Friday Roundup: Post House Tour Edition

Thank you to everyone who came out to the house tours last weekend. Early reports indicate about 300 guests came through the houses, and around 480 shoppers visited the Hexagon House over our run. The weather cooperated and we were able to enjoy two groups of Winchester Little Theatre costumed carolers, along with the delicious hot chocolate prepared by Phyllis Breidinger at the Hexagon House. Overall it was a great tour, and we only heard positives about the homes. Be sure to thank the homeowners and volunteers for opening their homes and giving their time during our 45th annual event next time you see them!

As is usual, a few items have ended up in a “lost and found” bin, which we will have at the Hexagon House. If there’s an item you think you may have dropped at the shop or during the tour, please give us an email at or call 540-667-3577 to see if it was turned in. We usually hold items until mid-January.

One of the found items definitely did not come from any tour goers or shoppers. A fragment of blue and white glazed pottery was uncovered at the Hexagon House. To our knowledge, this is the first bit of discarded pottery that has been unearthed here. The pattern appears to contain ivy leaves and a grouping of urns or vases. Thanks to the sharp-eyed shopper who spotted it and brought it to us!

As we are entering the holiday season, our projected schedule through the rest of the year will be:

Open Monday-Thursday, Dec. 13-16 (please visit before 3 PM as we have a number of meetings in the afternoon of this week)

Out of office all day Friday, Dec. 17; the next “West of the Blue Ridge” blog entry will be posted

Closed for winter holidays December 20-January 2

Because the holidays both fall on Fridays this year, we will likely only have abbreviated Friday blog posts for Dec. 24 and Dec. 31.

Normal office hours and daily photo captions return January 3, 2022.

Friday Roundup: Preparing for Holiday House Tour

Old Frederick County Court House Steps
Steps between the Old Frederick County Court House and Clerk’s Office.

PHW will be temporarily suspending our daily image captions on Flickr starting next week so we can concentrate on the Bough & Dough Shop and Holiday House Tour. We hope you enjoyed the inaugural year of the caption project and some of our random image selections sparked your curiosity and interest. If you have any images that you would like to know more about, just drop us a note with the image link at and we’ll get it in our queue for 2022!

We’ve been hard at work preparing multiple mailings for PHW this week. Before it hits your snail mail box, you can read the latest issue of the PHW newsletter online. You should also be receiving your Holiday House Tour invitational postcards soon. If you’d like to grab a few extra postcards for friends, extras will be available at the back door of the Hexagon House.

Keep an eye on our Instagram account for the Bough & Dough Shop to see things taking shape and alerts for new products. Although we hope the shop will be held early enough this year not to have to close for snow, any weather or illness-related closings at the Shop will be posted here as well.

Holiday House Tour tickets will go on sale November 15 at Kimberly’s, Winchester Book Gallery, Winchester-Frederick County Visitors Center, and the Bough & Dough Shop at the Hexagon House. Tickets will also be available online through Eventbrite. Program booklets may be slightly delayed, but you can find a digital copy at PHW’s website.

The Google Map for Holiday House Tour has also been updated for 2021. Use it to plan your travel route and parking during the event. We anticipate because the locations are spread out, carpooling may be very popular this year. Remember, you can visit the House Tour sites in any order during the event window.

Last, if you are looking for something different to do next week, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery will be hosting a 100th anniversary event November 9 and 10. For the first time since 1948, visitors will be allowed to approach the memorial and place flowers on the tomb. Read a history of the tomb at the New York Times, and register for the event through Eventbrite.

Friday Roundup: Halloween Edition

It’s been a busy week at PHW, including our earlier announcement of our support of the Godfrey Miller Home and Fellowship Center’s exterior preservation and wrapping up our printing for the 2021 Holiday House Tour and Bough & Dough Shop. The printed items are beginning to arrive at PHW, so expect Holiday House Tour postcards to hit your mailboxes soon!

Our kitchen and library in the Hexagon House is undergoing its seasonal transformation into our Bough & Dough Shop, and some sale items have been trickling in, with more expected to arrive next week. Keep an eye on our Instagram for Shop updates and teasers when we get closer to opening day on Nov. 15!

We are so grateful for all the paper bag donations this year for the Shop. If you are feeling a bit more generous, PHW is also happy to accept packages of insulated cups with lids and hot chocolate, coffee, teabags, or cider mixes for the hot drink station during the tour. Thank you for continuing to support us with your in-kind donations to enrich the Holiday House Tour experience for everyone!

For a bit of Halloween fun mixed with an interior renovation, may we invite you to experience a Gothic-themed bathroom makeover this weekend? While the finished product might not be for you, it’s still an honest exploration of making a very tiny space reflect your aesthetic. (And when could we ever share a makeover project like this if not for Halloween?)

Friday Roundup: Things Learned from Yellow Jackets and Holiday House Tour Updates

Crows at the MSV Invitational Outdoor Sculpture Show
Make sure you slip over to the MSV Gardens soon before these crows and other outdoor sculptures fly away on October 31!

We seem to be drawing to the end of our interior yellow jacket swarm saga at the Hexagon House. Things that have been learned from this experience include:

  1. Yellow jackets will burrow into your houseplants’ soil, cling to your radiators for warmth, find past holes in the interior woodwork, and settle in.
  2. Closing off the room of entry from the rest of the house mostly contained the wasps to one room while pest control methods did their work.
  3. In sufficient numbers, the swarm will set off the motion sensors in the alarm system.
  4. Yellow jackets will leave behind excrement on your walls. Luckily, the excrement is reportedly nontoxic, and cleaned up easily enough with a bit of light scrubbing.
  5. Dead yellow jackets in concentrated numbers have an overwhelming stink similar to dried fish food flakes.
  6. Even though the yellow jackets were contained primarily to one room, the cleanup took longer than expected, even with multiple cleanups during each die-off wave. Leave yourself plenty of time and have a vacuum with a good crevice tool on hand to get all the bits and pieces.

We ask you to still exercise caution around the Hexagon House exterior, as the yellow jackets are still in the area around the front porch. They have been well-behaved outdoor neighbors, but we do not recommend long-term indoor cohabitation.

Thank you all for your patience while we waited to announce our 2021 Holiday House Tour lineup. We are easing our way back into the holiday tradition with three homes this year, 25 West Piccadilly Street, 321 South Stewart Street, and 814 South Washington Street. None of the buildings have been opened to the Holiday House Tour before, and we are excited to share them and their renovation stories with you this year. We are also looking forward to renewing our partnership with Winchester Little Theatre to provide costumed carolers during the tour, and free hot drinks will be served on Sunday at the Bough & Dough Shop at the Hexagon House.

The tour will be held on Sunday, December 5 between noon and 4 PM. We ask that visitors come prepared with face masks and be understanding that they may need to wait in line outside the homes (so dress for the weather and wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes). We expect the group sizes going through the homes may be more limited in the size this year than some other years, and please remember to keep up your social distancing while you wait.

Ticket prices are set at $20 per adult in advance, and $25 at the door. This year we will not be offering single-site admission tickets. Advance tickets will be available for purchase in person at Kimberly’s, Winchester Book Gallery, the Winchester-Frederick County Visitors Center, and the Bough & Dough Shop at the Hexagon House, as well as online and by mail. We plan to have tickets available for purchase starting November 15; the program booklets may be slightly delayed, but online versions will be made available by November 15.

As you may know, the Holiday House Tour is PHW’s major fundraising event of the year, and we are indebted to our major sponsor the Bank of Clarke County, and our supporting advertisers The Shenandoah Group of Wells Fargo Advisors, Lisa T. McCoig, CPA, PC, Colony Realty, Belle Grove Plantation, Summit Community Bank, Frederick Block, Brick & Stone, and Angel’s Roost Quilts. Their financial support helps us to produce our program booklets, tickets, postcard mailers, and other costs associated with providing this fun and educational event. Be sure to say thanks to our sponsors for helping us host the 45th annual Holiday House Tour and Bough & Dough Shop!

Friday Roundup: Upcoming Events and Feedback

Submit your feedback for two City projects currently approved in the five-year Capital Improvement Plan. Your feedback is requested for the Millwood Avenue Traffic Improvements and Green Circle Trail Phase IV Options by November 19, 2021.

The French and Indian War Foundation and Winchester Public Schools invite you to a lecture “Handley High School: The Jeffersonian Soul of Winchester” by Dr. Carl J. Ekberg on October 24, 2 PM, in the Patsy Cline Auditorium at Handley High School. The event is free and open to the public.

