It Takes a Village…To Save an Old House

It Takes a Village…To Save an Old House

By Wendy Migdal, HFFI Volunteer

Sometimes houses, like people, fall on hard times. Life throws challenges their way, and they don’t always have the resources to keep up. If they have a network of people willing to labor on their behalf, they can bounce back. If not, there isn’t much hope.

The house at 818 Sophia Street, named the Wells House after its most famous occupant, is a success story. Built in 1812 for Reverend William James of the Fredericksburg Baptist Church, the house is a 2-1/2 story Federal style structure with walls of brick nogging covered with beaded weatherboarding, which surely stood it in good stead during the bombardment by Union forces 50 years later.

The Benjamin Wells family most likely leased the house during the Civil War. Fifteen-year-old daughter Geno Wells became the subject of a wartime romance with a supposed federal spy—a story that captivated the generation following the Civil War.

By 1966, the house had served as a tenement for many years and was in a dilapidated condition. Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, Inc. (HFFI) raised $10,000 to purchase it and received another $10,000 in a special appropriation by the Virginia General Assembly. The restoration task was daunting: HFFI’s director Boyd Graves was unable to name a single thing that didn’t need work. A cinderblock kitchen and chimney added in 1940 were removed, flooring was restored or replaced, and new wiring and heating systems were installed. Even the pillars on the front porch, which had been boxed up, were returned to their original round shape.

HFFI operated the house as a museum and as its headquarters for several years. In 1975, the organization sold it to a private owner, although HFFI maintains a perpetual covenant, or easement, on the property. Since then, the house has been sold to several people who have operated businesses out of it: a bridal shop, a bakery, and most recently, an accounting firm. You can see the beautiful interiors in a marketing video on YouTube created by a realty company.

In contrast, at 1407 Caroline Street a bit of sidewalk leads to nowhere, mute testimony to the two-story Georgian style house, originally constructed about 1787, that once stood there. The Civil War was especially unkind to this home, but it appears to have been almost completely rebuilt by 2 years after the war.

However, the 21st century witnessed the demise of this house. First, a storm-related fire in 2003 damaged it, and it sat vacant for 7 years. Another fire in November 2010 struck the death knell. The following February, the city declared the structure unsafe under a state code, which gives the owner the right to tear it down. He did just that in June 2011, prompting a vigorous protest and the passionate resignation of the president of the Architectural Review Board.

But perhaps a phoenix will rise out of the ashes. Although a house has yet to be built on that site, the city and HFFI work to prevent “demolition by neglect” so there are no future irreplaceable losses. To support these efforts, become a member of HFFI by visiting HFFI.org to join.

(Also published in the March 2019 issue of the Front Porch.)

Cooperation for Preservation of Historic Properties

Cooperation for Preservation of Historic Properties

by David James, HFFI Board President

Since 1955, the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, Inc. (HFFI) has been devoted to protecting and preserving historic structures and landscapes of our city that give it a true sense of place and authenticity. Recognizing that each modification of an historic building could impact the integrity of our architectural heritage, the organization takes proposed changes very seriously. Therefore, HFFI has decided to appeal a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) approved by the Fredericksburg Architectural Review Board (ARB) on December 10, 2018.

The ARB approved replacement of a wooden front porch at the home on 129 Caroline Street with concrete, brick and tile. HFFI has held a restrictive preservation covenant on the property since 1974. It has worked with the current owners on several occasions, including on a well-designed, historically sensitive, and substantial addition made in the early 1990s.

The ARB, HFFI, and many other preservation commissions and organizations are charged with the review of alterations to significant historic resources. They draw from the same professional standards and guidelines, known as the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. The modifications proposed are in clear violation. These Standards specify that:

— “The distinguishing original qualities or character of a building, structure … shall not be destroyed.”

—“The removal or alteration of any historical material or distinctive architectural features should be avoided when possible.”

—“Deteriorated architectural features shall be repaired rather than replaced, whenever possible.”

In a previous application some time ago, the property owners sought to make similar changes, proposing to replace the wood front porch with brick. This portion of the application was denied by the ARB on grounds that the porch was an important architectural feature of the house.

Because it holds a restrictive covenant in the deed to this property, HFFI has standing in this matter. The homeowners have attempted to void the covenants, but HFFI holds that the covenants cannot be modified or terminated except by the agreement of all parties entitled to enforce the covenant.

Moving forward, HFFI asks that:

—The wood front porch remains in place and be repaired using in-kind materials as the Historic District Handbook and ARB guidelines require, unless the property owners work with HFFI to establish a mutually agreed upon alternative compatible with preservation practices and ARB guidelines in a new COA.

