Restoration at Rose Hill to begin Three phases designed to update and make the site more interactive
Posted: February 15, 2013
The Winchester Star
Winchester — By the end of 2013, the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley’s Rose Hill site is going to be much more user friendly.
The first of three phases designed to update and make the site more interactive for the community is expected to begin by late March, said Dana Hand Evans, MSV’s executive director.
The first phase involves civil engineering projects and restoring the exterior of the house, she said. It should be completed by the end of the year.
“I am excited,” Evans said. “Between this and the renovations of the galleries in the museum, I am over the moon.”
The museum closed the Julian Wood Glass Jr. Gallery and the Changing Exhibition Gallery while the spaces are updated and their contents switch spaces.
The restoration of Rose Hill’s original 1790s log cabin will be the focus of Phase 3, while the 19th-century additions will be renovated and made available for a tenant in Phase 2, Evans said. Finishing all three phases is expected to take five to seven years.
Museum staff are currently taking bids from contractors for Phase 1 and will announce Thursday whom they have chosen, Evans said. Until then, she said she can’t release projected figures for the cost of the construction.
However, she did say the museum doesn’t “like to start a project we can’t fund. We are cautious how we do things.” The same attitude will apply before work on Phases 2 and 3 will begin.
A place in history
Rose Hill has been closed since October, when the 2012 visitor season ended, said Julie Armel, director of marketing and public relations. The property was open to visitors three days a week, but the house has never been open to the public.
The Battle of First Kernstown was fought on March 23, 1862, the latter part of it taking place on the Rose Hill property. Since 2012 was the battle’s sesquicentennial and multiple commemorative events were held at the site, organizers waited to start construction until the year ended, Armel said.
“We didn’t want to dig up the fields during the sesquicentennial,” she said.
The property, which comprises between 250 and 300 acres, is also significant because it represents the joining of two important families in the area’s history — the Wood and Glass families, she said. Catherine “Kitty” Wood and Thomas Glass, who married in 1832, were the great grandparents of MSV benefactor Julian Wood Glass Jr.
The work to be completed this year was divided into two parts that will happen simultaneously. One part will focus on the preservation of the exterior of the house, said Douglass C. Reed, a historic structure consultant with Preservation Associates Inc.
That project will involve restoring three porches, an ash pit researchers discovered beneath the south porch, and windows and doors. A new standing seam roof will be added and the chimney above the roof rebuilt to appear as it does in 1929 photos of the house, Reed said.
The grading around the house will also be returned to historic grades, he said. This will allow significant site features to be installed such as stone steps, retaining walls and pathways.
“Most importantly, grading will provide swales (runoff areas) to allow water to run away from the foundation and help keep basement walls dry and stable,” said Reed of Mercersburg, Pa.
The house has not been lived in since the 1980s, so for security purposes, all of the furniture and fixtures were photographed and removed and an alarm system added, Armel said.
The other part of Phase 1 will focus on making the property more user friendly and have it meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Evans said.
The entrance to the property, which is easy to miss, is on a curve on Jones Road that might be OK for a private entrance but is not good for commercial use, she said. It will be moved down the road about 400 feet past the curve.
A driveway will be added to connect the house to the new entranceway, she said.
The existing entrance will then become a private driveway for David Whitacre, a tenant farmer who leases acreage on Rose Hill for cattle and to grow hay, Armel said.
“There is a long history of tenant farming at that site,” she said.
A stone building that sits behind the house will have portions of its walls rebuilt to prevent collapse and a pair of new public ADA compliant bathrooms installed, Reed said.
A hard surface parking lot, walkways, and a fire lane also will be added, Evans said. The parking lot will only have space for 20 cars and two buses, but its design will take into account possible future expansion.
“It is building an infrastructure for the house,” Evans said. “If you renovate the house but can’t get in and out, what is the point?”
This is not the first work that has been done on the property. In 2000, Rose Hill was named one of the official projects of Save America’s Treasures, a partnership between the White House Millennium Council and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Armel said.
In October 2001, MSV received a $100,000 grant from the Save America’s Treasures program, she said. It was used to hire a project supervisor, develop a stabilization plan for the site’s buildings, and create the Battlefield Walking Trail, which opened in 2004.
The trail, which is less than 1 mile long, also has seven interpretive signs that tell First Kernstown’s story, she said.
Other work has included clearing portions of the battlefield landscape, restoring the site’s stone wall, and research and archaeology work done on the house and battlefield, Evans said.
Michael Worthington was hired to perform dendrochronology, or tree-ring dating, on the house and determined the log house was started in 1791 and completed about 1796, Reed said. He was also dated the first brick addition at 1828 to 1829 and the north addition to the last half of the 1850s up through the early 1860s.
MSV’s return on investment in the site is not about income, it is about the impact the house will have on the community, Evans said.
With its history, the house has great educational potential for the community, and the beautiful landscape makes it a wonderful resource for walks, picnics, and events, Armel said.
“The hope is that someday this site won’t just be of interest to people who like the Civil War or people who like 19th-century farms, but as an open space people can come out and enjoy,” she said.
Evans pointed to another 19th-century farm, Meadow Farm Museum in Glen Allen, as a model for what Rose Hill has the potential to become.
“The community that lives around it loves it because they use it like their own backyard, which is great,” she said.
Before making final plans, the museum sent out information about the construction and future plans to Rose Hill’s neighbors, and it has not received any complaints, Evans said.
When all three phases are complete, the result will be a historical gem that can be shared with future generations, said Ed Farrace, MSV’s building maintenance coordinator. He will be the main liaison between the museum and contractors.
“There is a lot of history there, and I think the younger generation needs to see that,” he said. “This will be good for younger generations to see — a window back in time.”
— Contact Laura McFarland at firstname.lastname@example.org.