Friday Photos: John Margolies Roadside America Photograph Archive, Belle Grove

When a tantalizing story of a photographer who went around the country taking photographs of dinosaur statues and other roadside attractions crossed the PHW news feed, of course we had to check if Dinosaur Land made the cut. While we haven’t found the iconic brontosaurus, we did find a two other locally famous kitschy landmarks:

The apple at Kimberly’s (photo taken in 1982)
Two angles of the lighthouse on Weems Lane (now dismantled, removed from the site, and re-purposed), also in 1982. Sharp eyes can also spot a corner of the distinctive Hardee’s in the background of one picture.

If you too would like to browse or search the John Margolies collection, you can find over 11,000 images in the Library of Congress prints and photographs catalog. As you can guess, the collection is not just dinosaurs, but also gas stations, signs, drive-in theaters, mini golf courses, motels, and other interesting roadside follies.

Perhaps less impressive, this week we discovered an envelope of photos tucked into a file folder of Belle Grove Plantation while doing other filing tasks. These five images are circa 1986. You can see these photos at the end of the Frederick County album, or at the top of the photostream. Happy viewing!

Belle Grove, Middletown

Dating Historic Window Glass

Glass DetailWe had a great question last week on whether there were any efforts to date window glass. As you might know, there were two usual ways to produce window glass by hand which were used until the early 1900s – crown glass and cylinder glass. In general, crown glass was used in older construction, with cylinder glass becoming more prominent during the Victorian era as larger windows with fewer individual panes became desirable. Crown glass is usually thinner, and ripples often have a circular pattern. Cylinder glass ripples and bubbles are usually less pronounced and parallel, like the example photo taken here at the Hexagon House (circa 1870).

Here are a few articles we found on the history of window glass, some guidelines for dating glass primarily based on thickness, and case studies applying and interpreting the dating guidelines to specific sites. These articles are on the technical side, but interesting reading nonetheless.

1. “The Value of Historic Window Glass” by David Dungworth
This article covers the period from about 1500-1960 in English glass manufacturing. While some of the information is likely to not apply here in America, the article contains many great illustrations of the way this glass looks, how it was made, and what color and surface texture you might see in the glass. The more technical aspects start in the second half of the article by breaking the glass down by chemical analysis into distinct periods of English glass manufacturing.

2. “A Comparison and Review of Window Glass Analysis Approaches in Historical Archaeology” by Jonathan Weiland
This brief is perhaps even more technically-heavy than the first, but it is geared toward American glass dating, primarily by measuring the thickness of glass and with an emphasis on archeology. Because of the archeology approach, there is also discussion on distinguishing window glass from mirrors, flat bottles, and other glass sources. If you like looking through charts and weighing different methods of analyzing data collected from a dig site or trash pit, this could be a good starting point.

3. “Window Glass Dating: When Was McConnell’s Homestead Built?” by Grant L. Day
Putting article #2 in action is this paper on window glass dating conducted at the site of two structures near Lexington, Kentucky during excavations. The conclusions from the archeology here are combined with other historic knowledge on ownership and historic events to help extrapolate some theories about the glass found at the site.

4. Windows Through Time
Although not precisely scientific and the lack of scale between images may make comparisons difficult, the exhibit by the Historic Preservation Education Foundation catalogs the appearance of the entire window by period and style and not just the glass itself. If you have an intact window, this might prove useful to help date it. Don’t miss the muntin profiles, which are fairly reliable ways to date the wood in windows based on the shape of the wood bars which hold smaller pieces of glass together in the larger sash.

5. “Making A Home: Window Glass and the Transition from Slavery to Freedom” by Terry Brock
In addition to documenting the changes to slave quarters which continued to be used as African-American housing after the Civil War in St. Mary’s City in Maryland, this blog post is more easily accessible than some of the other articles here. For the visual learners who can’t stand wading through charts of thickness and age, the post has a very clear comparative thickness image of glass dated circa 1830, 1860, and 1900.

Above all, the lesson seems to be that dating glass is not yet a precise science, due in part to the variations of the skill of craftsmen and the tools and base materials impacting the thickness of the glass. Rough estimates based on visual clues and measurements, combined with other sources of corroboration, seem to be the best guides. Chemical analysis on historic glass does not yet seem to have been utilized in American glass dating, but perhaps we can look forward to it in the coming years.