—The ARB adheres to the Secretary of Interior Standards detailed in the Historic District Handbook and articulated by the design standards and guidelines therein.

—The ARB provides HFFI with notice when a request for alteration is made on property covered by one of its covenants.

—It be an active partner in any revision of ARB guidelines.

—City Council reviews its 2012 Memorandum of Understanding with HFFI to clarify the organization’s role in protecting structures in the historic district.

Besides enforcing its restrictive covenant, HFFI hopes that the City Council would give it standing to appeal to the Circuit Court on decisions to raze, demolish, or move any structure in the city. Unfortunately, in the last few years, we have lost historic properties that should not have been destroyed. This is why HFFI was formed in the first place, and so HFFI wants the right to stop this injustice.

Homeowners and building owners are temporary stewards of these unique properties. The organization has partnered with them throughout its history to preserve, protect, and revitalize this great city. With support from the community, HFFI has led the effort to preserve Fredericksburg for the past 64 years. The organization wants the tools to continue these efforts.

Ducking Stools in Fredericksburg

Ducking Stools in Fredericksburg

By: Michael Spencer

 

Ducking stools, “an instrument of punishment for nags, gossips, witches, and difficult individuals”, often consisted of a “…chair suspended from a sweeplike pole” that would be lowered into water.[1] While used throughout Europe during the medieval period, it was also used here in Virginia until the 19th century.

Legislation passed in 1662 by the Virginia Assembly stated that “Whereas, many babbling women slander and scandalize their neighbors, for which their poor husbands are often involved in chargeable and vexatious suit, and case in great damage: Be it, therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid, that in actions of slander, occasioned by the wife, after judgement passed for the damages, the woman shall be punished by Ducking…”[2]

Mrs. Vivan Minor Fleming recounts, from an old resident, such a ducking in her book “Historic Period of Fredericksburg 1608-1861”,

“She saw Peggy, a noted termagant, as tied in a gig that had been improvised into a ducking stool, she was pushed along through the streets polluting the air with her foul oaths and surrounded by a clamorous crowd of men and boys. Dr. Edward Carmichael and Mr. William White, then small chaps, being not the lead vociferous. She was pushed along to the old baptizing place and into the river-the water over her head. Then they drew her out, but she was more vituperative than ever. Again they pushed her in and she came out sputtering anathemas, but the third submersion silenced her. She returned through the same streets, in the same gig, as quiet as a lamb.”[3]

Fredericksburg seems to have adopted ducking as a form of punishment fairly early and continued it for some time. The first reference to ducking in Fredericksburg was made in 1746 when Marquis Calmes, of Winchester, Virginia was paid £5:5 for erecting a “ducking stool according to the model of that of Fredericksburg.” The reference goes on to allude to the general configuration of the stool when describing the punishment of a prisoner, “…the culprit was tied to the end of a long plank working on a pivot”.[4]

A second mention of a ducking stool occurs in Fredericksburg Council minutes from 1795 with “Zachariah Lucas & James Brown” tasked with finding “some person” to build the device, obviously a replacement from the earlier one.[5] It appears that by 1799 they were successful with Joshua Ingham being paid £10:9 “for making a ducking stool.”[6] A third, and possibly final ducking stool, was made for Fredericksburg in 1822 by John Ferneyhough at a cost of $30.[7]

The location of the ducking stool, was at the “old baptism place” which both court records as well as Silvanus Quinn, in his 1908 “History of the City of Fredericksburg, Virginia”, note as being at the end of Wolfe Street adjacent to Thornton’s Tavern. This would have made sense as this was also the location of one of Fredericksburg’s early ferries and so would have had a water depth adequate to facilitate the ducking.

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 1: Image from Pioneer Pittsburgh, a 1937 publication showing a representation of a ducking stool. The actual configuration of the one at Fredericksburg may have been similar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virginia Herald, June 28, 1799 Reference to Ducking Stool.

 

___________________________________

[1] Lounsbury, Carl. An Illustrated Glossary of Early Southern Architecture and Landscape, pg. 124

[2] Norris, J.E., History of Lower Shenandoah Valley Counties.

[3] Fleming, Historic Period of Fredericksburg 1608-1861, pg. 25-26

[4] Morton, Frederic. The Story of Winchester.

