Friday Roundup: Six Degrees of Research Separation

211 S. Kent St.
The photograph of 211 South Kent Street, a research rabbit hole of labyrinthine proportions.

The further we have progressed in captioning images on our Flickr, the greater the sense that everything in Winchester is connected in some way. To those who are students of history, this game of six degrees of separation often leads to some of the most interesting and unusual chains of research – probably not what you intended to find, but nevertheless an amusing, entertaining, or educational footnote to liven up family and property histories.

One such rabbit hole of research was uncovered when a fairly innocuous and straightforward-looking photo came up in our randomizing program. After the direct image explanation, where the matter would have been deemed complete for most, a bit more investigation led to looking at the chain of title for previous owners. As this was a house bought and sold through PHW’s Revolving Fund, Katie Rockwood had completed research as far back as she could on the property. There was, however, a curious gap in the title chain between the purchase of the lot by Michael and John Copenhaver in 1796, and the transfer from Simeon Hillman to Emily Knight in 1860. That is quite a sizeable gap in time, suggesting some kind of unusual transfer took place between the Copenhavers and Hillman.

With that oddity noted, a bit of research began on Simeon Hillman, as the name was vaguely pinging a memory of other local history. The first note, unsurprisingly, in Cartmell’s Shenandoah Valley Pioneers and Their Descendants, was that Simeon Hillman was part of the local reserves for the War of 1812. Many of the homes near the intersection of Kent and Clifford streets have a War of 1812 connection, so that was a pleasant confirmation, but not quite the memory or the ah-hah moment.

Next, records for Simeon Hillman were checked in the census available through the Handley Library. Here the real lead began – toll-keeper was his stated profession. Although it seemed likely this was the Simeon Hillman in question, we continued to laterally research to find corroborating evidence. An “Out of the Past” article reprinted in the Winchester Star gave the family memory of the Hillmans beginning their toll-keeping career in 1840. Simeon died in 1860, leaving the business to his wife, Charlotte, who continued until her death in 1892. In a twist for most stories, Charlotte Hillman is the more recognizable name of the two, as her counting of soldiers passing through the gate during the Civil War to turn in – and receive – payments for the tolls from Washington is a well-known tale from that era.

While that alone is a notable find and makes the story of 211 S. Kent more relatable, there was still the question as to how Simeon Hillman acquired it from the Copenhavers. While it could be an association of the families through the War of 1812, it seemed likely there was something else, too. The further lateral research continued, this time on Charlotte. Knowing her death year, it was possible to search for her on the Find a Grave website, which turned up a piece that brought the search full circle. Her maiden name was Copenhaver. Through the family connections available on the website, we learn Charlotte was the daughter of John Copenhaver. While the exact method and date of transfer is not known, the connection from John Copenhaver to Simeon Hillman, at least, is there through Charlotte.

While there are certainly more jumping off points for future research on 211 South Kent, the point that will tie many items together in the six degrees of Winchester history is, of course, the Valley Pike, the road where Simeon and Charlotte Hillman and later their descendants were toll-keepers. Although the home Simeon built at the gate was demolished, at least a piece of the family property still lives on Kent Street.

Hillman’s Tollgate, Frederick County 250th Anniversary Collection, 736-389 thl. Available at the Stewart Bell Jr. Archives Room, Handley Regional Library, Winchester, VA.

Friday Roundup: Photos and Assorted News Bites

Fort Loudoun Day 2021

It’s been a while, but Friday Photos brings new content! Visit the Fort Loudoun Day 2021 album on Flickr for images taken last weekend at the event. There are 70 photos in total.


You still have about a week to get award nominations for the 57th Annual Meeting in to PHW. Anyone may nominate a project in Winchester or Frederick County. Find the form here and nominate people and projects worthy of recognition!


Looking ahead at our next week, the PHW office may be closed Friday, May 28, depending on how the second round of vaccination goes. We will also be celebrating Memorial Day on May 31. Stay safe and healthy, and we will catch up with any questions we may miss while we are recuperating over the long holiday weekend.

