Friday Roundup: Upcoming Events and Virginia Tourist Courts

The Winchester-Frederick County Tourism Office will host the next Newcomers Event on Thursday, April 7 from 5-7 pm at the Visitor Center. Are you new to the area or just want to learn more about our beautiful and vibrant community? Stop by and enjoy this free, casual event. Representatives from the City and County governments and parks and recreation departments, the Discovery Museum, the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, Handley Library, local destinations/museums, Winchester Area Newcomer’s Club, and more will be present.

As part of the Community Conversations Series, Councilors Kim Herbstritt and John Hill will host a Community Cleanup on Saturday, April 9 at 8 AM at Shawnee Springs (behind Mt. Carmel Church on Pleasant Valley Rd.), Friendship Park (end of N. Pleasant Valley Rd. across from Friendship Fire Station), and N. Cameron & N. Loudoun Streets (Rescue Mission and north to railroad tracks). Volunteers needed – bags, gloves, and pickers will be provided.

Grants from the Hart Family Fund for Small Towns are intended to encourage preservation at the local level by providing seed money for preservation projects in small towns. These grants help stimulate public discussion, enable local groups to gain the technical expertise needed for particular projects, introduce the public to preservation concepts and techniques, and encourage financial participation by the private sector. Grants range from $2,500 to $15,000. Apply by May 2.

In our ongoing work sparked by the Elms on Valley Avenue, we have been researching the proliferation of short-term tourist accommodations in Virginia in the early to mid-twentieth century to provide background context for the site. In William Couper’s History of the Shenandoah Valley published in 1952, the author states: “Tourist courts, at times called motels and somewhat similar terms, have become so numerous in the Valley that a pamphlet listing them and their advantages and accommodations has been published by the Virginia Tourist Court Association, Incorporated” (p. 1186).

In a prepared statement in 1951, the Association outlined how their model of business was substantially different from rental housing and commercial hotels: “Though tourist courts possess some of the characteristics of ordinary rental housing and some of the characteristics of commercial hotels, they are different in very substantial respects from both . . . . Tourist courts, unlike ordinary rental housing, cater only to transients and, unlike commercial hotels, they cater only to transients traveling by private motor vehicle. Persons traveling by train, airplane, bus, or ship do not patronize tourist courts. Further, the tourist court, because of its location usually far distant from the business centers of large cities, does not appeal to the average commercial traveler. It is designed for and seeks its patronage among motoring vacationists.” [1]

This reasoning falls in line well with the development patterns of tourist courts and similar establishments. Hand in hand with the rise of the automobile, Winchester and its many scenic roads were often included in vacation guides geared to the automobile owner. Starting in at least the late 1920s, various groups concerned with tourism and travel along the highways passing through town partnered with other localities to drive more visitors here to experience our scenery, history, and of course, the Apple Blossom Festival. Winchester was often touted as the perfect overnight destination on these two or three day road trips.

No timeline accounting for the rise and fall of motels in Winchester and nearby Frederick County exists (yet), though incidental research of buildings throughout town reflects larger single family dwellings often being utilized as rooming houses or tourist homes in the early 1900s to 1940s. A 1967 business census lists 17 tourist courts, motels, and similar in Winchester, and 18 in Frederick County [2].

Documentary images of the remaining Elms “Cottages” may now be seen at our Flickr account.

Elms Motor Court

Friday Roundup: Office Updates and Elms Motel

Better late than never! The Winter 2022 edition of the newsletter is online now. We have had a couple mailers come back to the office as undelivered, so if you haven’t received snail mail from us and you still want to, please reach out at

We are also getting ready for a large batch of membership renewals for our spring/end of fiscal year push. If you’d like to get in your renewal early, we have an online form you can download and mail in with your check. Otherwise, keep an eye out in early April for the next renewal letter.

We are getting closer to seeing the MSV partnership on some landscaping/exterior improvements happen at the Hexagon House. Our end goal is to have some quality of life improvements for outdoor events here. Many of you are familiar with our usual outdoor setup for the Annual Meeting and the greenery sales at the Bough & Dough Shop and have probably noticed the yard is looking a bit rough. We hope to be able to share more details soon, but any donations made to PHW in memory of Jim Laidlaw are currently being considered for this project. As you may know, Jim and Barbara have been integral parts of PHW’s leadership since the 1970s, and were similarly involved with the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. Barbara is being consulted and is on-board for the proposed idea.

With the news of a “raze and replace” development proposal at the site of the Elms Motel on Valley Avenue, we were alerted by a concerned reader that the four Art Deco units have been cited as one of the rare examples of this ephemeral style of architecture still in existence. The project is on the March 15th Planning Commission meeting agenda, and the documents for the proposal can be found online at the City of Winchester portal.