[5] Fredericksburg City Council Minutes 1795, [transcribed by Gary Stanton]

[6] Virginia Herald, June 28, 1799, pg. 3 col. 3

[7] Fredericksburg City Council Minutes 1822, [transcribed by Gary Stanton]

 

 

(CONTINUED) Feature on Candlelight Tour House – 704 Prince Edward Street

(CONTINUED) Feature on Candlelight Tour House—704 Prince Edward Street

Blog Post by Wendy Migdal

Edited by Linda Billard

Principal Marker Researcher: Roger Engels

Kaufman and Hannah Hirsh were not the original owners or builders of the house, however. That distinction belongs to James Turner, who worked as a manager for a local merchant and later a foreman in a foundry. In 1854, Turner bought an irregular piece of land from William Mitchell that fronted Prince Edward Street for 60 feet and extending back 264 feet. A year earlier, Mitchell had purchased the land from the owner of the Federal Hill estate but seemed to have some trouble paying his bills.

Turner probably built the brick Greek Revival style house in 1855, with a gable roof and two chimneys. Because the earliest map showing the house dates from 1878, no records exist regarding the exact original footprint. The house is a two-story brick dwelling with a side hall measuring 24 feet by 32 feet, and a one-story brick extension to the rear measuring 14 feet by 26 feet. The extension may or may not have been added later; there are no visible joints, however. (And at some point, there was yet another brick addition, 14 by 10 feet, that does show a break in the brickwork. A frame sunroom was added above this.) There was also a 1-½ story kitchen dependency.

When Turner came home from work, he may have stood on his small front porch (which at that time covered only the doorway entrance) and gazed on the bustle of town. Prince Edward at that time was the western edge of the city, so he was “getting away from it all.” But it was not to last long; he sold the house after only 2 years to Charles Brown. Turner’s obituary mentions health problems, so that may have been an issue.

Charles Brown was the owner during the terrible battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862, when cannon and musket fire raged above the heads of the citizens of Fredericksburg as they cowered in cellars. The Union set up gun emplacements behind Federal Hill and 704 Prince Edward. Because most of the Confederate troop movement was to the north of the house, it may not have sustained great damage during the battle, and Charles Brown may not have been cowering in the house at the time. As you learned in the previous blog installment about this house, the Hirshes purchased the house only about 4 months after the battle.

Today’s owners enjoy a porch that wraps around the left side of the house—date unknown—with Doric columns and a turned balustrade. They are eager to preserve the historical character of the house and received their historical marker from HFFI in 2016. To learn more about their preservation efforts and the history of the home, join us for the Candlelight Tour on December 8 and 9, 2018.

Feature on Candlelight Tour House – 704 Prince Edward St

Feature on Candlelight Tour House – 704 Prince Edward St

Blog Post by Wendy Migdal

Principal Researcher: Roger Engels

 

 

The house at 704 Prince Edward Street, built in 1855, has been home to families large and small, some who were there for years and some for only a short while. But if walls could talk, one of their most outstanding memories would be the time an old Civil War veteran came back to the scene where he lost his arm 46 years earlier.

William Wright of New York was serving with Duryea’s Zouaves when he was wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness. The entire city of Fredericksburg had become essentially a hospital after the battle, and 704 Prince Edward was no exception. The Hirshes had bought the house only about a year earlier, in April 1863. Kaufman and Hannah Hirsh lived there with their seven children; three of their daughters helped nurse Wright back to health after his arm was amputated in their parlor.

In 1910, Wright returned to Fredericksburg for a visit. One of those daughters, Rosa, now married, was still living in the house with her husband. Either Wright had established a special friendship with the family while he was convalescing, or the wartime memories uniting people were strong, but a Free Lance-Star entry reports that he spent several days with the family.

For nearly 100 years, (1863–1958), three generations of Hirshes lived in the home—grandparents Kaufman and Hannah and their children, daughter Rosa who married Herman Kaufman (yes, her husband’s last name was the same as her father’s first), and grandson Sydney. One of the earliest Jewish families in Fredericksburg, the Hirshes were prominent merchants, owning several mercantile, grocery, and jewelry stores throughout the years.

When Rosa Hirsh Kaufman’s mother died in 1893 (her father had died in 1891), her six siblings agreed to sell their interest in the house to her. It appears that Rosa had been living there already because her father’s obituary stated that he died in Baltimore. In the early 1900s, the Kaufmans sold off some parcels of land behind the house that had been part of the property. These parcels became part of Hanover Park, where the Fredericksburg White Sox played for some years. The park also hosted traveling shows such as the Chautauqua and other amusement-type parks, until the G&H Corporation bought it and built a clothing factory. Today, the buildings are a mixed-use office and residential space called Mill Race Commons.

It was during Rosa’s residence that William Wright returned to visit the scene of what surely one of the most harrowing moments of his life. It was also during this time that some additions were made to the house. The Kaufmans extended the front porch to the full width of the house by 1912, according to Sanborn fire insurance maps, and built an addition to the kitchen as well as a shed. By 1919, they had added a garage in front of the shed and a frame addition at the rear of the two-story portion of the house. By 1927 (the year Rosa died), a second story had been added to the frame addition.

