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!