As a surveyor, and therefore a prominent citizen who had likely amassed some wealth from his industry and appointed offices, Wood received court approval to form Winchester’s original lots in the modern-day downtown. In March of 1744, Wood announced he had surveyed twenty-six half-acre lots and two thirty-three foot streets (Loudoun and Boscawen) to create a county town. As part of the agreement, Wood donated parcels for public use, encompassing the lots between today’s Loudoun, Cameron, and Boscawen streets and Rouss Avenue. The Treaty of Lancaster, also signed in the founding year of 1744, helped quell the disputes between settlers and the Iroquois and drive peaceful trade through the town.
Despite Winchester appearing on paper as a sure bet for the county seat, Thomas, Lord Fairfax, the proprietor of the Northern Neck, had other ideas. As described by T. K. Cartmell, “We know that many of the present inhabitants of the old town have had handed down to them the belief that Lord Fairfax actually sliced off from his immense holdings a sufficient quantity of land, and gave, or dedicated, it for the use of the citizens of the County for the purpose of a county seat, that eventually developed into the far-famed Valley City. Such impressions are wrong; and should have been corrected years ago.” Fairfax indeed gave nothing to Winchester and wanted Stephensburg (Stephens City) to have the honor of county seat. It was established in 1758 and according to one description, “was settled almost exclusively by Germans, whose descendants long preserved the customs and language of their ancestors.”
The court selected Winchester through the lobbying of James Wood, who “served a toddy to the judge with the deciding vote.” Winchester became the Valley’s leading commercial, judicial and governmental center within several decades. The first courthouse was built between 1747 and 1751. Concentrated residential and commercial patterns in the town, an early water system (1808) and paved streets (1809), two weekly newspapers and a book publishing industry were indications of Winchester’s increasing urbanization. The vigorous economy encouraged a number of artisans, merchants, and tavern keepers to settle there. Equally important were the free African-Americans that Winchester attracted after 1782 when Virginia law made the private manumission of enslaved individuals permissible. By 1785 the Lower Shenandoah Valley was no longer the edge of the frontier.
Join us for the next installment looking at some of the agricultural history of the Valley on October 15!
This week at the office, we’ve been working on filing newspaper clippings relating primarily to PHW’s Annual Meetings and Preservation Awards. While working on these files, we noticed a good number of gaps in the 1960-1980 range of Annual Meetings. If you happen to come across any invitations, newspaper clippings, notices for election of board members, or similar bits, please feel free to drop them off at the PHW office. Likewise, if you or a building you know of received an award from PHW and you don’t see it on our past award page, please let us know which award category, who/where the project was, and what year so we can correct our listings.
We are also extra thankful for a donor who dropped off a large quantity of paper shopping bags for our Bough and Dough Shop this week. We have temporarily taken in the drop-off bin while we sort through and see if there are some gaps in our needs left. We’ll update our needs soon, but from the looks of it, we will probably be looking for smaller gift bag types specifically next week.
As a belated nod to Labor Day, below we have reprinted and lightly edited for clarity selections from Danny Fisseha’s paper “The Kurtz Building – In Connection with the Business of the Community” from the oral history project of the Kurtz Building, 1988, for your reading pleasure this week.
Captain George W. Kurtz – soldier, cabinet maker and the oldest and best known funeral director in Virginia at the time of his death, died on November 14, 1926 at the age of eighty-nine. As a young man he learned how to make cabinets. He then worked with Stephen Stackhouse making furniture and coffins, which led him to his lifelong business.
In 1868, after serving in the Continental Morgan Guards and the 5th Virginia Infantry Stonewall Brigade, Capt. Kurtz established a furniture business in Winchester, Virginia. In 1876 or 1877 he bought the warehouse at Cameron and Boscawen Streets. Here, with the help of the railroad track coming straight to Winchester, he established his business of undertaking in the northwestern part of the state. He made most of his furniture himself and his clientele was mostly upper and middle class. On the other side of his furniture business, he also had a cabinet making business employing five other workers. He was appointed to the first Virginia State Board of Embalmers and served for a quarter of a century by a successive appointments starting June 1894 through 1922.
