Friday, December 7, 2012

Bacon's Castle in 2013

Since our last blog post, Preservation Virginia's Bacon's Castle enjoyed a few group tours including 350 students, teachers, and chaperones from a Hampton Roads public school, historical societies, and car clubs and a couple of familiarization tours from regional historic sites and tourism bureaus.
Students assembled before the Castle
prior to beginning tours.

The Castle concluded general admission operations the weekend following Thanksgiving.  Between December 2012 and February 2013 the Staff will focus on deep-cleaning the Castle, marketing the site to group tour operators and school systems, soliciting and securing new volunteers and interns, and managing an ambitious 2013 Calendar of Events.  Staff will also continue strengthening relationships with community, industry, and tourism partners.  Be sure to follow Bacon's Castle on Facebook to learn of the latest goings-on and our 2013 Calendar of Events.  Although Bacon's Castle may be closed to general admissions over this winter dormancy, the Site is still available for private group tours with at least one-week advance reservations.  Please contact Todd Ballance at (757) 407-8829 or <> to schedule a private tour.  Happy Holidays!

Ford Model A Car Club visiting Bacon's Castle on a brisk, early November Saturday.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Rosenwald School in Danger of Demolition

Union Hurst School is one of two Rosenwald schools in Bath County, Virginia. Union Hurst School is currently in poor condition and in danger of demolition unless a new owner with the necessary resources is interested in acquiring and rehabilitating it.

Union Hurst School
Rosenwald Schools were built primarily for the education of African-Americans in the early 20th century by Julius Rosenwald, an American clothier who became the president of Sears, Roebuck and Company.

Julius Rosenwald

The schools were built from Maryland to Texas using state-of-the-art architectural plans designed by professors at Tuskegee Institute.

To promote collaboration between white and black citizens, Rosenwald required communities to commit public funds to the schools, as well as to contribute additional cash donations. Black communities all over the south raised more than $4.7 million to aid in construction of the schools. Over 4,500 schools, 200 teachers' homes, and other buildings were constructed through the use of matching grants.

By 1932, the facilities could accommodate one-third of all African-American children in the South.
In 2002, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Rosenwald Schools near the top of the country's most endangered places and created a campaign to raise awareness and money for preservation. Rosenwald Schools were awarded National Treasure status in 2011.

For more information on helping save the Union Hurst Rosenwald School, contact Sonja Ingram at or 434-770-1209.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The DOVE (Desegregation of Virginia Education) Project

Paula Martin Smith as a Young
Girl During Virginia's Desegregation Era

In 1951, sixteen-year old Barbara Johns and other African-American students walked out of the Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville to protest the school’s poor conditions. Their actions became part of the movement to desegregate public schools in the Unites States.

Virginia’s public schools remained segregated until 1954 when the United States Supreme Court ruled that segregation was unconstitutional in the landmark case Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, KS.    

A new project, the DOVE project (Desegregation of Virginia Education) was created by Virginia AARP, Old Dominion University and the Urban League of Hampton Roads, Inc. to identify, locate, catalog and encourage the preservation of records such as photographs and newspaper articles during the time of Virginia’s desegregation process. The project also includes a traveling exhibit to various localities in the commonwealth to acquire oral histories.

In 2012, the exhibit toured locations in Hampton, Richmond, Farmville, Lynchburg, Alexandria, the Eastern Shore and Roanoke to gather personal accounts and artifacts from the 1940s to the 1980s related to the desegregation of Virginia schools.

The DOVE team will be visiting Danville on Saturday, November 10 at the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History. The public is invited to share photographs, documents, and memorabilia and to participate in oral history collecting. 
Danville native Paula Martin Smith is featured on the DOVE exhibit posters and in the DOVE brochures. Read in Evince Magazine how Paula was surprised when she found out the image of her was chosen for the program. In the article, Paula also recounts how when she was a young girl, she was escorted off a Danville city bus because she would not move to the back.  

Please see the DOVE blog for more information and resources.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bacon's Castle cools-down from Summer and warms-up for Autumn

Classic Car Club of Virginia visits
Springtime Bacon's Castle
Preservation Virginia’s Bacon’s Castle’s staff, interns, and volunteers had a very busy Summer with projects, group tours, and community development and prepare for a vibrant 2013.  As we cool-down from Summer here is a review and as we warm-up for Autumn here is a preview!