We have reached out to our local Department of Historic Resources office and confirmed of the 200 motels/hotels surveyed in Virginia, only three are from Winchester/Frederick County. Similar styles have been considered National Register eligible recently. We would recommend viewing the Multiple Property Document for Virginia Beach Oceanfront Resort Motels and Hotels for more in-depth architectural history on hospitality-focused buildings. You can also view more collected images and information on the Elms Motor Court at Dead Motels USA. The existing motor court is worth documenting properly at the very least, or perhaps even incorporated into the other adaptive reuse of existing structures planned for the site.

The public hearing for rezoning will take place March 15, 3 PM in Rouss City Hall. You may wish to make statements in writing and submit them before the meeting to the Planning Commission by email via

Elms Motor Court & Dining Room Winchester VA
The Elms in the William L. Bird collection of Flickr, from a postcard postmarked 1957. The four Art Deco units are in the larger image, while the now demolished main building is in the inset.

Friday Roundup: Charlie Rouss Day Edition

Today is Charlie Rouss Day, celebrated on the birthday of this benefactor to Winchester. While no events were planned for 2022 due to the pandemic, you can celebrate by watching a quick video produced by the City of Winchester:

This time of year, PHW is also getting ready to celebrate its 58th birthday. We celebrated at the office by doing some filing for old newsletters discovered tucked into other file folders this week. Perhaps not the most festive thing to do, but important if we’re ever going to get around to scanning all the backlog!

Here are a few other upcoming events and a video that could be of interest to historians and preservationists:

Learn about Winchester in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and explore the history of the Godfrey Miller House. The event takes place February 16 at 2:30 PM in the Godfrey Miller Center, 28 S. Loudoun St. The tours will be led by Rev. Jonathan Boynton dressed in period costume. Rev. Boynton is an avid reenactment historian that has been delighting participants with his knowledge and entertaining presentations for more than 35 years.

A new highway marker honoring Dr. Madison S. Briscoe will be unveiled at his childhood home 204 S. Kent St. on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2:30 PM (inclement weather date is Feb. 26). Parking is available at the Winchester Moose Lodge. Activities related to Dr. Briscoe will be held at the Discovery Museum between 11 AM and 2 PM on the same day.

Ready to learn about an innovative solution to preserving a fragile piece of the built environment? Check out A Massive Chainmail Shelter Prevents a Renowned Scottish Mansion from Dissolving in the Rain. Be sure to watch the quick video for a look at the building, inside and out. Even better, the innovative structure will be completely recyclable at the end of the fifteen-year project, being made entirely of steel.

Friday Roundup: Sundry Small Updates

It will be a brief roundup this week, as we’ve been working on PHW membership renewal letters. If you’d like to skip mailing a check, you can pay online using a credit/debit card. You can find the automatic subscription form on our website, along with a link to make a one-time donation or a form to mail in with your check (just in case you misplaced your form). Thanks in advance to everyone renewing for the 2022 year!

It’s Virginia General Assembly advocacy season at Preservation Virginia. The bills they have identified as a priority can be found on their website. They are currently following the progress of  SB 158 and HB 141, Virginia Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Historic Preservation Fund, which will establish a grant fund to support and provide nonprofit organizations, localities, and state and federally-recognized Indian tribes eligible costs to acquire, preserve and interpret historic structures, cultural landscapes and archaeological sites important to the history of Black, Indigenous and People of Color. No such fund currently exists to support these resources. Its establishment would help to ensure the preservation of historic sites and resources from historically marginalized and underrepresented communities, which traditionally have not been priorities for state conservation grant funding.

PHW is working on producing a pamphlet covering the Hexagon House. Do you have questions about the house and its history you want answered? Drop us a note and we’ll try to cover as many questions as possible. We’ve touched up our house history with information recently uncovered and are looking forward to printing this spring. Stay tuned for more details!

Ever wondered about the type of architectural detective work we do here at PHW? You might enjoy Didn’t Used To Be a Pizza Hut for the saga of uncovering land use history of a weird-looking Pizza Hut in Landover, MD. It’s quite a chain restaurant tale hitting both recognizable names like Pizza Hut and Howard Johnson and some mostly forgotten ones of a bygone era.

Last, for a bit of documentation of Vanished Winchester, you may wish to look through the Winchester Towers interior photography album on Facebook from shortly before the building was demolished. Thanks for sharing, Matthew Lofton!

Construction of the Winchester Towers
The Darlington Motor Inn in 1977, later Winchester Towers, at the corner of Cameron and Piccadilly streets.

Friday Roundup: Clearing the Backlog

Icy Nandina
It’s going to be a cold weekend – here’s some extra reading!

