Thursday, December 22, 2011

Revisiting Previous Most Endangered Sites: The Battle of Mt. Zion, Loudoun County

This is the second blog article in a series of articles that will provide updates on sites previously listed to Preservation Virginia’s Most Endangered Sites list.

Preservationists oftentimes personify buildings but when I read about Mt. Zion Church near Gilbert’s Corner in Loudoun County my personification intensified until I actually wanted to be the church and witness the history that surrounds it.

Mt. Zion Church, built in 1851, stood witness to two Civil War battles— the 1863 Battle of Aldie and the Battle of Mt. Zion which took place in 1864. Both battles were the scenes of artillery and cavalry duels and fierce hand-to-hand fighting.

Mt. Zion Church was used as a hospital for wounded Union troops. Graffiti still exists on the church walls, left behind by Union soldiers. Pews were converted to hospital beds and some were used to make coffins for those that did not survive.

The Church burial grounds are the final resting place for twelve Union cavalrymen, thirteen Confederates who died after the War, and sixty-three African-Americans who were slaves or freed men buried prior to 1865.

The church is also where Colonel John Mosby, or the Gray Ghost, first met with locals to form the
Mosby Rangers, a ranger unit noted for its lightning quick raids and its ability to elude Union Army pursuers and disappear, blending in with local farmers and townspeople.

Another interesting historical fact is Mosby was almost killed during the Battle of Aldie when he was attacked by a Union soldier with a saber. He was saved when Thomas Richards, one of his Rangers, jumped in front of the blade and was stabbed in the shoulder himself.

This rich history was threatened by a proposed residential development in 2006 which prompted the
Mt. Zion Church Preservation Association to nominate the Battle of Mt. Zion to Preservation Virginia’s Endangered Sites List in 2006.

The development of dense housing on the battlefield would have destroyed the integrity of the battlefield as well as of Mt. Zion Church.

Luckily, the
Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, working closely with the Commonwealth of Virginia, Loudoun County, Piedmont Environmental Council and the Mt. Zion Church Preservation Association, was able to purchase the site in 2009 and protect it from development.

The Battles of Aldie and Mt. Zion as well as Mt. Zion Church are now part of the
Gilbert’s Corner Regional Park, a 155-acre public recreational park.

The Park Authority owns and operates many historic and recreational sites in Northern Virginia including the Aldie Mill Historic Park, very close to Gilbert’s Corner, which contains a beautiful four-story brick mill with metal waterwheels.

Tracy Gillespie, the Historic Site Supervisor of Gilbert's Corner Regional Park and Aldie Mills Historic Park, agrees that, while it didn’t happen overnight, this Endangered Site Program listing is one that has had a very positive outcome.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Can You See it, Now?

The Restoration Crew has moved their gutter installation operation to the North side of the Memorial Church on Historic Jamestowne. As part of the process, the crew uses the scaffold set-up to inspect and replace damaged slate shingles. The lichen growth on the North side of the church was so thick and extensive as to make the slate inspection impossible. Therefore, the decision was made to remove the lichens. Internet research on lichen removal revealed that a solution of two quarts bleach added to a gallon of warm water and TSP might work. As you can see from the left side of the photo, when this solution was applied with a garden sprayer and then scrubbed with brushes, it was mildly effective. Dissatisfied with the results, the crew treated the right side of the roof with the same solution, then used a 1700 psi pressure washer with a 25 degree fan tip. As all Americans obsessed with instant gratification, the crew was pleased with the results. Great care was used to spray in a top-to-bottom motion, so as not to drive water under the slates. An EDPM underlayment, which had been applied to this side of the roof after an earlier roof repair, gave the crew added confidence that the pressure washer wasn't going to cause interior leaks. Since lichens produce an acid that allows their root to grow into stone, it is hoped that its removal may increase the life of the slate shingles. Don't forget to "lich" Preservation Virginia on facebook, for more exciting adventures.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Keeping Up With Mandy

At our awards ceremony this year, Mandy Matherly Stowe was awarded Preservation Virginia’s Young Preservationist of the Year Award for 2011.

Mandy’s dedication and work on establishing Virginia’s first high school preservation clubs at George Washington High School and Galileo Magnet School, starting a historic preservation scholarship fund for high school students in the Danville Region and being the youngest board member ever to serve the Danville Historical Society are all reasons Mandy received the award in the first place.

But Mandy’s continued good work has made us decide to keep track of her and report back what she has been doing since she received the award in September.

One of the Mandy’s recent endeavors is working with students from the high school preservation clubs on a project to paint plywood that covers windows in houses in Danville’s Old West End Historic District. The students used stencils and also painted free-style designs on windows to help beautify the neighborhood and to let others know that the houses and neighborhood are still being cared for and not forgotten.

