Friday Roundup: Celebración Winchester, Meditations on BAR

Out and about this weekend? Stop by the downtown to catch up with PHW at Celebración of Winchester on Sunday, September 23, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. A PHW board member or two should be around with an assortment of goodies, including a hot off the press early run brochure for the Bough & Dough Shop. We expect to have the Featured Artists portion of the PHW website updated later today or early next week so you can start exploring some of the amazing vendors and items we will have at the Hexagon House in November and early December.

221-223 South Loudoun StreetYesterday’s Board of Architectural Review meeting was a heartening experience after a tough few months of fighting for historic preservation and compromise as the accepted and useful strategy for dealing with problem buildings. Earlier this year, a new developer came to BAR with a plan for the Guitar Studio building on South Loudoun Street. It is a building of the recent past that attained contributing status in the latest architectural survey. Compared to the similarly-aged commercial buildings of the 200 block of East Piccadilly, this building truly is vernacular and of no discernible architectural style. It was likely built in the late 1940s, replacing an earlier frame building of about the same footprint. At some point between construction and the 1976 survey, some “colonial touches” were added that muddled the exterior appearance and “read” of the building.

During the initial BAR meeting in May, a number of the proposed changes were not in keeping with the Winchester BAR Design Guidelines. The majority of the application was tabled while PHW and the owners did some investigation of the building history and reading up on the BAR design guidelines. The applicants returned last night for a conceptual review, having read up, learned more about their building and researched more proposed products. The applicants were very open and excited to bounce ideas off the BAR members and solicited suggestions for further improvement before the application comes up for a full vote.

In the end, the applicant will likely have a new storefront more in line with a 1940s commercial building rather than trying to hang on to some oddball features to make a commercial building look residential. The longtime business resident is not being displaced. Opportunities for increased and improved residential density as well as proactively mitigating concerns is being addressed now rather than later. A situation that could have turned sour and confrontational was instead a pleasant experience of opening new possibilities, compromise and excitement for everyone involved. We are looking forward to seeing a “final product” application for this building.

We hope other applicants approach the BAR process with this same open mindset and willingness to compromise and explore various options. Again, we cannot stress enough how helpful a conceptual review discussion is both for the applicant and the Board of Architectural Review, and we encourage anyone considering a large and involved project to take advantage of this service before becoming married to an idea that may not work well with the Historic District.

Learn more on the city’s website about Winchester’s Historic Districts and Board of Architectural Review.

Friday Roundup: PHW Office News and Hurricane Preparedness

Friday Roundup Thanks for bearing with us on a tough week in the preservation world. As you have likely heard, all of the BAR appeals on Tuesday were overturned, which opens the door for demolition of the Kent and Piccadilly corner. No Certificate of Appropriateness will be issued for the next thirty days. The developer had also previously stated at the City Council work session no buildings would be demolished until plans were finalized. There is also a further appeal process open to PHW should we choose to exercise it. Above all else, we hope to have productive meetings with city staff both for this project and any others in the future that involve our irreplaceable architectural resources. Public input, consultation, and collaboration with stakeholders and residents should always be a priority, especially in regards to large scale projects the Historic District.

We would like to thank councilors Willingham, Willey, McInturff, and McKannan for their position to retain the James Barr house at 206 N. Kent St., as well as McKannan for his support in seeing the historic value in the old Central Garage at 202 E. Piccadilly.

With the unpleasant business portion of our weekly recap complete, I would like to thank all the artisans who have filled in applications or expressed interest to the personal invitations to the Bough and Dough Shop. We are near our space limits for interior artisan setup as of this week. We are still open for a live greenery artist for after Thanksgiving to the end of the event, but all other slots appear filled or are in talks to be filled now. The applications will remain up on the website just a bit longer, and printed copies will remain available at the PHW office. New applicants will be retained on our call back list in case of last minute changes or spaces becoming available. Again, thank you all so much, and I hope we will have some fantastic new and unique items for our shoppers this year!

