Friday Round Up: Historic Buildings, Tax Credits, and Demolition

Preservation has been in the news lately. First, you may have seen the Winchester Star article on the latest Historic Tax Credit studies. You can watch the accompanying video interview on YouTube or below:

If you are up for a little light reading on historic tax credits and their impact in Virginia, you can read the full 94 page Preserving the Past, Building the Future or the four-page Executive Summary to hit the highlights. You may also want to read the similar economic analysis Virginia’s Historic Tax Credit Program prepared by Baker Tilly. Both studies back up the assertion of Historic Preservation Tax Credits paying for themselves over time and positively impacting not just buildings but entire communities.

You may also want to read the Winchester Star article on the approval of the demolition of a property on Sharp Street at the Board of Architectural Review last night. PHW President Bruce Downing was present to voice our concerns about the demolition of this property essentially by neglect. Sharp Street as a whole is a very architecturally and historically significant, if often overlooked, area of our Historic District. We hope the proposed changes and new construction, which are scheduled to return at a future meeting, will continue to honor and reflect the unique character of that block.

Preserve Early America in Virginia, Part One

To go with our post last week, a second typed manuscript fell free of a scrapbook during moving. This is a partial transcription of the article “Preserve Early America in Virginia,” written by Lucille Lozier and Chi-Chi Kerns in 1968. The manuscript was sent to six magazines for potential publication. It was divided into three sections, so only the first portion which forms the most cohesive narrative is included today. We may revisit the next two sections in a future blog post.

Preserve Early America in Virginia

“We set out early, then traveled up to Frederick Town,” wrote George Washington in March, 1748, then a lad of 16. “We cleaned ourselves (to get rid of the game we had catched the night before), took a review of the town and thence returned to our lodgings where we had a good dinner…and a good feather bed with clean sheets, which was a very agreeable regale.”

This was the beginning of George Washington’s association with Winchester, then called Frederick Town.

The property on which this same inn rested, which was conveyed by Lord Fairfax to William Cocke, owner of the inn, was designated for preservation October 15, 1967. A fine old stone house, built in 1792, now stands there. This house is the first building in Winchester to be marked for preservation. A bronze plaque was placed on this home at the dedication ceremony, indicating it will be preserved, and the home is so listed by Preservation of Historic Winchester, Inc.

At the time of Washington’s coming here, Winchester was the principal frontier post in the Shenandoah Valley. Washington, whose brother, Lawrence, married a cousin of Lord Fairfax, was sent here by the latter to survey Lord Fairfax’s vast estate of over 5,000,000 acres of unsettled land. He spent the next four years in this activity, and his headquarters attracts many tourists today.
George Washington's Office Museum

There seems to be an almost overwhelming urge, in the name of progress, to demolish and destroy relics of our country’s history and early cultural development. The era of concrete is upon the land, and ruthlessly, buildings of period architecture and antique beauty fall prey to the bulldozer. Feelings of pride in our past heritage seem to be swept aside in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

In the fall of 1963, a group of concerned citizens in Winchester, distressed and alarmed by the demolition of an increasingly large number of antique buildings in the area, assembled with a common desire to find some way to prevent the continuous destruction of their heritage. Winchester is one of the most historical cities of our nation and the oldest town west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a distinction of which they feel every citizen in the community should be justly proud.

Out of such concern grew an organization, the members of which were determined to preserve as many as possible of the old homes and buildings in Winchester which are historically important and architecturally interesting. These citizens formed an active group dedicated to providing a qualified and responsible organization capable of carrying out their objectives.

Those who belong to the organization have been successful in having the City Council pass an ordinance which enables them to proceed with their business of preservation. The name of the organization is “Preservation of Historic Winchester, Inc.”

The members of PHW, Inc. have undertaken a project which will bring to a halt the impetuous tearing down of their historically invaluable buildings which, once gone, can never be replaced. They are trying to preserve as many as possible of the important buildings in Old Winchester which were built before 1860. Under their plan, the owner of a building may request its preservation. If the building qualifies, an attractive bronze marker, or plaque, specially designed, is placed on the structure to indicate that it will always remain a part of Old Winchester.

