The town of Forestville, located in the lower portion of Shenandoah County, is distinguished by its sense of community and its sense of history. In 2005 that continuity was threatened when the Frontier Culture Museum had its eye on Zirkle Mill. The plan was to move Zirkle Mill to Staunton where it would be the centerpiece of their 1850s industrial exhibit.
Rob Andrews and Sherryl Andrews Belinsky formed the Save the Zirkle Mill Foundation and nominated Zirkle Mill to the 2005 Virginia’s Most Endangered List. With perseverance, resourcefulness and a “can do” attitude, these descendants of the original Mill owners brought their fight to Governor Warner and succeeded in acquiring the Mill. Now they are balancing the competing needs of restoring the Mill and providing educational programming.
As Preservation Virginia continues to re-visit past endangered sites listings, seeking status updates and checking in with those preservationists familiar with past listed sites and the work required to save them, we hope to share words of advice and support for others. Rob’s advice to endangered site supporters is similar to his approach to saving and preserving the Mill, that is, straightforward: Educate yourself, have a plan, and stick to it. Rob said, “This is important in overcoming almost every objection to a preservation project, especially questions like “where does the money come from?” The major concern [the previous owner] had about sale of the Mill was where the money was to come from to protect it.” He went on to say, “The Endangered Sites List should be used as a reinforcement of the preservation effort and as a trump card in difficult situations. Use it only as needed.”
Rob and his sister continue to pursue the preservation of Zirkle Mill and they took their own advice about educate themselves in restoration methods, techniques, and processes. Rob acknowledges the hard work involved and the tendency to want to find short cuts. He cautions to “avoid the easy way out” and stay the course. Today, Zirkle Mill is saved and has a preservation plan. The Mill is open for group tours and special events. To learn more about Zirkle Mill visit: http://www.historiczirklemill.org/index.shtml