Despite the initial success of the business, it began to experience a decline by the end of his life. The loss of the rail system directly serving the building and competition from other funeral providers exerted the initial pressure. The biggest blow came after his death. It was uncovered that Kurtz never paid any income tax from 1868 to 1926. The federal government sent a bookkeeper at the expense of the Kurtz family to transcribe the records from the start of the business; consequently this cost them a great deal of money as back taxes were assessed and paid. The business was kept running by his daughter, Miss Lucy, and other close relatives until the 1960s to reach its 100th anniversary. Shortly after, the competition and loss of profit forced the business to shut down and the Kurtz Building was sold.
The PHW Office will be closed on Monday, September 6 for the holiday. We’ll be back on Tuesday!
We’ve had a few questions pertaining to our Holiday House Tour and Bough & Dough Shop calls for help. For our paper bag donation request, we are looking for all sizes of bags, from small gift bags/sandwich bag up to full size paper grocery bags. Any donations are welcome, and can be left in a bin on the back porch of the Hexagon House at any time. For volunteering obligations as a Holiday House Tour docent, plan to have a shift of about two hours during the Sunday tour. You may also have around half an hour to forty-five minutes of script training and house walkthroughs before the event. Docents are NOT expected to memorize scripts. If you have other questions, just let us know!
The Patsy Cline Block Party returns this Saturday, September 4, in the 600 block of South Kent Street! The event takes place between 10 AM and 4 PM. Come out to celebrate Patsy’s life and music, the designation of the Patsy Cline House as a National Historic Landmark, and the tenth anniversary of the event. The block party is free to attend, but house tours, which will begin at 11:30 AM, will cost $5.
The Comprehensive Plan Update open house and public hearing was held August 31. If you couldn’t attend in person, you can still get up to speed before submitting your feedback through the upcoming online form by reviewing the Comp Plan Update materials and watching the presentation and public hearing online. Stop by Rouss City Hall during regular business hours (main floor-Level 2F) to view the open house exhibits through September 14.
As part of our ongoing image captioning project on our social media, the ghost sign for the E. N. Hardy Grocery Store at 300-302 North Kent Street came up in the queue this week. When we spotted the ghost sign and took a quick picture of it in the spring, we didn’t get time to research it. The photo caption project provided the perfect chance to look through the copies of the city directories we have here at the PHW office. Sure enough, we came across one directory entry in 1929 for the 302 N. Kent half of the duplex as the location for E. N. Hardy, grocer. His business appears to have been short-lived, as the 302 side of the building was constructed around 1927, and it was changed to residential use by the time of the 1936 city directory. The grocery business instead moved to the 300 N. Kent half and was operated by Melvin Lewis until about 1962. Thanks to Linda Fiddler for providing her memories of going to the store every day, Stephen Brown for providing the information Melvin and his wife Ruth lived on Woodland Avenue and she worked for Judge Henry Whiting, and Scott Straub for providing Melvin’s draft card confirming he was a self-employed grocer at 300 N. Kent St.
Calling all photographers! The City’s 2022 annual informational calendar photo contest is now open. Click here for the free to enter online submission form. The deadline to submit up to five qualifying photos is November 1, 2021.
We are always surprised to find more photos lurking in our program file folders to scan. This week, we uncovered a sampling of products from Arise Studio, which set up a mobile shop in December 1990 as part of a fundraiser for the Kurtz Cultural Center. The timing of the find was fortuitous, as the fundraiser helped the dedicated Patsy Cline display go into the first floor visitor’s center and gift shop area of the building. Take a peek at the five photos at the top of our photostream, and jog your memory of the display with the photo below!
Comprehensive Plan Update: If you want to see what the Planning Commission is recommending for future land use in the city, stop by City Hall on Tuesday, August 31 at 5:30 pm to talk with staff and review exhibits. At 6:30 pm, the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing and they want to hear your thoughts. Written comments can be submitted but must be received by 5 pm on August 27 to be provided to the Commission prior to the meeting.
Visit the Public Domain Review for a photo essay Porch Memories by Federica Soletta. As we’ve already touched on here at PHW, porches are uniquely embedded in American architecture and culture. Combining historic images and small vignettes helps bring the photos to life and highlight the porch as a scene of American life.
Some of our best finds in the tracing of historic stories are from the Virginia Chronicle newspaper collections. The Library of Virginia dedicated a blog post to the worldwide tour these scanned and searchable pages take before they become accessible to researchers online.
As part of the summer newsletter, we have included two forms pertaining to our Holiday House Tour. First, we are once again planning to produce a program booklet to accompany the tour this year, and so we begin our request for sponsors. Sizes and rates are the same this year as in the past, and the PHW Office can provide more particulars if you are new to the booklet advertising opportunities. Click here for the sponsorship form.
