Friday Roundup: End of the Year Wrap Ups

PHW will be starting our 55th year in June. Thank you to all who have supported us. Your membership, interest, and engagement in our local community is a huge part of why Winchester has a thriving and active historic downtown. While it is well worth congratulating ourselves on the success we have had in the historic district protecting and valuing our local buildings, we always need to be aware and engaged in activities that will shape the development of our downtown in the future for the next fifty years. We look forward to supporting preservation and adaptive reuse projects, and we are always available to anyone who is looking for resources on collaborative and innovative solutions to development and design issues.

Today may be the last day of Preservation Month, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop celebrating our local history and architecture. The annual Clowser Memorial Service is this Saturday, June 1 at 10 AM. Come out to the Clowser House at 152 Tomahawk Trail in Shawneeland for a service open to all individuals who support the preservation of the historic Clowser House. The event will be held rain or shine. Learn more on their Facebook page!

While the school year is coming to an end for most students, you may want to peer back in time to see the growth and value of public education in Winchester and Frederick County. The article What Winchester Is Doing for Its Public Schools ran in the Richmond Times Dispatch on December 3, 1911. It is a copiously illustrated article, so be sure to check out the images of some of the old county schoolhouses!

Peonies cascade over a marble statue on the grounds of Carter Hill Manor.

PHW is also pleased to announce the details of our 55th Annual Meeting. We will be convening at Carter Hill Manor, the home of Linda Ross Gibbs and Tommy Gibbs, 529 Jefferson Street on June 23, beginning at 3 PM. Carter Hill Manor, a Georgian Revival style home of rose brick, is situated on one of Winchester’s highest points. The Jefferson Street address is actually the rear of the home; the front was built to face “The Old Lane,” with a view of the three acres of gardens. We plan to meet outside and enjoy the tranquil setting. In addition to the annual business portion and election of officers, we will also recognize the PHW preservation award winners for 2019. This is a great chance to celebrate local preservation projects and to meet our incoming PHW board members.

Last, mark your calendars for the Godfrey Miller Lecture Series of 2019! All lectures will be held at 7 PM in the Woltz Pavilion, 28 S. Loudoun St., Winchester. Cost is $10 (cash or check) for each evening, collected at the door.  Proceeds benefit programs at the Godfrey Miller Historic Home and Fellowship Center.  Door prizes will be given away each evening. For more information, visit https://www.winchesterva.gov/275th-anniversary

  • July 16 — 1700s in Winchester – Tom Maccubbin on early business life in Winchester through ledgers; Gene Fisher on history of the Godfrey Miller Home
  • July 18 — 1800s in Winchester – Rebecca Ebert on life before the War Between the States; Keven Walker on life during and after the war
  • July 23 — 1900s in Winchester – Trish Ridgeway on benefactors to the area; Judy Humbert on integration in the second half of the century
  • July 25 — 2000s in Winchester – Kris Tierney, Frederick County administrator, and Eden Freeman, Winchester city manager, on the present state of the area and future goals

Friday Roundup: Memorial Day Weekend

Hexagon House Sign
Found! This sign was on the Hexagon House in the mid to late 1980s. We’ve spoken with more than one person who remembers having their portraits taken on the Hexagon House staircase with Cookie and Larry Sullivan, so we were delighted to find this little bit of history tucked behind some boards.

First, the PHW office will be closed on Monday, May 27. We hope you all have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend!

Second, we are closing in on the end of PHW’s fiscal year on May 31. If you haven’t renewed your membership from the 2018-2019 fiscal year or want to make a donation, you can still send in a check to 530 Amherst St., Winchester, VA 22601. We also have two online credit card options. If you want to make a one-time payment or donation, we recommend the donation option. If you’d prefer to have yearly renewals set up automatically, you can select your membership level from the drop down menu on the Subscription option.

Third, if you have noticed a preservation project that deserves recognition in Winchester or Frederick County at PHW’s Annual Meeting, fill out a nomination form and let us know! For best consideration for a 2019 award, please return nominations by May 31. You don’t need to have all the information, but as much as you can provide will be helpful. Winners will be recognized at the 55th Annual Meeting on June 23.

If you know or have children in the 10-14 year age range and you need some ideas for summer activities in July, check out “Expedition Winchester.” This summer camp is themed around Winchester’s 275th anniversary and has a fantastic slate of programs, sites, and activities. Week 1 (beginning of Winchester through late 19th century) runs from July 8-12, and week 2 (late 19th century Winchester to today) runs July 15-19. Both camps are held between 9 AM and 3 PM. Each week is $55, or you can register for both weeks for just $100. Spots are still available as of May 23, but make sure you register by June 12! Go to https://webtrac.winchesterva.gov, click on “Special Events and Trips,” and you should see the options for Expedition Winchester.