The house passed out of the Hirsh and Kaufman families’ hands when the widow of Sydney Kaufman (Rosa’s son) sold it in 1958.

For more information on the building of the home and other owners, stay tuned to this blog. This house will also be on the Candlelight Tour December 8 and 9, 2018. More to come on 704 Prince Edward Street soon!

Job Listing – HFFI Volunteer and Event / Fundraising Coordinator

 

Application period is now closed.

Resumes are being reviewed and interviewees will be contact over the next two weeks.

If no suitable applicant is found, the application period will reopen.

Volunteer and Event / Fundraising Coordinator

The Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, Inc. is seeking a Volunteer & Events/ Fundraising Coordinator to work 25 hours per week.

Position is estimated to begin early August.

Duties would include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Recruiting & Managing Volunteers
    • Monitor volunteers running office during hours of operation
    • Monitor and assist volunteers working on independent projects
    • Recruit volunteers and learn their skills and interests to match with appropriate projects
  • Assist various working committees – Historic Marker, Events, Real Estate, Publications, etc.
  • Lead coordination of the annual Holiday Candlelight Tour including:
    • Volunteer committees to manage portions of event
    • Basic bookkeeping and oversight of budget and ticket sales
    • Assist volunteers in obtaining sponsors and advertisers for event
    • Promote event throughout community
  • Assist walk-in guests during business hours and phone calls/ emails with requests for information
    • Consult files in Lewis Store for info
    • Pass on to appropriate volunteer or board member as needed
  • Oversee sales in gift shop throughout year/ work to promote gift shop and HFFI items
  • Post on HFFI Facebook page to engage community with preservation and promote events and products
  • Communicate with HFFI Board of Directors on progress with Foundation projects and needs to ensure success
  • Maintain and monitor organization’s budget
    • Oversee payment of bills and tax preparation

Applicant should have experience and be proficient in the following skills:

  • Verbal Communication
    • Must communicate with staff & volunteers to convey needs and instructions
  • Ability to prioritize tasks
  • Project Management – will need to coordinate multiple departments and committees as well as simultaneous tasks to ensure a successful Holiday Candlelight Tour
  • Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint
  • WordPress website CMS – not required, but helpful

 

Pay is hourly (not to exceed 25 hours/ week without Board approval) $16-$18/ hour

Please send a cover letter and resume to Board President, HFFI, 1200 Caroline Street, Fredericksburg, VA 22401 or email to [email protected].

1210 Sophia Street

 

1210 Sophia Street – Can it be Saved?

By HFFI Staff

(Updated 5/1/2017)

1210 Sophia Street is in danger of being demolished. If the clock runs out—it will be gone. But there is a chance to relocate this 100+ year old property to a new location. YOU can help save it!

 

1210 Sophia Street

1210 Sophia Street – Photo Credit: Fredericksburg City Staff

Located within Fredericksburg’s Downtown Historic District, 1210 Sophia Street is a contributing resource. This modest building, situated along the Rappahannock River, is an example of housing used by Fredericksburg’s working class residents at the turn of the twentieth century. It is in good condition and structurally sound, but the only option besides demolition is relocation.

 

The City of Fredericksburg has offered up to $20,000 to aid in the costs of moving the house to an open lot within the city, but no matter of its location it will remain under the purview of the city’s Architectural Review Board and the city’s historic district overlay. But there is a deadline, so don’t delay! Help us get the word out, and this 1890’s house may once again be called a home.

 

Built in 1894, this two-story house was built for Gilbert C. Walker, an iron worker, and it remained in the Walker family for almost 100 years. The rear addition was added in 1953, (identified through an independent archive of city records), and Sanborn Maps as well as census records round out the history of the house and its residents. (Special thanks to Kate Schwartz, Historic Resource Planner—City of Fredericksburg, for her efforts in researching the history of this home. – Read more about the history of this home here.)

 

1210 Sophia Street Interior

1210 Sophia Street Interior – Photo Credit: Fredericksburg City Staff

Do you own a lot that this building could be moved to? Or perhaps you know someone who does? This is a chance for us to save a historic building from demolition, and HFFI is happy to see the city contributing funds from the Blight Abatement Fund to assist in the project.

 

Learn more and read the city’s Memorandum to the Architectural Review Board about 1210 Sophia Street (including additional history and applicable Historic District Design Standards & Guidelines).

 

Also online, read The Free Lance-Star article about the city’s decision to remove the building.

 

For UMW student, and HFFI intern, Kiernan Ziletti’s perspective on the situation, read his article featured in the March issue of Front Porch Magazine.