Would you like a fact sheet to help guide you through the HTC-GO bill mentioned in the last Friday Roundup post? Check out the National’s Trust’s fact sheet to help you understand why this update is a potential boon to nonprofits working with historic buildings.

From the National Trust Forum is a notice of the 2021 Pennsylvania Hallowed Grounds Annual Meeting “Reclaiming African-American Cemeteries in your Community.” The event will be held Saturday October 23, 2021 virtually from 10 AM – 3 PM. All who are interested in cemetery conservation are invited to attend the meeting at no cost. However, to join the meeting online you must register in advance. To register go to Eventbrite or the Facebook for PAHallowedGrounds.

For a bit of levity familiar to old house enthusiasts and timely to the season, check out the “My House in October” comic by Brian Gordon at Fowl Language Comics. We approve of fixing up your scary facade when the weather permits, though! For just such a story, stop by WMRA’s coverage of the Bath County Pools Restoration Is Back On…Again to check in on this Endangered Property highlighted by Preservation Virginia in 2010.

124 W. Boscawen St.
Work on the side porch is progressing at 124 W. Boscawen Street. Take a peek next time you pass by!

Friday Roundup: Welcome to October!

Thanks for your patience as we hold the announcement of the house line up for the Holiday House Tour. We can confirm tickets will be available for purchase starting November 15 at the Bough & Dough Shop at the Hexagon House, Kimberly’s, Winchester Book Gallery, and the Winchester-Frederick County Visitors Center. An online purchase option will also be available, along with a digital version of the program booklet.

To tide you over until we have more updates on the tour side, we’ve prepared a visual guide for our Bough and Dough Shop. The schedule for 2021 is going to be a little different than our past years’, so to help you plan what days the shop will be open, we have created a calendar below. Be sure to visit the Hexagon House on the days highlighted in yellow to do some local shopping between 10 AM and 5 PM. Please note we are reducing the shop floor space to just the kitchen and the greenery on the back porch this year.

We will most likely be in need of evergreen cuttings for the “bough” side of the shop. If you have plans to trim or remove cedar, pine, juniper, boxwood, magnolia, holly, or other greenery in late November, we will be grateful to accept your clippings at the Hexagon House during the Shop. We recommend making large drop offs prior to 10 AM, after 5 PM, or on our closed days to prevent congestion in the parking lot with shoppers. Volunteers may be able to trim and haul smaller plants for you. If you have questions about greenery donations, please contact us at or 540-667-3577.

PreserveCast has an interview up with Merrill Hoopengardner to talk about the historic tax credit. From the podcast description: “In mid-September, House Democratic-led committees approved a more detailed $3.5 trillion package of bills with HTC enhancements similar to the HTC-GO (H.R. 2294). Next in the legislative process, the bill must move to the House floor, pass the House, pass the Senate, and be signed into law. Washington insiders believe that a final bill will be negotiated with the Senate before it goes to the House floor and is likely to be significantly reduced in both size and scope. If passed, the infrastructure bill would include the most substantial enhancements to the Historic Tax Credit in a generation. To support the efforts in getting these provisions across the finish line, please reach out to all Democratic Senators and ask them to support the HTC enhancement provisions included in the House infrastructure bill. To learn more about how you can contact your representative, click here.

Fall Fauna
Deer visited the backyard at the Hexagon House this week.

Friday Roundup Grab Bag

Paper bag update: We are so tickled with the paper bag drop off response! Thank you to everyone who has helped out. We are mostly looking for smaller bags at this point – think sandwich bags or small gift bags instead of the grocery store bags. The contactless drop off bin will remain outside on the back porch for your convenience.

French & Indian War Weekend: On September 25 at 10 am, see French and Indian War history come to life at Abram’s Delight Museum (located across from the Winchester-Frederick County Visitor Center) on S. Pleasant Valley Road. Event provided for free to the public by the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society.

Historical program: The Friends of Handley Regional Library System present an informative free local historical program in the Handley Library Robinson Auditorium on September 25 at 2 pm entitled “Judge Richard Parker: A Man of His Times.”  Judge Richard Parker was born in Richmond, Virginia and studied law at the University of Virginia. He was elected judge of the thirteenth judicial circuit in 1851. He was living in Winchester when he served as the judge in the trial of John Brown and his men after the raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859. 

