Friday Roundup: South Loudoun Street Demolitions and African American Genealogy

PHW has reviewed the preliminary structural reports for 411 and 514-520 South Loudoun Street this week. From our reading and conversations, we believe 411 South Loudoun is able to be rehabilitated following some selective (not total) demolition to the rear of the structure. The main block of the house facing Loudoun Street appears to be relatively sound and the issues found are common enough to correct. The rear wing is more deteriorated primarily through water damage, but reconstruction or a new addition to the rear of historic buildings is an acceptable and common way to repurpose historic buildings for new uses and needs.

514 S. Loudoun
514-520 S. Loudoun, circa 1976

The townhouses at 514-520 South Loudoun are more deteriorated, but we would like more information from the completed structural reports. Again, it sounds like water and lack of maintenance were the primary sources of deterioration. One of the issues we have circled back to many times at PHW during discussions involving these properties is the unique character of the townhouse facades. While there are a few townhouses of a similar style in Winchester, none have quite the same “San Francisco” feeling as these units with their walk-in basements. One idea that may be worth exploring for the townhouses is a facadectomy, wherein the facade (the most architecturally interesting portion of the building) is retained, and an entirely new structure is built behind. This approach may be particularly useful in this case because the interior of the building may be difficult to work with for modern conveniences, as the units are reported to be very narrow, dominated by staircases, and the rooms quite small inside.

In either case, for both structures, there is no plan by the applicant to rebuild. Philosophically, PHW is opposed to demolition that leaves holes in the streetscape. Given the slow pace of action of these properties throughout almost the entire existence of PHW as an organization, we have little hope should this demolition be approved that anything will be built on this land within the next fifty years. We urge the applicant to finally relinquish these properties to other entities who are willing and able to proceed in meaningful action instead of continuing a slow and painful demolition by neglect.

If you would like to make a statement on these properties, the public hearing for demolition is scheduled for August 18, 4 PM at Rouss City Hall.


In other news, we also watched this presentation from the Thomas Balch Library on African American Genealogy this week. While this is focused on Loudoun County and some of the search resources are not available for Winchester, it can provide ideas for alternative lateral research avenues. If you are on the hunt for more information, you may wish to check out the Virginia Untold website to start or flesh out your search.

South Loudoun Street Demolition Request

A notice was posted in Thursday’s Winchester Star for the proposed demolition of structures at 411 and 514-520 South Loudoun Street for the August 18 Board of Architectural Review, 4 PM at Rouss City Hall. We are awaiting further clarification at the time of this post, but we will follow up with additional information when/if it becomes available.

South Loudoun Street
514-520 South Loudoun Street, circa 1976

Both structures are deemed architecturally contributing to the Historic District, and PHW has received word of several people who would like further investigation into the ability to rehab these structures. 411 S. Loudoun (believed to date to the 1860s through deed research, with likely late 19th century porch embellishments) is a typical Winchester vernacular house, similar to many others that were bought, resold, and restored in the Potato Hill neighborhood. The houses at 514-520 S. Loudoun may be the last intact frame Queen Anne style rowhouses left in the Historic District, possibly due in part to their relatively late construction date of 1903.

South Loudoun Street
411 South Loudoun St., circa 1976

PHW’s preference is always to attempt rehabilitation for our contributing Historic District properties, particularly if there are people willing to undertake the work. As we have seen through PHW’s Revolving Fund and other private investments over the years, some truly astounding work can be accomplished by motivated and dedicated individuals. We hope that whatever entity undertakes the necessary work on these properties will do so in a manner sensitive to this special neighborhood and its plethora of early historic homes.

Friday Photos: Bough and Dough Shop, Clowser House Painting, and Baker Street Mural

Happy Friday! While uncertainty abounds for our Holiday House Tour and Bough and Dough Shop for 2020, we wanted to share images of the 2019 shop to potential and returning vendors. We will be contacting past vendors soon with our tentative plans to host the Shop in 2020. If you are interested in joining the Shop as a new artist, please reach out to us at PHW at phwinc.org@gmail.com for an artist packet. You can find a selection of 113 images of the shop setup in 2019 at our Flickr album.

The Very Merry Mittens display in the Bough and Dough Shop, 2019.

Larry Webb also shared images of work taking place at the Clowser House in Shawneeland recently. The pictures show the beginning the exterior painting by removing the old shutters. A new front door and new shutters for all the windows will be installed once the house is painted. George Sobien, the Property and Preservation Committee Chairman, is pictured performing the work. View the nine images at the end of the Clowser House album at Flickr.

Painting at the Clowser House, April 2020.