Summer Review


Our interns were busy undertaking cultural resource management assignments including teak wood garden benches cleaning and preservation, garden maintenance, fence post cleaning and painting, community development, marketing, exhibit and museum maintenance, special event facilitation, guided group tours, and daily museum and gift shop operations.  Enjoy this SlideShare presentation detailing many of one of our intern’s projects and accomplishments.

Group Tours

Docent Bill Murphy tours the
Colonel Joshua Fry Chapter, Daughters of the American Colonists
Over the Summer we had the pleasure of hosting classic car clubs, church groups, fellow museum operators from other historic sites, historical societies and clubs, and college & university school groups.  Enjoy this SlideShare presentation in promotion of Group Tours at Bacon’s Castle.

Community, Volunteer, and Internship Development

Site Coordinator Todd Ballance addresses the
Surry Chamber of Commerce about 2013 special events
The staff at Bacon's Castle continues to seek new community advocates, volunteers, and interns whenever possible.  We routinely-engage Surry and Isle of Wight Counties business and tourism leaders in efforts of developing new stakeholders and partnership opportunities.  We hope that through consistent participation in the Surry County Chamber of Commerce and periodically presenting before the Surry County Board of Supervisors we develop better understanding and appreciation of Bacon's Castle's new five-year plan.  We’ve also directly contacted Virginian, Washingtonian, and North Carolinian institutions of higher education in efforts to recruit interns and partner with professional volunteer administration associations and Surry County 4-H to secure more local volunteerism.  Enjoy these additional SlideShare presentations on opportunities you may wish to consider:

Membership Meeting of the Surry County
African American Heritage Society at Bacon's Castle
Volunteer Opportunities

Autumn Preview

Slave Dwelling Project

Preservation Virginia’s Bacon’s Castle is proud to work with national, regional and local partners in presenting this important and provocative presentation on the institution of American slavery and how preserving the Site’s last remaining slave quarters is an important project in preserving an African American heritage structure and educating generations to come on this part of our history.  Join us and Mr. Joe McGill at Bacon’s Castle on October 6, 2012.  Please inspect and share this flyer on the Project.  See you on the 6th!
Surry County student postcard

School Field Trips

As the 2012/2013 school season is upon us, we look towards showcasing the 40-acre historic site as a must see destination in presenting early Virginia and American history to students from all over the Country.  We have a couple school systems already booked for this Autumn and look forward to serving more systems in the near future.

Familiarization Tours

We cordially-invite government, business, and tourism leaders, school group field trip  coordinators, and tour operators to schedule complimentary private group tours of the Castle to learn more about of our exciting five-year plan and new educational offerings.  In providing these FAM tours, we hope to introduce a new generation of stakeholders and advocates to our super rare and precious historic treasures.  We have FAM tours scheduled for this Autumn with group tour operators, motor coach companies, and Virginia Tourism Corporation representatives.  Our hope is through these efforts we will enter 2013 with a more energized community and knowledgeable clientele ready to book their next, must see tours at Preservation Virginia’s Bacon’s Castle!  Give us a call, follow-us on Facebook, and keep in touch with us.  Re-familiarize yourself with your Bacon's Castle!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Danville, Virginia -Making Historic Strides

Written by Guest Blogger Sarah Latham, President of Danville Historical Society
The City of Danville is moving forward with its River District plans.  The first phase of historic downtown redevelopment will focus on widening the sidewalks to make them more pedestrian-friendly and beautiful.  The widened walkways will also accommodate outdoor seating for eateries.  Danville wins award for River District Plan.
At the same time the city government has hired firms to create master plans in portions of two historic neighborhoods: the Monument-Berryman neighborhood that contains historic mill housing in the Tobacco Warehouse District, and parts of the Old West End (OWE) National Register Historic District.  The focus of the OWE master plan is on areas where numerous historic houses have been cut up into multi-unit apartments, as well as on the “Five Forks” area that was formerly a thriving residential/retail/commercial district. 
In addition, the city is partnering with the Danville Historical Society on some initiatives.
The Danville Historical Society received a grant from the Danville Regional Foundation earlier this year to create a “gathering space” on the (city-owned) grounds of the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History.  
Trail marker with brass tobacco leaf
This gathering space will have a circular patio, seating and vertical granite slabs that will serve both as sculpture and as kiosks containing visitor information.  The space will also be the starting point for the Historical Society’s guided tour of Danville’s Millionaires Row.