Also, PHW is drawing to the end of its fiscal year. If your membership dues are up for renewal, please try to get your checks in before the end of the month to help our bottom line. Also, if you’ve been enjoying our online content or looking forward to the upcoming Annual Meeting on June 27, remember only PHW members in good standing may vote at the meeting. Membership forms are available online and will be available on-site during the meeting; new or renewing members may pick up a free copy of “Winchester: Limestone, Sycamores & Architecture” with their membership dues.


An interesting thread has been posted on Forum Connect by Donovan Rypkema about preservationists’ perception by others and actual goals and aims. Perhaps the best example is the poll on historic preservation and affordable housing, which highlights many of the challenges and perhaps unstated goals of wanting to preserving older homes – Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing – as well as the longtime residents which help give neighborhoods their character. Read the full report here.


Log detail

Do you own a log house in Winchester? Do you think your building may contain logs repurposed from Fort Loudoun? Would you be open to volunteers taking some images and possibly wood samples to better explore this possibility? Please get in touch with your contact details to the PHW office at phwinc.org@gmail.com or 540-667-3577 and we can fill you in on this idea for an accounting of logs from the Fort.


Save the date for June 12 for “Experience American Military History in Action” from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. hosted by the American Military Heritage Museum. The event is free, rain-or-shine and will feature re-enactors and living history displays. Meet World War II veterans from 10:30 a.m. until noon, check out a large collection of World War II equipment and military vehicles as well as historic museum displays. The museum is located at 811 Fairfax Pike in Stephens City.

Friday Roundup: Save the Date for the Annual Meeting and Other Tidbits

Join us on June 27, 3 PM at the Hexagon House for this free membership event!

Preservation of Historic Winchester’s 57th Annual Meeting: Meet your friends or make new acquaintances in the local preservation community on Sunday, June 27, 3 PM at the backyard of the Hexagon House, 530 Amherst Street. The gathering will elect PHW’s board of directors for 2021-2022, touch on the past year’s challenges and accomplishments, and conclude with the presentation of preservation awards. Please bring your own chairs; liquid refreshments will be offered. The organization will be following any restrictions in place at the time of the meeting to comply with state mandates to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Only PHW members in good standing may vote at the meeting. Membership forms will be available on-site; new or renewing members may pick up a free copy of “Winchester: Limestone, Sycamores & Architecture” with their membership dues.

Don’t forget to turn in your award nominations by May 28 to help recognize people and projects at this event!


Requests Requested! Is there a photo in our Flickr collection you would like to see captioned for more information? Drop us a note and we’ll add the photo to the queue to highlight in a future social media post.


We have received one of our first donations of historic materials and images following our call last newsletter. While we did not put all the material online, we are delighted with the digital materials shared by Howard Lewis on Hawthorne at 610 Amherst Street. The items that are not publicly available on our Flickr have been added to our hard copy and digital collections on the historic district for future researchers. If you also have material to contribute, drop us a note at phwinc.org@gmail.com to see if it fits our collection scope.


In-Kind Donation Wish List: PHW is looking for basic materials to help keep the office in shape and running, such as paper, mailing labels, and file folders, and likely in the future things like ink cartridges and toner. If this kind of item donation calls to you and you have an Amazon account, please refer to our Amazon Charity List for ideas. If you have opened or slightly used items on this list (like a half-used pack of mailing labels or legal size paper you no longer need), we are also happy to take them in-person at our office. Arrange a drop off time by emailing phwinc.org@gmail.com or calling 540-667-3577.


Research Request: Are you interested in helping Winchester clarify and confirm its African-American community’s history? We are continuing to work on questions posed to us by Mark Gunderman in his deep dive into the history of John Mann UMC. This week, we are hoping to gather additional information on George Smith, mentioned in William Greenway Russell’s recollections as “a colored man of the town” who left money to the congregation to build the brick church about twenty years before the recollection was written (thus around 1856). His contribution to the church was undoubtedly great, but his name has disappeared from public memory. If someone wants to take up the research mantle and run with what we (think we) know about George Smith, please get in touch with the PHW office.