As you can imagine, we ran behind on getting our Holiday House Tour program booklet advertising material together, but the hard copy letters to past sponsors and those who have expressed interest are going out this week. If you would like to advertise your business, please get in touch and we will provide you the information. We are also very willing to help you design your ad or make sure it will work with our printer, so please feel free to contact us at phwinc.org@gmail.com for further information. The deadline for securing an advertising spot is October 31.

With the weather this weekend and into next week threatening us with even more rain, we would like to direct anyone with flooding or water penetration issues to our blog post highlighting a list of resources compiled by Preservation Maryland in our May 18 blog post. You may also want to review these checklists and documents for hurricane preparedness:
Hurricane Preparedness for Maryland’s Historic Properties
Hurricane Preparedness and Recovery for Owners of Historic Properties
Hurricane Preparedness For Old Houses
Hurricane Preparedness: Are You Ready?
Avoiding Hurricane Damage: A Checklist for Homeowners
We hope the worst of the storm passes us by, but we want to be prepared for the worst. Stay safe and dry, everyone!

Friday Roundup, Website Recovery Edition

Friday RoundupThanks for your patience as we worked through the website issues last week. I promise it was as inconvenient for us as you!

First, we would like to announce we have about ten artisans confirmed for Bough and Dough Shop. However, we believe we can still fit in a few more. On our current wishlist is:

  • Textile artist who does felted or woven pieces/ornaments
  • Greenery artist to make wreaths, centerpieces, swags, etc., using your own or the cut greenery at the Shop (after Thanksgiving)
  • Surprise us! We’re always open to new ideas for handmade, quality artisan goods.

Now, to the meat of this Friday post, and a sentiment we heard from the last speaker at the public hearing concerning the Piccadilly and Kent Street development plans: preservation of historic neighborhoods and community revitalization go hand in hand. The National Trust publication Rebuilding Community: A Best Practices Toolkit for Historic Preservation and Redevelopment states:

When disinvestment, poor maintenance and abandonment leave a neighborhood pock marked with vacant or dilapidated buildings, public officials and citizens often seek a quick solution to the community’s woes by razing the deteriorated structures. Demolition may effect a dramatic change in the neighborhood’s appearance, but it’s rarely a change for the better. Years of experience, much of it forged in the crucible of misguided programs such as urban renewal, have clearly demonstrated the folly of destroying a place in order to save it.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation believes there is a better way. Having encouraged and assisted neighborhood revitalization efforts in cities and towns all over America, we are convinced that the best way to restore vitality and livability to a community is to build on its strengths, to save and enhance the character and ambience that make each neighborhood unique, to preserve and celebrate the tangible evidence of the community’s history instead of smashing it to rubble and carting it off to the landfill.

Similarly, Tom Mayes in Why Do Old Places Matter? Community points out the problems of wiping away historic places and assuming a thriving community will rise from it:

Yet something critically important is often overlooked, and that is the idea that the development of a real community takes time. Community develops through the interaction between people and place over time. We cannot build a community—we can only foster the conditions in which communities can grow and thrive. Community occurs in the organic interaction between people and place. And over time, these communities typically develop with a diversity of ages, incomes, and ethnicities.

Building a new structure won’t make it futureproof for decline, and when the time comes when it inevitably needs maintenance, the historic associations, memories, and stories tied to places like 202 E. Piccadilly Street that make it an interesting and valuable place are gone. Like the Winchester Towers, a building “without roots” like this is likely to be demolished, again, perpetuating the cycle. Donovan Rypkema is the premiere authority on green building and the economics of historic preservation, and while both the transcription and video are long, check out Donovan Rypkema Discusses The Economics Of Historic Preservation for some further insight on how historic preservation is a key component to successful revitalization of cities and neighborhoods.