Fred Meder's mother, Elaine, helping create trail markers

DHS board member Joyce Wilburn and DHS member Fred Meder conceived and spearheaded the plan.  They received cooperation from the Danville Museum, the City of Danville, Pittsylvania County and Caswell County for the project.  Visitor information for the city and both counties will be available at the kiosks.
As part of this plan, Joyce Wilburn and DHS board member Paula Smith developed a self-guided walking tour of the Holbrook-Ross National Register Historic District in Danville.  Holbrook-Ross is a neighborhood created by professional African-Americans shortly after the Civil War.  The Danville Regional Foundation grant provided funds to print brochures of the walking tour.
Finally, the plan also includes placing trail markers along the routes of the Millionaires Row and Holbrook-Ross tours.  Fred Meder designed and fabricated the markers.  The City of Danville has agreed to do the necessary work to place these markers in the sidewalks.
This Historical Society initiative has led to a new collaboration with the City of Danville: the development of a Heritage Walking Trail in Danville’s historic downtown and Tobacco Warehouse District.  Local attorney R.J. Lackey conceived the idea for a heritage walking trail and soon learned that the DHS had two trails.  Working with Mr. Lackey and the City of Danville, the DHS is helping map out the overall proposed trail, linking the two existing ones with the new ones.  The DHS will also research and create content for information kiosks and signage along the routes of the trails.           

Friday, June 22, 2012

Tobacco Barns Preliminary Survey Adventures

This fall we plan to begin the full survey of tobacco barns in Pittsylvania County. While most of the tobacco barns were built using rough cut logs with clay daubing between, the barns also display many differences.   

The barn above has two diamond-shaped vents cut in the top planks and an abandoned VW Beetle guarded by cows

Old fingerprints in the clay daubing

Tobacco packhouse with donkey in background

Later stone foundation repair with donkey on guard behind trees

Two tobacco barns in a field of new tobacco plants

Caused by lightning?

Mr. Mahan standing beside a tobacco stringer under one of his barns

If you or anyone you know is interested in helping out with the survey, please contact us!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Keeping Cool in John Marshall's Richmond

Writing this, as I sit in my cool, air conditioned office, I ponder what life was like for those who lived in the days before such luxury, before electric, artificial cooling systems; before breathable short sleeve cotton blend shirts and capris were acceptable attire and before iced coffee refreshed the short, steamy, humid jot to and from the parking garage and work; where you are actually faced with the the reality of Virginia's summers.

The John Marshall House is tackling this topic with their new installation, "Summer in John Marshall's Richmond". Site coordinator, Bobbie LeViness and John Marshall House guide, Alyson Taylor-White have put together a thematic summer tour that goes into the details of how to keep cool in Federal era Richmond.

Some of the changes to the house include removing the coal from the fireplaces and replacing it with floral arrangements which would of made the house smell nice and look pretty all at the same time.
No coal in the summer!
Of course, without air conditioning you would want to keep the windows open and a breeze flowing as much as possible. In many houses of this period, the cross breeze occurs best in the central passage of the house. The back and front doors would be open, creating a cool air flow. This idea was not lost on the Marshall family, as the back and front doors are aligned to create just such an occurrence.

Like any modern family, the Marshall's would of used the rooms in their house to suit their personal needs. So while John Marshall may have typically used the large dinning room or his own bedchambers to work, during the summer, he most likely would of taken advantage of the cross breeze and set up a desk in the back stair passage.
A cool spot for John Marshall to focus on making the judicial branch equal to the legislative and executive branches!
Keeping the doors and windows open does have it's disadvantages. Bugs! Just like today, if you leave a window open, in come the flies! One of the most devastating impact of flies is something called a "fly spot". Fly spots occur when flies land on gilt picture frames. Their sticky little feet adhere to the gold leaf and create little black specks all over the frames. So to combat this, during the summer months, families like the Marshalls would cover all their gilt frames with gauze, like so:

Note the covered gilt mirror
 In the picture of John Marshall's family dining room you can also see the white linen seat coverlets on the chairs. These are added for personal comfort. The upholstery is wool, stuffed with horse hair. In the hot sweaty summer months, this is not the type of chair one would enjoy sitting down to meal! So, they would be covered with a light, breathable coverlet.

While it is difficult to see in the above image, the table is also set with seasonal, local fruits. So trendy now, but in Marshall's day, you ate what was in season, and you ate what grew nearby. So the family desserts would consist of summer stone fruit, cherries and berries.

