The joint open house event with Preservation of Historic Winchester and Shenandoah Arts Council is still on for this Saturday, May 14, between noon and 4 PM. Free parking is available in the lot at the top of the driveway at 530 Amherst St. Look for the signage on the fence to find the driveway.
In case the weather is very stormy, the greeting table will be moved from the front porch to inside the foyer, still accessed through the front doors. Feel free to leave umbrellas on the front porch when entering.
The interior tours can be conducted at your own pace. There are additional signs mounted on the walls to help you learn about the building and expand on the pamphlet text. If you have questions about the building and its history, please let one of the volunteers know. Questions and comments will be used for subsequent revisions of the pamphlet.
In addition to the donation options, we will also have volunteer forms and nomination forms for our annual preservation awards, as well as other literature and walking tours to help you explore Winchester’s history and architecture further.
It is also that time of the year again when PHW looks to elect board members. If you may be interested in joining the organization and participating in a more direct way, we will have a current and past PHW board member on hand to talk about opportunities to help out.
We look forward to sharing our unique office with the community tomorrow to celebrate National Preservation Month. See you then!
Happy May! This year marks the 49th celebration of National Preservation Month, which was created to bring awareness to the work historic preservation does to preserve buildings and community character. There are always lots of activities this time of year to help you celebrate, but we have collected a number of the history-themed ones in our Preservation Month edition of the PHW newsletter.
We’d also like to share a little more detail on our National Preservation Month Open House set for May 14 at the Hexagon House:
For this special occasion, we will use the front door, facing Amherst Street, as our main entrance. Please note this entrance has a run of ten stairs to enter, but does have a handrail. If steps are an issue, the back door, which we use for our day to day business, has only two steps up (but no handrail).
Likewise, the upstairs will be opened by ShenArts. The upstairs is accessed by stairs only (20 steps, with handrail). If you cannot manage the steps, we will have a table for ShenArts info downstairs for guests.
Admission is free, but we encourage a donation to one or more of the following options (all are tax deductible as PHW and ShenArts are both 501(c)3 organizations):
Donation in memory of Dr. James Laidlaw, which will be used for exterior improvements at the Hexagon House in partnership with the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley
Donation to the Sherry Bosley Scholarship fund, to create an endowment for local students pursuing a historic preservation education
In addition, we will be able to process membership renewals for PHW, and we’ll have a “book nook” where you can pick up a copy of Winchester: Limestone, Sycamores & Architecture and other titles. We encourage the use of cash or checks, but we will try to have a credit/debit option available as well.
And of course, we have finally completed the brochure on the history of the Hexagon House, which has been requested numerous times through the years. It will be available for the first time during this event. We are delighted with the final product and can’t wait to share it with the community. This first (in what we hope may be a series of) building-specific pamphlet was made possible by the generous donation of cover artwork by Linda Spollen Haile, and a donation by Karen E. Brill and William J. Meyer which covered the printing expenses for the brochure. Even if you can’t stay for a full walk through the house, we hope you’ll drop in for a few minutes and grab a copy of the brochure. Be sure to thank our project donors as well, because it was their support that made this brochure and event possible for the community!
Last, just for fun, PHW has made a quick personality quiz to suggest some architectural styles to fit your personality. If the embedded quiz is not working, find the direct link here. Let us know how we did on picking styles!
PHW will be closing our doors a bit early today to accommodate the downtown festivities for Apple Blossom. We hope everyone has a safe and fun time with your weekend celebration.
We’ve been at work sprucing up our office and getting ready for our open house event on May 14. Today was also National Historic Marker Day, so we concentrated our cleaning efforts on the back porch to get everything neat and tidy around our historic markers for the Hexagon House. You can see some photos on our Flickr account, including close ups of all the cleaned markers. Did you clean a marker today?
Mark your calendars! PHW and the Shenandoah Arts Council are teaming up on May 14 to host an open house in our office, the Hexagon House, 530 Amherst St. We invite anyone to stop by and see our unique office building, the only hexagonal residence built in Virginia. We will premiere the highly-requested brochure on the house’s history at the event, and visitors can pick up a free copy. This is also set to be one of the rare times the second story will also be open for tours, thanks to the partnership of ShenArts.