There is an assumption historic preservation and affordable housing are mutually exclusive, but that is not the case at all. Many of the HUD programs to support affordable housing can be partnered with preservation tools like the historic tax credit. We encourage anyone interested in this to read through the short booklet Affordable Housing and Historic Preservation, particularly the implementation principles on page 6 and explained in more depth through the booklet. We would particularly direct your attention to point IV, further detailed on page 10. All preservation practices direct the impact of demolition within a historic district to examine not just a single building, but its impact on the rest of its neighbors: “If the affected historic property is a historic district, the agency official should assess effects on the historic district as a whole.”

While we wait for City Council’s decision, I will leave you with a transcript, additional information, and video of Using the Historic Tax Credit for Affordable Housing.

Friday Roundup: Meetings and Articles

Friday Roundup Happy Friday! PHW will be having a full day tomorrow at the Hexagon House, with a private brunch event in the morning and an impromptu open house for people interested in learning more about the Bough and Dough Shop from 1:30 to 3:30. Feel free to stop by, see the space, and give us some feedback on setup. We are also still looking for new vendors and volunteers to help us at the Shop during its extended run. If you can’t make it on Saturday, please drop us a line at 540-667-3577 or at phwinc.org@gmail.com.

We also would like to remind our readers the demolition appeals for 202 E. Piccadilly and 206 and 204 N. Kent, along with the remaining East Piccadilly buildings, will be presented as a public hearing at City Council on Tuesday, Aug. 28, at 6 PM, in Rouss City Hall, 15 North Cameron Street.

With the spirit of Tuesday’s meeting in mind, we have a few articles and documents to share:

You may have heard or read about the architectural survey of the historic district referring to buildings being contributing under certain criteria, or retaining feeling, association, or integrity. These are not random terms thought up just for Winchester, but the baseline application of building evaluation set out by the National Park Service. You may find it useful to read through the bulletin How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation to get a better understanding of the terminology and usage.

We have also heard some potential “preservation compromises” that would be a reuse of either building parts or pieces of the facades. In a case of perfect timing, we were alerted to a recent article Saving A Facade Is Not Historic Preservation. The article is in depth and covers many angles and levels of various approaches, some of which may be more successful in some contexts than others. A key quote is: “Local preservationist and architect Amy Lambert feels that facadism fetishizes appearances and materials over social and environmental context i.e. retaining the thing, or the appearance of the thing, without retaining the actual experience of it.”

It also always bears repeating that historic preservation supports affordable housing and startup business. This topic is discussed more in depth by Stephanie Meeks, President and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the article Density Without Demolition. As stated in the article, “Creating affordable housing and retaining urban character are not at all competing goals. In fact, contrary to the conventional wisdom, they can most successfully be achieved in tandem.”

Just for fun, we would like to share several articles on rusticated concrete blocks, the material used in the Central Garage (now Chopped Corner Tacos). The building material is still underappreciated and many known examples of its use in commercial settings have vanished in Winchester for the scourge of preservationists, the parking lot. It has fared a bit better in residential construction, both inside and outside of the Historic District. Scholarly attention was first paid to it in the 1980s, and it continues to garner more historic research and championing as a legitimate historic building material.
Rock-faced Concrete Blocks
More Than Square: A Brief History of Architectural Concrete Blocks
Molded Concrete Block Construction in Delmar
Ornamental Concrete Block Houses

Bough & Dough Shop Meet & Greet

Are you curious about the Bough & Dough Shop? Are you a prospective artisan or volunteer who wants to ask some questions? Stop by on Saturday afternoon between 1:30 and 3:30 PM to see the space, pick up and fill out a vendor application, or stop in to chat for a bit at this informal session.

If you can’t make it to this event, please get in touch; we’d love to talk to you at your convenience and our hours are generally flexible. You may email us at phwinc.org@gmail.com or call 540-667-3577.