To learn more ways Virginians of days gone by kept cool, come to the John Marshall House for a visit!

Preservation Virginia welcomes you to take a tour of the John Marshall House's new installation. "Summer in John Marshall's Richmond" will be up until Sunday, August 26th. The John Marshall House is open Friday and Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Sundays from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hillwood Square Endangered

Architects Heaton and Greely

Embassy Building Designed by Arthur Heaton
Arthur B. Heaton designed over a thousand structures in the Washington D.C. area including lavish apartment buildings, commercial buildings, theaters and private mansions. Examples of his work include the Altamont apartment building on Wyoming Avenue, the Embassy building on Connecticut Avenue, the National Geographic Society building, the Washington Loan and Trust Company building and what is considered the first planned neighborhood shopping center in the country, the 1930s Park and Shop Complex in the Cleveland Park Neighborhood.

Heaton was also the first supervising architect on the construction of the Washington Cathedral from 1908 to 1928.

In the late 1930′s and early 1940′s, Heaton designed four D.C. area housing projects for the federal government including Hillwood Square, a small planned community for WWII program workers.

Another famous landscape architect, Rose Greely, also worked on Hillwood Square. Rose was the daughter of General Adolphus W. Greely, Army officer, Arctic explorer and the first president of The Explorers Club.

In 1925, Rose Greely became Washington’s first female licensed architect and was also the only woman to work on the Advisory Committee of the Williamsburg Restoration Project.

In her forty-year career, Greely designed more than 500 landscapes, specializing in residential design and focusing on the integration of house and garden. Because she insisted on the highest quality of workmanship, Greely’s extremely well built projects have enjoyed exceptional longevity.

Hillwood Square

The Federal Works Agency Housing Authority (USHA) built Hillwood Square to provide housing for war program workers and their families moving into the Washington D.C. area during World War II. After the War, Hillwood Square was sold as a non-profit cooperative.

Architects Heaton and Greely paid careful attention to community site planning when designing Hillwood Square. Today Hillwood Square remains largely as it was during the 1940s-1950s. The approximately 20-acre park-like development contains forty-one original row houses and duplexes surrounded by walkways and green spaces.

Parking was restricted to areas behind the units. A community building, a large recreational space, two playgrounds and the original WWII victory garden still exist. Hillwood Square was added to the Fairfax County Historic Register in 2009.

Housing at Hillwood Square has long been among the most affordable in the Washington, DC area because residents purchase an equal share in the community when they move in and pay monthly fees into a fund that covers all maintenance costs as well as most utilities. Hillwood Square is now a diverse neighborhood that includes government employees, young families, seniors, Vietnamese and Latinos.

Tree-lined walkway at Hillwood Square

Currently all of the mostly low-income families residing at Hillwood Square face mass evacuation after Hillwood Square was sold to a developer who plans to demolish the original buildings and build luxury high-end apartments. The land has a current estimated value of $85 million to $106 million because it is the largest singly-owned piece of property inside the Capital Beltway.

Resident Tabi Yothers is Fighting to Save Hillwood Square from Demolition
Many of the long-time residents are stunned by the sale and some are fighting to save Hillwood Square from demolition, stating that Hillwood is not only historic but it is also their home and that the original charter opposes land speculators and focuses on a close-knit community intended to be sustained in perpetuity. A website about Hillwood Square has been created for those who want more information.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Preservation Virginia is undertaking a project to help raise awareness and protect tobacco barns in Southside Virginia. As part of the project, Preservation Virginia recently held a poster contest for Pittsylvania County Middle School students to help raise awareness on the importance of protecting the barns and the agricultural heritage of the region.

The theme of the poster contest was “Preserve Our Barns So They Are More Than A Memory.”  Sixty-eight posters were entered into the contest. The posters were judged by local artists on the creativity and originality of the artwork and on how effectively the contest theme was presented. 

1st Place Poster by Casey Sparks
The winners received ribbons and gift certificates. Casey Sparks, from Dan River Middle School was the first place winner and Cayla Keen, also from Dan River Middle School, was the second place winner. The third place winner was Autumn Womack from Gretna Middle School. Jordan Paquette, Kaitlyn Carter and Kaden Lewis from Chatham Middle School received honorable mentions.

The first place poster will be reproduced and displayed in various locations across the region. All of the posters will be displayed at an upcoming workshop this fall for the barns project. The survey portion of the project will also begin this fall.

