Friday Roundup: History Mystery Edition

Welcome to October! It seems the spooky season is uncovering all kinds of unsolved mysteries, and we have three to share this week:

PHW was recently approached for further information concerning 225 Sharp St. This is a frame addition to a ca. 1830 (possibly as old as 1822) brick house. The frame addition was part of our image caption project for social media, at which time we tentatively identified the owner at the likely time of the construction as George E. Bushnell. In searching for further information on the owner, we learned he was a druggist (or pharmacist) in Winchester, but to our surprise it appears he passed away in 1898, probably before the frame addition was constructed. We can confirm by the 1920 census it was being used as a rental for Ida and Westley Washington and their family. If you know of any specific history tidbits or timeline concerning this structure, please let PHW know at phwinc.org@gmail.com so we can pass the information along to the requester.


On a similar note, we were asked if there was any specific name for the area near the Piccadilly/Kent St. railroad crossing. We have looked through some older maps and accounts of Winchester as a young town, and in general that area around Piccadilly seems to have been referred to as “the northeastern end of town” at least until the early 1900s and the construction boom along National Avenue pushed the edge of town further east. That intersection comprises lots 47, 48, 65, and 66 of the 1752 plan of Winchester, and the original owners of said lots were identified as Andrew Fretty, John Steward, and — Bush, respectively (with Bush owning two parcels). None of these names seem to have stuck to the land parcels through the centuries. Looking at real estate records sometime reveals tract names from subdivisions; the closest we could find was reference to the Virginia Woolen Mill. Although no specific and catchy name like Potato Hill or Virginia City has stuck in the printed literature, do you call this area anything in particular?


While doing this and other research on Piccadilly Street, we came across a mention in the May 14, 1925 Daily Independent newspaper that Harry Gardiner, “The Human Fly,” was set to climb the Piccadilly side of the George Washington Hotel as a fundraiser. The attempt was indeed successful, though it is unclear how much money his stunt raised for the American Legion. From the coverage the Monday following the event:

George Washington Hotel
The Piccadilly side of the George Washington Hotel scaled by Harry Gardiner, “The Human Fly.”

“A large crowd of people gathered on Market [Cameron] and Piccadilly streets Saturday night to witness the climbing of the walls of the George Washington Hotel by Harry Gardiner, the human fly. Mr. Gardiner ascended the Piccadilly street side of the hotel, and when he had almost reached the roof of the hotel, the spectators stood in breathless excitement, wondering how he would be able to climb to the roof, but they soon spied a rope dangling a few feet from the roof, by which Gardiner climbed to the top of the hotel. The Citizens’ Band, who donated their services, gave a beautiful concert in front of the hotel before the climbing act took place. The affair was held under the auspices of the R. Y. Conrad Post of the American Legion, and the amount of money taken up and for the benefit of the building fund.” – Daily Independent, May 18, 1925

From a quick peek at other newspapers, it appears Harry Gardiner’s building-climbing skills were employed at other hotels in Virginia and West Virginia in the 1920s, many under the auspices of fundraising for American Legion chapters. It does not appear a full list of his climbing exploits have been compiled yet, but perhaps this chance find will spark a bit more interest and investigation into this once famous stuntman.

Friday Roundup: South Loudoun Street Demolitions and African American Genealogy

PHW has reviewed the preliminary structural reports for 411 and 514-520 South Loudoun Street this week. From our reading and conversations, we believe 411 South Loudoun is able to be rehabilitated following some selective (not total) demolition to the rear of the structure. The main block of the house facing Loudoun Street appears to be relatively sound and the issues found are common enough to correct. The rear wing is more deteriorated primarily through water damage, but reconstruction or a new addition to the rear of historic buildings is an acceptable and common way to repurpose historic buildings for new uses and needs.