Last, we found another history account of Winchester in the August 1, 1900 edition of Musical Million this week. While we spotted a few factual errors, there were also some tidbits we had not seen before. You may read the article “The City of Winchester and its Historic Associations” on Virginia Chronicle.

Friday Roundup: Easter Edition

While the PHW office is closed for the holiday, we still have a few bits of reading for you to enjoy over your weekend.

Are you wondering what historic preservationists do? Jeremy Wells created a short document detailing his findings of what career paths historic preservation training might lead to. If you are curious about working at a place like PHW, staff here would have to be versed in every one of his points as we are often the first line of contact on a variety of topics, but we work most with the “regulatory compliance” and “historic site” categories. While working as a single staff-person is challenging, it can also be incredibly rewarding if you enjoy learning new skills to expand your resume. You can also check out the blog post at the National Trust and the continuing discussion on the Forum for other perspectives on working in this field. Several comments point out how student interns are often looking for research opportunities. If you are a student looking to get experience typical of historic preservation fields in a self-directed format, PHW may be a great option for you. We would love more in-depth deed/will/tax record research for some of our historic district properties. While hunting down a chain of owners might seem inconsequential when you are in the midst of it, putting the chain together has helped countless people who needed a starting point for future research. Keep that in mind if you are a student needing some hours and wanting a nice point on future resumes!

While looking into the history of the John Mann Church on East Cork Street, we found a small article from 1914 on the parsonage, called “Pastor Too Tall for Parsonage.” We’re not sure from this little article if they were able to raise the roof 313 South Kent Street for their pastor, but if so, finding an article like this is a nice historic documentation of a change to the building and the reasoning behind it.

In many of the discussions around new construction in the historic district, we’ve seen a trend towards “all or nothing” thinking, with no medium option on the table. If you’re wondering why, you might be interested in “The Death of the Suburban Fourplex” at Strong Towns. While it focuses on Michigan, it is a great overview of how the fourplex (a building constructed to resemble a suburban split level but with four housing units) rose to prominence, became loathed, and were zoned out of existence.

Last, and most important, there are some proposed changes to the National Register process that are extremely troubling. In essence, large landowners input would be weighted more heavily than individual property owners, federal agencies would have unprecedented “pocket veto” powers on nominations, and Section 106 review would be stripped from certain properties. We suggest reading “Dire Consequences for the National Register,” “Proposed Rule Changes to National Register of Historic Places Nominations,” and “Proposed Regulations on the Listing of Properties in the National Register of Historic Places” and making comments on the proposal before April 30. Several of the links will take you directly to forms where you can submit comments online or provide the address for physical letters to be delivered. Most of our larger success stories of preservation in Winchester are because we have a National Register Historic District which enables the use of historic tax credits to make otherwise impossible preservation tasks attainable, like the George Washington Hotel and the Lewis Jones Knitting Mill. Millbank in Frederick County was spared from demolition in the 1980s in part because of the Section 106 review for mitigation on the Third Battle of Winchester. The original 1980 historic district listing also helped avert a potential insurance crisis for the Old Town area, thanks to the exemptions historic recognition can provide for historically flood-prone properties. We are also extremely troubled at the potential impacts on nominations for tribal lands. While we recognize this is not a likely impact for our area, you can find examples of how such proposed changes will produce a negative impact at Living Landscape Observer. Again, we hope that you will review the proposed changes and submit your comments before April 30.

Friday Roundup: Email Penitentiary Edition

Happy Friday! We had a not terribly funny April Fool’s Day issue this week with the website. As you may have seen, our website was offline for over 24 hours. After checking in with our provider, the issue was someone using the server where PHW’s website resides for spam emails. While our website is back up, our mailing list may not be functional yet because of someone else being inconsiderate. With that in mind, we will have to keep the topics rather broad this week – no time sensitive events. If you receive this email weeks into the future and have no idea why its so late, now you know.

We had a tip this week that Pizzoco Pizza in the former Conoco gas station at 501 North Loudoun Street had their soft opening the end of March. If you enjoy staring at pictures of food while stuck at work, check them out at their website, Facebook, and Instagram. We are so excited to see this formerly vacant building be given a new lease on life, especially after so many people seemed to think the building was hopelessly obsolete. Historic buildings are the perfect incubators for small businesses and creative solutions.

