On the Trail of James W. Burgess

Many of you who have visited the Hexagon House might recognize that name – James W. Burgess is the man who built the Hexagon House. He has always been something of an enigma, made more difficult to research by his name being fairly common and some inaccurate reporting in T. K. Cartmell’s history providing false family connections and leading us to think he was older than he was. It has taken a long time, but with the new records available digitally, much patience and a little frustration, we can shed at least a bit more light on this man and clear up a few inaccuracies we had previously reported and perhaps get this information out to Burgess family descendants for more information.

James W. Burgess was born about 1826 in Virginia. It appears that the family moved to Ohio while he was young, but returned to Virginia sometime between the 1850 and 1860 census. James married Sarah C. Harrison probably in the early 1860s and lived with his wife’s parents George and Elizabeth Harrison, as well as what we believe to be James’s sister Emma and mother Catherine J. Burgess. James and Sarah also had an infant son, William H. At the time of the 1860 census, James’s profession was listed as milling, which concurs with the Harrison family profession. In the 1850 census, he had been listed as a carpenter.

James W. Burgess purchased two adjoining parcels of land on what is now Amherst Street, one in 1867 and one in 1869, from land that had formerly belong to Hawthorne, amounting to about 4.5 acres. The Winchester Journal of January 29, 1869 says, “Mr. James W. Burgess is preparing to erect a fine house on his lot, near the town spring. He has the advantage of an elevated and beautiful situation, and will doubtless improve is so as to make it in every way desirable.” This house was, of course, the Hexagon House.

We now believe he started his furniture business in Winchester in January of 1869. While we’ve referred to him as a furniture maker or casket dealer, it seems more likely that from 1869-73 he opened his own branch of a Hagerstown business. As we suspected, his store now is confirmed to have been located “on the north side of Piccadilly, between Main and Market Streets in the building occupied by Burgess & Co. Real Estate Agents.” This also confirms the suspicions aroused by the number of times James W. Burgess has been found in deed searches shortly before and after the Civil War to the early 1870s. At this point the exact location of the furniture store and real estate office is not known, but the actual building is likely demolished and may be in the area where the Bank of Clarke County sits or an adjacent lot.

We know the family was here from the 1860s through at least 1873 or 1874, when the Panic of 1873 had made the family’s fortunes decline and the Hexagon House go up for sale and then into foreclosure. By the 1880 census, they had relocated to Ironton, Ohio, and had three sons: Frank M., George S., and Eddy M. Burgess. It appears the one year old son they had in the 1860 census had passed away; it is unknown at this time whether there were other children born between William and Frank. James, about 54 at the time of the census, was selling sewing machines, which helps explain our belief he may have been a tailor (more likely he was in the wholesale business again, like his furniture in Winchester.) His older sons were employed as a telegrapher and a bookkeeper, while the youngest was still in school. Despite his relatively young age, James passed away in 1882 in Ironton, and his death was reported locally – but only tersely – in early March. To date, we have not been able to locate his grave or a fuller obituary to obtain more details, though it seems likely he is buried in Ironton, perhaps in Woodland Cemetery, and likely died in later February to very early March of 1882. We have been unable to locate Sarah, Frank, or Eddy with any certainty in future census or grave records.

If you know more about the James W. Burgess and the family described here, please let us know any more details at 540-667-3577 or phwinc.org@gmail.com. We have long wondered why or how James chose to build a hexagonal house and what his life was like before and after his time in Winchester. Family portraits or photographs are also something that, so far, we have not found but would love to include in our tours of the Hexagon House.

Cautionary words for future researchers: As unbelievable as it may seem, there are multiple James W. Burgess of roughly the same age and in the broad geographic areas. Because of this, we are uncertain at this point whether or not “our” Burgess is one of the multiple James Burgesses who are found in Virginia Civil War soldier records. The Captain James B. Burgess that Cartmell states in his history was James W.’s son is inaccurate; his 1907 obituary states his parents as Abra(ha)m and Sarah (McCleave) Burgess. This separate family line has been much more thoroughly documented. It appears Abraham was a brother to the James H. Burgess noted as living in a “suburban home” on the east side of Winchester in Cartmell’s history. We believe James W.’s father may be William S(immons) Burgess, a brother of James H. Burgess, so the lines are related but this branch does not appear to have been documented.