 

Questions or ideas on how to save this historic building?  Contact us at [email protected] or 540-371-4504, or Kate Schwartz at [email protected] or 540-372-1179.

 

UPDATE: An open lot near downtown has been located, further details to be worked out. Are you interested in taking on this project? Contact HFFI at 540-371-4504 to learn more.

 

UPDATE – 5/1/2017:

The official RFP for the sale of this building has been released and can be seen on the Fredericksburg website at http://www.fredericksburgva.gov/bids.aspx?bidID=82

Closing date/ time – 9/21/2017 2:00 PM

Pre-bid Meeting – May 4, 2017, 10AM at site

Contact Person – Lynn Enders
[email protected]

 

 

 

Wet or Dry: A History of Prohibition in Fredericksburg

 

Wet or Dry: A History of Prohibition in Fredericksburg

By Barbra Anderson

“The saloon is the devil’s headquarters on earth,” declared the Anti-Saloon League in the late 1800s. Alcohol was blamed for every social problem: poverty, domestic violence, crime, ill health, and moral turpitude. The average American man drank 88 bottles of whiskey a year—three times as much as now.

Temperance groups swept the nation. Each member had to take a pledge against “any Spirituous or Malt beverage.” Fredericksburg had three chapters of the Sons of Temperance, which held rallies and parades, weekly meetings, and “grand excursions” to inspire the citizens. Not only did temperance influence the social scene, the “liquor platform” soon dictated state politics.

wet-or-dryProhibition came early to Virginia. In 1886, the General Assembly passed the “local option,” which let each county vote to ban alcohol or not. In May 1908, the people of Fredericksburg voted in a referendum to “go dry,” with 53 percent of the vote. Two years later, the “wets” petitioned for another vote, which was signed by 180 citizens, including the town’s biggest saloon owners. The Daily Star proclaimed that “the city is unquestionably better off than ever in its history,” and that “business had in no way been injured by elimination of the saloon.” The 1910 referendum reaffirmed the dry vote by an even bigger margin. However, enforcement of the law proved problematic. In 1911, Fredericksburg convened a special Grand Jury to investigate allegations of Prohibition violations. The jury of prominent citizens trumpeted, perhaps too heartily, that “there is no evidence whatever, much less proof, that there is any violation of the revenue laws.” The panel was, however, very concerned about the crowds that congregated at several corners around town, many located near former saloons.

All of Virginia went dry in 1916, and the 18th Amendment enacted national Prohibition in 1920.

By the mid-1920s, Prohibition violations in Fredericksburg became commonplace. Because Route 1 was the only paved road in the area, bootleggers used it to transport “ardent spirits.” Local reporter Warren Farmer described how local police would hide next to the bridges and catch them as they came into town. One rumrunner crashed going around Deadman’s Curve near the National Cemetery. The liquor caught on fire, and he was incinerated beyond recognition.

Because bootleggers often used aliases, the ensuing court cases frequently named the car as the defendant. In 1926, “Virginia vs. Packard Touring Car” involved the transport of 210 gallons of corn whiskey. The penalties were stiff. In another case, two brothers-in-law were convicted for transporting 48 quarts of liquor in their car. Each was fined $50 and given a sentence of 6 months. Moreover, as dictated by law, their car was confiscated and sold.

vine-gloBecause bootlegged liquor was hard to get, some Fredericksburgers tried alternatives:

  • “Vine-Glo” was a concentrated grape juice product. Instructions said to dissolve it in water, but warned “Do not place the liquid in a jug away in the cupboard for 20 days, because then it would turn to wine.”
  • Doctors could prescribe medicinal liquor for 27 ailments—including cancer, diabetes, and depression—up to one pint every 10 days. Each doctor could write up to 100 liquor prescriptions per month.
  • Some tried to make their own liquor, although it could blind, sicken, or even kill a person if not properly processed. Makers of “bathtub gin” converted denatured alcohol to a drinkable form, but the process is prone to both chemical and bacterial mishaps.