Piccadilly and North Kent Development News

202 East Piccadilly Street
As many of you know, the properties purchased at the corner of Piccadilly and Kent streets were discussed at the City Council work session on Tuesday. That meeting was just to gather information and background prior to the public hearing. As before, we ask that anyone who has concerns about the demolition of the three properties of “most concern” to PHW – 206 N. Kent, 204 N. Kent, and 202 E. Piccadilly – as well as other concerns about the younger but still contributing structures inside the Historic District at 204-210 E. Piccadilly, to speak at the Winchester City Council meeting on Tuesday, August 28th, 6 PM at Rouss City Hall.

We feel it is very important for the neighbors in the North End in particular to share their concerns, as there was no outreach to them prior to this plan being made public. From the discussions we have had talking to people in the neighborhood, it seems the residents’ concerns have been boiled down to “parking” and that alone – which is not a good representation of the concerns shared with us privately. PHW does not want to put words into the mouths of actual residents of this neighborhood, so we hope you will share your experience publicly, or at least in private to your city council members in advance of the meeting. If you cannot attend in person or do not feel comfortable speaking in public, you may instead write to:
Kari Van Diest
Deputy Clerk of Council
15 North Cameron Street
Winchester, VA 22601

As part of PHW’s ongoing investigation into these properties, on Thursday a small group was able to tour most of 206 N. Kent St., the home of James W. Barr. This is the oldest of the three properties on the Kent Street side (circa 1850), but structurally it is absolutely solid inside – the plaster ceilings are not sagging, there is no bounce to the floors or stairs, and any water intrusion has been minimal.

We were able to see the front entry, living room, and what was probably the original dining room on the first floor, the porch to the south side, and an upstairs apartment in the newest addition on the second story. The building has interior woodwork comparable to PHW’s Revolving Fund house at 312-314 N. Kent, and has a very nice built-in china cabinet in the downstairs, further supporting the historic documentation this was a fine home for the Barr family. While no one will claim this is “move-in ready,” it is a prime candidate to be transformed into a vibrant, contributing building that maintain the character and history of its neighborhood.

While we did not enter 204 North Kent, a closer examination of the existing exterior woodwork leads me to hope PHW or other entities will be able to see the interior and perhaps undertake an exploratory removal of the aluminum siding to see what may be found underneath. The common complaint with this building that we have heard is that it is “ugly.” Much like a book, you should not judge a historic house by its aluminum siding. (Compare, for example, 619-621 S. Braddock in 1976 and today.) Historically, the house ties in to the idea of a mixed-use neighborhood, when it was common to live beside or above your business. PHW is in agreement with BAR’s assessment that any modification to the demolition should focus on the later concrete block “tower” that sticks off oddly to the north. We would recommend further assessment of the interior and beneath the aluminum siding. It is possible with a bit of patience and exploration to get a better idea of the facade in its heyday and gather more information on its potential reuse before a total demolition.

Last, we stopped into the old Central Garage, now Chopped Corner Tacos, at 202 E. Piccadilly. As expected the interior is much more indicative of a corner store/restaurant than a machine shop. It has been an eatery far longer than it was a garage and has gained significance culturally through that longtime use as a gathering place for the neighbors, workers at the nearby woolen mill, and probably for hungry automobile tourists passing through town. A creative architect could have almost unlimited potential to turn the space into a unique store or restaurant. PHW still firmly believes this building is worth saving and incorporating into future development plans for this neighborhood.

While we did not enter the remaining Piccadilly Street buildings, the large store windows offered a view of the interior. Many of the ceilings show signs of water damage, a common problem with flat or nearly flat-roofed buildings. The most significant portion of these buildings is the brickwork on the facades – the minimal parapets and basket-weave detailing in brick is attractive and indicative of commercial architecture around 1940. Again, PHW is in agreement with BAR’s assessment on these buildings. While these are of “lesser concern,” we recognize this era of architecture is still underappreciated and are happy we are having discussions concerning their future along with the three properties on the North Kent Street side that met the 75 year threshold for public hearings.

