National Preservation Month is celebrated every May across America. This year, PHW will be hosting Happy Hour on Friday, May 10 at 522 South Loudoun Street in Winchester. This free event is open to the public. If you are interested in old buildings, the historic district, learning about our organization and events, meeting some PHW board members and staff, and getting involved in PHW, this is the event for you.
We know most of our members renew in the spring and early summer, so we can take dues (cash, check, or card) at this event. Printed invitations will be going out in about a week, but we encourage you to start spreading the word now. If you can’t attend, pass the invitation on to a friend! You can also find this event on Facebook.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tonight, March 15, is the John Kirby Tribute Concert at Westminster-Canterbury. The concert will celebrate this Winchester-born jazzman who played a significant role developing “classical jazz” in the 1930s and 40s. Bob Larson, Chair of Jazz Studies at Shenandoah University’s Conservatory, will lead a jazz sextet recreating John Kirby’s “Onyx Club Band,” with an appreciation by Alan Williams, grandson of John Kirby. The event is open to the public, $10/person admission at the door. A portion of the proceeds goes to the SVWC Fellowship Fund.
The Patsy Cline Historic House will be hosting a volunteer open house day March 23 and 24. If you would like to learn more about volunteering, please join PCHH’s staff and volunteers for a special open house on Saturday, March 23 from 10am to 2pm, and Sunday, March 24 from 1pm to 4pm. Volunteers provide the vibrant spark that makes the site both educational and compelling. If you enjoy being a docent for Holiday House Tour, check out this opportunity.
The CUP for the old hospital site was tabled on Tuesday. The public hearing portion of the application is now closed, but Council has requested the applicant return with more information on how it plans to mitigate the concerns raised by neighbors and council members. Parking and the increase of traffic in the neighborhood, as well as the scale of the building, remain major concerns. The item is planned to return to City Council on March 26.
We have also added about 34 images to our Flickr account since our last update, including Revolving Fund documentary photos of Cameron Street, contact sheets of event photos connected to the Kurtz Cultural Center, and three photos connected with Miss Lucy Kurtz and her father George Kurtz. You can catch them at the top of the Flickr photostream.
Do you know of a person or place that deserves recognition for their preservation contributions in Winchester or Frederick County, Virginia? PHW is now accepting nominations in several categories. Click for a PDF of the nomination form. You may nominate yourself or any project for consideration, and you may make more than one nomination. Work should be complete or near complete at the time of nomination. Winners will be announced and given a few moments to talk about their project at PHW’s Annual Meeting, likely to be held June 23 or 30, 2019.
There are a variety of categories to choose from, so see if you can give a boost of recognition to a project that may have gone under the radar this past year. Remember to get your forms in by May 31 to the PHW office, 530 Amherst St., Winchester, VA 22601!
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.
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!
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 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.