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: Outdoor Exploration and the Tale of Dr. Mackey and Lord Fairfax’s Boots

We’ve been having some yard maintenance this week at the Hexagon House, including treatments for a yellow jacket swarm and tree work. Don’t be surprised if the lot is blocked a day in the near future for stump removal, but the bulk of the work is complete. Thanks to the hardworking folks at the MSV, we should be safe from stinging insects and overgrown and dying vegetation when enjoying our lovely outdoor setting.

Trails at the MSV
The new floating bridge at the wetlands portion of the trails is now open!

If you haven’t had a chance to walk the new extension of the Trails at the MSV, why not take a quick jaunt around the floating wetland bridge next time you’re at the Hexagon House? There is a lovely circle around the pond that lets you get close to the wildlife, and two delightful humpback bridges to descend from the street level at Amherst to the pond. Plus, it’s literally just across the street!


Slide of a portrait of Dr. Robert Mackey, exhibited in the Kurtz Cultural Center for “West of the Blue Ridge.”

While working on the daily image posts to social media and preparing a future blog post series, we had a confluence of research topics involving National Avenue and the tale of Lord Fairfax’s boots. Part of our behind the scenes work right now is going into identifying images from Kurtz Cultural Center exhibits. It has been a hit or miss prospect, as most of the slides are not labeled with the object name or source. This is somewhat mitigated by cross referencing the exhibit item lists and sources and then going back to the holding organization to confirm the identification guess.

While trying to determine if one of the digitized slide images was of James Wood, we incidentally spotted another portrait that also needed identification. The image turned out to be Dr. Robert Mackey (also often seen as Macky). The name had just recently been brought to mind after the recent trips to the post office to drop off some Limestone books to new owners. The trip usually requires passing by the George Washington’s Outlot marker on National Avenue. At the very end of the marker outside of the venerable brick Italianate house is the note the lot was purchased by the said Dr. Mackey in 1805. (Mackey, it seems, was doing some gardening on the outlot during its ownership by George Washington, so it seems natural he purchased the property in due time.) The timing was coincidental to also captioning a neighboring building on National Avenue and doing a bit of light file diving for more information on the area.

Mackey himself has been somewhat overlooked in the history books, perhaps because his descendant Frederick W. M. Holliday later became Governor of Virginia and thus overshadowed him. Most references are of the passing type, as seen here: “[Frederick W. M. Holliday’s] maternal great-grandfather Dr. Robert Mackey was a surgeon in the war of the Revolution, and at its close located at Winchester, took high rank as a man and a physician, and was the ancestor of several prominent families, both here and in other parts of the State.” — Norris, History of the Lower Shenandoah Valley

Frederick Holliday was the last private owner of the boots said to have been worn by Lord Fairfax. While the local tradition is sketchy, allegedly Lord Fairfax traveled to Winchester to consult Dr. Cornelius Baldwin in his final hours on December 9, 1781. Upon passing away, the boots were left in Dr. Baldwin’s hall or given to him as a sign of affection and esteem. The more likely story, as recently documented in Virginia Baron: The Story of Thomas, 6th Lord Fairfax, is that Dr. Mackey purchased the boots from the estate of Colonel Martin (believed to be the actual physician attending Lord Fairfax) in 1798. Mackey’s daughter Kitty married into the Baldwin family to explain the Baldwin connection to the tale. The boots subsequently passed through the Mackey descendants until they came into Holliday’s possession.

Until recently, the boots were unavailable for general viewing and seemed a bit like something out of a myth or existing just in dusty item catalogs (on par with the Sash of General Braddock). The confluence of names, locations, and images prompted another look to see if they had been added in the year or two since the last search, and finally, you may see these fabled boots entrusted to the Virginia Historical Society in their online collections.

Friday Roundup: Photos, Upcoming Events, and Fence Research

Thomas Phillips House, 124 W. Boscawen St.
Preservation is in progress at the Thomas Phillips House, 124 W. Boscawen Street!