In recent years there has been some interest among members of garden clubs and other citizens of Winchester in improving the appearance of certain local historic buildings by beautifying their surroundings with appropriate planting of trees, shrubs, flowers, vines and ground covers. Since the preservation of an old building is not authentic without the restoration of the gardens and lawn which enhanced it, the Historic Winchester group would hope to work hand in hand with all those who wish the picture to be complete. It is anticipated that out of growing concern for saving these buildings will develop also a strong desire on the part of Winchester’s citizens to make their town more attractive with beautiful landscape architecture.

Members of the newly-formed organization look forward to the future with great excitement. They expect, as a body, which will be fully qualified for the activity, to solicit and accept money and property in the form of endowments and bequests. These gifts will be classified as charitable and may be listed as such on income tax forms of all donors.

The people of Historic Winchester wish to spread the news of their thrilling adventure to all Virginians, and, indeed, throughout the nation. Anyone interested in the organization can contact us at 540-667-3577, phwinc.org@gmail.com, or at our office Monday-Friday at the Hexagon House, 530 Amherst Street, Winchester, VA 22601.

Remarks on the First Winchester Historic Plaque

The following is a transcript of the remarks said by Stewart Bell, Jr. at the dedication of the first Winchester historic building marker dedication on October 15, 1967. The marker was placed on the home of Miss Lucy Kurtz, 21 South Loudoun Street. The remarks were found when a scrapbook of early PHW mailers and newsletters was being moved and several sheets fell free of their scrapbook pages. The sentiments said fifty years ago still hold true and remain guiding principles of the Winchester Historic District. Every time you see one of the oval plaques on a historic building in downtown, you can remember this is the spirit in which the plaque program was begun, and one we hope it still embodies today.

Remarks by Stewart Bell, Jr., Vice Mayor
Dedication of historical marker on Miss Lucy Kurtz’s House
21 S. Loudoun Street
Sunday, October 15, 1967

Urban progress is voracious. It is often indiscriminate. It has no memory.

Some months ago the Common Council recognized this. They recognized, also, that this is not altogether good for a community. They recognized, as all of us here today recognize, that an old landmark, because of its aesthetic, historic, or cultural significance possesses an amenity value often far beyond and aside from its utilitarian or commercial value. Because this is so, it contributes to the economic vitality and strength of its community. As evidence of this I would point to the fact that Travel is Virginia’s second most lucrative industry and that localities with historic interest and cultural distinction share most generously in its benefits. As evidence of the truth of this statement, I would point to the fact that the level of general retail trade in Williamsburg usually leas that among all the localities of the State.

It seems, therefore, that it is a wise and proper municipal policy to identify some of our older buildings what have cultural significance and architectural integrity and that we endeavor to snatch them from the eager maw of Progress.

To that end, the City has purchased and in various ways preserves three such buildings: Washington’s Office, Stonewall Jackson’s Headquarters, and Abram’s Delight. But the City cannot continue to purchase and preserve as public property all its old buildings. Pursued to its conclusion, such a policy would not only be costly but it would ultimately make our city a necropolis, which is a city without life. This is the opposite of our aim.

In view of this, it was the purpose of the Council when it pass the Ordinance, as a result of this this plaque is placed here today, to indicate that the City of Winchester, as a corporate body, does recognize the value to the community of some of its older buildings and that it is our official policy to join with the owners of such properties to identify and to designate them by placing upon them an official bronze marker.

We hope that the presence of such a marker on any building in our community will in the future serve as a reminder to all who pass by, and especially to each future owner, that here is a building of distinction out of our past. It has survived and it is of genuine worth to our community to keep it if possible. It is, therefore, the policy of the community to attempt to preserve it from thoughtless or wanton destruction. This marker will say, “Think carefully and weigh all the values involved before you determine to replace this ancient building.”

As here and now we dedicate ourselves to the preservation of something of value out of our physical and material heritage, I have to express my wish that we likewise dedicate ourselves to the notions of purity, integrity, dignity and self-respect which are typified by such landmarks as this home, and that we seek to honor and observe these values which have come down to us out of the past. They are among the solid verities upon which all that is worthwhile is our past is built. They are among the solid verities upon which to build an enduring future amid the bewildering changes of our days.