Friday Roundup: Old Hospital Development and Further Reading

Warren Heritage Society is announcing new hours and rates for 2019. They are actively seeking volunteers to help with their new Saturday hours – contact them if you can help!

We know a number of our members and readers are following the development at the old Winchester Memorial Hospital site on Cork Street. From the Winchester Cit-E News from January 23, ” After much discussion, Council decided to table the item until the February 12th Work Session in order to allow Council more time to gather additional information from the applicant and to review public feedback.” You can find the documents relating to the application starting on page 94 of the agenda packet for January 22. There is much to read and digest here, but we recommend reading through the neighborhood concerns and worries to gather a fuller understanding of the issue prior to the February 12 meeting.

While the Old Hospital property is outside of the HW zoning overlay that falls under BAR purview, it is in our Winchester National Register Historic District expansion in 2015. Readers may wish to refer to the following publications for more insight on compatible new construction in historic areas:
New Construction within the Boundaries of Historic Properties
New Additions to Historic Buildings
Regulating New Construction in Historic Districts
Historic Districts: Preserving the Old with the Compatible New
Can Modern Architecture and Historic Preservation be Reconciled? The Definition and Application of “Compatible” as used in the DC Historic Preservation Act
And should anyone be looking for one of the essays printed in Old & New Architecture: Design Relationship printed by the National Trust, PHW has a copy of the book available in our office library.
Last but not least, we have pulled the PHW file on the 1990 rezoning of the Old Hospital site and we are happy to provide copies of our statements to researchers.

Looking to expand your historic image and content searches for Virginia and West Virginia? The Digital Public Library of America has a new hub service Digital Virginias, with more than 58,000 items from the University of Virginia, George Mason University, William & Mary, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia University. A quick search for Winchester in this subset turned up not just photographs, but also a wealth of medical records for West Virginia soldiers treated in Winchester and telegraphs exchanged during the Civil War. You might want to take a look at some of the school images from the University of Virginia Library in particular; they seem to show the original John Kerr School classroom in 1921. Let us know if you find something intriguing!

Friday Roundup: Articles and Websites Around the Internet

Friday RoundupWhile we’ve been working away at Holiday House Tour behind the scenes, we did bookmark some interesting articles that we wanted to share. Settle in with a warm drink and cozy blanket for some curated reading selections:

Moving on from Sunk Costs looks at how you deal with bad decisions in the past that were made with the best of intentions and the brightest-eyed optimism of the time (street widening and big box malls in this case) but have instead contributed to more problems today and for the future. One telling paragraph that rings true for preservationists is:

“If our goal is to grow our tax base, there are ways to do that at lower cost and with less risk. Small amounts of property value appreciation over an entire neighborhood will grow the tax base more than a massive improvement in a single site. And it will do so in a way that helps more people—our neighbors and partners in the community—more directly. What does it take to have small, steady gains in property value throughout a neighborhood? Here’s a hint: It looks more like basic maintenance than something that would involve a ribbon cutting.”

We missed this article earlier in the summer: An Appalachian Elegy for Patsy Cline’s Hometown. While we have not gotten to read the book this article promotes, it is on the future shopping list for the PHW library. Reviews of the books seem mixed, so I am looking forward to seeing how this account lines up with the oral history I have been told. (If you’re interested in picking a copy up through Amazon, don’t forget you can support PHW through our AmazonSmile sign in link.)

One thing we have been watching this summer is the discussion around cell towers and service providers. While not exactly a preservation issue, we have watched a number of applications come before the Board of Architectural Review for wall and roof-mounted units in the historic district. City Lab put out a recent article Why 5G Internet Is a Policy Minefield for Cities. It remains to be seen exactly how this might impact the historic district, as to date most of the cell tower installations on historic buildings are located on the George Washington Hotel roof and Taylor Hotel fly-tower.