This event is held in celebration of National Historic Preservation Month, which takes place every May. This year’s theme is People Saving Places. Historic place-savers pour their time, energy, and resources into protecting places they care about, often without recognition. Preservation Month 2022 is for them—a national high-five to everyone doing the great work of saving places and inspiring others to do the same.
In lieu of an admission fee, we encourage you to donate to one of a number of earmarked funds held by PHW. Online donations through Eventbrite will be marked as a general donation to PHW; you may donate in person at the door toward our directed funds. More information on the donation options will be available at the event.
The family-friendly Kidzfest day downtown will also be held May 14. Before or after visiting us at the Hexagon House, head to the Old Town Mall for exhibits highlighting education, art, music, sports and more. Information on the event is available at oldtownwinchesterva.com.
The French and Indian War Foundation has two events for the same weekend. First, stop by Washington’s Well at 419 N. Loudoun St. between 10 AM and 4 PM on May 14. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Fort Loudoun Day commemorating the beginning of construction of Col. George Washington’s historic Fort Loudoun in 1756. Look back into Winchester’s history during the 1700s via re-enactments, tours, and children’s activities.
Dr. Carl Ekberg presents a special luncheon and lecture “George Washington Gets Lucky, July 4, 1754” for the 20th anniversary celebration of the French and Indian War Foundation on Sunday, May 15. Head to the George Washington Hotel Ballroom for a 1 PM lunch and 2 PM lecture and cash bar. The event is $30 for members of FIWF and $35 for nonmembers; reserve your tickets by shopping online at fiwf.org/shopor by mailing a check to FIWF, PO Box 751, Winchester, VA 22604.
PHW is also accepting nominations for the 2022 preservation awards. If someone you know has completed a preservation project in Winchester or Frederick County and deserves recognition for their hard work, nominate them for a PHW award. The nomination forms can be found on the PHW website—nominate as many people or projects as you wish. Nominations are due by June 10 for consideration this year.
Text from this installment has been adapted from “Textiles” by Tina Rabun and Theodora Rezba in the “Valley Pioneers and Those Who Continue” catalogue, and the “West of the Blue Ridge” promotional newspaper clipping collection and exhibit texts.
Prior to the Revolutionary War, many of the textile products used in the Colonies were imported from Britain. In the 1700s, the Industrial Revolution was transforming previously laborious hand-processes and increasing production speeds, so that British goods were relatively inexpensive and in steady supply. It was not until the Revolutionary War severed the supply that it became a patriotic duty to spin, dye, and weave textiles. (1)
One well-known example locally of imported textiles is that of Lord Fairfax (1693-1781) during his time in Greenway Court. Andrew Burnaby observed of Lord Fairfax: “His dress corresponded with his mode of life, and, notwithstanding, he had every year new suits of clothes, of the most fashionable and expensive kind, sent out to him from England, which he never put on, was plain in the extreme.” This formal jacket probably was among those Fairfax imported from England.
Locally-produced textiles exhibited in the “Valley Pioneers and Those Who Continue” show varied from a c. 1800 baby’s cap in cambric to sheets and pillow sham of flax c. 1870. Wool and cotton, however, provided the bulk of the material base for textile work. One of the county’s early woolen mills was located on the Opequon, and wool production remained a staple of Winchester’s employment until the closure of the Virginia Woolen Mill in 1958.
Handspun wool, not being very strong, was difficult to use as a warp; therefore not many blankets of all wool were woven until yarns could be spun commercially with the invention of the spinning jenny. Cotton was grown in Virginia prior to the Revolutionary War for domestic use, and many of the early surviving blankets use cotton threads for the warp. Flax, too, was grown in small quantities for personal use both for weaving linen and for producing linseed oil.
Almost every family in the Valley possessed a four-harness loom either brought from Europe or fashioned in America of hand-hewn logs. Both men and women did the weaving and the children were taught to card and spin the flax, cotton, and wool. Perhaps the most plentiful example of home weaving can be found in the family bedding. Three types of woven coverlets that were in common use in the Valley were the overshot, the double weave, and the jacquard.