This marker bears the official arms of the City of Winchester, but it is placed on any property only upon request of the owner, who thus joins with the City to designate his property as a cultural landmark. For this reason, I request Miss Lucy (Kurtz) and Mrs. (Godfrey) O’Rear, the owners of this handsome stone house that graces our principal street, to join with me in the placement of this first historic marker.

Placement of the first Winchester historic plaque

If you are inspired to have a plaque placed on your building in Winchester Historic District, visit the City’s website for the forms and guideline information. Plaques are discussed and approved by the Board of Architectural Review. Currently over 140 buildings in the historic district have been recognized with the official plaque, but not all recognized buildings have had their plaques installed.

Friday Round Up: Clowser House, Guideline Updates, and More

Friday RoundupHappy Friday! It’s been a busy week at PHW, so here’s what we’ve been up to:

We have added five images from the Walk and Learn tour we hosted in conjunction with the Clowser Foundation at the Clowser House last Saturday to our Flickr account. Thank you to everyone who came out and saw the house and heard about the efforts so far to save it. The Clowser Foundation needs your support – they are still fundraising for their efforts to repair the back wall before June 2018. You can learn more about their organization at their website and Facebook page.

We had some good questions on the historic farming uses at the Clowser House. As we learned on Saturday, the Clowser family ran a mixed farm with wheat, corn, cattle, pigs, and other crops and livestock. Although not specific to the Clowser family, you can learn more about agriculture in the Shenandoah Valley before and during the Civil War at Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation.

In Winchester news, we know many people have been awaiting word on the overhaul of the Board of Architectural Review Guidelines. The revised document, which has been in the works for about a year and a half, was presented at the September 26 City Council work session. It appears very likely the new guidelines, which allow for some additional flexibility with non-traditional materials, will be adopted on Tuesday, October 10. You may review the agenda and packet through the city’s website.

In Holiday House Tour news, we still have spaces available for interior full page, half page, and business card ads. You can learn more on the sizes and benefits of the ads here. If you are interested in reserving a spot, please let us know at phwinc.org@gmail.com or by calling 540-667-3577 before October 31.

We also took a few moments this week to update our GuideStar profile and reach their Silver rating. This has also opened up a new donation option for us on the GuideStar webpage. You may use the donation link under our logo as an alternate way to make online donations to PHW. Thank you in advance!

Winchester’s National Register Expansion Approved

PHW received word today via the Virginia Department of Historic Resources that the National Parks Service has approved the expanded National Register Historic District. The application was approved at the state level in mid-September, 2015. Congratulations to the 395 buildings and objects which have received recognition as contributing historic structures!

Coming Next Week: PHW Lunch and Learn Lecture, Oct. 22

LecturesPlease join us on Thursday, October 22 for a two-part lecture “Expansion of the Winchester National Register Historic District” and “National Avenue Corridor Enhancement District” presented by Timothy Youmans, Director of Winchester City Planning and Zoning.

Date: Thursday, October 22, 2015
Time: Noon-1 p.m.
Location: June E. Jeffrey Education Center at OakCrest Companies, 126 N. Kent Street, Winchester, VA. The Education Center is at the upper parking lot, in the addition closest to the Winchester Star building.
Cost: The Lunch and Learn lectures are free and open to the public!
RSVPs: Appreciated but not required.

Parking: There is no off-street parking available at OakCrest. We recommend utilizing the George Washington Autopark at 131 N. Kent St.

Questions? phwi@verizon.net or 540-667-3577

Expanded Historic District Update

PHW has received word from the Department of Historic Resources that the proposed expanded National Register Historic District (including parts of Amherst Street/West Boscawen Street/South Stewart Street and Pall Mall Street from South Kent Street to South Washington Street) has passed the first hurdle at the state level and has been added to the Virginia Historic Landmarks Register. The application has been forwarded on to the national level, and a determination can be expected in about 45 days.