514 S. Loudoun
514-520 S. Loudoun, circa 1976

The townhouses at 514-520 South Loudoun are more deteriorated, but we would like more information from the completed structural reports. Again, it sounds like water and lack of maintenance were the primary sources of deterioration. One of the issues we have circled back to many times at PHW during discussions involving these properties is the unique character of the townhouse facades. While there are a few townhouses of a similar style in Winchester, none have quite the same “San Francisco” feeling as these units with their walk-in basements. One idea that may be worth exploring for the townhouses is a facadectomy, wherein the facade (the most architecturally interesting portion of the building) is retained, and an entirely new structure is built behind. This approach may be particularly useful in this case because the interior of the building may be difficult to work with for modern conveniences, as the units are reported to be very narrow, dominated by staircases, and the rooms quite small inside.

In either case, for both structures, there is no plan by the applicant to rebuild. Philosophically, PHW is opposed to demolition that leaves holes in the streetscape. Given the slow pace of action of these properties throughout almost the entire existence of PHW as an organization, we have little hope should this demolition be approved that anything will be built on this land within the next fifty years. We urge the applicant to finally relinquish these properties to other entities who are willing and able to proceed in meaningful action instead of continuing a slow and painful demolition by neglect.

If you would like to make a statement on these properties, the public hearing for demolition is scheduled for August 18, 4 PM at Rouss City Hall.


In other news, we also watched this presentation from the Thomas Balch Library on African American Genealogy this week. While this is focused on Loudoun County and some of the search resources are not available for Winchester, it can provide ideas for alternative lateral research avenues. If you are on the hunt for more information, you may wish to check out the Virginia Untold website to start or flesh out your search.

Friday Roundup: Living History, Grant Webinars, and the Winchester Regional Airport

Are you heading downtown tomorrow, July 23? You may want to stop by the Old Frederick County Courthouse at 5 PM, reenactors will have a living history program to recreate the July 24, 1758 election of George Washington to Virginia’s House of Burgesses. All four candidates plus other top figures involved in the 1758 election will be on hand. The reenactment is sponsored by Jim Moyer, the French and Indian War Foundation, the Capt. George Mercer Company of Col. George Washington’s Virginia Regiment and the Virginia Beer Museum in Front Royal.


Preservation Virginia is offering two upcoming webinars cover state and federal grant opportunities as well as ways to cultivate individuals and private foundations. The webinars are paid events, but scholarship opportunities are available. Contact Sonja Ingram at singram@preservationvirginia.org for more information.

Webinar 1: State Grant Opportunities (July 26, 6-7:30 PM)

Do you have questions about applying for statewide grant programs or private foundations? Panelist from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and the Virginia Museum of History & Culture will provide an overview of state grants currently available for physical “bricks and mortar” preservation projects, including the new Virginia Black, Indigenous and People of Color Historic Preservation Fund and the Commonwealth History Fund. The program will also discuss other avenues for fundraising, such as approaching private foundations and cultivating support from individuals. Dr. Lisa Winn Bryan, Community Outreach Manager at Preservation Virginia, will moderate the discussion. 

Webinar 2: Federal Grant Opportunities (July 28, 6-8 PM)

Dig deeper into the application process to understand how to prepare and what you need to apply for federal programs. Megan Brown from the National Park Service and Lawana Holland-Moore from the National Trust for Historic Preservation will discuss grants administered by their organizations, including National Park Service African American Civil Rights Grants and Underrepresented Communities Grants and the National Trust for Historic Preservation African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. Preservation architect Joseph (Jody) Dye Lahendro will discuss the details of application requirements, like establishing historic significance and identifying the project scope, phasing and costs to support and justify grant requests. 


You might have heard about the upcoming expansion at the Winchester Regional Airport. By happenstance while filing other newspaper clippings in PHW’s daunting backlog of uncatalogued items, we came across some articles on the 1988 expansion plans. From the August 13, 1988 editorial column by Tim Thornton, a few select quotes on the history of the airport and the vision for the new terminal:

“A patchwork of hangars and offices constructed in the 1930’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s, the present [1988] terminal is small — about 1,900 square feet by Mr. Wiegand’s reckoning — and it’s showing its age. . . . . Plans for a new terminal — a two-story building with a restaurant — were drawn up in 1983. In 1987 the plan called for a $335,000, 4,000 square foot terminal.”