Last, in preservation news, the public hearing for additional demolition requests around the former Winchester Towers site and the former Glaize Lumber yard and Baker warehouses was approved at Thursday’s Board of Architectural Review. In a glimmer of hope, however, a portion of the wall with the ghost signs for Baker and Co. Wholesale Groceries may be incorporated into the final project. No details on exactly how the former advertising may be incorporated were available at the meeting yesterday, but we hope to see them in future BAR applications. If you like the look of ghost signs and wish to learn and see more, visit the American Ghosts website, which has catalogued and photographed unusual and iconic signs around America. The Baker Street wall is included in the database.

Baker Street
This portion of the wall on Baker Street may be preserved and incorporated elsewhere in the project for the former Winchester Towers site.

Friday Roundup: Events and Tidbits

Formal garden, Colonial Williamsburg
Thanks to commenter Sarah Yi on Flickr, this unmarked slide in PHW’s collection has been identified as most likely being a garden at Colonial Williamsburg. Learn more about the gardens of Williamsburg here.

Looking for something to do this weekend? This Saturday is the 7th annual Chocolate Escape in Old Town Winchester. Look for red balloons at participating businesses between 2-5 p.m., or find more information at the Old Town Winchester site.

The French and Indian War Foundation invites you to celebrate George Washington’s 288th birthday with them on Friday, Feb. 21, 5:30-8:30 PM at the Half Note Lounge in the George Washington Hotel, 103 E. Piccadilly St. This free event is open to everyone. A cash bar and appetizers at $20/plate will be available.

A monument at the site where Turner Ashby was mortally wounded in the Civil War was vandalized recently in Harrisonburg. Regardless of your thoughts on the vandalism, cleaning and restoring historic structures and monuments from paint vandalism is especially laborious. If you find yourself in a similar situation, you may wish to investigate the technical briefs Removing Graffiti from Historic Masonry and Preserving Grave Markers in Historic Cemeteries. The National Center for Preservation Technology Training also has a few blog entries dedicated to graffiti removal and sacrificial coatings for stone monuments (marble specifically for the study linked in the blog).

The Trapezium House was an unusual find in our news feed this week. Similar to theories we’ve heard about the Hexagon House, the house in Petersburg was built without parallel walls in an attempt to make the building free of evil spirits who would become trapped in the corners. A bit more history and images are available at Clio.

The Board of Architectural Review will have multiple positions opening at the end of April this year. If you are interested in joining the board, or another city commission, the online application can be found at the city’s website.

The new cover for Limestone features the Hexagon House. Copies are available for purchase for $25 plus tax at the PHW office, Winchester Book Gallery, or the Gift Shop at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley.

Mark you calendars tentatively for April 3 and 4, when we hope to host a book launch party and sale weekend for the revised copy of Winchester: Limestone, Sycamores & Architecture. In addition to those books, we hope to have a small book sale of other new and used books (including copies of Why Old Places Matter) and magazines relevant to local history and architecture. If you have books or magazines in good condition to donate as you downsize your collections, stop by the Hexagon House between now and April. Sandra will be happy to look over your items and see what is suitable for the sale. More information will be finalized and available soon!

Friday Roundup: Celebración Winchester, Meditations on BAR

Out and about this weekend? Stop by the downtown to catch up with PHW at Celebración of Winchester on Sunday, September 23, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. A PHW board member or two should be around with an assortment of goodies, including a hot off the press early run brochure for the Bough & Dough Shop. We expect to have the Featured Artists portion of the PHW website updated later today or early next week so you can start exploring some of the amazing vendors and items we will have at the Hexagon House in November and early December.

221-223 South Loudoun StreetYesterday’s Board of Architectural Review meeting was a heartening experience after a tough few months of fighting for historic preservation and compromise as the accepted and useful strategy for dealing with problem buildings. Earlier this year, a new developer came to BAR with a plan for the Guitar Studio building on South Loudoun Street. It is a building of the recent past that attained contributing status in the latest architectural survey. Compared to the similarly-aged commercial buildings of the 200 block of East Piccadilly, this building truly is vernacular and of no discernible architectural style. It was likely built in the late 1940s, replacing an earlier frame building of about the same footprint. At some point between construction and the 1976 survey, some “colonial touches” were added that muddled the exterior appearance and “read” of the building.

During the initial BAR meeting in May, a number of the proposed changes were not in keeping with the Winchester BAR Design Guidelines. The majority of the application was tabled while PHW and the owners did some investigation of the building history and reading up on the BAR design guidelines. The applicants returned last night for a conceptual review, having read up, learned more about their building and researched more proposed products. The applicants were very open and excited to bounce ideas off the BAR members and solicited suggestions for further improvement before the application comes up for a full vote.

