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

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)