The overshot coverlet dates from the early settlement period and could be woven on a simple four-harness loom requiring minimal skills. In this weave, the weft threads usually form the pattern and “overshoot” the warp threads, forming floats across the background weave. The double weave style (1725-1825) is constructed so that two warps are joined so that the reverse side of the coverlet is a mirror image of the front. Thus the front would show a dark design on a light ground, while the back shows a light design on a dark ground. The jacquard coverlet required a specialized loom invented by a French weaver, Joseph Jacquard. The complicated mechanism that activated the harnesses allowed for the creation of intricate patterns like brocade and damask. The loom required two people to operate and made coverlet weaving a profession after the 1830s. Many of the professional weavers also offered dyeing services.
Quilts, the other major form of bedding, were largely made by women. The quilts themselves reflect the history of textile production in America, including home-woven cloth, souvenir fabric to memorialize important events, stitching techniques, patterns, and symbolic motifs important to the makers. Quilts are often a communal effort as well, and numerous signatures on one quilt can document the makers who lent their talents to the finished piece. Whole-cloth quilts of wool were produced from the late 1700s to early 1800s, but the familiar image of a quilt is likely that of multicolor pieced cotton. Early patterns were often simple geometric designs in rectangles, squares, and triangles. More elaborate designs could have been traced from newspaper or magazine patterns. The exact quilts displayed at the Kurtz Cultural Center in conjunction with Belle Grove Plantation were not well-documented, except for the “Spring Dreams” quilt, used as a raffle item. An Amish-made queen sized quilt, it features a white background decorated with circles and sprigs of flowers and vines in pastel pink, yellow, blue, and green. For more examples of American quilts, visit the National Quilt Collection at the National Museum of American History.
For a quilt made in Winchester by Amelia Lauck, wife of Peter Lauck (both previously discussed in the Portraiture entry), see the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts for a ca. 1823 quilt of cotton with appliques of flowers and birds.
While the bedding served daily needs, needlework could be used for education as well. The best example is that of a sampler. Known in Europe as early at the 16th century, the sampler reached its height of popularity in the 18th. Intended as a practical record of stitching patterns that could be added to and referred back to throughout a woman’s lifetime, it also came to serve a secondary use. Young girls were taught how to embroider at an early age, so their samplers were also used to practice letters, numbers, and more fanciful artistic expressions. A typical American sampler will contain various alphabetical forms, numerals, ornaments, and decorative borders. The stitcher may have included her name, the date, her school, figures like houses, pets, mottoes, and other personalized touches.
While the sampler was a relatively utilitarian piece that could be used as a reference guide, for some women the skills learned in stitching a sampler led to higher artistic expression. To explore the variety of needlework produced in early American history, you may wish to further explore the holdings of the Museum of Early South Decorative Arts and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Join us next time for a look at furniture in the Valley on May 20.
Orrick Cemetery is the only surviving African-American cemetery that is still active in Winchester, Virginia. It will be celebrating a century of incorporation on April 13, 2022, but has served our community for over two centuries.
Presenter Brenda Nelson will give a comprehensive history of Orrick Cemetery. She has been researching her and her husband’s genealogy and has shared what she has learned and the family she has researched by writing and publishing three articles for the Fairfax Genealogical Society Newsletter. Brenda’s latest project had been researching the history of the Orrick Cemetery here in the City of Winchester.
Markers educate the public, encourage pride of place, promote tourism and generate economic benefits. Despite their importance, many have not received ongoing care to maintain their luster. Road salt, pollen and other contaminants can take their toll. Markers must be regularly cleaned so they can be enjoyed now and for future generations. That’s where volunteers for National Historic Marker Day make a difference.
Visit the official National Historic Marker Day webpage for details about registering as a volunteer, planning a service project, tips for cleaning markers, and the benefits of participating. PHW will be sprucing up our markers at the Hexagon House before closing early that afternoon for Apple Blossom festivities.
PHW is planning a National Preservation Month event in mid-May at the Hexagon House. We are ecstatic to have finally completed an updated history brochure on our wonderful office space and are looking forward to celebrating its launch this spring. More details will be coming soon!
Are you an artist interested in being part of the Bough & Dough Shop this year? The dates have tentatively been set for November 18-December 11. Artist application forms will be completed soon; if you are a prospective artist drop us an email at email@example.com to receive a digital copy when they become available.