Mandy also helped Danville Historical Society with a membership drive at the local mall and organized a field trip for the Galileo School Club to the local Genealogy Department at Danville’s Public Library.

As Mandy continues with all of her preservation efforts we will continue to keep our readers informed. Who knows, maybe another young person interested in history and preservation will be inspired!

Friday, November 11, 2011

How's It Hanging?

The Restoration Department has spent the better part of three weeks installing a six inch, half-round gutter on the South side of the Memorial Church at Historic Jamestowne. The .032 inch thick, aluminum gutter is a factory finished "Mansard Brown" color, to mimic the color of oxidized copper. Because of the large crown molding on the church, the gutter could not be hung from the fascia, but had to be hung from straps screwed to the roof sheathing. This installation required the starter and first course of slate shingles be removed along the entire 55 foot length of the roof. The crew repaired and replaced damaged sections of the roof sheathing and crown molding as needed. They then applied 30-pound roof felt to the exposed roof section until the starter and first course of slates could be reapplied. Stainless steel gutter hangers, roof straps and screws were used in the installation process, so this won't have to be done again for a great while. Stainless steel "snow catchers", painted black, were also installed, to protect the roof gutter, and guests visiting Jamestowne, from ice sheets sliding off the roof. It is hoped that the roof gutters will reduce the moisture that is wicking up into the foundations of the frame church of 1617, that are displayed under glass in the memorial church. The gutters should also the keep the roof runoff from soaking into and migrating through the brick buttresses, where it is damaging plaques that are set into the interior masonry walls. While the scaffold was set up, the crew used the opportunity to inspect and replace about 10 damaged slates on the upper parts of the roof.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Revisiting the Most Endangered Sites in Virginia

Pocahontas Fuel Company Store

This is the first blog article in a series of articles that will provide updates on sites previously listed to Preservation Virginia’s Most Endangered Sites list.

Each year, scores of historic resources are lost due to demolition, alteration, inappropriate development, insufficient funding or neglect. One way to bring attention to these resources is endangered sites programs. Many statewide historic preservation organizations, as well as the National Trust for Historic Preservation, have endangered sites programs to raise awareness and help save historic resources.

Preservation Virginia has had a Most Endangered Sites in Virginia Program since 2005. Previously the Preservation Alliance of Virginia had an endangered sites program in 2000 and 2002. The program has helped bring attention to a variety of Virginia’s historic resources including antebellum mansions, battlefields, forts, mills, churches, schools, archaeological sites, rural places, cemeteries and entire towns. But what happens after a historic resource is listed?

Unfortunately, in some instances, after the dust settles, the bulldozers are called in; however, this is not always the case and many of our listed historic sites end up stabilized and protected. Some of our listings seem to take an in-between route, for example, the 1880s Pocahontas Fuel Company Store, which was listed in 2005 on Preservation Virginia’s Most Endangered Sites List.

The Pocahontas Fuel Company Store was opened in 1883 by the Southwest Virginia Improvement Company to supply food, tools and necessities for the coal miners working in the Pocahontas Mine. The mine is now a National Historic Landmark and includes an exhibit and museum.

The town of Pocahontas, located in Tazewell County, is a vital part of Virginia’s Coal Heritage Trail, and is where the region's coal boom got its start, partially due to a spur line that launched the Norfolk and Western Railroad into national prominence during the 1880s. Also located in Pocahontas is the Pocahontas Cemetery, which contains a mass grave of coal miners who were killed in a mine explosion in 1884.

Over the years, the Pocahontas Fuel Company Store has sustained significant damage from storms and neglect. In 2007, the roof collapsed and left only an intact front façade.

Tom Childress, of Historic Pocahontas Inc., said that after the roof collapsed volunteers helped clean out debris and saved as much of the original and usable wood as possible.

Childress also stated that although it is not yet known, the Town of Pocahontas may be able to utilize a Community Development Block Grant to stabilize and repair the store’s façade, as well as stabilize four other downtown facades built of cast-iron. Plans also exist to possibly reuse the original façade of the Company Store for construction of a new restaurant.

Many people in Pocahontas, including Historic Pocahontas Incorporated, agree that the store’s front façade still has the potential to contribute to the streetscape of the town; however, the Store’s stabilization and rehabilitation is not without its opponents— some in the community think it is too far gone and the funds should go elsewhere.

The Store’s history is significant for many reasons, but perhaps most noteworthy is it was the center of Pocahontas’ community for many years. Hopefully, with stabilization, repair and a possible new use, it could be reborn as a prominent part of the historic streetscape and the center of the Pocahontas community once again.

Note: The image of the front of Pocahontas Company Store is by Jon Bolt, Bluefield Daily Telegraph

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bacon’s Castle Charrette



a final, intensive effort to finish a project, especially an architectural design project, before a deadline.

At the beginning of the year, Bacon’s Castle went “dark”, meaning we are not offering tours to the general public for all of 2011. Preservation Virginia has been using this twelve month period to study and reevaluate the interpretation and use of the entire forty acre site; including the vernacular outbuildings, slave quarter, grounds, farm land, 17th-century garden and Jacobean brick house. When Bacon’s Castle reopens in March 2012, it will serve as a sustainable resource and a vital destination site that will positively impact Surry County.

How do we know this? Well, because we are asking Surry County residents to take part in this new phase in the life of Bacon’s Castle. Seems simple enough, since this community of 7,000 residents has relied on Bacon’s Castle for four centuries. This site has served Surry County as a site of commerce, as a working plantation and later home to generations of tenant farmers, and in the 20th century as a tourist site drawing thousands of visitors to the region annually. Going forward we hope to continue to serve as a community resource. Clearly, Bacon’s Castle and Surry County are integrally linked in the past and the future.

On October 26th, Preservation Virginia held a charrette, inviting experts in the fields of sustainable agriculture, 17th-century architecture, museology, tourism, archaeology, and more to talk with Surry County business and government leaders and Preservation Virginia staff. Our intention was to find out what Surry County needs and what we can provide. By the end of a full day of touring the site and facilitated discussion we are a step closer to reopening Bacon’s Castle as a productive part of the Surry Community and a fantastic resource for tourists and locals alike. The long-term survival of Bacon’s Castle depends on community engagement and we look forward to working with Surry county residents and leaders as we plan for new programming at the site.

We will keep you posted as we prepare to reopen the site to visitors soon!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Gutters for the Historic Jamestowne Church

The Restoration Department has started the process of rain gutter installation on the Memorial Church on Historic Jamestowne Island. After scaffold set up, the crew scraped loose paint from the wood cornice,then washed it with TSP to remove dirt and oxidized paint. After a day of drying, the cornice was painted with an alkyd primer. The next step will be caulk and a latex top coat. Only after proper cornice preparation will the gutter installation begin. While the crew waits for paint to dry, it has several broken slate shingles to replace. We are also adding "snow catchers" just above the newly to be installed gutters, because we do not wish to revisit this job after it is done. 132 snow catchers were required to do both sides of the 55 foot long church. Since stainless steel snow catchers were half the price of copper, they were ordered. The crew will paint them black before they are installed. The catchers are for a "retrofit" roof, meaning they have long straps with downward sloping grooves in their sides, designed to slide under slates and hook onto their nails. The gutters themselves are 6 inch, half-round aluminum, factory finished in a "Mansard Brown" color, to mimic the look of weathered copper. They will be hung from stainless steel straps attached to the roof sheathing, which necessitates the removal and re-installation of the lower shingle courses. We estimate the job will require three technicians about two weeks per side, if the weather is kind.

Think Globally, Preserve Locally

You’ve heard the phrase “Think Global, Act Local” and you've seen the “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” bumper stickers. You are familiar with the “locavore” food movement, right? Well, isn’t preserving the neighborhoods and architectural fabric of your community one of the most important local acts you can commit?

When you think about it, local is everything. Local IS your neighborhood, your backyard. How do you want your community to look? Do you want it to maintain its sense of place? It’s local flavor? Or, do you want it to look like every other place across America?

We travel to see the “local” in each new place. Each place, town, and neighborhood we visit has its own distinct flavor. That will stop if we fail to commit to preserving our individual communities. The best way to ensure the integrity of each local town is to support regional preservation efforts in your community. Consider donations to your local preservation non-profit. Or, how about donating some time to helping an historic site?

Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of committing to buying local products for many reasons but let’s just don’t forget about the buildings, neighborhoods and other historic fabric that make up our communities. They deserve our attention and commitment as well.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Crooked Road to Improving Local Economies

I read today that revenue from tourism in Virginia increased nearly 7 percent to about $19 billion in 2010. Tourism in Virginia also supported 204,000 jobs and provided more than $1.3 billion in state and local taxes last year. I also read an article about Galax, Virginia and how it was just announced that a furniture manufacturing plant that will create over 300 jobs is coming to Galax.

The company, Albany Industries, is also revitalizing a vacant property so few new infrastructure costs will be needed. These two articles coincided nicely with a presentation I was giving recently on the importance of heritage tourism and how in today’s economy, localities need to diversify and embrace all economic outlets to survive. But the articles also made me wonder — is there a link between local revitalization/heritage tourism and the creation of new manufacturing jobs?

The Crooked Road, Virginia’s heritage music trail, created in 2003, has helped generate huge economic gains for towns and communities in southwest Virginia like Galax. In just 8 years, the Crooked Road was listed as a National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Distinctive Destination; it has also been featured on the National Geographic’s Discover Appalachia Interactive Map and the Smithsonian’s online magazine.

