Friday Roundup: Indices, Trees, Photos and Fun!

Friday RoundupOne of the research resources we have at PHW that has been long neglected is a thick stack of photocopies of Mutual Assurance Society records. PHW volunteers obtained these copies in the 1970s as we were preparing for the 1976 Architectural Inventory. These insurance policies are very useful in seeing how early buildings grew and expanded, even giving details about the uses of certain wings, additions, or outbuildings. These are helpful for dating buildings that predate the Sanborn maps.

Thinking these records had already been sorted and it would be easy to find a policy for a quick fact check, it was quite a surprise to find that was not the case at all. After an afternoon of painstakingly deciphering names, it seemed more efficient to see if anyone had indexed these records already. Indeed, such a resource exists! The University of Mary Washington Department of Historic Preservation has a publicly searchable index of policies with a variety of search field options. In the case of these photocopies, the policy number is often the most legible identifying information. The document images are not available from this search, so this resource may not be of use to all researchers. However, you may want to experiment with the owner name search to see if a previous owner may have had a policy. For example, we know that George Norton had a Mutual Assurance Society policy on his home. By searching for his name, it brings up his Amherst St. home, as well as two other policies he took out at the same time. However, be careful! As with all old records, spelling can be haphazard and transcribers may not be able to make modernizations to help researchers. In Norton’s policies, we have creative street names like Piccadilla, Boscowan, and Loudon. If you find a record, don’t forget to consult the list of abbreviations to find out what was insured on the property and its construction materials.

Many of us have never seen, but heard the tales of the American chestnut tree. With the ongoing efforts to revive the species through blight-resistant hybridization, the question arose as to how large the trees really were. You can read and listen to a recent NPR interview of Roanoke College Biologist Rachel Collins, who warns us to temper our expectations of the mature chestnut hybrids reaching the massive proportions reported in historic documents due to some simple math confusion between diameter and circumference. If you are interested in learning more about the history and efforts to restore the American chestnut, visit the American Chestnut Foundation at www.acf.org.

Of course, it would not be Friday without some photos. This week’s upload has pushed us over 10,000 photos milestone in our Flickr collection! (“Only” 9,500 are publicly viewable, with the remaining 500 mostly historic photos or artwork we do not have rights to share.) About 50 older photos were identified, added to albums, and made public for searchers. We also added 36 photos of 518 and 401-403 South Kent Street, both Revolving Fund properties, again at the beginning of the rehabilitation. Catch them at the top of the Flickr photostream.

Clean Up Day, Blues House

Lastly, mark these dates on your calendars for upcoming PHW events! (Times may be subject to change.)

May 19, 2 PM: National Preservation Month walking tour, highlighting Winchester historic plaque and Jennings Revolving Fund properties in the Potato Hill neighborhood. Volunteers are still needed as tour guides! Contact PHW at phwinc.org@gmail.com or 540-667-3577 to add your name to the guide list.

June 24, 3 PM: PHW’s Annual Meeting and Preservation Awards, planned for the Hexagon House rear yard.

Friday Roundup: Interactive Map, Friday Photos, and a Call for Volunteers

Winchester City has launched a new, comprehensive address-based search tool. Using the new search, you can now find in one spot:

Tax Parcel Information
Refuse and Recycling Collection Day
Leaf Collection Area #
Fire Department First Due Station
Voting Ward and City Council Member
Voting Precinct
Elementary School District
If the property is in the following or not:
o Enterprise Zone
o Zoning District
o Historic District
o Corridor Enhancement District

This week, we added 36 photos to our Flickr account from the Revolving Fund files. Catch some images of 609 and 617 South Kent Street, and 211, 215, 501, 502, 510, 512, 511, and 513 South Loudoun Street at the top of the photostream. Note that 211 and 511 South Loudoun are not Revolving Fund properties so they are not in the Revolving Fund album.

