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?)

Reminder: Piccadilly and Kent Street Demolition Public Hearing on July 19, 4 PM

Today we are following up on the East Piccadilly Street proposed development after we have had time to further research this corner. Preservation of Historic Winchester is opposed to the proposed demolition of the following properties, which will be considered at a public hearing at the Board of Architectural Review on July 19 at 4 PM:
202 East Piccadilly 2011 Survey
204 North Kent 2011 Survey
206 North Kent 2011 Survey

This meeting is open to the public and we strongly encourage anyone else with reservations about this demolition plan to attend and speak.

These three buildings are all listed as contributing structures to the Winchester Historic District. They are also some touchstones of the growing residential and industrial footprint of Winchester shortly before and after the Civil War and into the mid-twentieth century.

The corner building of concrete block has stood for over 100 years. It was erected 1908-1912 by Harley “H. B.” Sells, a mechanic who owned and operated his own machine and auto repair and lending business. He built the frame dwelling house at 204 North Kent as his residence, conveniently beside his workplace. From the newspaper about 1915 we learn more about Mr. Sells and the Central Garage:

One of the most popular garages in the city, and the only one that is steam heated, is the Central Garage and Machine Shop located at the corner of Kent and Piccadilly streets, opposite the B. & O. passenger station, of which Mr. H. B. Sell is the proprietor. There is ample storage room for a large number of cars. The repair department is by far the best equipped and most complete in Winchester. . . . . Mr. Sell is himself and expert mechanist and gives his personal attention to all work entrusted to his care. His facilities for repairing and making broken parts are of the best, much better than are usually found in a small city. He also owns a number of cars which may be hired at reasonable rates. In addition to his automobile business he conducts a general machine shop and most of the large plants in this vicinity, such as the Virginia Woolen Mills and the Knitting Mills are among his patrons. There is no job too intricate or too difficult but that he is prepared to undertake and carry to a successful conclusion. Mr. Sell is a native of this section where he is well and favorably known. He has for years been identified with its business life and is always ready to aid in its upbuilding.

At this time the car was still a novelty, but it was seen as an integral point in getting wealthy Washington DC tourists to travel the scenic and historic roads of our area. Innumerable articles on suggested automobile trips were published in the newspapers and by auto clubs. As we know, Winchester is a hub of transportation lines, and tourists were funneled here both by our excellent roads and these promotional materials extolling our garages, mechanics, scenic views, historic buildings, and downtown restaurants and lodging space.

Adjoining the corner shop and home of Harley Sell is the much older brick house, known as the residence of James W. Barr. A deed in 1918 refers to it as the “seven room brick dwelling . . . with outbuildings and improvements, occupied as a residence for many years by James Barr.” James Barr appears to have bought the empty land in 1850 and made this site his home until his death in 1899. From his obituary in Harrisonburg Evening News, September 6, 1899, we learn:

Mr. James W. Barr, one of Winchester’s foremost citizens, died at his residence in that city, on Monday, after a protracted illness, of heart trouble and dropsy. He was 63 years of age, and is survived by a widow and three sons. Ever since the Civil War, Mr. Barr has been closely identified with municipal affairs. He served in the City Council for 20 years and for a long time was a member of the School Board. For the past 15 years he was chief fire warden of the city, and never missed an alarm of fire. He was also prominently identified in church circles. He served throughout the Civil War in the Confederate army as a member of Company C, First Maryland Cavalry. Mr. Barr was treasurer of Turner Ashby Camp, Confederate Veterans, of that city.

His children were identified in another obituary in the Shepherdstown Register, September 7, 1899: “He is survived by his widow and four children – Wm. T. Barr, R. Frank Barr, Owen Barr and Mrs. Samuel Atwell.” Further cementing the Barr connection to this house is another death notice in the Richmond Dispatch, November 4, 1902, for a relative: “Mary Alice Wall died at 9:30 o’clock this morning, of consumption, at the residence of her cousin, Mrs. James W. Barr, of north Kent street.”