Heads Up! Email Housekeeping

While we were making a few cosmetic adjustments to the way our weekly PHW emails look, we also went in and made a couple other tweaks. Most should not affect you, but here’s the quick rundown:

1. About forty suspicious-looking emails from Yahoo and Laposte email addresses that signed up in two clusters without names were removed from the mailing list. If you are a real person who was caught in this pruning, we apologize and invite you to rejoin the list.
2. New subscribers should get a second welcome confirmation email from MailChimp.
3. If you unsubscribe from the email list, you should get a confirmation email with a resubscribe link (in case you are accidentally unsubscribed), because . . .
4. We added MailChimp’s built-in forward option at the bottom of the email to make it easier and a bit cleaner looking to send the emails to friends or share on Twitter or Facebook. The forward option might make it so your friend could unsubscribe you, so we erred to the side of caution in providing extra confirmation you meant to unsubscribe.
5. In a totally cosmetic adjustment, we unchecked the “mobile friendly images” setting for MailChimp, as it was actually making smaller thumbnails from our blog full-width instead of keeping them in-line with text. This might make some photos side scroll a bit on smaller phones, but hopefully this will be an acceptable compromise for desktop and tablet readers to not see unfortunately grainy images.

Holiday House Tour Call for Advertisers

HHT Wreath and CandleIt’s that time again! PHW is at work on lining up sponsors for our 2017 Holiday House Tour. For many of us this event officially begins the holiday season with its guided tours of the festively decorated historic properties in Winchester. In addition to being a fun community tradition, the Holiday House Tour generates the monetary foundation that enables us to continue our mission to preserve the best of the area’s past.

House Tour Ad Size SheetAs part of our promotional materials for the event, PHW will be producing a full color program booklet again this year. I invite you to place an ad in the booklet to show your support for PHW and to promote your business to a demographic interested in Old Town Winchester, its history, and its architecture. Ads are available in full page (5″x8″), half page (5″x4″), and business card (2″x3.5″) sizes. Enlarging the image shows the sizes, costs, and benefits of the sponsors’ ads in the program.

Please reserve your spot soon – ads are due by 5 PM on October 31 to ensure inclusion in the program booklet, which will be distributed in mid-November to ticket sale locations and local visitor centers around Winchester. Include your business name, contact information, and ad size in your reservation. Your print-ready digital ad files may be emailed to or submitted on CD or flash drive at the PHW Office, 530 Amherst Street, Winchester, VA 22601. If you have questions, do not hesitate to email us or call us at 540-667-3577.

Thank you for your support, and we hope to see you at our 41st Holiday House Tour this December 2 and 3!

Friday Photos: Renaming Ceremony for the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum

Renaming Ceremony for the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum

Happy Friday! If you were out and about this morning, you may have seen the crowd gathered on the lawn of the old Frederick County Court House. The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation (SVBF) held a ceremony to officially announce that the former Old Court House Civil War Museum is renamed the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum. The exhibit areas in the museum will be upgraded with new and renovated exhibits, improved signage and displays, new interactive and digital tools, new lighting, new youth activities and exhibits, and a greater focus on the broader story of the Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley – the Union, Confederate, civilian and African-American perspectives.

Winchester Mayor John David Smith, Jr., Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, Delegate Chris Collins, SVBF Board Member Jim Wilkins, Jr., and SVBF CEO Keven M. Walker among others made remarks on the museum, its history, the changing of the exhibits and way it can enhance and expand upon the interpretation of the Civil War past the experience of names and dates at a battlefield. At the end of the proceedings, Mr. Wilkins was presented with the Graves Family Philanthropic Leadership Award in recognition of his philanthropy on behalf of battlefield preservation and other worthy causes.

Be sure to stop by the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum at 20 North Loudoun Street (most exhibit upgrades will not take place until winter, so there is still plenty of time to visit) or check them out online at If you couldn’t make the event today, you can see twelve images of the ceremony at PHW’s Flickr account.

Friday Roundup: Reading Old Handwriting, Closet Archeology, and More!

Friday RoundupHappy Friday! This week, we gathered some interesting links from around the internet to share with you.

One thing we get asked about from time to time is reading the handwriting in early deeds and insurance policies. A good starting point if you’ll be reading or transcribing a lot of older writing is “How to Decipher Unfamiliar Handwriting” (geared to British and Australian sources, but the tips are universally applicable). has shared a chart and common abbreviation list of Colonial American handwriting by Kip Sperry that may help you decipher some tough letters and words in 17th century documents. If you feel up to testing your skills, you can try a matching game of individual letters based on Kip Sperry’s work at

If you’re in need of help with 18th century writing, we found an in-depth guide with tips and sample writing and transcription (among other activities!) at Reading and transcribing will be easier in 19th and 20th century documents as writing was taught to standardized forms that remain similar to the cursive you may have learned in school yourself. Like most things, reading older handwriting is a skill that can be learned and improved, and some handwriting is easier to read than others.