If you are missing Kidzfest this year, don’t fret! Two history-themed activities the whole family can enjoy are taking place this weekend. Fort Loudoun will host a living history event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday May 15 at 419 N. Loudoun St. Visitors will learn about the history of the French & Indian War era at the site of Col. George Washington’s headquarters for the Virginia Regiment. Meet living history interpreters and tour the site. Admission is free. Information available at 419-971-3493 or www.FIWF.org.

The Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation Museum and Visitor Center will host a living history day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 15 and 16, at 8437 Valley Pike, Middletown. Costumed historians will host photography workshops, cooking demonstration, muster in new recruits and practice drill, have Civil War medicine displays, play period games and tell stories and the cavalry will have their horses to talk about the roles of horses during the war.

Friday Photos Come to Facebook

Longtime readers may know of PHW’s efforts to scan our physical photographic and slide collections, documented in our Friday Photos tag. For the most part, all the physical media that has been found stashed at the office has been added to our Flickr account, but because most images were uploaded in large batches the image descriptions are often basic. This can make finding the appropriate image for research requests a bit more obtuse for someone not familiar with the collection.

As part of our “clean up the office” efforts in January, we have been randomly selecting a photo a day and giving the descriptions a more thorough look, making sure the image is in the appropriate albums, and sharing the item on our social media. We hope this will add more depth and background to our collections and increase their usefulness and interest to those exploring Winchester. We hope you enjoy revisiting these images along with us and learning a bit more along the way (and it will be quite a journey, as we have over 10,000 images)!

To hold you over this weekend between new image posts on Facebook, you may also want to review the Lunch and Learn Lecture “How to Finance Historic Preservation” by Bill Buettin on our YouTube page. Happy watching!

Merry Christmas!

Thank you all for following and supporting PHW this year. If you were not able to visit the Bough and Dough Shop in person, a few photos of the artist setups are available on our Flickr page. The office will reopen January 4 by appointment as we get back to our regularly scheduled activities of promoting and preserving the architecture of Winchester and Frederick County. We wish you a healthy and happy holiday season. See you in 2021!

Friday Photos and More

This week, we uncovered a stash of 30 more Holiday House Tour photographs while cleaning old files. The exact year of the tour depicted was unknown until some careful background detail sleuthing revealed the home was on Seldon Drive. With that knowledge and the database in progress cataloging our past tours, we were able to determine the images came from the 1990 tour “A Neighborhood Christmas,” the only year (so far!) Seldon Drive was featured. Enjoy this look back at the past in our Flickr album!

Holiday House Tour 1990
One of the images from the 1990 Holiday House Tour held on Seldon Drive in Winchester.

As a friendly reminder, PHW’s 56th Annual Meeting is coming up on June 28th at 5 PM. The Annual Business Meeting will consist of the Proposed Bylaws Amendment, President’s Annual Report, and Election of the 2020-2021 Board of Directors. A full copy of the bylaws is available on PHW’s website.

Only PHW members with current dues who attend the meeting in person may vote on the actionable items. If you plan to attend the meeting, RSVP your name and number of attendees to 540-667-3577, phwinc.org@gmail.com, or on the Facebook event page. The meeting is capped at 50 guests.

The meeting will be held outside and no refreshments will be offered. Social distancing due to COVID-19 will be in effect. Wear face coverings and do not attend if you have been exposed or feel ill. Please bring your own seating. A livestream of the meeting will be hosted on Facebook. The meeting will not be rescheduled for inclement weather.

Last, we have a few curated reading links for you to enjoy this weekend along the theme of Juneteenth celebrations:

Early Photographs of Juneteenth Celebrations from the Public Domain Review

Stand for LOVE: 18 Museums and Historic Sites to Learn about Virginia’s Black History from Virginia’s Travel Blog

Take Free Courses on African-American History from Yale and Stanford: From Emancipation, to the Civil Rights Movement, and Beyond from Open Culture

Friday Photos: Limestone Covers and Our Instagram

While we were doing some filing this week, we found the selection of images taken for the 275th Anniversary Edition of Winchester: Limestone, Sycamores & Architecture. If you would like to see behind the curtain, check out the album on Flickr and see 17 larger and untouched images that were considered and used for the book.

