Around the Internet: Christmas Edition

Around the InternetMissing your Friday Photos fix? Shorpy Historic Picture Archive has a whole category devoted to vintage Christmas photos between the 1850s-1950s. Although not local to Winchester, the Church of the Nativity image was particularly striking.

Christmas Cutouts 1Christmas Cutouts 2Perhaps you need a small artistic project to take a breather from the hectic holiday crunch? Here are two sheets from the School Art Magazine of December 1920 which are ready for you to adapt to your decorating needs, color, and cut out. Click on the images to download them at full size.

Holiday music has become an intrinsic part of the Christmas observances. To quench your need for vintage carols in an authentic format, the Library of Virginia has shared a set of sheet music from Hotel Richmond on their blog this week. However, if you find belting out a tune a little on the tame side, the Atlas Obscura writers have turned up some genuinely dangerous Victorian parlor games to amaze and astound you. While they may be authentic, we would not suggest recreating Snapdragon or full contact Blind Man’s Bluff today!

A Christmas FeastIf folklore is more enticing than roughhousing or games of truth or dare, the Encyclopaedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World for 1903 has a few choice tidbits for anyone hunting down forgotten Christmas traditions. To forecast the weather, “on Christmas day take twelve onions . . . and put salt on each one.” Each onion is designated as one of the twelve months of the year. Check the onions again on Epiphany (January 6); if any salt remains piled on an onion that month is said to be dry, while if all the salt has melted that will be a wet month. To boost your health, tradition says “to bathe on Christmas day will secure freedom from fevers and toothaches.” To increase your financial success for next year, “if you put all the silver you possess on the table set for the Christmas-day feast, the light shining on it from the Yule-fire will bring good luck and cause the silver to increase.” Doubling up on this luck, it is also said to be particularly fortunate when Christmas falls on a Sunday, as it does this year. Find these and many more Christmas-themed superstitions starting on page 324 of the PDF of the encyclopedia!

Christmas Feast Above all, warmest wishes for a wonderful holiday season, from the PHW family to yours!

Around the Internet: Public Domain Images, Oral Histories, and the Recent Past

Around the InternetHappy Friday! For something a little different this week, we’d like to share some links to research sources you may not have known about. If you’d just like to check out some bite sized architectural images and histories instead of the heavier reading, we can recommend A Map of the Last Remaining Flying Saucer Homes and Gas Station Heritage for your modern architecture fix.

First, if you need some public domain images, you may want to check out In addition to the usual search by key words and phrases, there is also a filter to narrow down images by a range of dates. Perhaps you’d like to view a collection of hexagonal buildings or Victorian-era plumbing fixtures? Picryl can help with that.

As you may know, the National Park Service celebrated its centennial on August 25, 2016. What you may not realize is that over 450 families were living in the Blue Ridge Mountains prior to the creation of the Shenandoah National Park. The land was claimed by eminent domain and turned over to the US government in the 1930s. Dorothy Noble Smith conducted oral history interviews with some of the survivors of families displaced by the park’s creation in the late 1970s and early 1980s as part of the research for Recollections: The People of the Blue Ridge Remember. The majority of this transcript treasure trove of first hand accounts of life on the Blue Ridge can be found and read online in James Madison University’s Shenandoah National Park Oral History Collection.

Since the request to demolish the Winchester Towers came before Winchester’s Board of Architectural Review (BAR), this seems like a good time to talk about historic preservation of 1960s era architecture. As Maral Kalbian pointed out in the public comments portion of the hearing, buildings of the “recent past” – sites that gained historic significance within the past fifty years or less – are particularly vulnerable to demolition. Scholarship for automotive heritage preservation is in its infancy, with the first conference of its type set for October 2016. However, there are established guidelines from the National Park Service to help evaluate and contextualize the significance of a modern building.

For some first-hand examples of how more modern buildings could be evaluated, you may check out the case studies presented by Kristin Hagar in “Toward a New Approach to Recent-Past Preservation Planning.” She details her challenges and experiences evaluating Philadelphia buildings in the approximate year range 1962-1976. The entire paper is worth a read, but perhaps the most relevant portion begins at page 13 of the PDF. One sentence stands out, echoing the same concerns Maral Kalbian raised when she pointed out Victorian architecture was routinely despised by preservationists until the 1980s: “The problem is that this assessment was based in design criticism — design criticism was substituted for, or used interchangeably as, historical analysis.” In other words, a building that appears “ugly” or “out of place” can have historic significance, but the way it looks can overshadow more nuanced historical perspectives.

If the Winchester Towers is demolished for a new convention center or other building, in fifty or a hundred years will the town look back and bemoan the loss of the Towers and its relation to automotive history and 1960s architecture in our Vanished Winchester files, or celebrate the building that replaced it as we do with the Handley Library? At this point, we must await more details. We will continue to watch this proposal as it comes back to the BAR.