According to court and police records, many people were arrested for alcohol offenses. A sampling from the newspapers of the day reveals some colorful characters. “Poodles” Limerick was charged for transporting liquor at the Virginia Cafe. Albert Grimes was fined $20 for being drunk and carrying a concealed weapon (iron knuckles) at the Athens Hotel. Yat Sullivan was convicted of manufacturing and selling liquor. He was fined $250 (about 2 month’s salary) and sentenced to 3 months in jail. “Dinksy” Scott was arrested three times for “unlawfully and feloniously selling ardent spirits.”

old-prenticeDedicated drinkers had to know where to look to find liquor in Fredericksburg. Like drug dealers today, certain men on certain corners could be relied on to get a bottle. At a nearby country store, people asking for a “pair of size eight shoes” would receive a discreetly wrapped package. Others went straight to the top, such as the reporter who claimed that the best whiskey he drank was served by a local judge.

goolricksAlthough the term “speakeasy” is not used in court records, there were several establishments in town whose patrons were arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct. The Virginia Cafe, the Athens Hotel, and the A-1 Cafe, all located on Caroline Street, were well known for their rowdy customers. The owner of the Fredericksburg Cafe was charged with allowing drinking and gambling and running a “disorderly house,” perhaps the legal term for speakeasy.

Prohibition was repealed in 1933, but selling liquor in Virginia did not become legal until 1934 when the state established the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). In the first month, the ABC granted Fredericksburg 14 licenses to sell beer and wine. The ABC maintained strict control of alcohol throughout the remainder of the century, gradually easing some restrictions. For example, it was not for another 35 years that liquor was sold by the drink. Cocktails were illegal unless you belonged to a “social club” where you would bring your own liquor. On February 9, 1969, the first mixed drink in Fredericksburg—a Tom Collins- was sold at the Princess Anne Inn.

 

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Prohibition in Virginia, the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation hosted a Prohibition Pub Tour on Saturday, September 10, 2016.

 

Much thanks to Nancy Moore and Sue Stone for providing most of the research for this story.

 

Sources:

Fredericksburg Court Records. Grand Jury, May 1911
Burns, Ken and Lynn Novick, Prohibition (film documentary), 2011
Fredericksburg Police blotters, 1920s
Eaton, Lorraine. Virginian Pilot. “Virginia’s Prohibition History.” Nov 30, 2008
The Free Lance, March 5, 1925
Moore, Nancy. Interview, September, 2016.
Farmer, Warren. Oral History. HFFI, 1998.
Free Lance Star, August 15, 1977
Free Lance Star, May 2, 1934
Free Lance, March 5, 1925
Daily Star, March 10, 1925
Gambino, Megan, Smithsonian Magazine. “During Prohibition, Your Doctor Could Write You a Prescription for Booze.” October 7, 2013.
Clark, Patrick Michael, Rappahannock Magazine. “Drink the Dominion Dry: Prohibition Comes to Virginia”. October, 2015, Volume 2, Issue 1.
Kamieniak, Ted, Fredericksburg: The Eclectic Histories for the Curious Reader. “The Pledge of Brotherhood”.

HFFI Letter to the City Re: Townhouses on 300 Block George Street

 

HFFI Letter to the City,
RE: Proposed Townhouses on 300 Block, George Street

In regards to the City’s settlement with JON Properties and the townhouses on the 300 block of George Street HFFI was asked for our input on the updated (9/9/16) building design. Though the scale is not optimal to us, we understand the need for a settlement and want to see the City and all involved parties be able to move forward.

Below is the letter HFFI submitted to City Manager, Tim Baroody in regards to the building design. We hope that JON Properties and City Council will consider these recommendations that we feel increase the building’s compatibility with historic downtown Fredericksburg.


September 16, 2016

 

Dear Mr. Baroody,

We would like to first thank the City for being open to input from the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, Inc. (HFFI). It is our hope that by working together we can make the best of the current situation.

HFFI applauds all parties involved for reaching the proposed settlement. We hope that we can do our part to assist in making this building, which is much larger than most buildings in the area, relate to our historic district. It is the details of this project that are of the utmost importance, and will aid in making it more compatible with the Downtown Historic District.

HFFI’s primary goal on this matter is ensuring the project fits into the block’s context and blends into the surrounding streetscape.

Essentially, we have two specific areas of the building that are of the greatest concern and we feel can be adjusted to ensure our goal is accomplished.

Concern #1
The rooftop decks that currently face George Street.

HFFI suggests the rooftop decks be located on the rear elevation.

We feel that of the two options recently presented by JON Properties, in regards to the rooftop decks, the design of rear facing is a better choice. The current building predominantly reflects a period of early-nineteenth century architecture using Federal and Greek Revival style details. The symmetrical balance of the facades with center doors, double hung windows flanked by shutters (both Federal), and the entry porches supported by prominent columns (Greek Revival) reference architectural features similar to those found in the surrounding buildings.

The proposed rooftop decks are not keeping with the stylistic traditions echoed in this building’s design. They not only disrupt the rhythm of the building itself, but also of the entire streetscape when viewing the block. As one approaches the 300 block from the west, the profile of the building would be distinctly different from the surrounding area and immensely out of context.