“The Authority envisions a W-shaped terminal with a waiting area to accommodate 39 people, a pilot lounge, a concessions area, a flight planning room, administrative offices, and a reception area. . . . . The design also includes a 400-foot observation tower that would be required for passenger flights.”

According to the Frederick County Tax Map, the existing terminal was built in 1989 and is 9,248 square feet.

Airport Terminal Faces Razing or Renovation
The previous “patchwork” terminal, as seen accompanying a May 10, 1988 article that ran in the Winchester Star.

Out of the Past: July 5, 1901

Many thanks to Dr. John Chesson, who turned over a handful of old Winchester Evening Star newspapers found in the Samuel Noakes House during its rehabilitation. We wanted to take you back in time to July 5, 1901, to see what was up in Winchester and environs. We felt these short notes with history of construction, houses, or notable historical names were most likely to be of interest to our readers:

Building New Barns: The spirit of improvement has taken possession of the neighborhood south of Nineveh. Two of the most prosperous farmers of that vicinity, Messrs. Oscar McKay and Wesley Le Hew, are building fine barns.

Tripped by a Dog: Virginia, the interesting little daughter of Mr. John L. Smith, the well known tobacco salesman, met with a painful accident near Hotel Evans last night. She was running across the street and, in attempting to avoid a carriage, tripped over a dog, falling to the street and cutting and ugly gash in her chin. Dr. W. S. Love dressed the wound.

Selection From Florodora: Yesterday morning the Eddy Brothers relieved the monotony of East Water street by giving an informal open-air concert with the phonograph. This is one of the largest and best machines on the market, and the Messrs. Eddy make it a point to have only the best records. The popular duet from Florodora: “Tell me pretty maiden are there any more at home like you?” caught the audience. Very few of us have had the pleasure of witnessing this opera which is all the rage in New York at present, but we can appreciate its excellence by hearing the duet on the phonograph. [Editor’s Note: The Eddy Brothers ran a printing

Leaves Property Conditionally: The will of the late Charles H. Harrod, colored, has been admitted to probate. He owned several small houses and leaves one on the alley back of Kent street to his sister, Eliza Harrod and a share in another to his brother, John Harrod. The property is left to them conditionally.

Contractor Shull has put down a very creditable curb on the north side of Rouss avenue.

Public Sale: J. M. Steck and A. J. Tavener, special commissioners, will sell “Jennie White” Springs property, located near Mt. Williams, containing about 35 acres July 8, 1901, at the Court House in Winchester. See handbills for terms, description, etc.

Valuable Suburban Property: For sale or exchange a fine house and 5 1/2 acres of land situated about one mile from town on the Northwestern Grade, and known as the Taggert House. House contains ten rooms with hot and cold water in bath. Also valuable farm for sale. Apple to Warren Rice. [Editor’s note: This appears to be roughly in the vicinity of the intersection of Amherst St. and Meadow Branch Avenue.]

169 Years Old: John Jones, while working at the new Shenandoah Valley Bank site, found a Spanish coin in a good state of preservation, dated 1732.

Lightning Shocks Mr. Conner: During the short electrical storm yesterday afternoon, Mr. J. Wm. Conner, the plumber, received quite a shock. He was at work extending the gas main on Stewart street, when the lightning zigzagged along the pipe and his arms were numbed for a while. The effects passed off soon and no harm resulted.

How to Search Census Records

If you are researching a family connected to a place, one of the first stops to glean more information is the census records. The records are available several places online, but the easiest option for armchair research if you have a Handley Regional Library card is HeritageQuest Online. Input the barcode number from your library card and you can search records from 1790-1950 in a variety of ways. Aside from the obvious searches for family names, here are some tips when tracking down something you know should be there but you can’t quite find.

1. Change your census year!
If you know from oral histories, deeds, or city directories your targets should have been at a location spanning at least two census collection dates but they aren’t appearing in one year, try the next year in your search results. You may be able to use some information on the second census to help you circle back to the first.

2. Search for a neighbor!
If you know the names of the neighbors to a property you are researching and they are more unique than “John Smith,” try searching for them instead. The census recorders usually went street by street or block by block, and by paging forward or backward from the neighbor’s entry you may find your target street and house number in the margins.