While scanning some posters from past PHW events for our digital files, we found some individual photographs from events still attached to display boards. While they may be duplicates, we erred on the side of safety and scanned them for our digital collection. You can catch those images, as well as a few others, at the top of our Flickr photostream.


Do you have a copy of the Keith Williams print of Historic Buildings of Winchester, 1969 (click here for a detail from the Stewart Bell Jr. Archives holdings to refresh your memory)? A descendant of is on the hunt for a copy. If you have one you are willing to part with, please contact the PHW office so we can put you in touch with the seeker.


The Clarke County Historical Association will be hosting Colonial Kids Day on Saturday, July 10 at the Burwell-Morgan Mill (15 Tannery Lane, Millwood, Virginia 22646) between 11 AM to 4 PM. The 5th annual event features interactive activities including blacksmithing, craft making, colonial games, a scavenger hunt, the history of the Mill, living history interpretations, and grinding in action. Buy tickets ($5 per person) in advance at Eventbrite or at the event itself.


The African American Heritage Preservation Foundation has created an app and website listing more than 1,600 sites throughout the United States and Territories that focus on the contributions of African Americans to our nation’s history. The app received an overhaul and relaunch in June 2021. Winchester’s Douglas School, through its listing on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of the featured Virginia sites, but we know that more could be highlighted here. If you have knowledge of other sites that could be featured on this app and site, get in touch with AAHPF to raise awareness and visibility for these places.

We were also alerted to a virtual event Afro-Virginia: Black Placekeeping and Power on July 22 at noon. Justin Reid, Director of Community Initiatives, Virginia Humanities and Manager, Virginia General Assembly African American Cultural Resources Task Force, will discuss Virginia’s contemporary Black cultural rights movement and his work promoting transdisciplinary, self-determined Black cultural placekeeping. Find out more and how to register for the free Zoom event at Brown University.


Detail of the fence with a distinctive gate ornamentation that provided the key to the manufacturer and thus its age.

We had the pleasure to virtually visit the remnants of a wrought iron fence this week for some historical investigation. While it is a relatively small bit of fence, it fortunately retained the gate, which is one of the most likely places to find a manufacturer’s mark or other distinguishing maker characteristics. This gate was by far the most distinctive we have had the pleasure of examining, with an elaborate crest on the top with crossed halberds, heraldic sea snakes, and scroll-like decorative flourishes around the central finial. Although the label where the maker’s mark should be was not visible in the image, the gate design alone was unique enough that we could say with relative certainty it was a “Buckeye” wrought iron fence from the 1880s.

The catalogue image of the Buckeye gate ornamentation – exactly as advertised.

Naturally, having found such a distinctive architectural piece but never having heard of it before, it seemed like a good time for a little more investigation into the parent company. Buckeye fences were just one of the products produced by Mast, Foos & Company. Although founding dates have been contradictory, we are inclined to believe the company was founded in 1876 by Phineas P. Mast and John Foos in Springfield, Ohio, after Mast had undertaken earlier ventures in buggy and farm implements. In addition to the Buckeye fence, the company also produced wind engines, force pumps, lawn mowers, and lawn sprinklers. The company existed for almost 100 years after various acquisitions and remains well-known in Springfield, Ohio, particularly as Phineas P. Mast helped to found the local historical society. Read more about the Mast family and homes at Clark County History and explore a Mast, Foos & Company product catalogue at Archive.org.

Do you have an architectural research or identification question like this? Drop us a note and a photo at phwinc.org@gmail.com and we’ll see if we can help.

A Flag with 48 Stars

While the PHW Office will be closed Monday, July 5 in belated celebration of the holiday, we have a fun historical tidbit from our archives to share for the holiday.

As you may have seen our current banner on social media, one of the artifacts entrusted to PHW is a flag of 48 stars donated by Gardner G. Phillips, Jr. The flag once hung in Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church on Cedar Grove Road. After a renovation of the church in the 1960s, coinciding with the retirement of the 48 star flag on July 4, 1959, this flag was given to the Phillips family of Clearbrook. In June 1993, the flag came into the possession of PHW through the Kurtz Cultural Center as a place where the flag, with its ties to a local church, could be held safely.