But the real story is the economic impacts of the Crooked Road. According to the 2008 Crooked Road Economic Impact, accommodation spending increased by 232% in Galax from 2004-2007 and by 90% from 2003-2007 in Floyd. Direct spending in the region from visitation is estimated at $12.9 million and the total economic impact to the region is estimated at $23 million per year.

Why did Albany Industries choose Galax over other Virginia cities? I am confident that the available workforce, monetary incentives and political maneuvering were all reasons, but these reasons seem to exist in many Virginia towns. Maybe Albany Industries chose Galax for another reason as well; perhaps it was because they wanted to be positioned in an area of revitalization, activity and festivity — traits that Galax possesses, in part due to a heritage tourism initiative called the Crooked Road.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Patrick Henry's Scotchtown...Haunted Halloween

When Scotchtown site coordinator Ann Reid and her staff throw a Halloween event, they don't pull any punches. While the Restoration Department was repairing the pump house roof, they stumbled upon two of Ann's Halloween "performers" that are housed on site. That should amp up the event. Fiendishly clever, and just a hint of sadism.

Monday, October 3, 2011

VCN's Environmental Assembly

The Virginia Conservation Network’s Virginia Environmental Assembly was held September 16th - 17th at Wintergreen Resort. There were many great sessions, but a couple that I found remarkable were the Economic Impacts of Virginia’s National Parks and Battlefields Session, and Making the Case for Incorporating Natural Assets into Local Planning sessions. Both of these sessions bolstered the idea of strengthening the partnerships between heritage and natural resource organizations.

In the first session, it was discussed that tourism is a 13 billion dollar industry in Virginia and the top two touristy things to do in Virginia are walking and visiting historic sites. To continue the pace of this economic engine it makes sense that we need to protect our public parks that so often combine recreational trails and historic sites.

Kate Brady and Catherine Redfearn from Partners for Place also discussed how National Geographic is currently working on a Geotourism project in the Shenandoah Valley through the Center for Sustainable Destinations.

Geotourism- a growing category of tourism- is defined as tourism that sustains nature or agriculture, is based on local heritage and retains the character of the destination. Geotourists tend to seek authentic experiences, spend more money, stay longer and have less impact on the environment.

The session Making the Case for Incorporating Natural Assets into Local Planning was presented by the Green Infrastructure Center, a Charlottesville-based organization that helps local governments, communities, regional planning organizations, land trusts and developers evaluate their green infrastructure assets and make plans to conserve them.

Karen Firehock, Executive Director of GIC, discussed the differences between infrastructure and green infrastructure and how to get across to local officials how clean air and water contributes to the health and quality of life for communities.

It is curious how we are ingrained to value clean air and water and beautiful landscapes, but so often we wait until local leaders publically recognize our natural assets before we will admit that they are just as valuable as good roads or good schools.

The Virginia Environmental Assembly as well as other environmental workshops are held throughout the year. Check out Virginia Conservation Network’s website for upcoming events.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Scotchtown Pumphouse Roof Damage

The pumphouse at Scotchtown was struck by a decaying tree, breaking quite a few of the cement roof tiles on the side closest to the sheep pen. Upon removing the damaged tiles, it was revealed that the roof had been leaking long before hurricane Irene struck it. She may have actually done Preservation Virginia a favor in the revealing. As the photo reveals, the plywood sheathing and the felt paper of the 1987 structure was badly decayed. This is not a good sign, as there was no evidence of the roof failure from visually inspecting the tiles. It causes some consternation to think what might be occurring to the other outbuildings.
An inspection of the concrete tiles that were left over from the other builing roofs showed that the tiles, which were stored outside, were not in reliably good shape to use. The steel reinforcing wires had rusted and expanded, creating invisible fractures that only revealed themselves under pressure. The decision was made to entirely replace the roof sheathing, rake boards,and trim boards. New felt paper and 30 year asphalt architectural shingles(color-"Brownwood") were installed, as shown in the second photo. It took the department one week to remove and replace the roof. Material costs were under $350. The roof was just over one square in size.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Irene Trumps Restoration

Hurricane Irene was a good news/bad news event for Preservation Virginia. The good news was that the Surry properties of Bacon's Castle and Smith's Fort had no structural damage. They had eight mature trees blow down between them, and not even a garden bench was broken. The bad news is that since no structures were damaged, insurance pays none of the costs of clean-up. What does this mean to the Restoration Department? Well, someone has to remove all that tree debris. Since Irene, the department has cut up, picked up, and hauled 23 trailer loads of brush to the fire pile at Bacon's Castle, about 138 cubic yards. As you can see from the second photo, five of the Holly trees in the courtyard at Smith's fort came down. Two large walnut trees to the West of the house also were uprooted. The Rolfe-Warren branch plans to use the wood from the two walnuts to make gift shop items.The first photo shows a very large Pecan tree, which was damaged by hurricane Isabelle, that blew down at the Southeast corner of the garden at Bacon's Castle. The pecan is in such poor shape not even the wood can be salvaged. At its current pace, debris clean-up will continue well into October. When the fire pile dries out, there is going to be one heck of a weanie roast.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Vote for John Marshall’s Supreme Court Justice Robes to be one of Virginia’s Most Endangered Artifacts