On-demand training: The National Preservation Institute has a number of of demand online courses related to cultural resource management. There are both free and paid courses available. If you are looking to brush up or learn new skills, check out their course offerings.

Yellowjacket update: The Hexagon House is still inundated with yellowjackets. The board room remains completely unusable at this time. Please be patient, as the interior and porch swarms are more resistant to treatment than the yard nests.

Holiday House Tour sponsorships: There’s still time to reserve a spot in our Holiday House Tour program booklet. Full, half and business card size spaces are still available. If you’re interested in reserving a spot, contact PHW at for more information.

Friday Roundup: Donation Updates and the Kurtz Business Enterprise

This week at the office, we’ve been working on filing newspaper clippings relating primarily to PHW’s Annual Meetings and Preservation Awards. While working on these files, we noticed a good number of gaps in the 1960-1980 range of Annual Meetings. If you happen to come across any invitations, newspaper clippings, notices for election of board members, or similar bits, please feel free to drop them off at the PHW office. Likewise, if you or a building you know of received an award from PHW and you don’t see it on our past award page, please let us know which award category, who/where the project was, and what year so we can correct our listings.

We are also extra thankful for a donor who dropped off a large quantity of paper shopping bags for our Bough and Dough Shop this week. We have temporarily taken in the drop-off bin while we sort through and see if there are some gaps in our needs left. We’ll update our needs soon, but from the looks of it, we will probably be looking for smaller gift bag types specifically next week.

As a belated nod to Labor Day, below we have reprinted and lightly edited for clarity selections from Danny Fisseha’s paper “The Kurtz Building – In Connection with the Business of the Community” from the oral history project of the Kurtz Building, 1988, for your reading pleasure this week.

The Kurtz Building
The Kurtz Building, 2 North Cameron Street, is the location most associated with Capt. Kurtz’s furniture and funerary business.

Captain George W. Kurtz – soldier, cabinet maker and the oldest and best known funeral director in Virginia at the time of his death, died on November 14, 1926 at the age of eighty-nine. As a young man he learned how to make cabinets. He then worked with Stephen Stackhouse making furniture and coffins, which led him to his lifelong business.

In 1868, after serving in the Continental Morgan Guards and the 5th Virginia Infantry Stone­wall Brigade[1], Capt. Kurtz established a furniture business in Winchester, Virginia. In 1876 or 1877[2] he bought the warehouse at Cameron and Boscawen Streets. Here, with the help of the railroad track coming straight to Winchester, he established his business of undertaking in the northwestern part of the state. He made most of his furniture himself and his clientele was mostly upper and middle class. On the other side of his furniture business, he also had a cabinet making business employing five other workers. He was appointed to the first Virginia State Board of Embalmers and served for a quarter of a century by a successive appointments starting June 1894 through 1922.

Despite the initial success of the business, it began to experience a decline by the end of his life. The loss of the rail system directly serving the building and competition from other funeral providers exerted the initial pressure. The biggest blow came after his death. It was uncovered that Kurtz never paid any income tax from 1868 to 1926. The federal government sent a bookkeeper at the expense of the Kurtz family to transcribe the records from the start of the business; consequently this cost them a great deal of money as back taxes were assessed and paid. The business was kept running by his daughter, Miss Lucy, and other close relatives until the 1960s to reach its 100th anniversary. Shortly after, the competition and loss of profit forced the business to shut down and the Kurtz Building was sold.

Kurtz Memorabilia
Miss Lucy Kurtz looks at a display of photographs and memorabilia, including an image of her father George W. Kurtz, in the center right hand frame. Photograph donated to PHW by Godfrey O’Rear (Jr.?), 2000

Friday Roundup: Labor Day Weekend Miscellany

The PHW Office will be closed on Monday, September 6 for the holiday. We’ll be back on Tuesday!

We’ve had a few questions pertaining to our Holiday House Tour and Bough & Dough Shop calls for help. For our paper bag donation request, we are looking for all sizes of bags, from small gift bags/sandwich bag up to full size paper grocery bags. Any donations are welcome, and can be left in a bin on the back porch of the Hexagon House at any time. For volunteering obligations as a Holiday House Tour docent, plan to have a shift of about two hours during the Sunday tour. You may also have around half an hour to forty-five minutes of script training and house walkthroughs before the event. Docents are NOT expected to memorize scripts. If you have other questions, just let us know!