It is little wonder the Barr home is made of brick. The Barr family can boast of being one of the first brickmakers in the area, as one of his ancestors “conducted business on a large scale” and “furnished brick for the present court house” (old Frederick County Court House). Many of the Barr descendants carried on this trade. But that was not the only tie this family had to the prominent trades of this neighborhood. James W. Barr was a member of the mercantile group Kern, Barr, & Co., and as part of their business holdings, they too owned a woolen mill. The Morgan Woolen Mill was located in Frederick County, near the Thomas Wood house, which you may know better as Millbank, on Redbud Run. Even the connection as a fire warden makes immense sense, when you learn the Kern, Barr, and Co. Winchester store on the corner of Cameron and Piccadilly fell victim to one of the town’s fires in 1889.

A look through the census records of the early 1900s for the Harley Sells frame house and the James Barr brick house finds this area was occupied by lumbermen, freight yard workers, blacksmiths, and a grocery store owner. Their neighbors were butlers, laundresses, weavers and spinners at the mills, apple packers, and workers at the cold storage plants. It might seem a strange turn of events to turn a garage into a restaurant, but the Central Garage beat other projects like Bonnie Blue and the North Loudoun Street pizzeria to the trend about 1935, before “adaptive reuse” was even a term.

This line of three properties is an important “firebreak” or buffer for new construction that could take place outside or at the very eastern edge of the historic district. They have a deep connection to the activities, trades, and families that made enterprises like the railroad, the woolen mills, and early machinery and automobile industry successful. To lose them would be to further erode the developmental history of this area which has already seen a great deal of loss in our early automotive, woolen mill, and black history. Putting up a marker is a lifeless, pale substitute for retaining the actual sites where actual people lived and worked.

Winchester escaped the worst of urban revitalization thanks to many active citizens who had the vision to see historic preservation is a key component of maintaining a successful downtown that can also be economically viable. It is PHW’s firm belief the rehabilitation of 202 East Piccadilly and 204 and 206 North Kent in conjunction with new construction in this area will be a better solution more in keeping with the spirit and values of our historic downtown rather than clear-cutting another block on a gamble that could very well never pan out.

Central Garage, 202 E. Piccadilly
PHW is still searching for historic photographs (pre-1976 if possible) of 204 and 206 North Kent Street in particular. Please let us know of any leads you have at phwinc.org@gmail.com or at 540-667-3577.

We also hope while you are downtown for BAR on July 19, you will meet up for “round two” at the Godfrey Miller House Summer Lecture Series at 7 PM, where Sandra Bosley will take you through the history of the Conrad house, Conrad family, formation of PHW, the origin of the BAR, and a look at “where they are now” for some Conrad house items. The lecture is $10.

Friday Roundup: Awards, Walking Tours, and Rain Recovery

Friday RoundupWe are a little over halfway through National Preservation Month, but there’s still plenty of time to nominate some worthy projects for PHW’s annual preservation awards. See past winners and download a nomination form here. Nominations should be returned to PHW by June 11, no later than 5 PM, for consideration for a 2018 award.

Speaking of Preservation Month, we will regretfully postpone our planned walking tour of Potato Hill for Saturday, May 19. There are reports of afternoon thunderstorms in the forecast. Stay safe and as dry as you can, and we will let you know our make up day and time ASAP.

If you are facing flooding issues and water penetration, Nicholas Redding at Preservation Maryland compiled the following list of resources to help you dry out:
“After the Floodwaters Recede: A Checklist of Things to Do,” Maryland Historical Trust
“Treatment of Flood-Damaged Older and Historic Buildings,” National Trust for Historic Preservation
“Repairing Your Flooded Home,” American Red Cross
“Selecting a Contractor After a Natural Disaster Strikes,” Maryland Historical Trust
“Tips for Handling Insurance Claims for Historic Properties Following a Disaster,” Maryland Historical Trust
“Drying Wet Books and Records,” Northeast Document Conservation Center

When the weather breaks and you can enjoy the downtown again, PHW has updated the PDF of the “Explore the Old Town Mall” brochure to version 1.2. There are a few more text edits yet to come before a physical reprint, but if you spot any more pesky typos now, please let us know!