For the past several years, Preservation Virginia has been pursuing funding to preserve the Supreme Court Judicial Robes of John Marshall. In his 35 years as Chief Justice, John Marshall shaped the Supreme Court into the third equal branch of the U.S. Government. His judicial robes are the most significant surviving artifact documenting his extraordinary legal career. On constant exhibit for decades, the robes have deteriorated due to the black dye used to color them. Today the textile is shredding and turning to dust. Without immediate stabilization and documentation this important artifact will be lost forever.

Help Preservation Virginia raise awareness for this important conservation project by voting for the robes as one of Virginia’s Top Ten Endangered Artifacts, a project of the Virginia Collections Initiative. Virginia's Top Ten Endangered Artifact campaign is designed to complement the existing Most Endangered Historic Sites program run by Preservation Virginia, drawing attention to the threats described and to encourage citizens and organizations to continue to advocate for their protection and preservation.

To vote for the robes, visit: You can view photographs of the nominees and vote using a secure form or by “liking” photographs of the robes on Picasa.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Moisture Control at the Cole-Digges, Part II

While the Restoration Department was doing roof repairs at the Cole-Digges, the ever deligent headquarters staff pointed out two areas of interior plaster damage that could only have been caused by moisture. The common factors of the two areas were that they were both up high on the wall and they were both under a parapet wall. The top of the parapet walls at the Cole-Digges are about 7/8 wrapped in sheet rubber, which virtually eliminates the possibility of moisture penetration through the top. Examination of the outer faces of the upper brick courses revealed that the mortar in these upper courses had substantially failed, and had been like that during the 1995 restoration of the house. A good quality caulk had been used at that time to repair the mortar joints. This caulk was now at the end of its life. There were visible cracks where the caulk no longer adhesed to the brick. Removal of the caulk revealed that the vertical joints between the bricks were functional on the outside but void of mortar on the interior. So, rain would run into the caulked joints and down into the interior wall cavity via the vertical joints. Eventually this collected moisture would migrate to the two outer surfaces, doing no visible damage to the exterior of the wall, but damaging the plaster on the interior. The solution to this was to repoint the upper courses of brick and then repainting to match the building exterior. The wall cavities will be allowed to dry this summer, saving the plaster repair for the winter, or for when the diligent headquarters staff gets fed up with looking at it.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Archaeology at Corotoman

In preparation for a replacement septic system drain field, staff from the James River Institute of Archaeology are clearing a 29 foot by 22 foot area at Corotoman. This is the 'back yard' of the house that Robert 'King' Carter built in the 1720s. The mansion house burned in the early 1730s but the archaeological remains were uncovered in the 1970s. Because of the proximity to the Rappahannock River, a standard drain field was not practicable. A new design that will work (or so they promise!) requires the absorption area be completely excavated, then covered over with 12 inches of sand on which the effluent ejection apparatus will lay. Under terms of the easement donated to the Commonwealth earlier this year, any ground disturbance must be preceded by archaeology. As of today, which is Day 2 of a 3 day excavation, no features have been found.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Moisture Control at the Cole-Digges

The Restoration Department was performing its inspection of the roofs at headquarters at the beginning of June, 2011, and discovered some significant and urgent problems. Its typical for us to have to apply either seam tape or Geocil 2315 LRF, a fibered brushable rubber sealant, to the seams of the rubber roof about every 4 years. The EPDM that was installed in 1995 is in good shape, but the seam adhesive used dries out, allowing the seams to crack and seperate. In addition to this normal maintenance, we had to repair holes gouged into the EPDM from pieces of bed frame hurled onto the Cole-Digges from the roof of the tenant house next door. We also removed a throw rug, a piece of flashing, and a toilet plunger(someone making a political statement).
The real problems were to the terne-coated, standing seam metal roof that had been applied to the 1805 section of the Cole-Digges. The roof paint was flaking badly, and the roof underneath was starting to rust. The department scrubbed the old paint off with a solution of tsp and warm water, then rinsed with copious amounts of water from a garden hose. The next day the metal was dry and clean. What little flake that was left was swept off with a broom. The seams were painted with a brush, while the flats were rolled. The primer used was Sherwin-Williams Kem-Kromik, in red oxide, and the topcoat was industrial enamel, in that same color. We used 10 gallons of each, at a cost of about$1000. I hope it lasts.
The most serious problem was at the interior gutter of the porch section. The middle front of the gutter sags, allowing ponding water. There was a two foot section of the gutter that had completely rusted out due to this ponding, but with no visible signs of damage to the porch cornice, and no indication of where the water went after it entered the leak-area. It was very curious. We finally determined that there is an EPDM rubber gutter beneath the metal gutter. Rain entered the leak hole, ran under the metal gutter, causing it to rust and leak from the underside, then re-entered the gutter at the downspout locations through the almost invisible underside leaks, and ran into the downspouts. I couldn't make this stuff up. Restoration crimped, soldered, and sealed with brushable sealant, a section of galvanized sheet metal where the ponding water occurred. The gutter bottoms were repaired using 6 inch rubber seam tape, and everything was primed and painted. The final solution for the interior gutters will be a layer of EPDM adhesed to the top of the metal gutter. Epdm is much better at handling ponding water then sheet metal. A section of downspout was also replaced at the front of the house.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Public Comments made by Preservation Virginia at the Fort Monroe Public Meeting on 19 July 2011

