Matching Donation Challenge for the Clowser House

From The Clowser Foundation, an anonymous donor has offered to match donations made to The Clowser Foundation between June 1st and September 4th (Labor Day) of this year up to $2,500. Help them meet this challenge by sending your check to:

The Clowser Foundation
152 Tomahawk Trail
Winchester, VA 22602

And if you are on Facebook, be sure to check out their page at to keep informed of their activities and progress.

Friday Photos: Pittsburgh Bridge Co. Bridge, Fairmont Ave.

Private bridge with working rail line beneath
Happy Friday! Although we could not show any photos at our Annual Meeting, we thought you would like to see the progress pictures for one of our Award of Merit winners, Charles and Kelly Hyre, for the work done to retain their unique private driveway bridge at 445 Fairmont Ave. The bridge images submitted in the award nomination packet have been added to the 2017 Annual Meeting album on Flickr. The house, known as Dunheath or more commonly Glen Lee, was built in 1869 for Judge William Clark, Jr. At the time, it was one of the first houses built so far north on Fairmont, and as such it was set much farther back from the street than any other home. All was well until a rail line was slated to run along Fairmont Avenue, cross the Amherst and Boscawen Y-intersection, and terminate at the Cumberland Valley Railroad depot at the corner of Boscawen and Stewart Streets. While the rail line passed in the rear of all other homes on Fairmont, for Glen Lee it would cut directly across the main driveway. In exchange for the right-of-way for the tracks, the railroad company elevated the driveway, constructed the bridge, and lined it with a wrought iron fence.

The bridge was constructed by the Pittsburgh Bridge Company, with the firm Nelson and Buchanan as agents, in 1889. At the time, it was common for Pittsburgh Bridge Company to prefabricate the steel trusses and Nelson and Buchanan would act as the agents and contractors for the installation. To help sell their prefabricated bridges, railroad companies and local government officials were the primary targets for aggressive and sometimes ethically suspect marketing pitches.

While an untold number of bridges were constructed in our region by Pittsburgh Bridge Company from the 1880s until their consolidation with American Bridge Company in 1901, many of the large highway bridges have now been lost to age, accident, or new construction projects. The bridges that seem to still be in service are smaller back road bridges or the driveway examples, like the one at Glen Lee. Almost all are facing structural or maintenance issues after more than one hundred years of faithful service. See some other Pittsburgh Bridge Company examples from around the country at and through the search function at For more in-depth information on steel truss bridges, check out Bradford County’s Truss Bridges, which includes construction history, engineering information, and historic bridge manufacturer history. And you can see the Glen Lee driveway bridge at the end of the 2017 Annual Meeting and the Fairmont Avenue Flickr albums.

Friday Photos: Annual Meeting 2017

Happy Friday! If you could not join us last weekend at PHW’s 53rd Annual Meeting, you can experience the event through some photos taken during the business portion of the meeting. Bruce Downing, President of PHW, presented the following six preservation awards on June 11.

Bruce Downing, President of PHW, leading the meeting

Awards of Merit recognize renovations that contribute to improving the character of their neighborhoods and maintaining the overall historic fabric of the city. PHW presented two Awards of Merit this year:

  • Ann Brady and Gary Farrington, restoration of 317 South Braddock St. following the fire last year.
  • Charles and Kelly Hyre, restoration of the private steel and wood bridge (c. 1889) leading to their home at 445 Fairmont Ave.

The Katherine G. Rockwood Revolving Fund Award is named in honor of Katherine G. Rockwood. Mrs. Rockwood was the driving force behind the original 1976 architectural inventory of Winchester, PHW’s Jennings Revolving Fund, and innumerable other programs and activities of PHW. This award recognizes the outstanding renovation of a Jennings Revolving Fund property. PHW presented one Rockwood award this year:

  • E.G. and Joanne Hamill for the exterior restoration and porch reconstruction at 513 S. Loudoun St.

The Ben Belchic Award is named in honor of Ben Belchic, a founding member of PHW. He was also an active member of the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society, so the Belchic Award recognizes a significant contribution to understanding Winchester’s history. These awards are generally presented for written texts, such as books, maps, National Register nominations, and guided tours. This year, PHW recognized one scholar:

  • Wil Johnston for On the Town! Celebrating James Wood and the Founding of Winchester in the Shenandoah Valley.