Oops – sometimes we save too many things in our bookmarks and don’t get to share them in a timely manner. To make things a bit more manageable on the back-end of blog post production and inspiration, here is a selection of links we’ve gathered over a few years (gulp):

From Strong Towns, here is a simple list of questions and attractive graphic titled Ask Yourself These 20 Questions to Make Better Decisions for Your Community. Many people seem to make impulsive decisions without thinking through consequences, and we encourage anyone who has had a thought of charging ahead on any decision to take a few moments of reflection and really consider consequences past your immediate gratification. If you need to make a lot of decisions and keep finding the decisions are not working out as planned, perhaps you should print out the graphic and hang it in some conspicuous places.

We dusted off our PHW PayPal Giving page this week. If you’d like to drop us a little monetary donation, you can use an existing PayPal account, or a credit or debit card. This function, as we just learned, allows for anonymous donations and PayPal covers your tax receipt.

History lovers, have you tried Wikitrivia? We checked it out over the snow days and had a fun time placing events and people along a timeline. Test your general history knowledge this weekend, and perhaps you’ll find a topic you’d like to explore further.

We’ve mentioned the photographs of John Margolies in the Library of Congress collections before, but Atlas Obscura covered his images of novelty gas stations across America in Fuel Your Imagination with Glorious Photos of Odd Gas Stations.

Ghost signs are a love it or hate it topic in historic preservation (personally, we love them). If you’ve ever wondered about the ghost sign on the mountainside at Harpers Ferry, check out The Sign Above the Tunnel for a quick history of the sign.

Black Businesses in Antebellum Virginia is a look into how freemen could become business owners – as well as underscoring how difficult such a path was and how it was not a guarantee their family could remain together and their business remain viable.

Is Winchester a “15-Minute Neighborhood” for you? Can you walk to most of your necessities in 15 minutes or less? (It’s close for us, but groceries are our sticking point, and probably yours, too.) We can see this process in the downtown, and in the recently-proposed rezoning for the North End, that we are heading toward this process of becoming more dense instead of expanding ever outward (due of course in part to Winchester’s limited geographic footprint). Strong Towns posted 7 Rules for Creating “15-Minute Neighborhoods,” even for areas that may not currently be set up to accommodate this ideal. We find this suggestion particularly resonant (and reflective of past building practices): “A 15-minute neighborhood may be dense, but the more important thing is that it’s fine-grained and truly mixes homes, businesses, and public spaces seamlessly instead of segregating them into zones. This is why we need to let all our neighborhoods thicken up incrementally, instead of building clusters of high-rises to meet the demand for new housing.”

Last, in keeping with our “West of the Blue Ridge” series, Native American Trails Key to Settlement from Mt. Airy News calls back to a few of our early installments in the series. Look for the Winchester mention!

Friday Roundup: Snow Day!

It’s our first appreciable snowfall of the year, so PHW is operating from home today. Monday may also be suspect due to the forecast of more snow and freezing rain. While we work from home, you can still reach us at our email and we can answer most questions. Anything that needs further exploration will be answered when we get back to the office, weather permitting.

To hold you over on this winter weather weekend, we have a few items to share. From the Handley Regional Library, you’re invited to Family History Hunters, a group for those interested in discovering their family history. Whether you have years of experience or are just beginning your journey, this is the place to learn tips and strategies, find new resources, and share successes. The first meeting will be virtual on January 13, 12:30 PM and all are welcome! Future meetings will be February 10 (special beginner’s session), March 10, April 14, May 12,
and June 9. Join one session or all!

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has a number of grant deadlines and events coming up – see if any of these can benefit your organization or preservation project:

Last, for a bit of interesting side reading, you may want to check out “How to design a house to last 1000 yearspart I, part II, and part III by Brian Potter. When considering the houses and buildings here that made it past the century mark, we see many of the same confluences of luck against fire, lack of natural disasters, durable building materials, and stable neighborhood uses or ability of a building to be repurposed to changing uses. The third part might be of the most interest to see how this person designed a building that might last 1000 years. What do you think of the final design choices?

First Snow of 2022
First snow at the Hexagon House, January 2022. Photo by Rick Alvarez.

Friday Roundup: New Year’s Eve Edition

Thank you all for joining PHW on this year’s adventure. We persevered through another round of the pandemic, managing to safely host in-person events for both our Annual Meeting and the Holiday House Tour and Bough & Dough Shop. While the Shop itself is finished until next November, a few PHW products can be ordered at any time through our online store. Of course, we continued our educational mission about architecture and local history through our image captioning project on social media, assisting homeowners in research questions, and coming out to events and speaking to other similar historically-minded organizations about preservation and history topics.