The Public Meeting was held by the National Park Service with the support of the City of Hampton. More than 500 people turned out for the mid-day hearing and even more at the evening session. The speakers were overwhelming in favor of establishing a National Park Unit at Fort Monroe to create a sustainable partnership with the Fort Monroe Authority the Commonwealth and the City of Hampton. You can still voice your opinion by registering comments at by 25 July.

Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to provide public comment.

I am Elizabeth Kostelny, Preservation Virginia’s Executive Director. I am here to register our support for the establishment of a National Park Service Unit at Fort Monroe.

Preservation Virginia was founded in 1889 to save Virginia’s historic landmarks and places from decay and ruin. Now with more than 6000 members statewide, we continue to support preservation goals as stewards of Historic Jamestowne, Patrick Henry’s Scotchtown, John Marshall’s Richmond home and through sharing resources with a growing a network of committed organizations and individuals who view our historic places as important to the economic and cultural health of our Commonwealth.

Fort Monroe is a place of extraordinary significance and is distinguished by its unique and irreplaceable historic, cultural, natural, scenic, and recreational values. Fort Monroe is a critical part of our nation’s military, maritime and Civil Rights history. John Smith recognized the strategic importance of Point Comfort as early as 1608. Two centuries later, the building of fortifications safeguarded this waterway. During the Civil War, the contraband movement was born after three brave and enslaved men escaped Confederate troops and arrived at Fort Monroe. Their escape inspired others and signaled the end of the slavery in America. Fort Monroe is central to this nation and to this community.

On a personal note as a child growing up in Newport News, for me Fort Monroe is a powerful place. Playing along the shore, visiting in the homes and exploring the fortifications gave me an understanding that history was not about things behind glass or in cases. It instead was about engaging the past and respecting the subtleties that are gained through living with that history all around you.

Preservation Virginia believes that Fort Monroe must be carefully preserved as a vibrant and economically self-sustaining, publicly accessible place where people live, work, and visit—a place to create an ongoing dialogue about our past and our future. This responsibility is enhanced through partnerships on all levels—private and public, federal, state and local government. We appreciate the tremendous efforts of and opportunities provided by the Fort Monroe Authority, the Commonwealth, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, and the City of Hampton and especially the leadership of Mayor Ward. We acknowledge the Programmatic Agreement and the Design Guidelines as mechanisms for the long term preservation and economic sustainable of the site.

Preservation Virginia supports the designation of Fort Monroe as a National Monument. With National Park Service involvement, our dialogue of what it means to be an American will be enhanced and sustained. Having the NPS as partner at this significant site will create a model that will emulated nationwide and that will endure

We respectfully urge President Obama to use his authority to create a National Monument at Fort Monroe. Thank you.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thomas Day

Thomas Day was a free black cabinetmaker who became one of the most sought after furniture makers among the Dan River tobacco planters in Virginia and North Carolina. Day was born in 1801 in Dinwiddie County, Virginia and later owned a woodworking and cabinetmaking shop in Milton, North Carolina. His workshop is now a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

While the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh has one of the largest collections of Thomas Day furniture in the world, Day’s ornamental woodwork and furniture can still be found in many houses in Virginia and North Carolina. One example of a “Thomas Day” house is Brandon-on-the-Dan, built in a grove of oaks above the
Dan River in Halifax County, Virginia. The property has two houses: an early 19th century planked log dwelling and a circa 1850 frame house. The later 850s frame house is referred to as a “Thomas Day” house because of the decorative entrances and interior architectural elements attributed to Thomas Day.