For more information on the tobacco barns project or the poster contest, contact Sonja Ingram, Field Representative at 434-770-1209.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Bucket Brigade at Cape Henry Lighthouse

The iconic Cape Henry Lighthouse has implemented a new strategy to raise money for the protection of its exposed and eroded limestone foundation. In partnership with the Virginia Department of Transportation, Preservation Virginia is raising the money necessary to replenish the sand on the top of the dune, to once again protect the foundation of the lighthouse.

Yours for a $5 donation!!!

Cape Henry's Bucket Brigade provides visitors a tangible way to help the lighthouse in this endeavor. Sand pails with the "Bucket Brigade" logo are available as a keepsake for a $5 donation. Visitors can fill the bucket with sand (located right before the ascent up the dune). New signs explaining the history of Bucket Brigades dot the ascent to the top of the dune. Once they reach the top, there is an allocated sand dumping spot. We are hoping that this "preservation in action" approach will move the lighthouse quickly, in the direction of having a completed dune restoration with in the next two years.

Local interest about the topic has been peaked, as is evident by the Tidewater Newspaper, the Virginian-Pilot:
Cape Henry Lighthouse Site Coordinator, Charles Morgan shows some of the wear around the base of the lighthouse
So come out to Cape Henry Lighthouse during your summer trip to Virginia Beach, buy a bucket, and be part of preservation history!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Revisiting Most Endangered Sites: Historic Cemeteries

In 2010, Preservation Virginia listed abandoned cemeteries to our Endangered Sites list. Since then, we have had many people contact us for assistance with abandoned, neglected and vandalized cemeteries.

A few weeks ago I visited two cemeteries in Chesterfield County. One was in a wooded area across from a local school. The cemetery had a partially standing rock wall surrounding several grave markers. Every marker was vandalized in some fashion including several large obelisks that had been pushed over and broken.

Virginia cemetery laws prevent the desecration and vandalism of cemeteries; but unfortunately people continue to get away with it. And it is not only bored teenagers, last year I visited a church–owned cemetery that had been scraped by a backhoe, presumably so that room could be made for new burials.

A broken crypt and several older grave markers were in a jumbled pile in the tree line. What shocked me was that it appears that the church may have actually arranged for the backhoe work!

Preservation Virginia hopes that listing cemeteries to our Endangered Sites list has made people more aware of this issue and reminded people that cemeteries contain essential historical and genealogical information and —not to mention— the remains of someone’s deceased family member.

In order to provide cemetery preservation education, Preservation Virginia in partnership with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (VDHR) is offering a series of Cemetery Conservation & Documentation Workshops. The next workshop will be held May 18-19, 2012 at the historic Christ Episcopal Church at 16304 Courthouse Road, Eastville, VA, located on the Eastern Shore.

On Friday, May 18th the workshop will run from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and on Saturday it will run from 9:30 a.m. to noon. The first day's presentations will cover topics ranging from funerary symbolism to training in the appropriate care and maintenance of grave yards, to genealogy, mortuary archaeology and Virginia burial law.

The second day, May 19th, will feature on-location training sessions in Christ Church's cemetery focusing on stewardship issues for cemeteries, including techinques for photographing historic funerary markers, and identification of symbols used on grave markers, among other topics.

Early registration is encouraged as the workshop has limited space. The fee for both days in $60 and $40 for just Friday. Participants must attend Friday's session in order to attend the Saturday workshop. Both days of the workshop are held rain or shine.

For registration information, please contact Dee DeRoche at VDHR by email at or by phone at 804-482-6441.

In addition to the workshops, more information about issues relating to historic cemeteries is available through a blog established by VDHR's Jolene Smith, Archaeology Inventory Manager in the agency's Archives. The blog is available online here.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Life of a Soldier: Preserving the History of the American Civil War

Today we introduce another guest blogger. This post is written by Jared Smith. Smith is a young historian and educator in Danville, Virginia. He has a profound interest and love for all things historical since he was a small child, and he enjoys traveling and encouraging other folks to take an interest in their history. He is particularly interested in the American Civil War (he is an avid participant in reenactments of that period) and 20th century European history, with an emphasis on both World Wars and the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.

As many folks may know, the United States is currently honoring those who served in the “War Between the States” over the next few years as part of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. During those four years of 1861-1865, this nation was torn apart due to various political, social, and economic issues. Without getting involved with the political correctness of the war, Americans should be aware of the bravery, sacrifices, and legacy of veterans of the blue and the gray.