The adjustment to rear-facing instead of front-facing decks will also remove the conflicting issue of modern and historically reminiscent materials on the George Street elevation. For example, the metal-cable railing and the more traditional railing along the entry stairs, and the rooftop deck exterior cladding are an issue. This relocation would not only place these modern porches in a less-public area, but would allow additional privacy in these spaces and obscure any deck furniture and decorations from the highly public views along George Street.

The Charles Street (west) and “Princess Anne Street”/ Bank Building (east) façades are also profoundly affected by the rooftop balconies. We would like to see the mansard roof fully extended from the front to the rear elevations to avoid appearing  “cut out” or half-finished as they do now. This change would produce the needed symmetry, keeping with stylistic traditions seen in the surrounding buildings, for these highly visible elevations and also improve the view of the building when approaching it from a distance.

Concern #2
The Charles Street Façade

HFFI suggests treating the Charles Street elevation as a primary façade due to the building’s location on a corner and highly visible location.

Historically, buildings located on corners treated both street-facing elevations with equal attention. By carrying details used on the primary, George Street, elevation onto the Charles Street elevation it will unify the design. Maintaining the fenestration pattern and its articulation will show the attention to detail this location deserves. We see two significant ways in which this can be accomplished:

Lentils & Sills – the lentils and sills on the Charles Street elevation should match those on George Street, following the hierarchy currently used for each story.

Bay Window – bay windows are a later design element that does not match the style of this project. HFFI suggests removing the bay window from the highly visible Charles Street elevation (as is planned for the east elevation facing the bank building) to create a more coherent unified design on these public elevations and keeping with the symmetry prominently displayed by surrounding buildings.

The bay windows that are currently proposed for the interior units would benefit from a straightening of roof lines to remove the stylistically inappropriate curve now found on them, perhaps employing a hipped or shed roof instead.

The removal of the bay window on the Charles Street elevation should be mitigated by replacing it with 2-3 (symmetrically placed) single, double-hung windows. If having a physical window in the bays that are currently bricked over is an issue, we suggest using a more historically accurate “blind” window that appears to have permanently closed shutters.

As the process of reviewing this project continues, HFFI would ask that City Council be cognizant of the many details found on a building such as this.

Materials – please ask for examples or specifications on materials being used, such as all railings, bricks (color), window mullions, doors, stone detailing, and metal roof materials.

Building methods – please specify details on methods of construction for things such as brick bond, brick mortar joints, application of metal roofs (hand-crimped, etc), and functioning or non-functioning shutters.

 

HFFI hopes that our input can help JON Properties and City Council develop a building design that reflects the surrounding locations and is better-suited to our city’s Downtown Historic District. The citizens and visitors to Fredericksburg love and appreciate its history, together we can keep that history alive while allowing our city to grow.

Thank you for your time,

HFFI Board of Directors

Barbra Anderson
Paul Eakin
David James
Terrie James
Mary Maher
Danae Peckler
Leslie Pugh
Ed Sandtner
Scott Walker, President

 

HFFI Staff

Emily Taggart Schricker, Director of Operations

 

UMW Historic Preservation Department

Michael Spencer, Associate Professor

 


City Council Meeting Information
Settlement discussed at 9/13/2016 meeting
New design presented at 9/27/2016 meeting

City Council webpage

A Lesson in the Benefits of Restoration: St. George’s Episcopal Church

 

A Lesson in the Benefits of Restoration: St. George’s Episcopal Church

By Sam Biggers

As we celebrate Historic Preservation this May, it is worth remembering the benefits Fredericksburg has seen from the preservation of our built heritage. There are numerous preservation success stories, and one need not look far to see the benefits of preservation in our community. One of the most prominent buildings in Fredericksburg, St. George’s Episcopal Church, is a superb example of the positive effects of preservation. In 2009, St. George’s completed a seven-year restoration project, restoring the interior to its former glory. Though the official project lasted seven years, efforts to preserve the church have been ongoing since the late 1990s.

St. George’s Episcopal Church can lay claim to having a church on their lot for almost as long as Fredericksburg has existed. The current 1849 church is the third on the site, and was built as the congregation grew immensely during the 1830s and 1840s. The church was built in 1849 in the Romanesque Revival style, with decoration an obvious aim. Though it is not clear if decorative paint was present when the church was built, it existed sometime before 1894, when an account lamented that “a good deal of the frescoing was peeling off.”

It appears that the issue of peeling decorative paint was rectified in 1906, when a renovation sought to accentuate the interior of the church through new decorative paint. An article in The Free Lance from November 1st, 1906, describing these changes, reads:

“It would be difficult for any one not an artist to describe the improvements that have recently been completed in St. George’s Episcopal church.