Day faced and overcame many obstacles in his complex life. Today he is considered one of the founders of the North Carolina furniture making industry. To learn more about Thomas Day see the following:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cornland School Preservation Meeting



4:00 – 5:30 p.m. – June 13, 2011
Major Hillard Library meeting room,
824 Old George Washington Highway, North
Chesapeake, VA

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wolf Hills-Blacks Fort-Abingdon

Part I: Wolf Hills- Blacks Fort- Abingdon

Abingdon was originally named Wolf Hills because a pack of wolves emerged from a cave and attacked Daniel Boone’s dogs here in 1760. In the 1770s, the name changed to Blacks Fort after Joseph Black built a fort nearby to protect settlers against Indian raids.

Blacks Fort’s name was later changed to Abingdon in honor of Martha Washington's British home, Abingdon Parrish.

It doesn’t matter what you call it- Abingdon is fantastic. They have a Historic District that stretches for 20 blocks, the annual Highlands Festival, the nearby Creeper Trail, one of the oldest theaters in America- the Barter Theater; the enchanting Sinking Springs Cemetery, and a Planning Department that resembles an archaeology lab.

Tune in for Abingdon, Part II: The Planning Department

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Floored Again

The Restoration Department finished replacing the termite damaged, 3"x9" heart-pine, floor joists in the hyphen at Bacon's Castle, with new pressure-treated pine ones. In the following picture you can see the early heart-pine finish floor relaid over the new joists. The termite damage was exacerbated by chronic dampness in the front porch area. The department is trying to remedy this issue with a new gutter, some repointing at the area where the porch joins the house, and polyurethane caulk under the door threshold. If they are successful at eliminating the moisture, they will replace the plaster ceiling that was demolished at the beginning of this project. Wish us luck.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Beast is Caged

The Restoration Department has finished installing the six-foot tall picket fence around the new HVAC unit in the back yard of The John Marshall House. The crew used several techniques and tools to build the fence efficiently. When the fence rails were set, they were hung at a very precise height from grade. The pickets were all cut in the shop with a chop saw, so they were exactly the same length. The crew could then set the picket bottoms flush with the bottom rail, and the picket tops would come out dead even. The frame was set on site and painted in a day. The 174 pickets were primed and painted off-site with an airless sprayer, in a day and a half. The crew used a cordless nailer, loaded with two-inch stainless steel nails, to attach the pickets, also in a day and a half. Slightly over 1000 nails were used on the pickets.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Historic Staunton Foundation Workshops

Staunton's Historic Districts Presentation

Economic advantages to living in historic districts
& how to get one started in your neighborhood

Friday, May 6 · 12:00pm - 1:30pm
R.R. Smith Center for History And Art

Staunton's historic districts have contributed greatly to its revitalization over the quarter century since they were enacted. Given this success, are there others areas of the city that are also deserving of such a designation? How does a historic district get started? What are the advantages?

Please join Tim Reamer, former Economic Development Director of Buena Vista (now with Cottonwood Commercial Real Estate), along with Benny Werner, Senior Vice President with Community Bank in Staunton as they discuss the process of creating the new Buena Vista Downtown Historic District. We'll discuss what motivated their effort as well as the steps involved to take it from a vision to reality. The presentation is free and open to the public.

This talk is part of HSF's ongoing Preservations Brown Bag series. These informal discussions meet the first Friday of each month to discuss pertinent preservation and development topics within Staunton. Bring your brown bag lunch (or not) and join in for some lively discussion.


Historic Staunton Foundation

Saturday, May 14 · 1:00pm - 3:00pm
Stuart Hall Campus

Stone, brick and concrete retaining walls are a significant historic landscape features throughout Staunton. Over the past few years several of Staunton’s historic walls have failed while some have retained their “lean”. There is a clear need for promoting the preservation, maintenance and repair of these historic walls.

Carter Green (historical architect, Frazier Associates)
James Schnitzhofer (structural engineer, Schnitzhofer & Associates, LLC)
James Flory (stone mason/artisan, Renaissance Stone Masonry)
and Bib Frazier (quarry owner, Frazier Quarry)

will review and discuss Retaining Walls: re-pointing, rehabilitating, tie-ins with neighboring wall and constructing new walls.

This is a workshop you won’t want to miss!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's Drying Time Again in Virginia

What you see before you is almost $1000 worth of pressure-treated yellow-pine, racked and drying in the peanut barn at Bacon's Castle. This material will be the twenty foot by fourteen foot stockade fence at the John Marshall House. The stockade will hide the new HVAC equipment in the back yard. This was necessitated by the City of Richmond transferring ownership of the Marshall House to Preservation Virginia. Up until now, the city had provided steam or chill water for the houses' air handler to use. Now, Preservation Virginia must provide it. Ah, the complexities of home ownership.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mr. Drummond's Springfield

Gloucester County is home to many historical sites including the 18th century mansion Rosewell, and the Powhatan village of Werowocomoco. But I was recently there to visit another historically important site — Springfield— and to meet Springfield’s owner, Phil Drummond who works diligently to keep his family’s history alive.