3. Try the residence number search!
Not all census records have this option, but if it’s available and you don’t have any other leads to try first, it will save more time than flipping through the records blindly. We’ve noticed the street names are often the worst for the record transcribers to get right because they are squashed in the margins, so you may have to get creative if you try this search option.

4. Double check your location!
More than once I’ve found myself ticking the wrong ward or district box, or even the wrong Winchester from the autocomplete suggestions. Don’t forget that some buildings that are firmly in the city today were originally in Frederick County (this goes for deed searching, too!).

5. But be aware…
There are some gaps in the census records – the 1890 census is one of the victims of record destruction, for example. The very earliest censuses only recorded the head of household’s name and a tally of others in the home by age, sex, and race. Some recorded places of birth; others recorded occupations. The forms were tweaked every time for whatever information was deemed relevant to capture at that point.

6. Go beyond the basics!
Sometimes you just can’t quite get the research to come together as you hope. Heritage Quest has also put together a collection of Research Aids to help you think of some other avenues of research, or ways to put the results you found to better use.

Happy researching!

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: The Elms

Sparked by the interest shown in The Elms Motor Court buildings along Valley Avenue, we have done some preliminary research to see what information is available about the motel. As a number of other online researchers have commented, finding historic information about the motel specifically is a bit hard to come by, so we wanted to make the information we gathered at PHW accessible as we continue our documentation of the site.

The 1947 Sanborn map documents The Elms, consisting at this time of the main house and three concrete block overnight cottages. This was the first time the map extended this far from downtown Winchester.

A Winchester Evening Star article dated Nov. 3, 1954 supplies most of our historic information for this post. L. Adolph Richards, the author, wrote several other articles on buildings on historic interest in the mid-1900s, and it appears he pulled most of his information from T. K. Cartmell’s writings, so we trust that the basic information provided was verified.

In this article, Richards notes the land was granted by Virginia Governor Gooch to Isaac Parkins in 1735. Isaac’s son, Nathan Parkins, built the home as well as a mill across the road. Nathan lived in the home until his death in 1830; subsequently it was occupied by T. T. Fauntleroy, George W. Hillyard, William Richards (who dubbed the house “The Elms”), and Mr. and Mrs. L. V. Watson. In April of 1954, the Chickla Brothers of Pittsburgh purchased the property and owned it during the heyday of the Elms Motor Court.

Keckley Mill
1954 newspaper images of The Elms and the pond across the street.

By the time of a 1963 aerial image viewable on Historic Aerials, The Elms had completed the construction of the additional cottages in an L shape around the house. The main stone house was used for room rentals, as well as a restaurant in its later life. The building, thought to be the oldest house on the south side of Winchester, was demolished in early 2010. The lot, including the elm trees, was leveled and grassed over and has been vacant since that time.

Keckley Mill
The Keckley Mill, ca. 1995 shortly before demolition.

The Parkins Mill, built along Abram’s Creek, was destroyed during the Civil War and was rebuilt by Jacob Keckley in 1872. At an unspecified point (perhaps around 1930), the mill was converted to apple packaging, as seen on the 1947 Sanborn map. The Keckley Mill has also been demolished. In a newspaper clipping from December 27, 1995 detailing the demolition by Cynthia Cather, it was last occupied by Shenandoah Appliance Co. for about 17 years prior to demolition. For those familiar with Winchester in the 1980s, it was well-known because of a stuffed gorilla placed outside the entrance to the building.

The rectangular pond across the road from The Elms was used as a dam to hold water from Abram’s Creek to turn the water wheel for the Parkins and Keckley Mill, as well as being used for ice by the Hillyards. We assume this article from 1931, printed below, is the pond where the perch were poisoned.