The Winchester-Frederick County Tourism Office will host the next Newcomers Eventon Thursday, April 7 from 5-7 pm at the Visitor Center. Are you new to the area or just want to learn more about our beautiful and vibrant community? Stop by and enjoy this free, casual event. Representatives from the City and County governments and parks and recreation departments, the Discovery Museum, the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, Handley Library, local destinations/museums, Winchester Area Newcomer’s Club, and more will be present.
As part of the Community Conversations Series, Councilors Kim Herbstritt and John Hill will host a Community Cleanup on Saturday, April 9 at 8 AM at Shawnee Springs (behind Mt. Carmel Church on Pleasant Valley Rd.), Friendship Park (end of N. Pleasant Valley Rd. across from Friendship Fire Station), and N. Cameron & N. Loudoun Streets (Rescue Mission and north to railroad tracks). Volunteers needed – bags, gloves, and pickers will be provided.
Grants from the Hart Family Fund for Small Townsare intended to encourage preservation at the local level by providing seed money for preservation projects in small towns. These grants help stimulate public discussion, enable local groups to gain the technical expertise needed for particular projects, introduce the public to preservation concepts and techniques, and encourage financial participation by the private sector. Grants range from $2,500 to $15,000. Apply by May 2.
In our ongoing work sparked by the Elms on Valley Avenue, we have been researching the proliferation of short-term tourist accommodations in Virginia in the early to mid-twentieth century to provide background context for the site. In William Couper’s History of the Shenandoah Valley published in 1952, the author states: “Tourist courts, at times called motels and somewhat similar terms, have become so numerous in the Valley that a pamphlet listing them and their advantages and accommodations has been published by the Virginia Tourist Court Association, Incorporated” (p. 1186).
In a prepared statement in 1951, the Association outlined how their model of business was substantially different from rental housing and commercial hotels: “Though tourist courts possess some of the characteristics of ordinary rental housing and some of the characteristics of commercial hotels, they are different in very substantial respects from both . . . . Tourist courts, unlike ordinary rental housing, cater only to transients and, unlike commercial hotels, they cater only to transients traveling by private motor vehicle. Persons traveling by train, airplane, bus, or ship do not patronize tourist courts. Further, the tourist court, because of its location usually far distant from the business centers of large cities, does not appeal to the average commercial traveler. It is designed for and seeks its patronage among motoring vacationists.” 
This reasoning falls in line well with the development patterns of tourist courts and similar establishments. Hand in hand with the rise of the automobile, Winchester and its many scenic roads were often included in vacation guides geared to the automobile owner. Starting in at least the late 1920s, various groups concerned with tourism and travel along the highways passing through town partnered with other localities to drive more visitors here to experience our scenery, history, and of course, the Apple Blossom Festival. Winchester was often touted as the perfect overnight destination on these two or three day road trips.
No timeline accounting for the rise and fall of motels in Winchester and nearby Frederick County exists (yet), though incidental research of buildings throughout town reflects larger single family dwellings often being utilized as rooming houses or tourist homes in the early 1900s to 1940s. A 1967 business census lists 17 tourist courts, motels, and similar in Winchester, and 18 in Frederick County .
Documentary images of the remaining Elms “Cottages” may now be seen at our Flickr account.
Sparked by the interest shown in The Elms Motor Court buildings along Valley Avenue, we have done some preliminary research to see what information is available about the motel. As a number of other online researchers have commented, finding historic information about the motel specifically is a bit hard to come by, so we wanted to make the information we gathered at PHW accessible as we continue our documentation of the site.
A Winchester Evening Star article dated Nov. 3, 1954 supplies most of our historic information for this post. L. Adolph Richards, the author, wrote several other articles on buildings on historic interest in the mid-1900s, and it appears he pulled most of his information from T. K. Cartmell’s writings, so we trust that the basic information provided was verified.
In this article, Richards notes the land was granted by Virginia Governor Gooch to Isaac Parkins in 1735. Isaac’s son, Nathan Parkins, built the home as well as a mill across the road. Nathan lived in the home until his death in 1830; subsequently it was occupied by T. T. Fauntleroy, George W. Hillyard, William Richards (who dubbed the house “The Elms”), and Mr. and Mrs. L. V. Watson. In April of 1954, the Chickla Brothers of Pittsburgh purchased the property and owned it during the heyday of the Elms Motor Court.