Second, since we took a break from heavy volunteer usage in 2020, we have included a volunteer form as well. We are always in need of volunteers during the Holiday House Tour, and this time we’ve broken down the volunteer options a bit more so you can be paired up with a job you are comfortable with. Click here for the volunteer form.
Sponsorship and volunteer forms can be returned by email to email@example.com or by snail mail to PHW, 530 Amherst St., Winchester, VA 22601.
Welcome to a new series of articles that will be posted once a month from now until June 2022. As the PHW Office will be closed for all business on a number of Fridays for the next year, we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to highlight some of our older collected work from our Kurtz Cultural Center era. To produce and compile this series, we will be utilizing a number of the major exhibits hosted in the KCC during the 1990s, including the titular “West of the Blue Ridge” and “James Wood & the Founding of Winchester,” with additional information from the Shenandoah University exhibit “Valley Pioneer Artists and Those Who Continue” (itself the starting point for much of the “West of the Blue Ridge” exhibit) and others.
The posts will draw from exhibit texts, student and teacher guides to the exhibits, the digitized exhibit images, printed materials, press releases, and even the playlist of music that accompanied the “West of the Blue Ridge” exhibit. We hope this series will be nostalgic if you experienced it the first time, and informative if this is your first brush with this part of Winchester’s history.
Believe it or not, Winchester, Virginia was once the “Williamsburg of the West.” In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the lower Shenandoah Valley was a prosperous and bustling crossroads for western migration. The region was a gateway to the southern backcountry and the new western territories: across Valley roads moved people, goods, services, and ideas. Winchester, founded in 1744, was already the largest and most significant city west of the Blue Ridge after the American Revolution, when Americans were looking to the west of their new nation.
The series’ name “West of the Blue Ridge” derives from a petition in which area residents asked the state legislature to build a courthouse in Winchester because they were tired of traveling east of the Blue Ridge. In the petition, local people emphasized that they were different from people east of the Blue Ridge. About 40 percent of the population at the time was non-English, and the settlers kept many of their traditions alive, including through their decorative arts.
Whether on a large plantation or a small farm in Old Frederick County, agriculture formed the daily lives of Valley residents. By the American Revolution greater and more specialized crop production had combined with increasingly diverse manufacturing to form a sophisticated local economy. As part of this commercial expansion, Winchester became a thriving city that enticed merchants, craftsmen, physicians, attorneys, and their families to settle there. Winchester flourished at the crossroads of transportation routes west and south, becoming the largest city west of the Blue Ridge. We’ll explore more of the town growth in next month’s installment on September 17!
“As this town is standing on the main roads to Pittsburg, Wheelen, Kentucky, Tennessee and the Warm and other springs, many strangers pass through it, which, besides the great intercourse it occasions, gives a gaity [sic] to the place, and has a great influence on the inhabitants.” – Charles Varle, 1809
First, we have a specific image request to aid a local building owner. Do you have images of 426 North Loudoun Street between 1920-1950? Sanborn maps indicate a porch was once installed on the house during this timeframe, but by the time PHW or the Archives obtained photos of it, the porch had been removed (pre-1976 survey). If you have any view of this building that includes the front porch so we can get an idea of its appearance, please contact us!
The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced this week that they will be offering pre-conference workshops in September and post-conference webinars in November to extend the educational experience of their yearly PastForward conference.
These skill building workshops are free and open to all, and compliments content in the conference program. Registration is free and required for participation, however registration for PastForward Online 2021 is not required.
Understanding Climate Change Tuesday, September 21 • 2:00-4:00 p.m. This workshop provides clarity of definitions and terminology, describes climate concepts and outlines various strategies to address the impacts of climate on heritage.
An Introduction to Preservation Law + Easements Tuesday, September 28 • 2:00-4:00 p.m. This session provides an introduction to the legal mechanisms used to protect historic resources, including constitutional issues related to governmental regulation of historic properties, preservation easements, as well as federal, state, and local historic preservation laws.
We’ve been having some yard maintenance this week at the Hexagon House, including treatments for a yellow jacket swarm and tree work. Don’t be surprised if the lot is blocked a day in the near future for stump removal, but the bulk of the work is complete. Thanks to the hardworking folks at the MSV, we should be safe from stinging insects and overgrown and dying vegetation when enjoying our lovely outdoor setting.