211 South Loudoun Street

PHW is looking for volunteers to help us lead a preservation-themed walking tour in May to coincide with National Preservation Month (day and time pending). Volunteers should be relatively familiar with the downtown and adjacent residential areas in the Potato Hill neighborhood. Familiarity with architecture may be helpful but is not required. The text will be written for you and provided for review in advance, similar to Holiday House Tour docent scripts. We anticipate the guides will need to be able to walk and talk for an estimated distance of about 0.75 to 1.25 miles. If you are interested in being on the call list for this project, please let us know at phwinc.org@gmail.com or at 540-667-3577.

Friday Photos, Podcasts, and Upcoming Office Schedule

It was a short week for us with the snow interruption, but we were still able to add 33 photos to our Flickr account. Like last week, we are continuing to digitize all the photos from the Revolving Fund files, with this week’s batch including 20-22 and 24 South Kent, 211 and 219 South Kent (part of the Hodgson estate purchase), and 317 North Kent. You can catch the new additions at the top of the photostream, or at the end of the Revolving Fund album.
317 North Kent

If you are looking for preservation podcasts to add to your life, you might want to visit the newly-created www.preservecast.org site to look through Preservation Maryland’s back catalog of over 60 episodes, with a new episode posted on Mondays. The topics are often but not always Maryland-specific, but also include best practices and more general preservation topics. If you want a sample recommendation, try out the episode on the Enchanted Forest – if you’ve been in the area for a while you might have fond memories of this attraction during its first life from 1955-1989. (If you are super excited about this story and want to relive a bit of your childhood, Clark’s Elioak Farm will reopen for the season on March 30 – find more on their website www.clarklandfarm.com.)

Please note the PHW Office will be hosting a school field trip on Friday, March 30, and closed on April 2 and 3 for Easter vacation. We should still have a weekly email for you next week, but if we don’t, have a safe and happy holiday weekend!

Revolving Fund Photos and Walking Tour Planning

Continuing with our work making sure all our baseline photos for the Revolving Fund houses are digitized, we added 33 photos to Flickr this week, including 21 East Germain, 312-314 North Kent, 208-210 North Kent, and the 300 block of South Kent Street. Be sure to catch them at the top of the photostream, or the end of the Revolving Fund album.

301-313 S. Kent St.

Do you have ideas for new walking (or possibly biking or driving) tour themes in Winchester? Let us know what you would like to see covered – themes, areas of town, architectural styles or something else. Through discussions with the PHW Board of Directors, we would like to expand our offerings outside of the core downtown around the Loudoun Street Mall and highlight lesser-known history and architecture. Drop your ideas off at phwinc.org@gmail.com, 540-667-3577, or at 530 Amherst Street, Winchester, VA 22601. We are in very early planning phases, so all brainstorming ideas are appreciated!

Friday Photos from the Revolving Fund Cabinet

This week we added 38 photos to our Flickr account from our ongoing spring cleaning of the Revolving Fund file cabinet. This is likely the last cabinet to have a significant amount of photos that have not yet been digitized – but never fear, we still have at least a few more weeks of Friday Photos featuring older images to come, as we have four 35mm slide trays with old presentations to digitize.

Many of today’s photos are our “baseline documentation,” the images taken shortly before or after PHW purchased the properties, or are pictures of work in progress during the first rehabilitation. This batch covers 124 and 125 E. Clifford, 112-114 E. Cecil (the chicken coop house), 106-108 W. Cecil, 119 S. East Lane (the Gibson house), and 706 South Cameron Street. If you have seen PHW presentations on the Revolving Fund in the past, you might recognize some of these images, but it did not appear that they made the jump from a PowerPoint program to Flickr. You can catch all the new additions at the top of the photostream or at the end of the Revolving Fund album. Happy viewing!
112-114 E. Cecil St.

Around the Internet: FSA Photos, State Budget Worries, and Historic Plaques

Around the InternetHappy Friday! If you survived the wind with your power intact, we have a few things for you to explore and read around the internet:

1. The Shorpy photo archive featured the Texaco station at 819 S. Braddock St. with some great vintage road signs, gas pumps, and cars, and the Handley High School lawn and the smokestack in the background. Many more images from the Farm Security Administration (FSA) are available. Try starting with this narrowed search link at the Library of Congress to explore Winchester circa 1940. I am fond of the image taken at Orndoff’s marble yard, at the intersection of Loudoun and Boscawen Streets.