In less controversial topics, the name origins of colors is always fascinating, and one of the definitive naming schemes of the early 1800s is Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours. If color nomenclature is equally fascinating to you, there is now an interactive website by Nicholas Rougeux that uses the swatches from the Internet Archive scan of the book and photos of the actual animals, plants, and minerals used in the 110 base colors to bring the work to life.

Also in the realm of public domain books, you may want to visit Project Gutenberg for The Decoration of Houses. English majors may recognize the co-author Edith Wharton. Wharton’s fiction is no picnic to read (as anyone who had The House of Mirth on the assigned reading list is well aware), but throughout her work her eye for decoration, materials, and furnishings shines through. It was little surprise to see her nonfiction work reflects her interests in the decorative arts and architecture. If you have a road trip in your future, you may wish to pencil in The Mount, the home of Edith Wharton, as one of your must-see historic homes. The house is open daily through October 31, 2018 and on Saturdays and Sundays, November – February.



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



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.



Busting Historic Tax Credit Myths

From Preservation Virginia, here are four truths about common misconceptions on Virginia’s Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits (HRTC):

1. HRTC projects occur in almost every jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. It is not just a Richmond program. HRTC projects are transforming Danville, Wytheville, Lynchburg, Salem, Farmville and communities in almost every county in Virginia.

2. Big developers are not the majority benefiting from the program. Between 1997 and 2015, 45% of HRTC benefit projects had expenditures of $250,000 or less and 29% had between $250,000 and $1 million. Individuals, small businesses, churches and non-profits benefit. A very small percentage of projects are resold quickly and are typically foreclosed properties.

3. Across the board, users of the HRTC program say their project would not happen without the credit. That means the jobs and tax revenue associated with these rehabs would not benefit our economy.

4. Periodically sunsets and caps are discussed. HRTC projects take years from concept to completion. Discussions of sunsets and caps introduce uncertainty in the marketplace which slows investment and the resulting economic benefits. A 2012 JLARC study found that the HRTC program was effective.

Need some hard numbers? Share the VCU CURA and Baker Tilly executive summary findings or the full Baker Tilly report.

Keep on spreading the word about the effectiveness of the HRTC in protecting our architectural heritage!



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



Friday Roundup: Incremental Development

Friday Roundup First, thank you to everyone who came to the Board of Architectural Review last night. There were people from both sides speaking for and against the demolitions. The BAR’s decisions were to deny the demolition requests for most of the properties, based in large part on the excellent research provided by City staff and the PHW office to learn more of the history of this block and its relevancy to the growth of Winchester from about 1900-1940.

Many of us at PHW are not opposed to the basic idea of mixed use retail and housing development for this block. We did, however, have concerns that the historic qualities of these buildings may be overlooked because of their outward appearance. Historic preservation is a field that contains both objective facts – ages, styles, building construction techniques, family histories and retail uses on the sites – and subjective calls relating to the aesthetics of the design, how individual properties relate to each other, how buildings evolve to change with the times, and what are good design choices over bad design choices. The subjective aspects often cannot be considered in a vacuum, as changes to the streetscape can impact multiple buildings that are not even directly under consideration. In this case, we have deep concerns about the height and massing of a new building overpowering its historic neighbors like the train station and the Chopstick cafe across the street, and one of PHW’s own Revolving Fund properties at 208-210 North Kent, a modest but lovely duplex that is being well-maintained and improved by its new owners.

Those two buildings are good examples of incremental development, which is driven by small groups to suit their needs. It is a gradual change that can have stops and starts and may not always work, but it is usually the kind of development that works well in historic districts. We encourage you to read a few other articles to get a better sense of what we are talking about:
What Smart Growth Advocates Get Wrong About Density (great comparison photos)
Jane Jacobs and the Power of Women Planners (very accessible introduction to her work)
How Cities Are Making the Global Housing Crisis Worse (planners are ignoring the lessons we learned from “urban revitalization” of 1950-1980 and sliding back into those same bad habits)
The Power of Growing Incrementally (a good starting point for Charles Marohn and the change in development in America that happened after World War II – the entire series of posts are worth a read)
Podcast: Thoughts on Incremental Development (what do you do when you see a problem but don’t know the answers?)