By the time of a 1963 aerial image viewable on Historic Aerials, The Elms had completed the construction of the additional cottages in an L shape around the house. The main stone house was used for room rentals, as well as a restaurant in its later life. The building, thought to be the oldest house on the south side of Winchester, was demolished in early 2010. The lot, including the elm trees, was leveled and grassed over and has been vacant since that time.
The Parkins Mill, built along Abram’s Creek, was destroyed during the Civil War and was rebuilt by Jacob Keckley in 1872. At an unspecified point (perhaps around 1930), the mill was converted to apple packaging, as seen on the 1947 Sanborn map. The Keckley Mill has also been demolished. In a newspaper clipping from December 27, 1995 detailing the demolition by Cynthia Cather, it was last occupied by Shenandoah Appliance Co. for about 17 years prior to demolition. For those familiar with Winchester in the 1980s, it was well-known because of a stuffed gorilla placed outside the entrance to the building.
The rectangular pond across the road from The Elms was used as a dam to hold water from Abram’s Creek to turn the water wheel for the Parkins and Keckley Mill, as well as being used for ice by the Hillyards. We assume this article from 1931, printed below, is the pond where the perch were poisoned.
HALF-MILLION PERCH ARE KILLED IN POND
Game Warden F. M. Pingley reported that approximately 500,000 yellow perch had been killed in the past several days in a fresh water pond at the Elms, near Winchester, Va., which, it is claimed, was due to the pollution of Abrams Creek, which feeds the pond. Informed of the killing, Maj. A. Willis Robertson, of Richmond, State commissioner of game and inland fisheries, notified Warden Pingley to proceed to prosecute the agency believed guilty of polluting the stream and killing the fish. Game Warden Pingley procured a warrant from County Magistrate A. J. Tavenner against the Virginia Apple Storage Company, operating a large plant on Abrams Creek, charging the corporation with having polluted the stream by emptying a solution of lime from their plant into the stream. The warrant was served on L. Jackson, manager. —Chief Justice, Volume 4, Number 29, 21 July 1931
More images, primarily of the Keckley Mill, are now available at our Flickr. We anticipate adding more images of the Elms Motor Court buildings soon.
The text for this installment is adapted from “Fine Art and Fraktur” by Linda Crocker Simmons in the “Valley Pioneer Artists and Those Who Continue” exhibit catalog, with information from the “West of the Blue Ridge” exhibit. Most images of the portraits displayed at the “West of the Blue Ridge” exhibit are from digitized slides attributed to Elaine Rebman.
Painting in the United States in this period underwent dramatic developments and changes in styles. Although the Lower Valley was not a center for innovation, the painters active here often reflected the changes that had occurred in New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, or Boston, albeit a few decades later. Patronage determined much of what an artist painted, and in the Valley the demand for portraits was constant, followed in lesser degrees by landscapes, still-lifes, and genre scenes of everyday life.
A diversity of media was usual throughout this hundred-year period. Miniatures were much more common than is recognized. In the decades before the 1840s when photography was introduced, they were the preferred form for small, easily transported portraits. It is likely that many more miniatures were created than are known or have survived. In addition to having a miniature portrait painted in watercolor on ivory, Valley sitters could also commission their portrait in chalk, watercolor, or ink on paper.
In the Valley, as elsewhere, one of the easiest methods of locating a painter was through newspaper advertisements. The two earliest names uncovered are William Dering and L. M. Christophe. Others discovered through similar searches are Charles Peale Polk, Joshua Johnson, Frederick Kemmelmeyer, John Drinker, and [William Joseph] Aldridge. This group was likely the most influential on painters in this region during the “golden age” of folk painting. A significant level of activity was sustained from the 1790s through the 1820s by these itinerants seeking portrait commissions in the Lower Shenandoah Valley.