The Patsy Cline Block Party returns this Saturday, September 4, in the 600 block of South Kent Street! The event takes place between 10 AM and 4 PM. Come out to celebrate Patsy’s life and music, the designation of the Patsy Cline House as a National Historic Landmark, and the tenth anniversary of the event. The block party is free to attend, but house tours, which will begin at 11:30 AM, will cost $5.

The Comprehensive Plan Update open house and public hearing was held August 31. If you couldn’t attend in person, you can still get up to speed before submitting your feedback through the upcoming online form by reviewing the Comp Plan Update materials and watching the presentation and public hearing online. Stop by Rouss City Hall during regular business hours (main floor-Level 2F) to view the open house exhibits through September 14.

Ghost Sign on North Kent St.
The ghost sign on the Fairfax Lane side of 300 N. Kent, where Melvin Lewis operated a grocery store from about 1936-1962.

As part of our ongoing image captioning project on our social media, the ghost sign for the E. N. Hardy Grocery Store at 300-302 North Kent Street came up in the queue this week. When we spotted the ghost sign and took a quick picture of it in the spring, we didn’t get time to research it. The photo caption project provided the perfect chance to look through the copies of the city directories we have here at the PHW office. Sure enough, we came across one directory entry in 1929 for the 302 N. Kent half of the duplex as the location for E. N. Hardy, grocer. His business appears to have been short-lived, as the 302 side of the building was constructed around 1927, and it was changed to residential use by the time of the 1936 city directory. The grocery business instead moved to the 300 N. Kent half and was operated by Melvin Lewis until about 1962. Thanks to Linda Fiddler for providing her memories of going to the store every day, Stephen Brown for providing the information Melvin and his wife Ruth lived on Woodland Avenue and she worked for Judge Henry Whiting, and Scott Straub for providing Melvin’s draft card confirming he was a self-employed grocer at 300 N. Kent St.

Calling all photographers! The City’s 2022 annual informational calendar photo contest is now open. Click here for the free to enter online submission form. The deadline to submit up to five qualifying photos is November 1, 2021

We are always surprised to find more photos lurking in our program file folders to scan. This week, we uncovered a sampling of products from Arise Studio, which set up a mobile shop in December 1990 as part of a fundraiser for the Kurtz Cultural Center. The timing of the find was fortuitous, as the fundraiser helped the dedicated Patsy Cline display go into the first floor visitor’s center and gift shop area of the building. Take a peek at the five photos at the top of our photostream, and jog your memory of the display with the photo below!

Kurtz Cultural Center
The Patsy Cline memorial display case in the Kurtz Cultural Center, during a program for the “James Wood and the Founding of Winchester” exhibit, 1994.

Friday Roundup: Comprehensive Plan and Selected Reading

Comprehensive Plan Update: If you want to see what the Planning Commission is recommending for future land use in the city, stop by City Hall on Tuesday, August 31 at 5:30 pm to talk with staff and review exhibits. At 6:30 pm, the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing and they want to hear your thoughts. Written comments can be submitted but must be received by 5 pm on August 27 to be provided to the Commission prior to the meeting.

If you are traveling to Colonial Williamsburg this fall, you may want to keep an eye out at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum for a silver tankard made by Paul Revere. You can learn more about the item at the History Blog.

Visit the Public Domain Review for a photo essay Porch Memories by Federica Soletta. As we’ve already touched on here at PHW, porches are uniquely embedded in American architecture and culture. Combining historic images and small vignettes helps bring the photos to life and highlight the porch as a scene of American life.

Some of our best finds in the tracing of historic stories are from the Virginia Chronicle newspaper collections. The Library of Virginia dedicated a blog post to the worldwide tour these scanned and searchable pages take before they become accessible to researchers online.

Strong Towns blog posted a four part series on the alley in America. Catch all four parts in The American Alley: A Hidden Resource, Origins of the American Alley, End of the American Alley, and Rediscovering the Forgotten Human Scale. The series has been collected into a free downloadable ebook, also available on their blog.