Springfield, located in the Ark community, is not an easy house to identify due to later alterations, but it appears to be an early-mid 18th century hall and parlor type house with large side-end brick chimneys. An early cemetery sits just outside with several 18th century graves and above-ground tombs. One of which was a young man of 27 who had apparently been murdered.

The most interesting feature about Springfield, however, is not the house— but its owner. Mr. Drummond was full of remarkable stories about his life and about Springfield, such as the legend that Nathaniel Bacon may be buried on the property or the Native American ossuary that was disturbed while his neighbors were digging a well.

But what I found most appealing about Mr. Drummond was how content he is with his mixed ethnicities. Old photographs of Mr. Drummond’s relatives line every wall in the house— including ones of Confederate soldiers. Other ancestors include independent free blacks and Revolutionary War Colonels.

As I was driving home and the experience continued to sink in, I thought about how classically Virginian the entire experience was and how I wanted to go back and hear more stories.

Friday, April 15, 2011

It's Deja-Vous, All Over Again

The Restoration Department was working at Bacon's Castle to replace some fire doors and repair moisture damage in the hyphen, when they discovered extensive termite damage to the floor joists on the first-floor. Since they just finished replacing floor joists at Monumental Church in Richmond for the same reason, they are all tooled up and ready to go. The damage occurred after the 1983 Bacon's Castle renovations were complete, but there are no current signs of active termites. This is another wake-up call to owners of historic structures, not to trust pest-control contracts as a guarantee against infestations. In this instance, the damage was between the plaster ceiling and the floor, so it was completely invisible to even thorough inspections. When the department consulted a trusted pest control agent, he recommended that a barrier treatment be applied every five years around the structure and under concrete pads within the structure. He further recommends whenever any work is done to historic structures, that pest control be called in to opportunistically apply chemical at that time. Old structures are somewhat unique, because of all the voids that exist within them, making them perfect termite habitat. In this circumstance, because the joists have been so badly damaged, because of the chronic moisture problem associated with the front porch, and because the joists will once again be enclosed by floor from above and plaster from below, the department will use modern pressure-treated lumber to replace the period, heart pine joists.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Evaluation of Bacon's Castle Presentation continues...

The sign at the entrance road to Bacon's Castle says it all. The site will be closed to regular visitation this year and likely next as we evaluate the visitor experience and our use of the entire site. This National Historic Landmark property tells a unique story, but to a diminishing audience. Like many historic sites, we need to ensure that Bacon's Castle is relevant and the experience provided is one that engages today's visitor. Our most important audience is that in the community that surrounds it. We will seek community ideas and suggestions on how this place can play a useful role in the life of the Surry area and broader region. All this while not losing sight of the historical significance of the building, its architecture and legacy. A fine needle to thread, but one that is exciting to undertake. We welcome thoughts and suggestions. Earlier this week we met on site with representatives from different parts of the National Park Service to get their thoughts on how visitors might experience the site. In mid-April, we will be holding a community input session to brainstorm with neighbors about the use of the site. Watch this space, as well as our Facebook page for ongoing opportunities to provide your thoughts and ideas.

Friday, March 11, 2011

..and other duties as required.

Its that time of year when the properties are gearing up for the new visitation season and the Restoration Dept is bouncing around like ping-pong balls, covering a wide range of really mundane duties. We have done or are in the process of fixing windows for Wilton, Farmer's Bank, and the Cape Henry Lighthouse. We have met, advised and given estimates for Wilton and the Fredericksburg Properties. We burned the fire pile at Bacon's Castle and then had to move 16 tons of dirt that had accumulated under the pile. We have replaced the two doors at the Cape Henry gift shop with fiberglass doors with windows. Taking advantage of the ambient light makes the shop more inviting, and helps prevent "blind door" strikes on guests and employees. As soon as we finish the sundry duties, the department will transition over to Bacon's Castle as part of its renovation. We were going to post pictures of the new Cape Henry gift shop doors, but our computer says no.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Colonial Heights Baptist Church Demolition to Start this Week

Demolition Begins at Former Baptist Church

After two years of working to save the former Colonial Heights Baptist Church building, the demolition is set to start this week. The Colonial Heights City Council voted to demolish the early 20th century structure and build a new courthouse in its place.

The church was the first church established in Colonial Heights' original subdivision. The building predates the incorporation of Colonial Heights and has been a dominant and iconic presence on the main boulevard through the city since the early 1900s.

The building has been unused since the congregation built a new structure in 2008 and sold the church to the city.

Preservation VA listed the church on our Endangered List in 2009.

A local reuse committee created a plan to reuse the church for the new courthouse, but this plan was rejected by the City Council last year, because it was determined that it would be more expensive to resue the church rather than demolish it.

See latest article in Progresss Index.