To reiterate, PHW is not against development, adding density, or even some selective demolition inside or adjacent to Winchester’s Historic District. We are, however, very concerned that the plan as presented continues to erase the history of the Virginia Woolen Company and the buildings associated with the people and families who worked there and in related services. We hope that any developer or architect looking at this project can offer a halfway point between demolishing everything or giving up on this corner and not attempting to continue its improvement. Preservation and development are not a mutually-exclusive, zero-sum proposition and should not be pitched as a game of who wins, but finding acceptable compromises. It is possible, it has been done before, and it should be done again for the Piccadilly Street entrance corridor.

Civil War Weekend Events, August 15-19, 2018

There is a full weekend of events planned with local historical organizations, starting on Thursday and continuing through Sunday, for adults and children alike. Get the full schedule and downloadable flyer at visitwinchesterva.com or peruse a sampling of events below:

Thursday, August 16, 2018, 7pm
Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation Civil War Roundtable Meeting: “Stuart’s Finest Hour: The Ride Around McClellan”
Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum, 20 N. Loudoun St., Winchester, VA 22601.
Author John Fox will speak about Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s famous around ride the Federal troops besieging Richmond in the summer of 1862.
Cost: Free

Friday, August 17, 7pm
History at Sunset “When the conflict is ended mercy again asserts it: Treating the Wounded at Cedar Creek”
St. Thomas Chapel, 7854 Church Street, Middletown, VA.
The Battle of Cedar Creek left over 8,600 Americans killed, wounded or missing in its wake. This special program includes living history demonstrations presented by staff of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, and will be held at St. Thomas Chapel, which was used as a hospital following the battle.
Cost: Free

Saturday, August 18, 9am
“Monuments and Signs: Sentinels on the Cedar Creek Battlefield”
Meet at the Visitor Contact Station, 7712 Main Street, Middletown, VA 22645.
A 2-hour car caravan tour exploring the monuments, markers and memorials on the Cedar Creek battlefield. Who built them? Who do they honor? And what do they symbolize?
Cost: Free

Saturday, August 18, 2:30pm
“Kneading in Silence: A Glimpse into the Life Judah the Enslaved Cook”
Meet at Belle Grove, 336 Belle Grove Road, Middletown, VA.
A 30 minute program on the life of Judah, the enslaved cook at Belle Grove.
Cost: Free

Saturday, August 18, 7:30pm
Legends by Lanternlight, Berryville: Using a County Seat to View the Civil War
Clarke County Historical Association, 32 E. Main St., Berryville, VA 22611
Partnering with the Clarke County Historical Association, the members of the Mosby Heritage Area Interpretive Group (MHAIG), in a twilight-lanternlight walking tour, will bring alive the memorable experiences of Berryville during the American Civil War through costumed first-person interpretations in the historic downtown. Learn how our preserved landscape still tells us stories.
The period-dressed Mosby Heritage Area Interpretive Group will offer their story-telling ability against the backdrop of historic Berryville, featuring stories of Clarke County’s commissioner to the Virginia Secession Convention, the visits of two famous Civil War generals, Mosby’s Wagon Train Raid in Berryville, and the story of Eugene Ferris, a Medal of Honor recipient from his days of fighting Mosby’s Rangers.
Cost: $15 per adult, $8 per student; tickets can be purchased at the door of the event or in advance HERE.
www.mosbyheritagearea.org

Sunday, August 19, 1, 2, and 3pm
“Saving Newtown” Escape Room Experience
Newtown History Center, 5408 Main Street, Stephens City, VA.
Experience an exciting challenge based on the events related to the near burning of the Town of Stephens City (Newtown) on the 1st of June 1864. Solve puzzles in an historic house and help prevent soldiers of the 1st New York “Lincoln” Cavalry from carrying out General David Hunter’s order to burn the town.
Advanced RSVP Required. Call (540) 869-1700 to RSVP or for questions.
Groups of 2 to 5 people per session.
Cost: $10 adult (age 18+); $5 child (age 6-17); not recommended for children 5 and under.