2. The Valley Conservation Council has put together a list of some land conservation and historic preservation-adjacent items to watch and act against in the state budget. Part of the proposed cut of mitigation funds is aimed at reducing mercury in the Shenandoah River. There is also concern over the Land Preservation Tax Credit. As stated by VCC, “Landowners put their property under easement in 2017 with the understanding that the limit would go back to $50k​ – to change the rules on them now after they have permanently preserved their land is unfair.”​ If you are similarly worried about these and other proposed budget cuts, VCC has compiled the historic data and the contact information for you to reach out and state how important conservation funding is to our area.

3. Similarly, Preservation Virginia has highlighted some additional concerns of budget cuts facing the Department of Historic Resources.

4. We also forgot to congratulate Tom and Deanna Stouffer for 125 E. Clifford becoming one of now 154 houses in the Winchester Historic District to receive the oval plaque. If you were not able to visit them at Holiday House Tour time, you truly missed a special home. You can get a little taste of that in our Flickr album.

Friday Roundup: Photos, Webinars, and Internships

Friday Roundup Happy Friday! This week we have added 41 photos to our Flickr account. These images were in our Revolving Fund file cabinet, which is getting a good spring cleaning. These files were primarily for properties PHW participated in or surveyed as potential purchases. The highlights include a number of houses on South Kent Street, the old B&O train station on East Piccadilly Street, and a number of 8 East Cork Street photos and bits that were recorded when PHW’s office was located there. Catch all of them at the top of the photostream.

124 E. Germain St.

The National Trust is hosting the webinar “Telling Women’s Stories at Historic Sites” on Wednesday, March 14, 3:00–4:00 p.m. The Preservation Leadership Forum’s next webinar focuses on “Including Women in the Sequel: Re-Interpretation and Telling the Full History at Historic Sites.” Panelists from Belle Grove, the Oneida Community Mansion House, and the Pauli Murray House will discuss their work telling women’s stories—including identifying source materials, developing interpretive plans, and building narratives that tell a broader American story. Register for the webinar at the Forum website or see what webinar topics interest you in their archives.

Teachers and students, are you looking for a summer job opportunity in history, architecture, or landscape architecture? Heritage Documentation Programs, NPS seeks applications from qualified students for 2018 summer employment documenting historic sites and structures of architectural, landscape, and technological significance throughout the country. Duties may involve on-site field work and preparation of measured and interpretive drawings and written historical reports for the HABS/HAER/HALS Collections at the Prints and Photographs Division of The Library of Congress. Projects last 12 weeks, beginning in late-May or early-June. Applications are due March 16, 2018. Learn more and find the application instructions at Facebook and NPS.

Friday Round Up: Historic Buildings, Tax Credits, and Demolition

Preservation has been in the news lately. First, you may have seen the Winchester Star article on the latest Historic Tax Credit studies. You can watch the accompanying video interview on YouTube or below:

If you are up for a little light reading on historic tax credits and their impact in Virginia, you can read the full 94 page Preserving the Past, Building the Future or the four-page Executive Summary to hit the highlights. You may also want to read the similar economic analysis Virginia’s Historic Tax Credit Program prepared by Baker Tilly. Both studies back up the assertion of Historic Preservation Tax Credits paying for themselves over time and positively impacting not just buildings but entire communities.

You may also want to read the Winchester Star article on the approval of the demolition of a property on Sharp Street at the Board of Architectural Review last night. PHW President Bruce Downing was present to voice our concerns about the demolition of this property essentially by neglect. Sharp Street as a whole is a very architecturally and historically significant, if often overlooked, area of our Historic District. We hope the proposed changes and new construction, which are scheduled to return at a future meeting, will continue to honor and reflect the unique character of that block.

