WINCHESTER — A local developer who serves on City Council is seeking permission to renovate and expand the former Sarah Zane Fire Company at 301 N. Loudoun St.

John Willingham, who is chairman and CEO and Stoneridge Development LLC and a Ward 4 representative on council since 2008, detailed his proposal on Thursday to the Winchester Board of Architectural Review (BAR).

Since the former fire hall is located in the city's downtown Historic District, the BAR must approve any renovations or new construction visible from public streets and sidewalks.

Willingham presented his proposal as a conceptual design to get the BAR's input and make sure the Stoneridge project is acceptable within the Historic District.

Plans call for the two-story fire hall, which was built in 1926 at the corner of North Loudoun Street and West Fairfax Lane, to be converted into commercial space. Behind the building, in what is now a parking lot, Willingham is proposing construction of a five-story apartment building.

The most prominent feature of the brick fire hall is a bell tower atop the rear of the building, which was used for drying fire hoses. A 1947 architectural inventory of Winchester stated the tower "is neither properly located nor architecturally strong enough to be adequate," but Willingham said it is a well-known feature that Stoneridge is intent on preserving and showcasing.

To do that, a stair tower will create a division between the fire hall and the apartment building. Additionally, the apartments will be set back farther from West Fairfax Lane than the side of the former fire station, ensuring the bell tower doesn't blend in with the new construction when viewed from North Loudoun Street.

"I think that's a good distinction," BAR Chairman Kevin Walker said. "I appreciate you not dwarfing the hose-drying tower."

The setback means a portion of the apartment tower will be built behind a residential property at 305 N. Loudoun St., which Willingham said appears to have been the home of Sarah Zane's fire chief sometime before the station disbanded in 1981.

Designs presented to the BAR on Thursday showed a proposed layout of the apartment building's third floor, which included three one-bedroom units and one two-bedroom apartment. It is not known if that layout will be repeated on the other four floors, or if it will change as the project progresses.

Willingham said he just wanted to make sure the BAR was on board with the proposal before proceeding.

"I think that's a really nice use for a small amount of space," Walker said.

"It's a nice project," BAR member Don Packard Jr. added.

After receiving a positive consensus from the board, Willingham said he'll return in the near future to seek input on building materials and amenities.

If approved, the renovation and expansion project could also restore a lost piece of the fire hall's history.

"No promises, but we think we found the old fire pole, so we'll put that back up," Willingham said.

Attending Thursday afternoon’s Winchester Board of Architectural Review meeting in Rouss City Hall were Chairman Kevin Walker and members Don Packard Jr., Kyle Hopkins, Beth Elgin and Samar Jafri. Vice Chairwoman Patricia Jackson was absent.

— Contact Brian Brehm at

(10) comments


I do not think we need anymore building downtown.,and this is a conflict of interest.

Thant is what our board and council do. They can get anything approved to suit their needs. Our need is to cut back on all that cost taxpayers money to fund.Starting with a temp City Manager that we do not need at this time with nothing running but our local Government, that keep their jobs, and a temp salary of $13000 a month.

Our whole local Government is over paid according the pay structure in this city and county but keep asking for more.


I worked there from the late 80's into the early 90's at Sarah Zane Bike Co. It is a great building w/ a rooftop. We use to race to the top of the fire mans pole & watch cars go by when we were not busy working. it has a super musty/flooded basement. I always thought it would be our first rooftop pub/bar :)


tons of business folks are politicians. You dont give up your business to be a local politician. He seems to be doing it how any applicant would be. I do believe he will have an easier time getting it passed....

Bruce and Penny Triplett

"John Willingham, who is chairman and CEO and Stoneridge Development LLC and a Ward 4 representative on council since 2008, detailed his proposal on Thursday to the Winchester Board of Architectural Review (BAR)."

Doesn't this represent a conflict of interest and isn't it just a shade off from being illegal?


Why would it be a conflict of interest? He's not voting on it and he's not using his position to influence those who are. He's appearing before the BAR like any other applicant would.


The space should be turned into Fire Headquarters keeping the building within its true purpose. Not only could it house the office space needed it would provide ample storage also.


Did the reporter ask the developer whether he would recuse himself from any City Council action on this project because of the obvious conflict of interest?


Questions- Who was Sarah Zane? Why was the firehouse disbanded in 1981? Did another replace it or did territories merge? I have seen the name Sarah Zane on an antique firehouse and always wondered about Ms. Zane's story.


Check it out:

Sounds like she was quite charitable towards the less fortunate back in the day.


This is a great old structure that deserves the breath of new life. I hope the commercial space is developed for something of an artisan nature that everyone cane enjoy and not just more offices.

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