As Virginians, you can become aware of the legacy of veterans from both sides of the American Civil War by visiting battlefields, attending museums and lectures, and by witnessing a firsthand recreation of history through reenactments of important battles and military campaigns.

Over the next few months, I will continually update you all on the significance of the American Civil War, and the day-to-day functions in the life of a Civil War soldier. Since we are commemorating the 150th anniversary of the war, 2012 will be a fun and exciting starting point to immerse yourself in Civil War history. For example, there are many key battle reenactment events being held this year such Shiloh (Tennessee), Second Manassas/Bull Run (Virginia), Antietam/Sharpsburg (Maryland) and Fredericksburg (Virginia). I will post updates on each major event in the near future.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bacon's Castle Stair Tower Half-Plastered

The stair tower restoration at Bacon's Castle is a classic example of the enigma of historic structure repair. What started out as a simple replaster job mushroomed into so much more. Close examination showed the existing plaster loose, the bricks behind it crumbling, and the hewn white oak beam that was inset four inches into an eight inch wall, severely decomposed. Plaster removal revealed that the pavers, identical to the early pavers that made up the kitchen floor, had been used to make up the brick bond under the beam. The brick bond under the beam was Flemish, while English bond was employed above the beam. The brick used was very similar to the brick in the whole of the 1665 section of the house, and the mortar contained shell and charcoal. Visible at the lower left of the exposed brick photos is the infill to the early semi-circular window arch, later replaced by the only jack-arch in the entire house. Approximately 50 bricks, and of course a new white oak beam, had to be replaced to stabilize the wall and provide a good surface to plaster to. The interior of the brick wall was so uneven that 1.5 inches of scratch and brown coat had to be used to bring the wall flush. The crew will have to reset their scaffold to plaster the area above the beam.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Falmouth's Union Church: Making a Comeback from Endangered

For this blog post we are glad to welcome our first guest blogger. This post was written by T. Logan Metesh. Logan is Co-Chair of Fundraising and the Social Media Coordinator for the Union Church Preservation Project. He can be reached at

Since being listed on Preservation Virginia's list of Most Endangered Historic Sites in 2006, great strides have been made to ensure the Union Church's preservation. In 2008, the church was designated as a Virginia State Landmark and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Then, in 2009, “Trustees of the Union Church Historic Site” was formed as a 501(c)3 to care for the church. The Trustees have done a great job spearheading the preservation efforts, but it became clear that the effort needed to expand if it was going to succeed.

A more specific fundraising arm, “Union Church Preservation Project,” was created in 2010. The Union Church Preservation Project has been actively pursuing preservation funds and spreading awareness since the moment of inception. A website and Facebook page soon followed to help spread the word.
In the summer of 2011, a grant from Stafford County, Virginia, was secured to repair the holes in the roof to prevent further damage from rain and snow. A series of clean-up days were held in 2011 to scrape and repaint the church doors, improve drainage at the rear of the structure, remove dead vines from the back wall, and clean up general clutter. In June 2011, the group held its first fundraiser and had over 40 people attend – a big crowd for such a new organization! It was clear that the community still cares deeply about the endangered Union Church.

A group of volunteers lowered the historic 1868 bell from the belfry in December 2011 to make the structure safe for roof repair work to begin. The bell will be returned to its original location once the work is completed. A roofing contractor has been selected and the project began last week!

2011 was a big year for the Union Church Preservation Project. However, 2012 promises to be even bigger! Our first clean-up of the year is scheduled for March 24 and our second annual fundraiser is scheduled for April 21. Other events this year include a bus tour in May, an open house and bake sale in June, raffles, and more!

Even though the preservation project is off to a strong start, we are always looking for more volunteers and, frankly, donations. If you would like to know more about this extraordinary structure, its history, and how you can help us preserve it, please visit our website,, and be sure to “like” us on Facebook by searching for “Falmouth Union Church Preservation Project.” We also offer t-shirts, coffee mugs, and more at

Together, we can help remove the Falmouth Union Church from Preservation Virginia’s list of Most Endangered Historic Sites!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Never Forget Martinsville

When I recently visited Deborah Hall, the Director of the Martinsville-Henry County Historical Society, I was planning on talking about endangered historic sites and tobacco barns. I had no idea of the experience I was about to have.