Lunch and Learn Lecture “The Streets of Winchester” on YouTube

Join Tim Youmans, Winchester Planning Director and amateur local historian, for a podcast-style presentation on the research that he has undertaken to document the origin and significance of all of the named streets and alleys, both public and private, within the current 9.3 square-mile area of the City of Winchester. The inventory includes over 515 current and former street and alley names. Some of the oldest street names date back to the mid 1700s while others are just now under construction within new developments. Watch the video below or at YouTube.

View a condensed version of the slides used in this presentation at the city’s website.

Opening and closing music:
George Street Shuffle
Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

National Preservation Month Newsletter Online Now

May is drawing to a close, but you can make National Preservation Month last a little longer with a special edition of PHW’s quarterly newsletter. The newsletter features a number of common architectural styles illustrated by Historic American Building Survey and historic house plan drawings (and one past Holiday House Tour drawing), accompanied by brief histories of the styles and some typical historic color suggestions. The online version is slightly different from the print version which you may have picked up at Kidzfest or current members will receive through the mail. If you’ve already seen it in print form, you may want to check out “version two” online to see the different illustrations.

Click here to read or download PHW’s National Preservation Month 2016 newsletter.

Around the Internet: Belcher Stained Glass Windows

Around the InternetWe normally associate stained glass windows with churches, but they also became popular for private homes in the Victorian era. You may have noticed the simple designs of small colored squares in some of our Winchester Folk Victorian houses, or maybe you have spotted the design at the Gables on the Boscawen Street side of W. H. Baker’s home. For owners who wanted something a bit more upscale than a simple colored square window but a Tiffany window was out of the question, they might have investigated the Belcher Mosaic Glass Company.

Henry Belcher, a third generation stained glass artisan, developed an unusual technique for stained glass. The main hallmark of Belcher’s unusual style is a tendency to use small triangular pieces of glass in gradient color palettes, creating an intricate design held together with his patented liquid lead soldering technique. The patents indicate the glass pieces were arranged in a mold, the liquid soldering material was injected into the mold, and the mold was tilted to spread the soldering between the pieces of glass. The technique was said to be faster to produce than a traditionally-crafted stained glass window, with the downside being the finished product is significantly heavier and harder to repair.

Belcher Moresque Window Design, 1886 CatalogThe mosaic glass was relatively short-lived, operating from about 1884-1897, and it seems the Belcher Mosaic Glass Company and its products were almost lost to history. That is, until stained glass experts were called in to examine an unusual piece in a private residence in Lansing, MI. More inquiries were made, and a similar window had been located in Cortland, NY. When the Cortland window fell from its frame, the Belcher tag was uncovered. Barbara Krueger undertook the scholarship necessary to put together an article for the spring 1994 Stained Glass Quarterly to bring this magnificent technique back into public knowledge. While the article does not appear to be available online in its full form, the Michigan Stained Glass Census has a synopsis of the findings available at their website.

New surviving examples of the Belcher Mosaic Glass windows and others that Belcher may have experimented on are still being found (many having been removed from their original locations and resold through architectural salvage or antique dealers). If you think you may have seen a Belcher stained glass window, a design catalog is available at the Internet Archive from the Winterthur Museum Library. The designs range from abstract color gradients, floral patterns, scenery, and animals.

Interested in learning more? Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan documented an intriguing window of a possible experimental type at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens Director’s residence. You may also want to visit the Facebook page to see photographic examples shared by stained glass enthusiasts, the story of conservation efforts of a Belcher window in Richmond by E. S. Taylor Studios, or see some of Belcher’s patents for his mosaic glass molds.

Need help preserving and maintaining a piece of stained or leaded glass? Check out the National Park Service Technical Preservation Brief #33 for an introduction to the techniques.

Around the Internet: Historic Exterior Paint Colors

Around the Internet ‘Tis the season to think about exterior repainting. While working on some upcoming PHW event activities, we came across the following online sources to see authentic paint chips and sample color schemes from the late Victorian era through the 1960s. Take a look and get inspired!

1. The Daily Bungalow Flickr account has not only advertising samples from kit house manufacturers, but also a few paint chip sample pages from the same catalogs. Be sure to check out their album tab to find the booklets of particular interest to your home’s age and style.

2. Retro Renovation has a blog post dedicated specifically to a Dupont flyer for painting your 1960s house. Check out the rest of their blog for other Midcentury Modern style restoration stories and product resources.

3. Ed Ferris posted on My Old House Online a link to a Lowe Brothers paint catalog (dated circa 1910). Be sure to read through the comments on his post at My Old House Online to see more discussion and links about the history of historic colors.

4. In the same vein is the collection of paint catalogs from the Building Technology Heritage Library at the Internet Archive. One in particular caught our eye: Practical Suggestions on Exterior Decoration published by John Lucas & Co. in 1898. There are currently over 300 pamphlets in this collection, all available for viewing online.