For some more reading, we came across an article on General Daniel Morgan written about ninety years after his death and thought others may like to see the historic perspective on his life in the area in the 1890s. Much of it may be familiar to you, but if you would like to peer back through time, you can find the story in Our Church Paper (Evangelical Lutheran Church paper for New Market and Shenandoah County), March 17, 1897 on page 4. It took a while longer than the author of this article likely could have anticipated, but at long last we do have a monument to Daniel Morgan near the site of his first interment, and the children of Winchester will learn his name through attending Daniel Morgan Middle School.

Friday Roundup: Updates, Spring Cleaning, and Hexagon House Fiction

The CUP for the Old Hospital at 333 W. Cork St. was approved with twelve conditions at the March 26 City council meeting. You can review to conditions on the City’s website. While this may not meet all the hopes of the neighbors, particularly on design and materials of the new construction, at least some of the valid concerns about parking and neighborhood disturbance are addressed. We are also pleased to see the addition of more greenspace at street level. This would not have happened without the dedicated efforts of the neighborhood steering committee staying engaged and focused, and we admire your tenacity and attention to detail throughout this process.

If the warmer weather has you in the mood to do some spring cleaning, PHW has a few requests for odds and ends type donations: Hanging folder plastic tabs (2″ clear plastic preferred), freestanding counter/tabletop displays (particularly something like spice racks or CD/DVD racks that can fit in our window ledges), pegboard (can be various odd sizes), and Christmas light strings with replaceable bulbs (strings can be working or non-working).  We are also prepared to receive donations of gently used shopping bags – our preference right now is for paper bags with handles. If you have items to donate, drop us a line at 540-667-3577 or stop by the office at 530 Amherst St.

In the theme of spring cleaning, we enjoyed 10 Stories About the Things You’ve Found While Moving. Most of the stories highlighted seem to feature things left behind by previous occupants or hidden in the walls. Newspapers in walls, under floors, or along sills is a common find for anyone who has worked in older homes, and while you probably don’t need to keep each scrap you find, it can be useful to find a date or two on the sheets and give yourself a time-frame on when changes might have taken place. For a whole different level of an unusual find inside a house, check out Found: A Historic Trolley Hidden Inside a House!

For something a bit different, you might remember a number of reports of “comet eggs” reprinted in various Out of the Past newspaper collections. One example story can be found in the Stanton Spectator. The belief at the time was the comet was provoking strange reactions from animals, particularly from hens who looked up at the night sky and laid eggs in the same color and shape as the comet. While these reports were fascinating and a bit farfetched, it was hard to imagine seeing one of these “comet eggs” today. Of course, someone out there saved an example, and you can Meet the ‘Comet Egg,’ Which Definitely Did Not Come From Space from the 1986 visit of Halley’s Comet.

Last, if you are up for a bit of fantastic fiction involving a hexagon house, we came across the story “A Psychological Wonder” by George L. Byington. It was reprinted in Northern Neck News of July 29, 1910 on page 4. We found the story while searching for the term “hexagon,” and the initial description of the house bore an uncanny resemblance to the Winchester Hexagon House (particularly around 1910, when our house was soon to be between long-term owners.) Of course we kept reading to see if we could unearth clues on this building, and instead found a haunted house story. After a bit of digging to see where the story originated, we found the copyright entry tracing it back to The Ossining Daily Citizen in 1910. Ossining is in New York along the Hudson River – a prime area for polygonal houses. While it isn’t clear which of the 100+ known polygonal structures in New York might have served as inspiration for this tale (although the nearby Armour–Stiner House would top my list for inspiring architecture), the narrator’s approach to spending a night in a hexagon house is a good illustration of how captivating and mysterious these homes have always been.

Friday Roundup: Upcoming Events and Winchester Woodwork

Belle Grove Plantation opens for the 2019 season tomorrow, March 23 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Manor House tour admission will be free of charge. Throughout Opening Day, guided tours will begin at :15 and :45 past the hour with the first tour beginning at 10:15 a.m. and the last tour beginning at 3:15 p.m. You can find more details on Facebook.

Handley Regional Library is getting a new website next week. On March 27 between 6 a.m.-8 a.m., the website and catalog will be updating, so you may experience a brief interruption of service. The website URL will still be www.handleyregional.org.  You can find more information about the upcoming change on this page of their site. This will probably impact some links in the PHW website’s research section, so we will update those when the changes go live.

Tim Youmans, Winchester Planning Director and local historian, will provide an overview of Winchester’s history at the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society’s annual meeting on March 28 at 7 p.m. in Rouss City Hall, 15 N. Cameron St. This event is free and open to the public. You can find the event on Facebook here.