There are many other activities taking place – this is just a sampling of unusual experiences you may not have had before during Civil War Weekends of the past. Please see the full schedule at visitwinchesterva.com

Manuscript Collections Online at Stewart Bell Jr. Archives

Here is some exciting news for researchers from our friends at the Stewart Bell Jr. Archives:

Beginning June 20, 2018 the Stewart Bell Jr. Archives in the Handley Library will provide online access to some of its manuscript collections. Researchers will be able to search and view handwritten correspondence, business records, deeds, and other historic documents through the library’s website.
The first items placed online will be selections from the James Wood Collection and a number of account books from local businesses. The James Wood Collection contains the business and personal papers, legal and financial documents of Colonel James Wood, Sr. and other members of the Wood family from the 1730s to the late 1800s.
Later in the year the Archives plans to add Fairfax deeds, the account book of Dr. Robert McKay, a physician working in Winchester at the turn of the eighteenth century, and genealogical material from family Bible records.
The Archives digitization project is made possible by funding from the Robinson Fund, as well as support from the Handley Regional Library and the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society. These funds allowed the archives to pay for a part-time staff member to run the project, the purchase of a computer and CONTENTdm software to organize and display items online, and funds to pay for digitization of further materials in the Archives.
The Stewart Bell Jr. Archives hopes that the digitization project will provide historians, researchers, genealogists, and members of the community greater access to the rich history of Winchester, Frederick County and the Lower Shenandoah Valley region. Updates on the progress of this project will be posted to the Library’s Facebook page. Please email archives@handleyregional.org with questions.

You can find the portal to the digital collections online here. Happy researching!

Friday Roundup: Summer Memories Edition

Although it feels like summer is already winding down, we have links and activities to share with you this week that can extend the season a bit longer.

The next time you enjoy some ice cream, you can compare the experience to the ice cream parlors of the late Victorian era. Not only were they a place to enjoy cool treats in the summer, they filled an important void for solitary women who needed some lunch. As Jessica Gingrich writes, “The growing demand for ladies’ lunch spots inspired the creation of an entirely new restaurant: the ice-cream saloon. At a time when respectable women were excluded from much of public life, these decadent eateries allowed women to dine alone without putting their bodies or reputations at risk.” Read the full article and enjoy some historic images on Atlas Obscura.

You might also have some fond memories of spending all day at a playground. The Preservation in Pink blog has hit the right level of childhood nostalgia recently by photographing a number of classic playground equipment sets. Check out The Imagine City and see if it stirs some memories in you, too.

I have had a hard time finding preservation-related podcasts that will keep me interested for more than a single topic or two, but a few weeks ago I came across the Defunctland YouTube channel and promptly binged on all their offerings. Episodes typically cover the rise and fall of theme parks or individual attractions across the country, big and small. Some of you may remember the topic covered in Defunctland: The War for Disney’s America specifically, but you also can’t miss the story of Action Park, whether you have heard of this place or not.

Get ready to mark your calendars! We have two notices of upcoming events to share with you.

We would like to invite you to step around the corner during August’s First Friday event downtown for a new gallery opening. The Alley Gallery is an intimate working studio-gallery at #15 Indian Alley. The artist, David Sipp, recently moved to Winchester from Northern New Mexico where he regularly showed his work in the High Road Art Tour and area galleries. “I am absolutely excited to be able to explore the incredible natural and architectural beauty that is Winchester…I have finished three pieces in the four months I have been here with the most recent being the Hexagon House.” The Alley Gallery will be celebrating its unveiling on First Friday, August 3, 5:00-8:00 pm with the support of MerchantDice, an Arts and Entertainment company. We are looking forward to sharing stories and seeing his other works of our local buildings. Please stop by and welcome him to Winchester!

