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.