If you haven’t had a chance to walk the new extension of the Trails at the MSV, why not take a quick jaunt around the floating wetland bridge next time you’re at the Hexagon House? There is a lovely circle around the pond that lets you get close to the wildlife, and two delightful humpback bridges to descend from the street level at Amherst to the pond. Plus, it’s literally just across the street!
While working on the daily image posts to social media and preparing a future blog post series, we had a confluence of research topics involving National Avenue and the tale of Lord Fairfax’s boots. Part of our behind the scenes work right now is going into identifying images from Kurtz Cultural Center exhibits. It has been a hit or miss prospect, as most of the slides are not labeled with the object name or source. This is somewhat mitigated by cross referencing the exhibit item lists and sources and then going back to the holding organization to confirm the identification guess.
While trying to determine if one of the digitized slide images was of James Wood, we incidentally spotted another portrait that also needed identification. The image turned out to be Dr. Robert Mackey (also often seen as Macky). The name had just recently been brought to mind after the recent trips to the post office to drop off some Limestone books to new owners. The trip usually requires passing by the George Washington’s Outlot marker on National Avenue. At the very end of the marker outside of the venerable brick Italianate house is the note the lot was purchased by the said Dr. Mackey in 1805. (Mackey, it seems, was doing some gardening on the outlot during its ownership by George Washington, so it seems natural he purchased the property in due time.) The timing was coincidental to also captioning a neighboring building on National Avenue and doing a bit of light file diving for more information on the area.
Mackey himself has been somewhat overlooked in the history books, perhaps because his descendant Frederick W. M. Holliday later became Governor of Virginia and thus overshadowed him. Most references are of the passing type, as seen here: “[Frederick W. M. Holliday’s] maternal great-grandfather Dr. Robert Mackey was a surgeon in the war of the Revolution, and at its close located at Winchester, took high rank as a man and a physician, and was the ancestor of several prominent families, both here and in other parts of the State.” — Norris, History of the Lower Shenandoah Valley
Frederick Holliday was the last private owner of the boots said to have been worn by Lord Fairfax. While the local tradition is sketchy, allegedly Lord Fairfax traveled to Winchester to consult Dr. Cornelius Baldwin in his final hours on December 9, 1781. Upon passing away, the boots were left in Dr. Baldwin’s hall or given to him as a sign of affection and esteem. The more likely story, as recently documented in Virginia Baron: The Story of Thomas, 6th Lord Fairfax, is that Dr. Mackey purchased the boots from the estate of Colonel Martin (believed to be the actual physician attending Lord Fairfax) in 1798. Mackey’s daughter Kitty married into the Baldwin family to explain the Baldwin connection to the tale. The boots subsequently passed through the Mackey descendants until they came into Holliday’s possession.
Until recently, the boots were unavailable for general viewing and seemed a bit like something out of a myth or existing just in dusty item catalogs (on par with the Sash of General Braddock). The confluence of names, locations, and images prompted another look to see if they had been added in the year or two since the last search, and finally, you may see these fabled boots entrusted to the Virginia Historical Society in their online collections.
Winchester is the recipient of a $25,000 Virginia Main Street Grant for a comprehensive revitalization project of East Piccadilly Street between the George Washington Hotel and the pedestrian mall. The project is stated to encompass 12 façade improvements, 16 community-designed parklets, and a large exterior mural. This stretch of Piccadilly has been one of our highlights in the daily image caption project on social media due to the business history contained in this block. We’re looking forward to seeing these predominantly late 1800s commercial buildings get the same love and attention as their neighbors on the Loudoun Street Mall.
We were delighted to be gifted a few more prints of the first John Kerr School by Christy Broy at the MSV. One mounted on matboard was in PHW’s collection, and we had no idea any more existed. The suspicion is the prints of Bob Woods’ 1975 drawing were made as part of PHW’s efforts to preserve the school in the late 1970s. They were likely in the MSV holdings because Lee Taylor and/or Julian Glass were using them for PHW projects. (If you know any more details about how these prints came to be, let us know!) We anticipate having them available for purchase later, possibly at the Bough and Dough Shop or through some other venue. In the meantime, you can revisit the history of PHW’s involvement with the old John Kerr School with our Lunch and Learn Lecture “Partners in Preservation: Shenandoah University and PHW.”