From our friends at the French and Indian War Foundation is a special invitation to a September event:

On September 30, the French and Indian War Foundation will sponsor a fundraising event at Fry’s Fort in Shenandoah County, VA. Fry’s Fort, rarely open to the public, is arguably the most important and best preserved F&I War site in the Shenandoah Valley. It is also the finest example of the German vernacular architectural style known as the flurküchenhaus in the Valley. Don’t know what a flurküchenhaus is? Come join us and find out.

When: Sunday, September 30, 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Where: Fry’s Fort—direction will be provided later
Cost: $50.00 per person (No refunds)

RSVP required—No payments at the door — Attendance will be limited. First to RSVP will have best opportunity to attend the event.
A catered event, with heavy hors d’oeuvres

Tours of house and arboretum — house and grounds are not ADA compliant

Short talks on Fry’s Fort during the F&I War and on Mercer’s Company and the Fort

Formal invitations will be sent soon with more details. If you have questions or wish to RSVP early to attend this event feel free to contact us via e-mail or telephone:
Telephone: 540-678-1743
E-mail: fiwf.dsg@comcast.net
Website: FIWF.org

Reminder: Piccadilly and Kent Street Demolition Public Hearing on July 19, 4 PM

Today we are following up on the East Piccadilly Street proposed development after we have had time to further research this corner. Preservation of Historic Winchester is opposed to the proposed demolition of the following properties, which will be considered at a public hearing at the Board of Architectural Review on July 19 at 4 PM:
202 East Piccadilly 2011 Survey
204 North Kent 2011 Survey
206 North Kent 2011 Survey

This meeting is open to the public and we strongly encourage anyone else with reservations about this demolition plan to attend and speak.

These three buildings are all listed as contributing structures to the Winchester Historic District. They are also some touchstones of the growing residential and industrial footprint of Winchester shortly before and after the Civil War and into the mid-twentieth century.

The corner building of concrete block has stood for over 100 years. It was erected 1908-1912 by Harley “H. B.” Sells, a mechanic who owned and operated his own machine and auto repair and lending business. He built the frame dwelling house at 204 North Kent as his residence, conveniently beside his workplace. From the newspaper about 1915 we learn more about Mr. Sells and the Central Garage:

One of the most popular garages in the city, and the only one that is steam heated, is the Central Garage and Machine Shop located at the corner of Kent and Piccadilly streets, opposite the B. & O. passenger station, of which Mr. H. B. Sell is the proprietor. There is ample storage room for a large number of cars. The repair department is by far the best equipped and most complete in Winchester. . . . . Mr. Sell is himself and expert mechanist and gives his personal attention to all work entrusted to his care. His facilities for repairing and making broken parts are of the best, much better than are usually found in a small city. He also owns a number of cars which may be hired at reasonable rates. In addition to his automobile business he conducts a general machine shop and most of the large plants in this vicinity, such as the Virginia Woolen Mills and the Knitting Mills are among his patrons. There is no job too intricate or too difficult but that he is prepared to undertake and carry to a successful conclusion. Mr. Sell is a native of this section where he is well and favorably known. He has for years been identified with its business life and is always ready to aid in its upbuilding.

At this time the car was still a novelty, but it was seen as an integral point in getting wealthy Washington DC tourists to travel the scenic and historic roads of our area. Innumerable articles on suggested automobile trips were published in the newspapers and by auto clubs. As we know, Winchester is a hub of transportation lines, and tourists were funneled here both by our excellent roads and these promotional materials extolling our garages, mechanics, scenic views, historic buildings, and downtown restaurants and lodging space.