HALF-MILLION PERCH ARE KILLED IN POND

Game Warden F. M. Pingley reported that approximately 500,000 yellow perch had been killed in the past several days in a fresh water pond at the Elms, near Winchester, Va., which, it is claimed, was due to the pollution of Abrams Creek, which feeds the pond. Informed of the killing, Maj. A. Willis Robertson, of Richmond, State commissioner of game and inland fisheries, notified Warden Pingley to proceed to prosecute the agency believed guilty of polluting the stream and killing the fish. Game Warden Pingley procured a warrant from County Magistrate A. J. Tavenner against the Virginia Apple Storage Company, operating a large plant on Abrams Creek, charging the corporation with having polluted the stream by emptying a solution of lime from their plant into the stream. The warrant was served on L. Jackson, manager. —Chief Justice, Volume 4, Number 29, 21 July 1931

More images, primarily of the Keckley Mill, are now available at our Flickr. We anticipate adding more images of the Elms Motor Court buildings soon.

Friday Roundup:Weekend Reading and Research Sagas

Winchester held a Comprehensive Plan open house and public hearing on Tuesday this week. If you were unable to attend in person but are curious about the public comments made, you can watch the meeting video at the Winchester meeting archive site. One refrain we heard over and over from the commenters was how Winchester’s history and charm is part of why people want to live here. Obviously, we’re absolutely thrilled by hearing those kinds of comments. PHW has been a strong believer in just those qualities being an attractant for visitors and residents alike.

Simultaneously, we heard a number of comments skeptical of New Urbanism. While we know anything that has a name and sounds officially engineered is going to be viewed with suspicion these days, in many ways this approach to planning is intended to go back to the proven, organic method of growing incrementally. If New Urbanism is a new concept for you, you can learn more at newurbanism.org and the Congress of New Urbanism.


In the Preservation Leadership forum, several good website resources were shared recently. Because the forum is not available to nonmembers we wanted to pass the links on to our readers. From Fort Collins, CO, is a cost calculator spreadsheet for both residential and commercial construction. They are in Excel format and should be saved to your computer to allow for editing for your project comparisons.

Douglas Newby also shared links to his five steps for saving historic and architecturally significant homes. They are a bit of a longer read, so settle in when you have time for Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Four, and Part Five. This approach is almost exactly the process PHW was advised to take by the National Trust for Historic Preservation consultants, and subsequently how much of the residential areas surrounding Winchester’s Old Town Mall were stabilized.

Because we know it is always an area of interest, we were also notified that the founders of PreservationDirectory.com have spun off a second website HistoricFunding.com just for gathering funding resources for grants, loans, rebates, tax incentives, and other opportunities for preservation and its related humanity fields. The search requires paid membership, and so PHW cannot vouch for the quality and range of sources available here (although the price seems relatively reasonable compared to other paid grant databases we have come across).


In addition to our usual social media image captioning project for our Flickr holdings, this week we did a bit of extra sleuthing to identify two photos in our collection. If you’ve ever wondered how we go about this, here are the approaches we used for these two images:

1632 Valley Ave.

The first building was partially identified as being located on Valley Avenue by a note on the rear. The notes have not always been accurate, as we learned in previous image sleuthing attempts, but it at least provided a starting point and seemed plausible. To check without leaving the office, we utilized Google’s Street View on maps and took a virtual drive from Jefferson Street heading south. The building would be nondescript except for the prominent white keystones with decorative inset panelss in the wall above, so those were the features we looked for first. Once we spotted a promising building on Google Street View, we pulled back and verified the side porch on the north side, as well as examining the adjoining property to the south. Once we were sure we had the right building, we took a little trip down the street to confirm the address and number of building between this one and the Benjamin Moore paint store. Armed with this info, we then went to the City’s Real Estate Assessment Search for a general Valley Avenue search and obtained the correct street address through counting back parcels to reach this one.

178 Hawthorne Dr.

The second image was a bit harder to identify, and required what we would term lateral searching and organizational memory. This photo did not have a location note on the rear, but was stamped as being taken by Allan Richardson and had crop notations indicating it was used for some kind of printed material. Knowing that Allan Richardson took photos for PHW in the later 1970s to early 1980s from our previous work in the image collection, we had a basic time frame to explore. Knowing the only reason it is likely PHW had a professional photo of a modern home was because of a tour or event, we started with the biggest event of our repertoire, the Holiday House Tour. Due to previous work done behind the scenes to document the locations and years of past House Tours, and from our knowledge of Winchester that this is not a building in the Historic District, we could scroll through the address list before finding a likely address to once again plug into Google Street View. In this case, it ended up being the first possible building we identified in the 1977 Holiday House Tour. Once again, we confirmed through examining the distinctive features of the house – the chimney placement, front entry, and windows primarily – and then compared the tiny magnolia in the original photo to the modern-day tree. This one was definitely a bit more of a puzzler, but we feel confident we correctly identified the building through these methods.

