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  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.

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 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.