The Carroll H. Henkel Award is named in honor of Carroll H. Henkel, PHW’s first president in 1963-1964. This award recognizes outstanding leadership for historic preservation in the Winchester-Frederick County area. This year, we recognized one outstanding coalition:

  • The family members, residents of Shawneeland, and elected officials who came together to formulate the plan to save the Clowser House, recognized under their official organizational name the Clowser Foundation, and accepted by its president, Larry Webb.

PHW presented a special President’s Award to recognize the over fifty years of service put in by the entire Orndoff family, stretching all the way back to before PHW was even an organization itself. Betty Orndoff is one of the last people left who stood in protest in 1962 before the bulldozers came to raze the Conrad House. Edwin, Betty, and their daughter Eydie have since volunteered at almost every Holiday House Tour and attended nearly every major event of the organization since that time. It is truly a remarkable record of service!

PHW also elected the 2017-2018 Board of Directors, quickly recapped our last year, and we heard some brief remarks from Terry Heder, our host at the Bell House, about the plans for the building’s future uses and roles in telling the story of the Civil War in Winchester. After the meeting, guests could see the inside of the house for guided tours, or stay outside for some light refreshments. All in all, it was a beautiful and joyous afternoon!

See all the photos in our album at Flickr. Happy viewing!

Annual Meeting and Clowser Memorial Service Photos

The Bell HouseReminder: PHW’s Annual Meeting is this Sunday, June 11, at the Bell House, 106 North Cameron Street in Winchester. We will begin the business portion of the meeting, including election of the PHW board members, at 2 PM, followed by six preservation award presentations, and finish up the meeting with some remarks by our host, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation. Afterwards, please stay for light refreshments, socializing, and building tours. If you have stories to share of the Bell House and its history, our hosts would also love to hear them.

Last weekend, we attended the Clowser Foundation’s memorial service and lease signing celebration at the Clowser House in Shawneeland. If you weren’t able to attend, you can catch a few images of the event in our Flickr album. Happy viewing!

Clowser House Memorial Service

Friday Photos: More Holiday House Tour 1991

Happy Friday! We have added 30 new images from the 1991 Holiday House Tour to our Flickr album this week. The houses featured in this batch are 2848 Windsor Lane, which was designed by William E. Poole in the style of an antebellum planter’s cottage and was featured in the April 1989 issue of Colonial Homes magazine. The second home in this week’s set, 3106 Windsor Lane, was designed by the owners Mr. and Mrs. Robert Snyder and their builder Kay Dawson. In keeping with the home’s sleek and modern design, even the greenery featured in the home was unusual in materials and composition.

Catch all the new images at the top of the photostream, or at the end of the 1991 House Tour album.

Holiday House Tour 1991

Friday Roundup: Upcoming Events and a Free Webinar

Friday RoundupHappy Friday! There are two events coming in June. First, on Saturday, June 3 at 10:30 a.m., the Clowser Foundation will have a memorial service at the Clowser cemetery (152 Tomahawk Trail, Winchester, VA 22602) for the massacre in which members of the Clowser family and other settlers were killed or taken prisoner by Delaware Indians in 1764, followed by a lease signing celebration. Please join them for this free event and help them start off their efforts to save the Clowser House.

Second, on Sunday, June 11 at 2 p.m., PHW will hold its 53rd Annual Meeting and Preservation Awards at the Bell House, 106 North Cameron Street, Winchester, VA 22601. Please join us at this free for members event to celebrate local preservation projects and people and start PHW’s year on the right foot. If you were unable to attend the Holiday House Tour, this will also give you another opportunity to see the Bell House and learn about the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields and their plans for the building.

The Preservation Leadership Forum and NeighborWorks America hosted the webinar “Preserving and Supporting Businesses in Historic Neighborhoods” on April 27. The webinar examined how small businesses contribute to the vitality of older neighborhoods through offering essential services and serving as community anchors. This builds upon previous studies that have identified historic buildings as incubators for small businesses. Check out the webinar and the addition related materials here.

PHW Porch Newsletter Available Now

The spring edition of the PHW printed newsletter was mailed to our members today. You can catch the digital version online here. The newsletter is a roundup of some porch information that did not make it into the live porch presentation earlier this month. As a little bonus content, we can now also answer the question on the history of porch swings received from the audience.

Oxford English Dictionary dates the origin of “porch swing” to the late 19th century. From a quick and unscientific search of documents in the 19th century that are available in digital form, the oldest instance found so far of the phrase “porch swing” dates to 1877, when it was referred to in the text The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Volume 74. It is not clear from the snippet view exactly how the porch swing was constructed and when this story took place, but it is noted to have already been “old-fashioned” in style in 1877.