As noted, these expanded areas that were not previously subject to Board of Architectural Review will remain free of any additional oversight for exterior changes. The listing on the state and national registers only opens the door for state and federal historic tax credit opportunities. This also provides incentives for those properties, like Amherst Street, which were subject to review at the local level but not eligible for the historic tax credits.

Congratulations to the 395 resources recognized as contributing structures in this expanded historic district!

National Register Guide Videos

Confused about the National Register of Historic Places and what it means for you as a property owner, particularly since new areas of Winchester may be added to our existing National Register Historic District by this December?

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has put together a series of videos with Jim Gabbert, a historian with the National Park Service, to create the National Register of Historic Places Guide on YouTube.

You may start the video playlist to watch all seven parts, or jump directly to the video that interests you. Most parts are about 2-3 minutes in length.

Part 1: Basics
Part 2: The Function of the National Register of Historic Places
Part 3: National Register Restrictions Explained
Part 4: Why Should I List a Property?
Part 5: Basics of the Nomination Form
Part 6: The Statement of Significance
Part 7: Establishing Significance

New installments are being released on Tuesdays, so check back with the National Trust on YouTube if you can’t get enough of learning about the National Register of Historic Places.

You may also wish to visit the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) website, which is Virginia’s State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). Winchester is located in the Northern Region Preservation Office, which is based in Stephens City. The DHR staff directory may be accessed here.

Information on Winchester Historic Plaque #22

Fred Boyd House PHW received a call this morning requesting information on the house with historic plaque #22. I have been unable to return the call to the number provided in the message, but hope that the seeker may find this post. The home is in Garland Quarles’ book “The Story of One Hundred Old Homes in Winchester, Virginia.” The book is available at the Handley Library or at PHW’s office at 530 Amherst Street. Copies may also be available for purchase at Winchester Book Gallery and the Stewart Bell Jr. Archives at Handley Library.

The home is referred to as the Fred Boyd home. According the Quarles’ research it was built in 1827 by George Fulk or Folk. It was subsequently owned by Elizabeth D. Smith (1853-1861), John Vilwig (1862-1898), James P. Whitacre (1898-1910), and then to Frederick S. Boyd in 1910. The historic plaque appears to have been placed in 1972 by Dr. and Mrs. Stuart Pannill Jones.

If you were the person seeking this information, please feel free to give us an email at phwi@verizon or try to give us a call back at 540-667-3577. Thank you for your interest, and I hope we can connect!

Update: Mystery is solved and we have connected! The PHW landline phone is a bit spotty today, probably from the damp conditions.

Is My Property in the Historic District?

The Kent Building Winchester’s local Historic District (HW zoning) is quite large at over 1200 documented structures over approximately 45 city blocks. There is often confusion about what area the local Historic District covers and whether or not a property is subject to any oversight for exterior changes.

All properties within the local Historic District are subject to review by the Winchester Board of Architectural Review for exterior alterations. Refer to Article 14 of the Winchester Zoning Ordinance and the Design Guidelines for the Historic District. For questions and more information about BAR oversight and applications, direct your inquiries to the Winchester Planning and Zoning Department, which acts as the city staff for the BAR.

This may sound very complicated, overwhelming, and impossible for an individual to figure out what the requirements are and where to go for information. There are a few ways you can check the status of your property on your own, quickly and easily, to determine whether you are subject to BAR oversight:

How to Check the Winchester Historic District (HW Zoning) Status

If you are new to the area, you may not realize some of the ways you’ve seen other historic districts and protected properties marked are not the same in Winchester. Here are some ways you may expect to see a historic district marked that are NOT a reliable indicator in Winchester:

How NOT to Check the Winchester Historic District (HW Zoning) Status

  • Historic building plaques (The oval plaques in Winchester are recognition for buildings of significance within the district, but are an optional part of the local historic district and denote no other protections or restrictions.)
  • Street signage (Historic district boundaries are not fully marked by signage and such signs should be used as a guide only.)
  • Real Estate Assessment Search (HW zoning is NOT shown on the web assessment search.)

Do you have any further ideas to add to the list? Perhaps you’ve expected to be able to check local Historic District status in some other way you don’t see listed here. Please drop us a note at PHW and we will keep this post updated.