In preservation news, we have had two projects of note for the second half of 2021. In addition to the usual Revolving Fund house oversight, we have been delighted to put some of the salvage material in PHW’s holdings back into 609 S. Cameron Street (and a few other local preservation projects.) Our salvage holdings are a bit of a secret service. We are in no way set up to compete with Maggie’s Farm, but we have taken in some select local building parts over the years and are always willing to see if our holdings might have something you need for a project. We currently have an abundance of window sashes in various states of repair, doors, and a few mantels and light fixtures. We’re happy to do some basement spelunking with you to look over the items, but it’s up to you to get them back out of the basement and to your work site. Prices are flexible and go to supporting PHW’s operations (like this!).

We are also delighted to have partnered with the Godfrey Miller Home and Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church to support the maintenance needed for this special building. You may have gotten to peek in at the freshly-spruced up interior earlier this month during an open house event. They are still collecting donations to help with their expected expenses, the forms for which can be found here on our website. We’d like to see our members meet our donation of $10,000 and get the Home well on its way to a clean and safe exterior!

This year, we have also been collecting targeted donations for the Sherry Bosley scholarship fund, with which we hope to establish a scholarship for local students entering the historic preservation field, as well as donations made in memory of Dr. James Laidlaw. While we don’t have concrete plans yet for the Laidlaw donations, we hope to use the funds for something in partnership with the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, another organization the Laidlaws have supported over the years. If you’d like to make a last minute donation for your 2021 season, you can utilize PayPal to make a payment by debit or credit card (no PayPal account needed). If you’d like the donation to go toward one of our targeted funds, just write us a little note in the PayPal form and we’ll take care of it. You can also use this form to renew your PHW membership one time – just write the note that it’s your membership dues so we can record that accurately, as well.

We know there’s still a lot more work to do in 2022, and we probably don’t know of every preservation project or need that exists. That is why we are a membership-driven organization – it takes our members to help keep the board and staff informed and let us know if there are ways for us to help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to us at or 540-667-3577 and let us know what’s going on.

Stay safe, celebrate responsibly, and we’ll see you in 2022!

Old Town Spring
Happy New Year!

Friday Roundup: Christmas Eve Edition

Handley Library, Holidays 2021
Thanks to Bob Snyder for sending us this great postcard illustration of the Handley Library ready to celebrate the holidays!

Recently, we watched two animated movies that align with PHW’s history and past lecture series. If you’re looking for a movie suitable to watch with older teens to receive inspiration on preservation (and a little side history on Japan’s involvement in the Korean War), check out From Up on Poppy Hill. This story, involving students banding together to clean up and save an important school building, is set in 1963, about the same time we were feeling the same sentiments here in Winchester to preserve our historic buildings for future generations.

Although we don’t want to spoil everything about The Wind Rises, this more mature film set in 1918-1945 Japan prompted some discussion afterward on “was that really how that happened?” And indeed, some of the scenes are accurate to the contemporary writings on tuberculosis treatment and prevention that we reviewed as part of our “A House without a Porch Is Boring” lecture.

If you’re not interested in watching movies during your holidays, you might might enjoy Christmas in 19th Century America by Penne Restad at History Today. It was a fun read, based heavily in how the 19th century changed Christmas in America from how our ancestors would have known and celebrated the holiday to what we experience today.

605 S. Cameron St.
605 S. Cameron St., Dec. 2021

Last, we have two images to share of work taking place on Cameron Street. One is 605 S. Cameron Street, one of the PHW Revolving Fund houses that was involved in a fire. Work is progressing on the building, which has so far included removing the rear addition, roof, and other damaged portions in the main block. PHW was happy to provide some window sashes salvaged from another local building outside the historic district that will be reused in this building, and we may be providing a door in the future. The decorative trim, which has also been removed, is salvageable and will be reinstalled.

Centenary Reformed United Church of Christ
202 S. Cameron St., Dec. 2021

Next, we spotted some of the stained glass window work taking place at Centenary Reformed United Church of Christ on the corner of Cork and Cameron streets. We are super excited to see the beautiful stained glass windows uncovered from the safety glass that has obscured them for decades. While storm windows like this are often a key part in preserving historic stained glass windows, some of these older iterations have aged badly and hidden the very architectural features they intended to preserve. We hope the work will finally let this church’s beauty be seen from the street.

Last, we have been informed another Revolving Fund house, known well to many of you as the Simon Lauck house at 311 South Loudoun, was involved in an accidental fire this week. Due to rapid response by local EMS teams, the building was saved, but repairs will be ongoing. We are sure the building will be in good hands, as we were already working with the owner to find someone capable of handling other repairs to the log structure. We’ll be keeping you updated here as we learn more, as we know this building is very dear to many people.

Have a safe and happy holiday weekend!

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.