Although it does not appear the flag was ever used in a Kurtz display, it was kept safely in our small archival object holdings. It is clear the flag saw a great amount of use before coming to our organization, as it has begun to pull at the seams and a few areas where it was likely hung also show damage. This holiday provided the perfect excuse to do some regular archival maintenance to inspect the flag and refold it in a different manner to prevent damage and creasing.

Friday Roundup: Events and A Vanished Winchester Story

First, the Clowser Foundation Memorial Service will be held tomorrow, Saturday, June 5 at the Clowser House, 152 Tomahawk Trail. The event is free and open to the public. If it’s been a while since you’ve been into Shawneeland, there are numerous improvements to the house and grounds to see and many friendly Clowser family descendants to meet. The event starts at 10 AM.

Second, if you are looking to travel a bit farther afield for some history tourism, Leesburg will be holding their first ever Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 19th beginning at 11:00 AM with a car caravan from Belmont Country Club to Claude Moore Park. Activities begin at noon at Claude Moore Park with the traditional flag raising ceremony by the legendary Buffalo Soldiers, followed by musical performances, kids activities, and mini-Juneteenth classes. Learn more at The Patch.

Are you invested in the future of saving places? The National Trust for Historic Places is developing a National Impact Agenda to help collaboratively guide the future of historic preservation and make it a more inclusive movement. Learn more and take the survey at their website to chime in why old places matter to you and what actions should be prioritized over the next 3-5 years!


In our work sorting through the Mutual Assurance Fire Policies, we noticed a number of buildings we have documentation for are no longer standing. Some are known to us through other means like photographs, town maps, drawings, or recollections like William Greenway Russell or T. K. Cartmell. Some others, however, seem to have slipped through with very little documentation. During some unrelated research, we found a news article on the demise of Jacob Baker’s home on Kent Street. The name was familiar from the recent Mutual Assurance Society policy database work we undertook this spring, and we can now bring a long-ago Vanished Winchester story to you.

The first trail on this building through the Mutual Assurance Society comes from Henry St. George Tucker insuring his building on “a square of lots East of Kent Street, West of East Lane” in 1827. According to a footnote in Russell’s What I Know About Winchester, Jacob Baker purchased the property in 1832. Although the footnote would lead one to assume the building was destroyed by fire before Baker’s purchase, it was perhaps a bit of careless reading of Russell’s recollections without deeper follow-up. While the house was indeed destroyed by fire at the time of Russell’s writing, the implied timing does not match the primary sources. In 1845, the Mutual Assurance policy had transferred to Jacob Baker, who was using the building as his personal dwelling.

While the Mutual Assurance Policy sketches are suggestive at best, it appears the house was situated roughly mid-block between the bounding streets of Kent, Piccadilly, Philpot, and East Lane (about the location of the Lewis-Jones Knitting Mill, but set back some distance from Kent Street). A one and a half story stone wing 24’x33′ with a wood roof was to the north (toward Piccadilly St.). The main house was two stories high, 38’x54′, and made of brick and stone with a wood roof. The main entrance was facing Kent Street with a porch around the central entrance. On the eastern (rear) side of the house was a full-width two story porch facing East Lane.

The house remained standing until March, 1866. At about 7:30 AM on March 8, the roof of wood shingles was noticed to be on fire. While it had not progressed far at that point and assistance was sent for, high winds and the dry shingles fed the flames, and the Union fire engine could not help, as its hose could not reach the fire hydrants. Amazingly, soldiers and citizens helped remove most of the furniture from the house so that not everything in the house was lost. Read the full article in the Winchester Journal through Handley’s online newspaper archive. A second account of the fire also ran in the Winchester Times, which survives as a reprint in a Richmond newspaper, below:

Mutual Assurance Policy 21127 from 1860, showing the Jacob Baker house.

