Welcome to October! It seems the spooky season is uncovering all kinds of unsolved mysteries, and we have three to share this week:
PHW was recently approached for further information concerning 225 Sharp St. This is a frame addition to a ca. 1830 (possibly as old as 1822) brick house. The frame addition was part of our image caption project for social media, at which time we tentatively identified the owner at the likely time of the construction as George E. Bushnell. In searching for further information on the owner, we learned he was a druggist (or pharmacist) in Winchester, but to our surprise it appears he passed away in 1898, probably before the frame addition was constructed. We can confirm by the 1920 census it was being used as a rental for Ida and Westley Washington and their family. If you know of any specific history tidbits or timeline concerning this structure, please let PHW know at email@example.com so we can pass the information along to the requester.
On a similar note, we were asked if there was any specific name for the area near the Piccadilly/Kent St. railroad crossing. We have looked through some older maps and accounts of Winchester as a young town, and in general that area around Piccadilly seems to have been referred to as “the northeastern end of town” at least until the early 1900s and the construction boom along National Avenue pushed the edge of town further east. That intersection comprises lots 47, 48, 65, and 66 of the 1752 plan of Winchester, and the original owners of said lots were identified as Andrew Fretty, John Steward, and — Bush, respectively (with Bush owning two parcels). None of these names seem to have stuck to the land parcels through the centuries. Looking at real estate records sometime reveals tract names from subdivisions; the closest we could find was reference to the Virginia Woolen Mill. Although no specific and catchy name like Potato Hill or Virginia City has stuck in the printed literature, do you call this area anything in particular?
While doing this and other research on Piccadilly Street, we came across a mention in the May 14, 1925 Daily Independent newspaper that Harry Gardiner, “The Human Fly,” was set to climb the Piccadilly side of the George Washington Hotel as a fundraiser. The attempt was indeed successful, though it is unclear how much money his stunt raised for the American Legion. From the coverage the Monday following the event:
“A large crowd of people gathered on Market [Cameron] and Piccadilly streets Saturday night to witness the climbing of the walls of the George Washington Hotel by Harry Gardiner, the human fly. Mr. Gardiner ascended the Piccadilly street side of the hotel, and when he had almost reached the roof of the hotel, the spectators stood in breathless excitement, wondering how he would be able to climb to the roof, but they soon spied a rope dangling a few feet from the roof, by which Gardiner climbed to the top of the hotel. The Citizens’ Band, who donated their services, gave a beautiful concert in front of the hotel before the climbing act took place. The affair was held under the auspices of the R. Y. Conrad Post of the American Legion, and the amount of money taken up and for the benefit of the building fund.” – Daily Independent, May 18, 1925
From a quick peek at other newspapers, it appears Harry Gardiner’s building-climbing skills were employed at other hotels in Virginia and West Virginia in the 1920s, many under the auspices of fundraising for American Legion chapters. It does not appear a full list of his climbing exploits have been compiled yet, but perhaps this chance find will spark a bit more interest and investigation into this once famous stuntman.