Preserve Early America in Virginia, Part One

To go with our post last week, a second typed manuscript fell free of a scrapbook during moving. This is a partial transcription of the article “Preserve Early America in Virginia,” written by Lucille Lozier and Chi-Chi Kerns in 1968. The manuscript was sent to six magazines for potential publication. It was divided into three sections, so only the first portion which forms the most cohesive narrative is included today. We may revisit the next two sections in a future blog post.

Preserve Early America in Virginia

“We set out early, then traveled up to Frederick Town,” wrote George Washington in March, 1748, then a lad of 16. “We cleaned ourselves (to get rid of the game we had catched the night before), took a review of the town and thence returned to our lodgings where we had a good dinner…and a good feather bed with clean sheets, which was a very agreeable regale.”

This was the beginning of George Washington’s association with Winchester, then called Frederick Town.

The property on which this same inn rested, which was conveyed by Lord Fairfax to William Cocke, owner of the inn, was designated for preservation October 15, 1967. A fine old stone house, built in 1792, now stands there. This house is the first building in Winchester to be marked for preservation. A bronze plaque was placed on this home at the dedication ceremony, indicating it will be preserved, and the home is so listed by Preservation of Historic Winchester, Inc.

At the time of Washington’s coming here, Winchester was the principal frontier post in the Shenandoah Valley. Washington, whose brother, Lawrence, married a cousin of Lord Fairfax, was sent here by the latter to survey Lord Fairfax’s vast estate of over 5,000,000 acres of unsettled land. He spent the next four years in this activity, and his headquarters attracts many tourists today.
George Washington's Office Museum

There seems to be an almost overwhelming urge, in the name of progress, to demolish and destroy relics of our country’s history and early cultural development. The era of concrete is upon the land, and ruthlessly, buildings of period architecture and antique beauty fall prey to the bulldozer. Feelings of pride in our past heritage seem to be swept aside in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

In the fall of 1963, a group of concerned citizens in Winchester, distressed and alarmed by the demolition of an increasingly large number of antique buildings in the area, assembled with a common desire to find some way to prevent the continuous destruction of their heritage. Winchester is one of the most historical cities of our nation and the oldest town west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a distinction of which they feel every citizen in the community should be justly proud.

Out of such concern grew an organization, the members of which were determined to preserve as many as possible of the old homes and buildings in Winchester which are historically important and architecturally interesting. These citizens formed an active group dedicated to providing a qualified and responsible organization capable of carrying out their objectives.

Those who belong to the organization have been successful in having the City Council pass an ordinance which enables them to proceed with their business of preservation. The name of the organization is “Preservation of Historic Winchester, Inc.”

The members of PHW, Inc. have undertaken a project which will bring to a halt the impetuous tearing down of their historically invaluable buildings which, once gone, can never be replaced. They are trying to preserve as many as possible of the important buildings in Old Winchester which were built before 1860. Under their plan, the owner of a building may request its preservation. If the building qualifies, an attractive bronze marker, or plaque, specially designed, is placed on the structure to indicate that it will always remain a part of Old Winchester.

In recent years there has been some interest among members of garden clubs and other citizens of Winchester in improving the appearance of certain local historic buildings by beautifying their surroundings with appropriate planting of trees, shrubs, flowers, vines and ground covers. Since the preservation of an old building is not authentic without the restoration of the gardens and lawn which enhanced it, the Historic Winchester group would hope to work hand in hand with all those who wish the picture to be complete. It is anticipated that out of growing concern for saving these buildings will develop also a strong desire on the part of Winchester’s citizens to make their town more attractive with beautiful landscape architecture.

Members of the newly-formed organization look forward to the future with great excitement. They expect, as a body, which will be fully qualified for the activity, to solicit and accept money and property in the form of endowments and bequests. These gifts will be classified as charitable and may be listed as such on income tax forms of all donors.

The people of Historic Winchester wish to spread the news of their thrilling adventure to all Virginians, and, indeed, throughout the nation. Anyone interested in the organization can contact us at 540-667-3577, phwinc.org@gmail.com, or at our office Monday-Friday at the Hexagon House, 530 Amherst Street, Winchester, VA 22601.