Fire in Winchester.—On Thursday morning last, says the Winchester Times of the 14th, the elegant mansion of Jacob Baker, Esq., on Kent street, took fire, and all efforts to extinguish the flames were unavailing, and in a short time this noble old structure together with the out buildings presented a mass of smouldering blackened ruins. At one time fire was communicated to the long dry grass in Mount Hebron Cemetery, and it was feared the wooden head-boards to the graves of hundreds of Confederate dead would be burned, and thereby obliterate every trace of the departed loved ones, but through the almost superhuman efforts of the citizens and soldiers, this most dreadful calamity was spared us. We understand Mr. Baker is insured in the Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Richmond for the amount of $5,000, which is perhaps one-third his loss. (Richmond Whig, Volume 75, Number 66, 19 March 1866)

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: 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.

Out of the Past: Apple Blossom Articles

We hope you are staying safe and healthy as you celebrate Apple Blossom this year. At PHW, we are doing what we do best – finding interesting historical tidbits to share. This week, we are focused on the festivals of yore. Enjoy the apple blossom themed poem and articles highlighting some past blooms that we have found, and be sure to click the article links to see the original newspaper sources. All are available on the Library of Virginia’s Virginia Chronicle archive.


Miss Margaret Thors, Apple Blossom Queen 1949. Image published in Recorder, Number 15, 15 April 1949.
When It's Apple Blossom Time In Old Virginia 
When it’s apple blossom time 
In old Virginia and the bees 
Are busy buzzin’ in the many 
Many million apple trees, 
I’m going to crank my old jalopy 
And go chugging everywhere 
To see the beauty of the orchards 
And to breathe the scented air; 
And the mocking bird a-singing 
In a blooming apple tree is just 
A pleasure worth the trouble 
Going miles and miles to see, 
It’s just a satisfying sight for 
All—though be they old or young— 
To see the beauty and to hear 
The sweetest music ever sung. —W. B. Dennis.

Virginia Star, Volume 29, Number 43, 15 April 1948

Apple Blossom Fete Program: Fifth Annual Festival Offers Many Attractions on Thursday and Friday. Winchester, May 2.—The official program of the fifth annual Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival here May 3 and 4, announced Monday by Ray Robinson, director-general, provides for entertainment of visitors almost continuously. Apple orchards came through the big week-end snowstorm undamaged and it is expected that the buds will be open for the event. It has been estimated by Federal and state horticulturists that there are 11,000,000 trees in the commercial orchards of the district, embracing the Blue Ridge country from around Adams county, Pennsylvania, southward to Roanoke, Va. reached by good roads. (Virginia Star, Volume 9, Number 46, 3 May 1928)

APPLE BLOSSOM FESTIVAL OPENS: Leaden Skies of Early Morning Give Way to Bright Sunshine As Queen Shenandoah IX Reviews First Parade of Human “Apple Blossoms.” WINCHESTER, Va., May 4.-(AP)— Leaden skies of the early morning broke and made way for bright sunshine which cast a golden lustre over the hillsides and valleys as the ninth annual Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival was inaugurated today. A parade of “human blossoms,” 5,000 school children of Winchester, nearby counties in Virginia and West Virginia opened the event. Miss Helen Ames Washington of Philadelphia, as Queen Shenandoah IX, reviewed the parade from a specially constructed stand. With her was Paul Claudel, French ambassador, who was selected to place the crown of apple blossoms on her head this afternoon. (Suffolk News-Herald, Volume 10, Number 38, 4 May 1932)

APPLE BLOSSOM FESTIVAL LARGELY ATTENDED. Winchester, Va., May 6.– This city was slowly settling down to a normal pace this week following two days of pageantry and festivity in celebration of the 17th annual Shenandoah Apple Blossom festival here last Thursday and Friday. A crowd estimated at 50,000 lined the streets Friday to witness the grand finale event of the celebration– “The Trail of the Pink Petals,” a grand feature parade that wound over a five mile route and lasted for two hours. Heading the procession, as befitted her regal capacity, was Senorita Lillian Somoza, daughter of the president of Nicaragua, who Thursday was crowned Queen Shenandoah XVII by Dr. Henry F. Grady, Assistant Secretary of State. (Southside Sentinel, Volume 44, Number 51, 16 May 1940)