Chancery Research and Friday Photos

From the Library of Virginia, researchers can now access Warren County chancery records online. Read the article at their blog Out of the Box. Winchester City records primarily 1859-1936 and Frederick County records primarily 1860-1912 are available for online researchers already. Chancery cases often list out real estate, furnishings, extended family members, and more specific and unexpected things like bills for sidewalk improvements or exact dates when advertisements ran in local newspapers. Chancery records can be very useful to flesh out the history of individuals you may be researching.

Friday Photos this week returns with 32 images from the Revolving Fund cabinet of North Loudoun Street. We found a few more images of the Hunstberry Building at 157 N. Loudoun, the Lewis Barley House at 327 N. Loudoun, and the Magill-Keller House at 418 N. Loudoun, including some pretty dry (but necessary) documentary photos of a sidewalk replacement. Catch all of them at the top of the photostream!

418 N. Loudoun St.

Friday Roundup: Keeping up with the Preservationists Edition

First, a note from Timothy Youmans on the temporary relocation this week of the Planning and Zoning & Inspections offices during the City Hall renovation:

Please note that the Planning Dept. and the Zoning & Inspections Dept. currently located in Suite 318 on the 3rd floor of Rouss City Hall will be relocating to the basement level offices of the Creamery Bldg. at 25 S. Kent St on April 26. While temporary, the relocation will extend into the Fall of this year as the 3rd floor of City Hall is completely renovated into the Development Services Concourse offering improved customer service for our development partners in the community.

To access the temporary offices, please enter the Creamery Bldg. from the rear parking lot entrance. The stairs and elevator connecting to the offices in the basement are immediately to the right after entering the rear of the building. The banks of parking closest to the north side and rear of the building and the double bay of parking just out from the rear bay of spaces are the only parking spaces situated on the Winchester City property and therefore available to customers of offices in the Creamery Bldg. All of the other spaces are reserved for other properties and should not be used by those coming to the City’s temporary offices in the basement.

This week for Friday Photos, we added 21 images of 145 Baker St., 125 W. Boscawen St., and 320 S. Cameron St. from our Revolving Fund cabinet collection. Catch them all at the top of the Flickr photostream.

145 Baker St.

You may have heard that Flickr will be merging with SmugMug. At the present time, it does not appear this will impact our Friday Photos and other photo collections – they’re all staying put with the same links you’ve been using. From the FAQ: “Over time, we’ll be migrating Flickr onto SmugMug’s technology infrastructure, and your Flickr photos will move as a part of this migration—but the photos themselves will remain on Flickr.”

With Apple Blossom drawing ever closer, you may want to read about The Rediscovery of 5 ‘Extinct’ Types of Heritage Apple. As a friendly reminder, the PHW office will likely be closing at 3 PM on Thursday, May 3 and remain closed through the Apple Blossom weekend festivities. Stay safe and have a happy Bloom!

Friday Roundup: Indices, Trees, Photos and Fun!

Friday RoundupOne of the research resources we have at PHW that has been long neglected is a thick stack of photocopies of Mutual Assurance Society records. PHW volunteers obtained these copies in the 1970s as we were preparing for the 1976 Architectural Inventory. These insurance policies are very useful in seeing how early buildings grew and expanded, even giving details about the uses of certain wings, additions, or outbuildings. These are helpful for dating buildings that predate the Sanborn maps.