References to porch swings remain scarce until after 1910, which may coincide with the final domination of the word “porch” over other porch word alternatives in America. Most prefabricated wooden porch swings of finished oak were being sold for about $4-5 around 1915-1920 (around $50-60 in today’s terms). Some had drop down arm rests so that the swing could be converted to a bed for sleeping on the porch.

If you are feeling handy, there are several historic sets of instructions on how to construct your own porch swing. Let us know if you make one – we’d love to see a finished product!

Friday Photos: Holiday House Tour 1991

Happy Friday! It has been a busy week at PHW, but we fit in enough time to add 35 new photos of the 1991 Holiday House Tour “A Neighborhood Christmas,” which was held on Windsor Lane, off Cedar Creek Grade. The homes were all contemporary, most having been built in 1989. Have fun exploring the images of the first two sites at Flickr, and look forward to more photos of homes from this tour in the coming weeks.

2937 Windsor Lane

Where Are the Preservationists? All Around You.

For those who have been following the conditional use permit for 501 North Loudoun Street, you probably know the issue went to Winchester City Council for a final vote on Tuesday, and Ms. Darby has received her permit, the first step in opening a pizza parlor in a former gas station. The editorial in the Winchester Star on Thursday, however, had a baffling conclusion asking where the preservationists were.

The answer is all around you. Anyone who has ever had the urge to put a new business in an old building, felt the urge to save a building falling on hard times, experienced anguish seeing a wrecking ball looming, lamented when the loss or alteration of a tangible place will impact the way we think of and remember a location in the future, is a preservationist at heart. It is especially important to recognize this in May, National Preservation Month, when we come together to celebrate places that matter to us. These places do not need to be architectural jewels steeped in the history of two hundred years. Often our most personally meaningful places are these small buildings with neighborhood connections and modest architecture – but a lot of heart and memories.

Last year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation conducted a survey to see what kind of preservationists were out in the world, quietly working on saving historic and cultural objects and memories. While unscientific, a surprisingly large 19% of respondents were pegged as an “accidental preservationist,” or someone who fell into the this world just by the desire to reuse old spaces for new uses. Even more, at 36%, identified as a “people preservationist,” oriented on the smaller stories and community they are based in to make sure history is remembered and remains relevant. Not all – very few, in fact – polled as a “vocal preservationist” who is confident enough to share opinions publicly on a regular basis, as you would do at a City Council meeting.

The current PHW board was divided as the community had been over the issue, and after we did our due diligence we wrote a letter of support for the CUP to City Council and the Mayor ahead of the May 9 vote. While we were unable to attend and read our statement at the public hearing, we will reprint it here for those curious of our rationale:

“Preservation of Historic Winchester would like to express our support for the conditional use permit for the proposed adaptive reuse of the former gas station at 501 North Loudoun Street. This former Conoco station (circa 1930) has recently become a contributing structure in Winchester’s National Register Historic District by meeting the new, expanded period of significance. Unlike other recent past structures in Winchester that may be perceived as not harmonizing with its neighbors, this building has always had a sense of belonging. It is a charming Tudor Revival-style inspired gas station that, like Bonnie Blue in the former Esso station on Boscawen Street, could lend itself to a successful eatery utilized by neighbors and visitors alike.

“PHW is concerned that should the request from Karen Darby be deemed inappropriate, the building will continue to stand empty until, as a last resort, the entire building is lost. This does not have to happen. From our conversations with Karen Darby, we are assured she will do her utmost to bring a thriving business back to this corner of the Historic District. Her interest in utilizing historic tax credits bodes well for the final product becoming not just a business success story, but a historic preservation success story.”

Much of PHW’s work is like this: providing information, history, and the resources projects need to succeed; writing letters of support when a project is worthy; or even just taking some time to share history of Winchester and its buildings. We have been providing these services to Winchester for over fifty years to encourage the change in our historic district that impresses many people, residents and visitors alike. All of those positive changes were done by preservationists, working on one building at a time. Our own efforts in the Jennings Revolving Fund helped kickstart that movement, but it would not have succeeded without broad community support, not just in the moment when the publicity was high and exciting, but even now, thirty or more years later, through new owners taking over the stewardship of these buildings. Whenever you need a preservation organization to help, you can reach us at 540-667-3577 or It is why we are here.