The entire vestibule has been tiled with grey and brown tiles, and its walls have been tinted a very deep cream color, while the celling has been finished in small rolled iron squares.

The body of the church has been frescoed throughout. The wainscoting is a Nile green, the walls the yellow green now the favorite color of some of the principal church decorators in the country. The ceiling has been smoothed into broad panels by the campo board and tinted in delicate green with gold borders. The divisions between wainscoting and walls are marked by dotted bands old rose, and the overhead sides, above the gallery and under the cornices with a deep border of intricate cross design.

The arches are centered with medallions in which the symbols of the name of our Lord are wrought in gold.

The chancel (1) has its memorial window blended in one group by diaper work (2), and on each side are the Easter lilies in faces. The general effect of the color scheme is quiet and restful to the eye, not elaborate or ornate, but wrought out in exquisite taste by the artist, G.M. Strueby, of Washington.”

A series of renovations from the 1920s to the 1950s eliminated much of the interior decoration of St. George’s. The decorative paint, which had served to beautify the church for almost a century, was painted over in favor of a stark white color. Whereas the 1906 renovation’s goal was “putting the Church in order and the beautifying [of] the Church,” less than twenty years later much of the decorative paint was removed. A 1954 renovation removed the intricate wood paneling on the wall behind the alter, believed to be original to the 1849 building.

The wood paneling, original to the 1849 church, shown here during its restoration. Circa 2000.

The wood paneling, original to the 1849 church, shown here during its restoration. Circa 2000.

By the 1990s, the interior of St. George’s was a shadow of its former self. Recognizing this, the church began the process of returning the interior of the church to an appearance comparable to its original 1849 look. One of the first charges of the restoration effort was the reinstallation of the historic wood paneling. Still in storage since their removal in 1954, the church hired Mark Moyers, a local wood restoration expert, to restore, assemble, and install the paneling. For four months, Moyers painstakingly refinished and assembled the more than 1,500 pieces of wood that comprised the paneling. Following their reinstallation, the church began its seven-year restoration effort.

When St. George’s undertook the restoration project, the church understood that planning would be crucial before changes were to be made. The church recognized their building’s rich history, and made the preservation and commemoration of it central to the restoration plan. Changes to paint in the nave (1) from the 1920s to the 1950s had left the interior whitewashed, eliminating much of the original decorative paint. The discovery of a 1906 photograph served as the basis for the reapplication of the decorative paint. The 1906 picture was taken during a renovation whose aim was very similar to the one undertaken in 2002—to recapture the church’s former interior appearance.

The aim of the restoration was not to return the church’s interior to a single point in the past. Rather, the restoration attempted to upgrade the church with a strong understanding of the history of the interior. Much of the interior decorative paint had been lost, and despite having the 1906 photograph as a record of what existed, the church chose not to replicate the lost paint. Instead of reapplying paint motifs visible in the 1906 picture during the new restoration, they instead moved them to the vestibule. The new motifs for the interior were chosen because of their symbolic ties to the Episcopal Church. The use of new paint motifs gave reference to the church’s rich decorative past, while moving the church forward with a modern design.

The addition of decorative paint was complemented by the installation of improved lighting to transform the nave and chancel areas (1). Additionally, the church updated crucial infrastructure, including electrical wiring, handicap accessibility, and fire suppression. While the restoration project was projected to cost $4 million, the church utilized Virginia Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits, which allowed the church to finish under budget. The seven-year restoration effort by St. George’s Episcopal Church resulted in a completely transformed interior. The picture below perfectly summarizes the changes in the church’s interior. The story of St. George’s is a common one in Fredericksburg— renovations completed with a view to the past.

StGeorgeInteriorComparison

 

Sources Consulted

“A Beautiful Church,” The Free Lance (Fredericksburg, VA.), Nov. 1, 1906.

Interview with Ben Hicks, Business Manager, St. George’s Episcopal Church, April 21, 2016.

Interview with Mark Moyers, Owner, Mark Moyers Antiques, May 2, 2016.

Quenzel, Carrol H. The History and Background of St. George’s Episcopal Church, Fredericksburg, Virginia. Richmond, VA: Clyde W. Saunders and Sons, 1951.

St. George’s Episcopal Church documents (accessed at St. George’s Episcopal Church)


 

  1. Learn more about the parts of a church on Wikipedia
  1. Diaper is any of a wide range of decorative patterns used in a variety of works of art, such as stained glass, heraldic shields, architecture, and silverwork. Its chief use is in the enlivening of plain surfaces.” – Wikipedia

To read more about the history of St. George’s Episcopal Church and its architectural details visit www.stgeorgesepiscopal.net/about-us/history/