In the end, the applicant will likely have a new storefront more in line with a 1940s commercial building rather than trying to hang on to some oddball features to make a commercial building look residential. The longtime business resident is not being displaced. Opportunities for increased and improved residential density as well as proactively mitigating concerns is being addressed now rather than later. A situation that could have turned sour and confrontational was instead a pleasant experience of opening new possibilities, compromise and excitement for everyone involved. We are looking forward to seeing a “final product” application for this building.

We hope other applicants approach the BAR process with this same open mindset and willingness to compromise and explore various options. Again, we cannot stress enough how helpful a conceptual review discussion is both for the applicant and the Board of Architectural Review, and we encourage anyone considering a large and involved project to take advantage of this service before becoming married to an idea that may not work well with the Historic District.

Learn more on the city’s website about Winchester’s Historic Districts and Board of Architectural Review.



Friday Roundup: PHW Office News and Hurricane Preparedness

Friday Roundup Thanks for bearing with us on a tough week in the preservation world. As you have likely heard, all of the BAR appeals on Tuesday were overturned, which opens the door for demolition of the Kent and Piccadilly corner. No Certificate of Appropriateness will be issued for the next thirty days. The developer had also previously stated at the City Council work session no buildings would be demolished until plans were finalized. There is also a further appeal process open to PHW should we choose to exercise it. Above all else, we hope to have productive meetings with city staff both for this project and any others in the future that involve our irreplaceable architectural resources. Public input, consultation, and collaboration with stakeholders and residents should always be a priority, especially in regards to large scale projects the Historic District.

We would like to thank councilors Willingham, Willey, McInturff, and McKannan for their position to retain the James Barr house at 206 N. Kent St., as well as McKannan for his support in seeing the historic value in the old Central Garage at 202 E. Piccadilly.

With the unpleasant business portion of our weekly recap complete, I would like to thank all the artisans who have filled in applications or expressed interest to the personal invitations to the Bough and Dough Shop. We are near our space limits for interior artisan setup as of this week. We are still open for a live greenery artist for after Thanksgiving to the end of the event, but all other slots appear filled or are in talks to be filled now. The applications will remain up on the website just a bit longer, and printed copies will remain available at the PHW office. New applicants will be retained on our call back list in case of last minute changes or spaces becoming available. Again, thank you all so much, and I hope we will have some fantastic new and unique items for our shoppers this year!

As you can imagine, we ran behind on getting our Holiday House Tour program booklet advertising material together, but the hard copy letters to past sponsors and those who have expressed interest are going out this week. If you would like to advertise your business, please get in touch and we will provide you the information. We are also very willing to help you design your ad or make sure it will work with our printer, so please feel free to contact us at phwinc.org@gmail.com for further information. The deadline for securing an advertising spot is October 31.

With the weather this weekend and into next week threatening us with even more rain, we would like to direct anyone with flooding or water penetration issues to our blog post highlighting a list of resources compiled by Preservation Maryland in our May 18 blog post. You may also want to review these checklists and documents for hurricane preparedness:
Hurricane Preparedness for Maryland’s Historic Properties
Hurricane Preparedness and Recovery for Owners of Historic Properties
Hurricane Preparedness For Old Houses
Hurricane Preparedness: Are You Ready?
Avoiding Hurricane Damage: A Checklist for Homeowners
We hope the worst of the storm passes us by, but we want to be prepared for the worst. Stay safe and dry, everyone!



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.



East Piccadilly Street Development

Now that the plans for the corner of East Piccadilly and North Kent Street have been made public, PHW would like to voice our concern over the wholesale demolition of this corner. All of the buildings inside the historic district are noted as contributing structures. We are especially concerned with the fate of the corner building housing Chopped Corner Tacos, which many residents will remember as the Stonewall Tavern. Although outside the historic district, the building housing Another Chance Church could be similarly rated as representative of the early 20th century and retaining a high degree of architectural integrity.

The demolition hearing for this request will be held at the Board of Architectural Review meeting on Thursday, July 19, 4 PM at Rouss City Hall. If you are likewise concerned about the loss of this early 20th century corner, please attend and speak at the public hearing. There is a way to both honor the character of this neighborhood and meet the goals for workforce housing, and we encourage the City to fully explore them before resorting to demolition. As we have seen before at the Winchester Towers site, redevelopment can often be a long time in returning.

You may wish to refer to the 2011 Architectural Inventory for East Piccadilly and North Kent, and past images of 202 E. Piccadilly (Stonewall Tavern) (Central Garage) and 204-210 E. Piccadilly. (An older image of the North Kent properties could not be located at the time of this writing, but please feel free to share any images you have with us at phwinc.org@gmail.com.)



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.