From “Interior Woodwork of Winchester Virginia” by Virginia Miller and John G. Lewis, page 121.

We also had a question about “Winchester mantels” this week. You might have heard us or other groups point them out at house tours in the past. They are a visually distinctive mantel ornamentation that contains one to three very sharply tapered “knife shelf” ledges of molding beneath the mantel shelf. Many examples are much more pronounced and deeply cut that the example photo (roughly, the finer the home, the more deeply the molding was cut). The term appears to have been coined by Irvan O’Connell, Sr. as he worked on restoring homes in the 1960s. The mantels are believed to date to 1820-1840, but examples have been transplanted to different locations around town over the years and should not be used as a sole indicator of house age. If this has whetted your appetite to learn more about Winchester’s local woodworking styles and expressions, a few copies of Interior Woodwork of Winchester, Virginia are out in the wild, or you may stop by PHW’s library to check out our non-circulating copy.

Friday Roundup: Lord Fairfax Reading

Happy Friday! We have a different sort of themed post for you this week with books and articles, both historic and fictionalized, to read concerning Lord Fairfax, the proprietor of the Northern Neck of Virginia.

Romance Around Lord Fairfax This newspaper article is a reflection of the life of Lord Fairfax near the 120th anniversary of his death. It focuses more on his early life in England and what led him to relocate to the colonies. While the account is characteristically sentimental of the times, there may be a few details in this account you have not heard before. Some of the text is similar to the account that appeared in Frank Leslie’s Sunday Magazine Vol. 25, recounting a history of the Fairfaxes of Virginia (p. 435).

Lord Fairfax; or The Master of Greenway Court It is possible if you’ve been on some Winchester walking tours, you might recognize the name John Esten Cooke but have absolutely no idea why he is locally remembered. While he is primarily known outside of Winchester for his Civil War themed romances, he also wrote a number of other historical fiction books and novellas set in the area focusing on our colonial roots. His earliest work was derivative of James Fenimore Cooper down to the book title and cast of characters, and as such his stories may not appeal to everyone for a number of reasons. If you enjoy your historical fiction with a healthy dose of Victorian fantasy, you can read the full book through the link above, or scroll through a bit for the local scenery descriptions.

The Story of the Expedition of the Young Surveyors, George Washington and George William Fairfax is a slightly less fantastical recounting of the surveying expedition for Lord Fairfax, but the images in the booklet may be of more interest than the text. A few of the illustrations have ended up in PHW’s collection on Lord Fairfax, so it was a pleasant surprise to find their source. The author, W. H. Snowden, also wrote and revised several editions of the tourist handbook Some Old Historic Landmarks of Virginia and Maryland, which likewise contains stories and descriptions of Lord Fairfax and Greenway Court.

Greenway Court
Illustration of Greenway Court, the home of Lord Fairfax in Virginia, drawn by Miss Eugenie De Land.

Friday Roundup: Welcome to March

It might seem early, but artist applications for the 2019 Bough & Dough Shop are open! The Shop will be held at the Hexagon House between November 22 and December 15, 2019. With last year under our belt, we have a bit more information to share with potential artists in a small booklet with the application. Applications are also available online through Google Forms and printed copies will be available at the office. We will be reviewing applications for new artists starting at our March 11 board meeting. We do have one item to note for potential artists we may have spoken to last year at the shop but not had contact information to follow up – commission fees for 2019 have increased to 25%. We are still a no table fee and no application fee event, and admission to the shop is free for shoppers (or anyone curious to see the Hexagon House).

If you could not make it to the City Council work session to hear the discussion on the Conditional Use Permit for the old hospital site, the City Council meeting from February 26 is available for review on the Meeting Portal. The application is scheduled to return to City Council on March 12. You may also want to review HDP’s video of a 3D rendering of the proposed new construction. We hope HDP will continue to work with the neighbors and address their issues throughout this process, particularly exterior design and landscaping choices and addressing the uptick in traffic and parking.

For something a bit different, we have a link to a historic article on a topic that many people may not know about. We don’t talk much about Winchester Gas and Electric Co. in our history of Winchester despite its establishment here in 1853. By chance we came across an article this week that goes into some detail on the company’s history and its re-invigoration in 1922 after years of poor management and dilapidated equipment had taken its toll. Take a look at Reviving a Run-down Gas Plant in the September 16, 1922 Gas Age-Record for both a glimpse at an underappreciated piece of Winchester’s vanished history, along with numerous photographic illustrations of the town and the plant. Happy reading!

