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.