Winchester home attains lofty status

Posted: April 3, 2013

The Winchester Star

Hawthorne, a historic home on Amherst Street owned by Howard and Joan Lewis, is on the Virginia Landmarks Register. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — The former home of a Civil War “Devil Diarist” has been added to the Virginia Landmarks Register.

The designation for Hawthorne, built around 1811 at 610 Amherst St., was sought by owners Joan and Howard Lewis. It also includes the Old Town Spring, a small city-owned parcel with a springhouse that was once part of the Hawthorne property.

One of the key reasons for Hawthorne’s designation is that Cornelia Peake McDonald lived there from 1861 to 1863.

McDonald was part of a group of Winchester women known as “The Devil Diarists,” for their antagonism of Secretary of War William Stanton during the War Between the States.

Maral Kalbian, a Clarke County-based architectural historian who was hired by the Lewises to complete Hawthorne’s nomination application for the state register, wrote that McDonald’s diary “stands out as one of the most vivid commentaries on a community that saw more battle action outside Atlanta than any community in the South.”

The land on which Hawthorne sits was once owned by James Wood Jr., who served as governor of Virginia from 1796-99. The house was built for Alfred H. Powell, a member of the Virginia General Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives.

Hawthorne is architecturally significant, according to Kalbian, because it is an example of an early 19th century stone house in Winchester “that demonstrates the transition from Late Georgian to Federal style.”

It was Kalbian who asked if the city government would allow the Old Town Spring to be added to the nomination.

Winchester residents sought permission to tap into it as a water source in the late 1700s. In 1804, an act was approved for the spring to provide water. Wooden pipes were installed to deliver it to the town, and the springhouse was built over it around 1816 — creating what is thought to be one of Virginia’s earliest municipal water systems.

Hawthorne was officially added to the Virginia Landmarks Register on March 21 by the state Department of Historic Resources. It is now eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

The Lewises, who acquired Hawthorne from Howard’s mother in 1970, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Hawthorne is the second Winchester home to be added to the Virginia Landmarks Register in recent months. On Dec. 13, the Daniel Morgan House at 226 Amherst St. was added. On Feb. 5, that house became part of the National Register of Historic Places.

— Contact the city desk at