Thinking these records had already been sorted and it would be easy to find a policy for a quick fact check, it was quite a surprise to find that was not the case at all. After an afternoon of painstakingly deciphering names, it seemed more efficient to see if anyone had indexed these records already. Indeed, such a resource exists! The University of Mary Washington Department of Historic Preservation has a publicly searchable index of policies with a variety of search field options. In the case of these photocopies, the policy number is often the most legible identifying information. The document images are not available from this search, so this resource may not be of use to all researchers. However, you may want to experiment with the owner name search to see if a previous owner may have had a policy. For example, we know that George Norton had a Mutual Assurance Society policy on his home. By searching for his name, it brings up his Amherst St. home, as well as two other policies he took out at the same time. However, be careful! As with all old records, spelling can be haphazard and transcribers may not be able to make modernizations to help researchers. In Norton’s policies, we have creative street names like Piccadilla, Boscowan, and Loudon. If you find a record, don’t forget to consult the list of abbreviations to find out what was insured on the property and its construction materials.

Many of us have never seen, but heard the tales of the American chestnut tree. With the ongoing efforts to revive the species through blight-resistant hybridization, the question arose as to how large the trees really were. You can read and listen to a recent NPR interview of Roanoke College Biologist Rachel Collins, who warns us to temper our expectations of the mature chestnut hybrids reaching the massive proportions reported in historic documents due to some simple math confusion between diameter and circumference. If you are interested in learning more about the history and efforts to restore the American chestnut, visit the American Chestnut Foundation at www.acf.org.

Of course, it would not be Friday without some photos. This week’s upload has pushed us over 10,000 photos milestone in our Flickr collection! (“Only” 9,500 are publicly viewable, with the remaining 500 mostly historic photos or artwork we do not have rights to share.) About 50 older photos were identified, added to albums, and made public for searchers. We also added 36 photos of 518 and 401-403 South Kent Street, both Revolving Fund properties, again at the beginning of the rehabilitation. Catch them at the top of the Flickr photostream.

Clean Up Day, Blues House

Lastly, mark these dates on your calendars for upcoming PHW events! (Times may be subject to change.)

May 19, 2 PM: National Preservation Month walking tour, highlighting Winchester historic plaque and Jennings Revolving Fund properties in the Potato Hill neighborhood. Volunteers are still needed as tour guides! Contact PHW at phwinc.org@gmail.com or 540-667-3577 to add your name to the guide list.

June 24, 3 PM: PHW’s Annual Meeting and Preservation Awards, planned for the Hexagon House rear yard.

Around the Internet: FSA Photos, State Budget Worries, and Historic Plaques

Around the InternetHappy Friday! If you survived the wind with your power intact, we have a few things for you to explore and read around the internet:

1. The Shorpy photo archive featured the Texaco station at 819 S. Braddock St. with some great vintage road signs, gas pumps, and cars, and the Handley High School lawn and the smokestack in the background. Many more images from the Farm Security Administration (FSA) are available. Try starting with this narrowed search link at the Library of Congress to explore Winchester circa 1940. I am fond of the image taken at Orndoff’s marble yard, at the intersection of Loudoun and Boscawen Streets.

2. The Valley Conservation Council has put together a list of some land conservation and historic preservation-adjacent items to watch and act against in the state budget. Part of the proposed cut of mitigation funds is aimed at reducing mercury in the Shenandoah River. There is also concern over the Land Preservation Tax Credit. As stated by VCC, “Landowners put their property under easement in 2017 with the understanding that the limit would go back to $50k​ – to change the rules on them now after they have permanently preserved their land is unfair.”​ If you are similarly worried about these and other proposed budget cuts, VCC has compiled the historic data and the contact information for you to reach out and state how important conservation funding is to our area.

3. Similarly, Preservation Virginia has highlighted some additional concerns of budget cuts facing the Department of Historic Resources.

4. We also forgot to congratulate Tom and Deanna Stouffer for 125 E. Clifford becoming one of now 154 houses in the Winchester Historic District to receive the oval plaque. If you were not able to visit them at Holiday House Tour time, you truly missed a special home. You can get a little taste of that in our Flickr album.