The Winchester Gas and Electric Co. buildings were located on the corner of Kent and Boscawen Streets where the Court Square Autopark is today. The stone wall still exists at the Joint Judicial Center’s Boscawen Street side. The wall was part of the fence of the Conrad House property.

Friday Roundup: A Little Weekend Reading

Door To the Past
Found! This article was alluded to at the end of Sandra Bosley’s presentation on the Conrad House in the Godfrey Miller House summer lecture series last year. You might remember that we were unable to find the article to confirm details prior to the presentation. The article turned up last week in an unexpected spot. If you want a little backstory on how this door was saved and placed in the Joint Judicial Center, we finally have it for you!

Why America’s New Apartment Buildings All Look the Same via Bloomberg As the subtitle adds, “cheap stick framing has led to a proliferation of blocky, forgettable mid-rises—and more than a few construction fires.” The article, despite the somewhat alarmist headline, is a realistic look at the new development encroaching on our historic districts and urban centers.

Are you interested in a hands-on preservation career? There will be positions opening soon in the Traditional Trades Apprenticeship Program (TTAP) through the National Park Service near us. TTAP provides hands-on, historic preservation trade skills training during an intensive six-month learning-while-working experience. Upcoming positions will be available at Manassas National Battlefield Park, Gettysburg National Military Park, Antietam National Battlefield, and the Historic Preservation Training Center. Learn more at their website and check out the positions open now.

How Do You Preserve History on the Moon? That’s not something you often think about in your average day of historic preservation, but if you’re interested in preservation of this landmark scientific achievement, this is an eye-opening article and well worth the read. The challenges here present new challenges, but seeing it be discussed at all is an encouraging sign.

If it’s hard to get a quiet hour in the middle of your day for an interesting webinar, the National Trust has your back with The Rosenwald Schools GIS Mapping Project. This webinar from January 30 is now available for review any time, and additional questions that were not answered during the presentation are addressed in the linked blog post.

If you appreciate a bit of historical sleuthing, you might enjoy the story of a serpentine-backed blue damask sofa gifted to George and Martha Washington. A recreation of the sofa has been added to Mount Vernon for guests to view it in all its 1760s fashionable glory.

If you are doing research on African-Americans, you may want to check out the newly-merged databases now available at the Virginia Untold website. As of a quick check this morning, there are ten records for Winchester and 712 for Frederick County in the database.

Is Your City Racing to the Bottom or the Top? There’s a lot for a historic preservationist to love about this article, including the recommendation to “Look for the old buildings in town with good bones that, with a bit of loving restoration, could become unique spaces for retail, apartments, co-working spaces, libraries — whatever the neighborhood needs. People are drawn to the character of older, repurposed buildings…. A program to finance some or all of the building renovation could prove a better investment than a tax abatement for a new formula store on the edge of town.”

To come full circle, you may also want to check out Savor Your Small Parcels, and Create More of Them. There is typically a bias against development of lots that are found in urban centers – lots around 50 x 100 ft. – and pressure to combine smaller parcels into large scale development packages. The author Kevin Klinkenberg writes of his time in Kansas City: “We had developer clients that were building homes and small mixed-use buildings on greenfield parcels of that size (so we knew what was possible) but those types of projects were often dismissed as irrelevant by planners and economic developers working in larger cities or inner-city locations. ‘That just won’t work in this corridor/neighborhood/city/market’ etc etc. Status quo bias is very difficult to overcome.” There is more information linked in his article about the “Lean Urbanism” approach that can utilize these smaller parcels into resilient development typical of our historical building patterns in cities.

Friday Roundup: The Green Book

Cover of the 1940 edition, via Wikimedia Commons.

From the National Trust comes a timely tie-in to African American History MonthThe Green Book. This guide was aimed at providing tourism guidance to African-Americans, directing travelers to restaurants, hotels, and leisure spots that would serve them between 1936-1967. Read more and watch the video on the National Trust’s site, and you can catch the debut of the documentary mentioned in the video on February 25 on the Smithsonian Channel.

As mentioned in the video interview, the directories themselves have been digitized and made freely available online at the New York Public Library. As you might guess, Winchester has a few entries, both familiar to us and new – the 1947 book includes the staples of Ruth’s Tea Room on Cecil St. and Hotel Evans on Sharp St., but also a tourist home operated by Mrs. Joe Willis on North Loudoun (no address given), and the Dunbar Tea Room and Tourist Home at 21 W. Hart (now demolished; two other photos are available from us on Flickr shortly before the building came down). We have not looked through all of the available books to check Winchester’s entries, so let us know if you find something intriguing.