Orphaned as a small child, Charles Peale Polk (1767 – 1822) was raised in Philadelphia by his uncle, Charles Peale, who taught him to paint. In 1791 Polk moved with his wife and children from Philadelphia to Baltimore where he worked as a portrait painter and merchant. He left in 1796 for Frederick Co., Maryland, then traveled from there as an itinerant painter through western Maryland and Virginia. After the election of Thomas Jefferson, Polk, a political supporter, moved to Washington DC where he received an appointment as clerk, a position he held for 16 years. In 1820 after his third marriage, the family moved to a farm in Richmond Co., Va. where they resided until Polk’s death in 1822.
Jacob Frymire (1765 – 1822) was a portrait and miniature painter. Little is known of his training, but by 1791 he was active in New Jersey and Maryland painting portraits. From 1794-1807 he traveled in the South, especially Virginia and Kentucky. From 1817 until his death, he maintained residences first in Shippensburg, Pa. and later in Hamilton Township, Pa.
In the early 1800s, John Drinker (1760-1826) and Joshua Johnston (1763-1832) began working in Berkeley and Jefferson counties. Johnston is the earliest identified African-American painter in the United States. He has been linked to the Peale family – if not as master and student, at least through familiarity with and similarity of techniques. The only signed painting by him is of Sarah Ogden Gustin, painted in Berkeley Springs about 1800, and in it can be seen Johnston’s typical pallid complexion and linear treatment of details. Drinker was the only one of these early painters to settle in the region. He lived with his wife in Berkeley County until his death in 1826. Valley residents who sat for him included Dr. and Mrs. John Briscoe of Piedmont, Mr. and Mrs. George Steptoe Washington of Harewood, and Mr. and Mrs. Gabriel Jones.
The Lauck family of Winchester became patrons of Frymire and Polk in 1799 when Peter Lauck, Revolutionary soldier and owner of the Red Lion Tavern, was painted by Polk. Peter’s wife, Amelia Heiskell Lauck, was painted two years later by Frymire. It is likely that Frymire knew the Polk portrait of Peter Lauck when he painted Amelia. The effect of Polk’s style on Frymire’s is clear in the loose brushstroke seen in Mrs. Lauck’s shawl and the heightened attention focused on her facial features. Amelia Lauck’s portrait by Frymire is one of his finest works as well as an example of the interchanges of influence between these painters.
As the second half of the nineteenth century approached, tastes began to move away from portraiture. Landscape images depicting the beauty of the Valley’s mountains, rivers, sky, and settlements became more common, along with genre scenes of everyday life. The Civil War seems to have drawn this local age of portrait folk painting to a close. If you would like to further explore works of some painters named in this brief exploration, we recommend visiting the online collection of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts.
Join us on April 15 for our next installment on textiles and samplers!
We are also getting ready for a large batch of membership renewals for our spring/end of fiscal year push. If you’d like to get in your renewal early, we have an online form you can download and mail in with your check. Otherwise, keep an eye out in early April for the next renewal letter.
We are getting closer to seeing the MSV partnership on some landscaping/exterior improvements happen at the Hexagon House. Our end goal is to have some quality of life improvements for outdoor events here. Many of you are familiar with our usual outdoor setup for the Annual Meeting and the greenery sales at the Bough & Dough Shop and have probably noticed the yard is looking a bit rough. We hope to be able to share more details soon, but any donations made to PHW in memory of Jim Laidlaw are currently being considered for this project. As you may know, Jim and Barbara have been integral parts of PHW’s leadership since the 1970s, and were similarly involved with the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. Barbara is being consulted and is on-board for the proposed idea.
We have reached out to our local Department of Historic Resources office and confirmed of the 200 motels/hotels surveyed in Virginia, only three are from Winchester/Frederick County. Similar styles have been considered National Register eligible recently. We would recommend viewing the Multiple Property Document for Virginia Beach Oceanfront Resort Motels and Hotels for more in-depth architectural history on hospitality-focused buildings. You can also view more collected images and information on the Elms Motor Court at Dead Motels USA. The existing motor court is worth documenting properly at the very least, or perhaps even incorporated into the other adaptive reuse of existing structures planned for the site.
The public hearing for rezoning will take place March 15, 3 PM in Rouss City Hall. You may wish to make statements in writing and submit them before the meeting to the Planning Commission by email via firstname.lastname@example.org.