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

Henry Deane: African American Builder and Visionary

Henry Deane: African American Builder and Visionary

Research and full article by Matt Scott and Gary Stanton
Article summary (below) by Nancy Moore


Walker Evans, photographer. Farm Security Administration. Library of Congress. March 1935.


In March 1935, Walker Evans—a photographer for the Resettlement Administration and later famous for his Farm Security Administration photos of the Depression—passed through Fredericksburg. He took two images of a set of four houses on what is now the 600 block of George Street.

The houses Evans photographed were built by Henry Deane, an African American resident of Fredericksburg. Deane was a remarkable man with an apparently limitless capacity for work and a vision of the potential for the Liberty Town neighborhood.

We know far too little of Henry Deane, and what we do know comes largely from newspaper accounts. He was born in slavery in July 1837 in Powhatan County. According to his obituary, Deane became the body servant of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest during the Civil War, before coming to Fredericksburg in 1868.

In 1879, he married Lucy Combs, daughter of the former Town Cemetery sexton. Lucy became his partner in all his business accomplishments. Lucy and Henry had 11 children, including 2 they adopted. He was the only African American ever nominated by a City Council member to be a policeman in Fredericksburg. By his death in 1908, he was the most successful African American entrepreneur in Fredericksburg.

Beginning in the late 1880s, Henry and Lucy paid local carpenters to build residences on land they had acquired at the western edge of Fredericksburg. The area of the Deanes’ enterprise was called “Liberty Town,” a name bestowed by the early 19th century developer Seth Barton, who platted this portion of the 18th century Kenmore estate of Fielding and Betty Lewis. The land was hardly ideal—it sloped down to a marshy meadow and an open ditch now covered by Kenmore Avenue. The area was the eastern terminus of the Swift Run Gap Turnpike, a corduroy toll road built to link commerce from beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Port of Fredericksburg. The area was extensively developed in the 1820s, but Civil War actions destroyed the buildings, and the area defied further development through the 1870s and 1880s.

Walker Evans, photographer March, 1935. Oblique showing the variety of porches. Photo source

Henry Deane was not a craftsman in the building trades, and his financial resources were virtually non-existent when he came to Fredericksburg in 1868. But he was vigorous and ambitious, and by working two jobs, saving, and cultivating relationships with his white employers, he was able to buy parcels of land that were unattractive to white developers. By subdividing the property into narrow odd-shaped lots and paying unnamed carpenters, this porter and livery stable operator and his wife would have 19 houses and 2 stables built on properties they owned. No other African American owning property during this time would build close to that number.

Earlier, in 1888, Henry had built for his own family the largest house in the neighborhood. Deane’s house—no longer standing—was located on what is now 536 George Street. The area was known as Deane’s Hill. The other houses he built were on George, Hanover, and Barton streets. The stables and one of the houses were on Liberty Street.

Now, only seven of the original houses remain, and few are owned by African American families. The remaining Deane buildings deserve to be recognized and recorded, giving testimony to the evolving social and cultural landscape of building innovation by and for people who had less access to wealth and power.



The full article about Henry Dean entitled, “The Domestic Architecture of African-Americans during the Era of Jim Crow”, by Matt Scott and Gary Stanton is included in the Journal of Fredericksburg History, Volume 15. Available in digital format.



References for more information and additional study (full list of references and footnotes will be available with journal article.)

Vlach, John Michael. “The Shotgun House: An African Architectural Legacy.” Common Places: Readings in American Vernacular Architecture. Dell Upton and John Michael Vlach, eds. Athens, GA: University Press of Georgia, 1986. Pp. 58-78.

The Free Lance. “Henry Deane Dead: He was a Well Known Colored Citizen.” Fredericksburg, Va: The Free Lance Publishing Company, June 30, 1908. Page 3, column 2.

“Certificate to obtain a marriage license, Henry Deane and Lucy A. Combs, issued 2 January 1879” S. F. Forbes, Deputy Clerk. Fredericksburg Corporation Court Clerk’s Office Annex.