Blossom-less Blossom Festival Scheduled. A blossom-less Shenandoah Apple Blossom festival will go on, as scheduled May 2 and 3 in Winchester. Thursday, the national apple blossom majorette contest was scheduled at 10 a. m., with the coronation of Queen Shenandoah XXX at 2:30 p. m. “In All Generations,” a pageant written and directed by Dr. Garland R. Quarles, presentation times are 3 p m. Thursday and 10:30 a m. Friday. Thursday evening festivities include a firemen’s parade at 6 p. m., a fireworks display and a ground display of a Jamestown 350th anniversary scene at 3 p. m., at 9 p. m. a square dance, and at 10 p. m. the queen’s ball. Seven high school bands will spark the parade and upwards of 20,000 people are expected to see it. (Farmville Herald and Farmer-Leader, Volume 66, Number 64, 3 May 1957)

Friday Roundup: Two Grants, Mutual Assurance Policy Database, and Dr. John S. Lupton

Pink Dogwood at the Hexagon House
Pink dogwood is in bloom in the backyard of the Hexagon House.

This week, PHW was informed of two upcoming grant opportunities from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. First, do you live in a town of less than 10,000? Your project may be eligible for the Hart Family Fund for Small Towns. Funds range from $2,500 to $15,000 and applications are due May 3.

Second, applications are now open for the June round of the National Trust Preservation Fund Grants. Grants from the National Trust Preservation Funds encourage preservation at the local level by providing seed money for planning and education projects. Grants range up to $5,000 and applications are due June 1. Find the online eligibility guidelines and application here.


We have completed the database entries for all the Winchester Mutual Assurance Policies that are in hard copy at PHW’s office. The database has been added to our Google Drive if you are curious to see our holdings. While we had previously assumed our policies were identical to the Stewart Bell Jr. Archives, that is not the case. We lack many of the earliest policies, but have a number of others extending into the 1860s. We used the information from the Archives database as the starting point and modified certain entries to update potential addresses of properties. The updates came through using the adjacent property owners listed in the policies and cross referencing the footnotes in Russell’s “What I Know About Winchester.” In general, the Archives may have copies of the pages PHW does not own. Information may still not be 100% accurate or complete, and only the Winchester holdings in PHW’s collection were indexed. You can also check out the Library of Virginia for more finding tools related to these records.


Last, as we noticed the apple trees blossoming around town, we felt it was a fortuitous time to share a story on Dr. John S. Lupton, credited as the pioneer of the local orchard industry. He was the owner of a particular plot of land we have been researching in downtown Winchester, which led to a bit of newspaper archive reading. One article in particular stood out for painting a picture of the early struggles of a fledgling apple orchard (other articles specify his apple of choice was the Newtown pippin). The article states:

“In all that has been said about Frederick county’s great apple industry, little note has been taken of the men behind it — those who bore the brunt of the early campaign and who were at times in danger of becoming penniless should their fruit fail of expectation. In this connection it is no exaggeration to call Dr. John S. Lupton the “grand old man” of the apple industry. . . . At times the future seemed black and hope almost blasted, but he persevered, with the splendid result of today, when he can look out upon prolific trees and his wide acres of fruit. . . . It is a known fact that he went hungry and ragged and sacrificed his credit before that orchard came into bearing, and had it been one year later bringing forth its fruit, he would have been a financial wreck. . . . However, when he realized handsomely from his orchard (which is now thirty-four years old) what numbers were ready to profit by his experience: for in the wake of the orchards followed the cooperages, cold storages, heavy shipments of fruit etc., with the employment of labor that all these industries mean, and what business man of Winchester, whether he be liveryman, hotel keeper, merchant, banker or professional man has not felt the benefit to the community of this fruit industry? The apple business brings money to those who were fixtures here, hence the money is spent right at home. So it is perhaps not putting it too strongly to say that no man deserves more credit for the material development of our community than Dr. John S. Lupton.”

Read Father of the Fruit Industry in Shenandoah Herald, November 17, 1905 (republished from Winchester News).