Adjoining the corner shop and home of Harley Sell is the much older brick house, known as the residence of James W. Barr. A deed in 1918 refers to it as the “seven room brick dwelling . . . with outbuildings and improvements, occupied as a residence for many years by James Barr.” James Barr appears to have bought the empty land in 1850 and made this site his home until his death in 1899. From his obituary in Harrisonburg Evening News, September 6, 1899, we learn:

Mr. James W. Barr, one of Winchester’s foremost citizens, died at his residence in that city, on Monday, after a protracted illness, of heart trouble and dropsy. He was 63 years of age, and is survived by a widow and three sons. Ever since the Civil War, Mr. Barr has been closely identified with municipal affairs. He served in the City Council for 20 years and for a long time was a member of the School Board. For the past 15 years he was chief fire warden of the city, and never missed an alarm of fire. He was also prominently identified in church circles. He served throughout the Civil War in the Confederate army as a member of Company C, First Maryland Cavalry. Mr. Barr was treasurer of Turner Ashby Camp, Confederate Veterans, of that city.

His children were identified in another obituary in the Shepherdstown Register, September 7, 1899: “He is survived by his widow and four children – Wm. T. Barr, R. Frank Barr, Owen Barr and Mrs. Samuel Atwell.” Further cementing the Barr connection to this house is another death notice in the Richmond Dispatch, November 4, 1902, for a relative: “Mary Alice Wall died at 9:30 o’clock this morning, of consumption, at the residence of her cousin, Mrs. James W. Barr, of north Kent street.”

It is little wonder the Barr home is made of brick. The Barr family can boast of being one of the first brickmakers in the area, as one of his ancestors “conducted business on a large scale” and “furnished brick for the present court house” (old Frederick County Court House). Many of the Barr descendants carried on this trade. But that was not the only tie this family had to the prominent trades of this neighborhood. James W. Barr was a member of the mercantile group Kern, Barr, & Co., and as part of their business holdings, they too owned a woolen mill. The Morgan Woolen Mill was located in Frederick County, near the Thomas Wood house, which you may know better as Millbank, on Redbud Run. Even the connection as a fire warden makes immense sense, when you learn the Kern, Barr, and Co. Winchester store on the corner of Cameron and Piccadilly fell victim to one of the town’s fires in 1889.

A look through the census records of the early 1900s for the Harley Sells frame house and the James Barr brick house finds this area was occupied by lumbermen, freight yard workers, blacksmiths, and a grocery store owner. Their neighbors were butlers, laundresses, weavers and spinners at the mills, apple packers, and workers at the cold storage plants. It might seem a strange turn of events to turn a garage into a restaurant, but the Central Garage beat other projects like Bonnie Blue and the North Loudoun Street pizzeria to the trend about 1935, before “adaptive reuse” was even a term.

This line of three properties is an important “firebreak” or buffer for new construction that could take place outside or at the very eastern edge of the historic district. They have a deep connection to the activities, trades, and families that made enterprises like the railroad, the woolen mills, and early machinery and automobile industry successful. To lose them would be to further erode the developmental history of this area which has already seen a great deal of loss in our early automotive, woolen mill, and black history. Putting up a marker is a lifeless, pale substitute for retaining the actual sites where actual people lived and worked.

Winchester escaped the worst of urban revitalization thanks to many active citizens who had the vision to see historic preservation is a key component of maintaining a successful downtown that can also be economically viable. It is PHW’s firm belief the rehabilitation of 202 East Piccadilly and 204 and 206 North Kent in conjunction with new construction in this area will be a better solution more in keeping with the spirit and values of our historic downtown rather than clear-cutting another block on a gamble that could very well never pan out.

Central Garage, 202 E. Piccadilly
PHW is still searching for historic photographs (pre-1976 if possible) of 204 and 206 North Kent Street in particular. Please let us know of any leads you have at phwinc.org@gmail.com or at 540-667-3577.

We also hope while you are downtown for BAR on July 19, you will meet up for “round two” at the Godfrey Miller House Summer Lecture Series at 7 PM, where Sandra Bosley will take you through the history of the Conrad house, Conrad family, formation of PHW, the origin of the BAR, and a look at “where they are now” for some Conrad house items. The lecture is $10.