The Martinsville-Henry County Historical Society is located in the newly restored historic Henry County Courthouse. The historical society offers many exhibits inside the courthouse relating to local history, but they recently added a new exhibit— Never Forget— co-sponsored by Laurel Hill Publishing Company and Tom Hill, that is completely amazing.

Never Forget is an exhibit honoring the men from Martinsville and Henry and Patrick Counties who served or lost their lives during the Vietnam War.

When describing why they decided on the exhibit, Ms. Hall explained that one day she was reading the markers outside the courthouse that commemorates residents from the region who had died in various conflicts and she realized that the men who died in Vietnam had not received much recognition.

She had no idea that the exhibit they would produce to honor the local Vietnam War veterans would be so successful and would, as Deborah said, “Take on a life of itself.”

Once they announced that they were looking for information and memorabilia they began to get inundated with people bringing photographs, uniforms, weapons, medals, books, maps that were actually used during the war and all types of memorabilia that service members and families of service members had from the war.

The grand opening of the exhibit attracted hundreds of people and many more continue to come to see the exhibit.

Historical society members also undertook an oral history project where they recorded service member’s stories from the war. They set up a portable DVD player with a small screen so visitors can see and hear the interviews.

A large screen television was donated to the historical society for the project so that the many photographs— ranging from every day life of service members in Vietnam to war ravaged fields —could be easily viewed.

In June of 2011 Tom Perry, a local author and historian, visited the
Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D. C. and collected rubbings of the names of each man from Martinsville and Henry County engraved on the Wall. These rubbings are also now part of the exhibit.

Maybe it is because it is such a recent part of our past, so recent (less than 50 years old) that some people would not consider it “historic.” But, the only other times I have been so affected by an exhibit was when I visited the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. and the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina.

And consider that Martinsville created this exhibit all on their own, with only local donations and volunteers. I would highly recommend this exhibit to everyone. But hurry, unfortunately it will be gone come April 1st.

Monday, February 20, 2012

New book by Preservation Virginia's Curator

We're pleased to announce the publication of a new book by Preservation Virginia's own Curator of Collections, Catherine Dean! Jamestown: Postcard History Series features nearly 200 historic images, primarily from the Preservation Virginia archives and many of them never published before.

Copies can be purchased from the Historic Jamestowne museum store or at Preservation Virginia events. Or look for it on!

Join Catherine for a book signing at Historic Jamestown on April 7 from 11am-2pm!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Rootball Archaeology at Smith's Fort Plantation

Ms. Vancko preparing the site
Thank goodness for volunteers! Lex Vancko, is using her off season archaeology skills to help excavate the rootball of a downed walnut tree close to the house. The tree fell during Hurricane Irene, and is getting ready to be removed in time for our March 2nd reopening.

Screening for artifacts

Some of the neat finds include a few early patent medicine bottles, lots of pottery fragments and more!

Once Lex finishes the artifact analysis I'll post a few pictures of the artifacts from our walnut tree rootball at Smith's Fort Plantation.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bacon's Castle Winter Spruce Up-2012

Preservation Virginia's restoration crew has been given the opportunity to spruce-up Bacon's Castle's interior during the winter months of 2012, in preparation for it's reopening on March the 2nd. The last time the the interior was extensively refreshed was in the mid-80's, about 25 years ago. Needless to say, it could use a fresh coat of paint. The crew started in the front half of the 1854 wing. There were countless many plaster cracks that needed patching, but the time consuming job was the windows. The paint on the sashes had alligatored and flaked to the point where they had to be scraped down to bare wood and then primed, before a new topcoat could be applied. In performing this task, the crew discovered that the sashes had Roman numerals cut into them. The numbers started at what is now an interior doorway in the gift, then progressed clockwise around the building. That was the "neat" discovery. The crew also discovered old, but extensive, termite damage to the front window in the hallway, requiring consolidation of the trim and window seat, plus replacement of nailers for the seat, the trim on the right side, and the nailers for the lower wainscot. That was the "bummer".
The crew used Sherwin-Williams alkyd primer and then "Pro-Mar" for the trim topcoat. The Pro-Mar" paint coats well and dries harder then most latex paints, making it ideal for windows. Sherwin-Williams "Duration" paint, in a matte finish, was applied to the plaster. It's a thick paint that helps hide hairline plaster cracks. The fresh paint really made the rooms "pop". The are so much more bright and cheery, it's difficult to believe they are the same rooms. (Hey, if you can't brag on yourself once in a while, what's the point of blogging?)