(But before you rush out to paint your house a new old color scheme, make sure you are not subject to exterior color approval in the Historic Winchester zoning overlay. Most color change applications can be handled through the Planning and Zoning Office by administrative approval. Find more information online or call the City at 667-1815 and ask for Planning and Zoning if you have questions.)

Around the Internet: A Quintet of Articles

Around the InternetEvery now and then we like to share links to articles and blogs that we’ve come across while keeping up with history and preservation news. This week, we’ve picked five interesting stories or topics that crossed our path to share with you.

1. First, Jessica Leigh Hester brings us the story of archeology in Victorian-era trash sites in England with Excavating Stories From Victorian-Era Trash Dumps from CityLab. From the article:

“By digging up part of a doll’s porcelain face, or a medicine bottle, [Tom Licence] can imagine how daughters spent their days, or what ailments afflicted the patriarch. ‘You can work out what sorts of illnesses they had, what sorts of luxuries they enjoyed,’ he tells CityLab. ‘You can match the objects to the people.'”

2. If you are traveling this weekend and you’d like to see some sights along the way, check out Eight Scenic Drives for Virginia History from Virginia’s Travel Blog.

3. Alicia Puglionesi investigates the fanciful faux histories and the role of the railroad in the proliferation of the peculiar Virginia attraction of “show caves” in The 19th Century ‘Show Caves’ That Became America’s First Tourist Traps at The Atlas. From the article:

“The discovery of these subterranean wonders in the 1800s spawned a genre of local lore and popular fiction–call it ‘the romance of the cave’–in which crystal caverns became theaters for passion and politics.”

4. Did you know the Metropolitan Museum of Art has made many of their publications free to read online or download? Visit their website to search their publications by title, author, keyword, thematic category, and/or reading format.

5. Why does historic preservation matter? Emily Wynn interviews Christina Butler, Professor of Historic Preservation at the College of Charleston, about the hows and whys people become interested in – and passionate about – saving our buildings and our stories for future generations. From the article Preserving History May Be Our Biggest Asset at Odyssey:

“If we erase the palpable part of our history, the buildings that we have spent our lives in, we lose more than just materials and money. We lose tradition, culture, and a road map that our ancestors followed to get to where we are today and, in turn, we lose where we are going and why.”

Research Source: The American Woods

Via the Public Domain Review, we have learned about the digitization of a rare fourteen-volume work entitled The American Woods by Romeyn Beck Hough, published between 1888-1928, which features many plates of paper thin wood slices in addition to the usual written descriptions and lithograph drawings of the specimens. We receive the occasional question about identifying wood species, so this work may help you visually identify now-rare species potentially used in historic buildings.

There are two online sources to view the wood plates:
Internet Archive (Full books with text and plates)
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (Plates only)

If you prefer a physical copy to peruse and buying an authentic set with real wood plates is out of the question, a reproduction using high-quality facsimiles of the original wood plates entitled Romeyn B. Hough: The Woodbook was released in 2013. This edition arranges the specimens in one volume alphabetically with descriptive text and accompanying lithographs.

Architectural Mysteries: What’s That Hook?

Chandelier Hook During the Holiday House Tour, a few people commented on the hook in the center of the kitchen lighting fixture at the Hexagon House. Before the chandelier’s transition to electricity, the hook likely held a smoke bell to catch any soot from burning the oil or gas fuel before it could stain the ceiling.

Hexagon House Chandeliers Although not identical to the chandelier at the Hexagon House, you can see a number of gas fixtures with smoke bells in the National Park Service’s Gaslighting in America book. Plate 82 in particular is quite clear. Still not convinced? There is one other smoke bell installed downstairs at the Hexagon House. You can view this smoke bell at close to eye level by partially climbing the stairs to the second floor.

Fire Prevention and Retrofitting in Historic Buildings

We were devastated to learn of the fire that took place last night on the south end of the Loudoun Street Mall involving three significant buildings – the Cork Street Tavern, the Sperry House, and Beyond the Fringe. Although the cause of the fire is unknown at this time, we would like to take this moment to share some materials on fire prevention in historic buildings.

Although geared more to cultural institutions like museums and archives, J. Andrew Wilson’s Fire Protection in Cultural Institutions paper includes many of the common sense considerations applicable to any historic property. As stated in the paper, “No institution is immune from fire. . . . Damage from fire . . . is usually permanent and irreparable. Historical buildings or contents, once reduced to ash, can never be restored.” Of particular interest is the Self-Inspection Checklist.

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the General Services Administration produced a manual in 1989 for Fire Safety Retrofitting in Historic Buildings. GSA has extracted the most important information in the manual to a bullet point list on their website. There is also the 2001 Technical Preservation Guidelines Fire Safety Retrofitting which contains similar guidelines and illustrations for less-invasive fire suppression and detection technology.

For more information on fire safety and research, visit the National Fire Prevention Association website at