If you are looking for something, perhaps at a graduate level, to study in conjunction with a public history or historic preservation degree, the National Trust recently posted Show Me the Studies! Environmental Design Research and Historic Preservation. While most preservationists have a gut feeling historic places help anchor us in time to our past, there have been very few studies on the subject as to the causes of those feelings – and studies are often key to having data that is “known” to be true to be validated and used in other important ways.

If you’d like your study to be a little closer to home, one class of fourth grade students has started a closet archeology project in their school. The project came about through a gap in the floor left by the removal of some sliding doors. Students would find interesting items in the gap – and the deeper they went in the hole, the more interesting the finds became. See some of the items found under the floorboards at the Closet Archeology Instagram. Some of those puzzle pieces look awfully familiar. . .

In a different sort of closet archeology, the blog 1970s Activist Publishing in West Virginia: Researching Appalachian Movement Press detailed the author’s journey to uncover the story of a small press that operated between 1969-1979 in Huntington, West Virginia. It is a good case study of how to research something of the recent past that has largely been forgotten. Perhaps my favorite passage, and one that I am sure all researchers wish more organizations would take to heart is:

“Suffice it to say that, if you’re publishing things on paper right now: Archive Your Work! You never know when someone decades later is going to care about what you were doing, and have a hell of a time trying to find out about it. Don’t leave it in a moldy basement!”

Last, if you are a National Trust Forum member, be sure to check out the latest issue of the Forum Journal, which covers a number of topics on preserving and interpreting difficult history, a topic that is perhaps more relevant than ever before.

Coming This Weekend: Glen Burnie Day and Second Battle of Kernstown Events

We have two free events to share with you. First, July 22 is Glen Burnie Day at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. Between 10 AM-5 PM, the MSV will open its doors for family friendly activities and a classic and modified car show. Learn more at the MSV website.

Also this weekend, the Kernstown Battlefield Association will commemorate the 153rd anniversary of the Second Battle of Kernstown with a series of events on July 22nd, 23rd and 24th, 2017. All events are free and open to the public.

On Saturday, July 22nd, author and historian Scott C. Patchan will give a special battlefield tour at 10 AM. Scott is the author of Shenandoah Summer; The 1864 Valley Campaign, among other books. Scott will be signing his books before and after his tour. Please meet at the Visitors’ Center.

Saturday afternoon, Shenandoah University Professor Dennis Kellison will be available in the Visitors’ Center to discuss his research about his ancestors that served in the Civil War and how he found them.

On Sunday, July 23rd, at 11 AM, volunteer Larry Turner will present a program on the manufacture and use of artillery fuses in the Civil War. Larry’s presentation will take place in the new conference room.

At 1 PM on Sunday, Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Park Ranger Rick Ashbacker will give a presentation on the 1864 campaign called 1864 in a Box. The program is designed to give an overall understanding of the 1864 campaign and where events took place.

The Battlefield will be open on Monday, July 24th, the actual date of the battle, from 10 AM to 4 PM.

For more information, visit

Friday Photos: More Holiday House Tour

Please excuse the abbreviated update for this week, as we have been busy at PHW leading walking tours and attending meetings out of the office, in addition to several days of tree work at the Hexagon House. We added twelve photos to our Holiday House Tour photo collection this week. This batch is tentatively dated to 1998 and 1999 and features the Bell House, the Kurtz Building, the Feltner Building, and the Old Frederick County Court House. See the photos at the top of the Flickr photostream, or at the end of the Holiday House Tour album. Happy viewing!

Holiday House Tour

Friday Photos: Holiday House Tour and Valley Avenue

Happy Friday! This week, we have added 50 photos to our Flickr account. Seven images are recent photos taken of the block of Valley Avenue at the McDonald’s, from Gaunt’s Drug Store to James Street. They may be found at the end of the Valley Avenue album.

The remaining 43 images are from miscellaneous Holiday House Tours, all likely in the late 1990s to early 2000s. Until the years of the tours can be verified, the new Holiday House Tour images will be at the end of the generic Holiday House Tours album.

You can also see all the new additions at the very top of the photostream. Happy viewing!

Holiday House Tour

The Italianate Trend in Winchester Walking Tour

Looking for a different walking tour of Winchester? PHW is making “The Italianate Trend in Winchester” walking tour by intern Ashlee Anderson available for download. The capstone intern project was presented at PHW’s Annual Meeting in 2011 and was slightly edited and expanded upon by PHW board members and staff. If you would like a leisurely hour to hour and a half walk through some of the residential areas of Winchester’s Historic District not covered by other walking tours, download the walking tour now.

The tour was set up to depart from and return to the PHW Office at the Hexagon House; there are usually spaces available to park in the PHW lot at the top of the hill if you would like the full tour experience. Otherwise, you may wish to start your tour closer to the downtown to utilize the parking garages. Happy exploring!