Limestone cover
One of the cover images, and a recreation of a shot from the original Winchester: Limestone, Sycamores & Architecture book.

We are also happy to announce work on the Bough and Dough Shop for 2020 is progressing. In addition to the nuts and bolts changes to make the shop as safe as possible for visitors, we have been working behind the scenes with artists. You can also get more updates on our new Bough and Dough Shop Instagram. If you would like a sneak peek at our online ordering platform, visit our online store. You can use it now to order both the remaining limited quantity of the first edition and the 275th edition of the Limestone volume, as well as other books and prints. At least some portion of our Shop items will be added to the store for remote shopping from home this winter. If you want to use curbside pickup at the Hexagon House, remember to put in the promo code “Curbside” to get free shipping!

Friday Roundup: Memorial Day Weekend

The PHW office will be closed Memorial Day. Stay safe and healthy as you enjoy your long weekend! For your reading pleasure, we have gathered links for you to enjoy:

Protecting Family and Heirlooms – If you started organizing photographs or sorting through other family memorabilia and are concerned on how to safely handle or sanitize them, this blog from the Library of Virginia may put some fears at ease and help keep your precious documents safe.

More Than Maintenance: Replacing the Glass at the Glass House – The National Trust offers a peek behind the curtain for a unique window replacement situation at the Phillip Johnson Glass House in Connecticut. This is an interesting look at how defining architectural features that wear out are replaced sensitively in respect to the building, its furnishings, and its function as an interpretive site for most of the year.

Atlas Obscura offers two articles, Fun Ways to Get Kids Into Photography and Dig This: An Online Field School for Junior Archaeologists to whet your children or grandchildren’s appetite for skills useful in historic preservation.

You may also want to check out Use Online Time with Family to Record Family Stories from West Virginia Public Radio. Be sure to scroll to the bottom for additional links to help you get started with question suggestions.

One of the things I have enjoyed is looking through some long forgotten boxes and finding treasures inside. If you like that thrill as well, you might enjoy the story On the Hunt for National Treasures With America’s Archive Detective following the discovery of missing items and the effort to recover them with Mitch Yockelson. (Sometimes, though, the items are just misfiled!)

If you’re looking for a longer read, Public Domain Review recently highlighted a book Old English Customs Extant at the Present Time (1896). In addition to the highlighted summary of what to expect from the Review, you can enjoy the entire book for free online and see what other traditions you may not have heard of before.

Clowser House Painting
Larry Webb shared ten more photos of the exterior painting progress at the Clowser House. You can drive by to see the exterior yourself at 152 Tomahawk Trail in the Shawneeland subdivision off Back Mountain Road in Frederick County. You can see the other photos at our Flickr.

Experience National Travel and Tourism Week from Home

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has launched a Virtual Preservation Month to help you explore and celebrate historic places from home. Be sure to check back every day in May to see the new tours, videos, and activities as they are added.

For other tours, workshops, and virtual exhibits you may want to enjoy this weekend or beyond, check out:

The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley’s upcoming virtual tours and programs, including the online Heritage Plant Sale.

The Virginia Museum of History and Culture’s page of Virginia History At Home. You might especially enjoy exploring the archive of Banner Lectures.

The Cranford Historic Preservation Advisory Board’s Historic Cranford, NJ audio tour. Be sure to check out the fantastic tile sign posts in stop #20!

The Preservation Society of Newport County’s Virtual Exhibitions and Mansions of Newport, RI. The Tiffany Glass exhibit may be of interest to many of our readers.

The Delaware Digital History Museum website launched by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. The Virtual Tours section may be of the most interest to our readers to explore architectural features and historic sites.

The National Museum of Industrial History has made many programs available virtually. Follow their programming on their Facebook page, or visit their website for more information.

Last, don’t forget you can download several tours and activities from PHW’s website to better explore our local history and architecture!

Kurtz Cultural Center
You can revisit some of PHW’s visual history operating a cultural center in our Flickr album Kurtz Cultural Center.