Friday Roundup: Marlboro Furnace Addition

While working on another research project this week, we came across an article referencing Marlboro Furnace and the production of firebacks, which was discussed in our “West of the Blue Ridge” series on metalworking. While we found it too late to reference in that post, we thought it would make a nice addendum and have reprinted the text here:

PERHAPS OLDEST EXTANT.

A “Fireback” Made in 1755—A Curio Worth Possessing.

Friday morning while in the shop at Reed and Nulton’s, on west Water street, a Times reporter spied an ordinary and rough-looking piece of old iron, which would have escaped the notice of many. His attention was drawn to it by seeing the name of an old German family among his ancestors, and naturally he investigated. The curio was a “fireback,” so common in the houses of colonial days and is one of a few relics of this character extant in this community.

These “firebacks” resemble the sides of a large “ten-plate” stove and were used in fire places by the old timers. Most of them in this section were made by the old Marlboro Furnace, in this county, with which the Zane family was connected. One is now in the possession of the Sarah Zane Fire Company, which was made for the Cartmell’s, ancestors of our worthy county clerk.

The “fireback” seen this morning was made in 1755 for the Huber family—now called Hoover, of which Mr. C. F. Hoover is one of the many representatives—and also represented by a family of Hubers in Stephens City. On the plate is some figured work either allegorical or characters the result of the ingenuty [sic] of the iron moulder [sic]. The name upon it is

“JACOB HVBER,

“1ST DER FRST DE

“1755.”

Mr. Nulton also has the portion of another aged plate and there are several more in the community.

The writer of this article has one at his residence which is used in lieu of a stepping stone.

The Huber “fireback” was secured by Mr. Nulton from a party who once resided in the house on Braddock street now occupied by Mr. George Thatcher, and it is probably the oldest of its kind in the country.

In connection with this we append an article from Ironmonger and would further state that the “fireback” referred to was in his possession once and he claims it was loaned to a late resident of this city:

“As matter of historic interest I give herewith a representation of an anti-Revolutionary stove which is now in possession of Mr. Charles B. Hotchkiss, the New York manager of the Barstow Stove Company, who feels peculiar pride in possessing this old relic of his business.

“Discussion has been so warm, I have taken the trouble to obtain from the gentleman who formerly possessed this plate, some data as to its history. Under date of April 18th he writes from Winchester, Va., as follows:

‘The fireback referred to, with another like it, was bought from a stove dealer here, who was only willing to say that the owners who had placed it in his hands to sell, ‘stood on their dignity’ (in his words), and did not care to be known, being in reduced circumstances.

‘Marlboro Furnace, long cold, I have always understood was in this county, a few miles southeast from Winchester. A post office still bears the name. It could hardly be called a stove foundry, but cast some stoves I suppose, like other old charcoal furnaces in the valley. Probably no flasks were used, the metal being run into bedded molds in the sand, like pig iron, direct from the blast furnace. You can better judge of that than I. The iron is said to he tougher than what is commonly made now.

“Frederick county was erected in 1737 or ’38, and Winchester in 1752. Fort Loudoun, through which our main, or Loudoun street runs, was built in 1756, by Col. Geo Washington, who, two years later, at the age of 26, was elected by Frederick county, her delegate to the House of Burgesses. The embankment is still distinct, and the well, sunk 102 feet by Washington, still yields such pure and cold water as Croton Lake never sent to New York There is a square here bounded on one side by Washington street, so named at that time, and the first thing ever called after him.’

“So you see casting might very well have been done hereabouts in 1768 I have seen no others dated so old; but many stoves, a century or so old, are, I think, to be found in this quarter. You now have all I know in the premises.” —Winchester Times, Volume 34, Number 25, 8 March 1899

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