2016 Preservation Awards!
On Tuesday, November 15, the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation gave out nine Preservation Awards to projects, persons, and community groups in the area. Now in their 17th years, these awards serve to not only commend the winners’ hard work, but to promote public awareness of the values of older structures, the importance of individual historical efforts, and the significance of education and environmental work.
THE ROANOKE CITY HALL BUILDING
AWARD FOR RESTORATION
In 2016, the City of Roanoke marked the 100th anniversary of the City Hall building by reopening the main Campbell Avenue entrance and remodeling the original City Council chambers. Inside the original lobby, repairs were made to crown moldings and decorative portions of the ceiling coffers, new tile flooring was laid, walls repainted, doors replaced, and LED lighting installed. Roanoke’s first, three-story Victorian Municipal Building was opened in 1887, and was replaced by the present building in March 1916. A crowd estimated around 50,000 assembled for a parade and dedication of the new building on July 4, 1916. The effort to restore the original entrance was spearheaded by Roanoke City Manager, Christopher Morrill, who received the award on behalf of the city.
VIRGINIAN RAILWAY PASSENGER STATION
AWARD FOR RESTORATION
After a fire destroyed the Virginian Railway Passenger Station on January 29, 2001, the Roanoke chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, in conjunction with the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation, began a long project to restore the station. Their hard work led to a complete restoration of the two connected buildings, for use as an artifact display area and tenant rental space. Norfolk Southern Railway donated the station, and the City of Roanoke sponsored the project with grants and appropriations totaling more than $1.25 million. Asbestos and lead were removed, the buildings were stabilized, and the tile roof was replaced by the same company which installed the original roof.
The station, built in 1909, opened as the crown jewel of Virginian Railway stations from Norfolk to Deepwater, West Virginia. The primarily coal-hauling railroad had a more favorable grade than the competing Norfolk & Western, and Chesapeake & Ohio railroads in the area. Four passenger trains – two east and two west – stopped at the Roanoke station daily until service ended in 1956. The Virginian Railway merged into Norfolk & Western in 1959, and the station was then leased by a feed and seed store.
MAKER MART AFTER SCHOOL ENRICHMENT PROGRAM
AWARD FOR ADAPTIVE REUSE
Aaron and Michelle Dykstra opened the Maker Mart in a renovated 1941 grocery store on Patterson Avenue. Once operated by Kroger, Sav-A-Lot, Bestway, and Shopwell, under the Making Foundation, the building has retained its original tin ceiling and yellow brick exterior. Now it serves as an after-school enrichment program for at risk middle school students in Roanoke City, that offers learning through hands-on experience. Students work to prepare for careers in skills and trades, as well as interact with local entrepreneurs to learn how businesses are started.
CLAY STREET HOUSE
AWARD FOR RESTORATION
Two major donor gifts supported the restoration of the Clay Street House, formerly known as the Tanyard House or the Burke Cabin, which has stood on the eastern corner of the Roanoke College campus for over a century and a half. Early history of the house, one of the oldest in Salem, is confirmed by its location in the 1855 Salem painting by German artist Ed Breyer; the house has been nominated for the State and National Registries.
Southwest Restoration completed work on the exterior, which cost around $120,000, while the interior is to be finished and interpreted as a house museum. The project was supported by Roanoke College faculty – President Mike Maxey, Dean Richard Smith, History Chair Whitney Leeson, history professor Mark Miller, as well as Nancy Mulheren who contributed to the landscaping and site development. Roanoke College students did much of the archaeological work at the house.
FRIENDS OF THE GREENFIELD PRESTON PLANTATION
AWARD FOR ADVOCACY
Friends of the Greenfield Preston Plantation, a group of Botetourt County advocates and historians, tried unsuccessfully to block the move of two 1800s slave cabins from their original site on the plantation grounds of Colonel William Preston. When their attempts failed and the cabins were moved to make room for an industrial shell building, the Friends employed Hurt & Profitt, a Lynchburg based archaeological firm, to explore the site. There they found about 120 artifacts, at a cost of $54,000. Danny Kyle, head of the Friends, said they needed to raise at least $20,000 more to pay for the dig, artifact categorization, and the cleaning effort. The archaeological found pieces of contemporary pottery, Native American arrowheads, and a butt plate from an 18th century gun. The firm said the site contained, “a rich concentration and diversity of Colonial era artifacts.” The Friends’ goal is to keep the artifacts together and donate them to a county organization for display and interpretation. A recent silent auction raised $3,000 towards the archaeological expenses.
THE CARVER PROJECT
AWARD FOR AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE EDUCATION
The 66-minute video, sponsored by the City of Salem School Division, provides an oral history of the George Washington Carver School, which opened during segregation in 1940, and closed in 1966. Text from the video says, “Carver was more than just a place of learning. Children were mentored, nurtured, disciplined, loved, and inspired from the moment they enrolled.” It tells of students missing pages in hand-me-down textbooks, of athletic success and futility, musical excellence and unwavering scholastic expectations. The video was produced by Mike Stevens, of the City of Salem Communications Officer, assisted by Clark Ruhland, a graphic designer. The project was driven by Dr. Marylen Harmon, a Carver Alumna, daughter of Carver faculty, and a retired educator herself.
SOUTHWEST VIRGINIAN ANTIQUE POWER FESTIVAL
AWARD FOR AGRICULTURAL HERITAGE
A group of Franklin County men, organized as the Southwest Virginia Antique Power Festival, are saving a dozen old tractors and engines in an effort to preserve examples of the almost forgotten equipment, once essential for families who lived off the land. The men have restored the engines for public demonstration at the annual Power Festival, which draws thousands of people every Father’s Day weekend, to the Franklin County Recreation Park on Sontag Rd., just south of Rocky Mount. They have steam engines, which were popular for pumping water, grinding feed, threshing grain, powering sawmills, and rock crushing in the early 20th century. Their oldest, on loan, dates back to 1877. Brian Rutrough is president, and Charles Brubaker is secretary of the organization.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Joel Richert – a researcher, educator, advocate, and steward of Roanoke history – passed away in July 2016, after an illness. After she and her husband, Bob Richert, moved to Roanoke in 1971, they began to work on local historical projects. As director of the Roanoke Historical Society, she led an effort to record the stories of many significant structures in the Roanoke Valley. She was recognized for her tenacious advocacy, as a pioneer in the Old Southwest neighborhood, as well as for her passion for historical buildings throughout the city. She understood the importance of research and poured over old documents and any records she could find to incorporate into her book about Old Southwest structures. She contributed her valuable files to the Virginia Room in the Roanoke Library, and often shared her knowledge of old homes by showing the Architectural Review Board an old Sanborn map, serving on the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation board, helping to establish the Roanoke Neighborhood Alliance, correcting inappropriate repairs to houses, or tediously reviewing every zoning decision. Joel Richert will be a greatly missed by Roanoke.
AWARD FOR EDUCATION
Deedie Kagey, retired after 41 years as a teacher and administrator for the Roanoke County schools, has recorded much information in her new book, “From Bonsack to Blue Ridge: A Historical Perspective of Roanoke County and Botetourt County.” She tells of the people, farming, business, mining, and tomato canneries in the county, and she has also completed a series of oral histories, available in public libraries. She also wrote a Roanoke County history and another book on Bonsack. For many years, she commuted from her 1836 home across US 460 to work as principal of Bonsack School. She has been active in more than 20 local organizations, including serving as both president and board member for the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation.