May is Preservation Month and Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation Preservation (RVPF) hosts various activities to call attention to local history, special places, and the possibility that significant sites may be lost forever.
Each year RVPF announces most endangered places in the Roanoke Valley. This year a new category – Imminently Endangered – has been established. Sites in this category have previously been listed as endangered and have continued to be ignored – they are now at risk of being lost forever.
Campbell Court Facades (100 block Campbell Ave. downtown Roanoke): Although the buildings themselves were demolished in 1987 with the construction of the new Campbell Court bus facility, the City recognized the significance of the 1890s buildings and went to great effort and expense to save the facades at that time. The facades again are threatened with development, and the RVPF encourages the new owner/developer of the Campbell Court property to preserve these architecturally significant facades and integrate them into the design of the new building.
Foutz House (4528 Layman Rd. Bonsack) (no photo): This ca. 1900 frame house is a good example of an I-House form with all original material intact. This long-term vacant house is threatened with demolition by neglect.
Huntingdon (320 Huntington Blvd. Roanoke): One of the earliest, and finest houses in the Roanoke Valley, this 1819 Federal-style house stands in the middle of a subdivision off Williamson Road. Listed on the National Register in 1991, this house had all four sides built with Flemish bond brick house, a rare and labor-intensive method of construction, mostly likely built with slave labor from the working plantation that it was for Elisha and Sarah Betts. With 500-acres, they initially had 27 slaves (later increased to 38 when operated solely by his widow). When the property was subdivided in 1923, ironically, restrictions did not allow for “Negroes, Greeks, or Syrians” to purchase any lots. Also, ironically, and more recently, a Greek Orthodox church was built nearby. This substantially built house has been vacant since 2011 and is need of serious repair that without the proper owner, it is now owned by an investor, the house could quickly deteriorate to the point of demolition.
525 Loudon Ave NW (Roanoke): This ca. 1907, gable-front and wing house is an early example of a rare brick house in the northwest neighborhood of Roanoke and retains most of its original historic fabric. The neighborhood organization, Northwest Neighborhood Environmental Organization owns the house, but it has been vacant for decades and is threatened with neglect and vacancy.
Meadowview Farm (Fralin Farm) (15049-15057 Lee Highway Route 11 Botetourt County): The ca. 1845 farmhouse is an imposing brick edifice built in the Greek Revival style. Prior to the construction of Interstate 81, the property was operated as a 2,000-acre cattle farm. The home and about 15 acres are for sale, and fronting Route 11 near the town of Buchanan, the property would make a good commercial enterprise. Although the house has been determined to be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, it stands vacant and continues to deteriorate.
Rural Churches (Craig and Roanoke counties): Churches have served as a second home for generations of Americans and were the cornerstones of rural communities. Across the nation, declining church memberships has affected their physical state, and vacancy and lack of funding further add to their disrepair and perhaps eventual demolition. The Virginia Department of Historic Resources has identified six abandoned churches that are good examples of early 20th century vernacular architectural styles that not only retain their historic materials but remain in their isolated natural settings.
Simmons Store (southern Roanoke County): The land that the store stands on was given to the Simmons’, a family of freed slaves in the 1860’s. The one-story, gable-front frame store was built by the family around 1900 and was patronized by the local community, both blacks and whites. This rural county store, like many, as well as rural churches, are fast disappearing. The Simmons Store has recently suffered a partial roof collapse due to a heavy snow and is close to demolition.
Spickard House (423 Colonial Rd, Blue Ridge): Built for the Spickard family of German descent, this antebellum farmhouse is a strong example of vernacular, locally built, style of frame construction on a raised stone foundation with brick exterior-end chimneys. Built in the 1840s, it is one of the earliest houses in the Blue Ridge area. Retaining all its original historic material, this neglected house has been vacant for decades, and is threatened with demolition by neglect. A substantial house like this, won’t be built again.
Wheatland Manor (Botetourt County): Individually listed on the National Register in 1992, this 1820s Federal style brick house is among the most substantial and well-finished antebellum residences in Botetourt County. Additionally, a half-mile-long limestone retaining wall lines the road in front of the house. Although the Virginia Outdoors Foundation and Blue Ridge Land Trust hold a conservation easement on the property, there is no protection for the house, which has been vacant for nearly a decade and in need of repairs.
THREE IMMINENTLY ENDANGERED SITES (New Category)
Denton/Boaz House (Rt. 220, 509 Roanoke Rd. Daleville, Botetourt County) (listed in 2009) (no photo). This Greek Revival-style house was built ca. 1845 for a German Baptist minister named Theodorus Denton. In recent history, the house was sold to a developer, who remodeled the interior into a restaurant and excavated the land to its north side, bulldozing a cut for a strip mall, which eroded the surrounding land, and causing the house to be vacated. Thus, it sits, stuck between the past and an uncertain and precarious future.
Mill Mountain Loop Road & Walls (City of Roanoke) (listed in 2009) (no photo): The concrete road was built in 1924 and replaced the original dirt lane that led up the north face of the mountain. The owners of Mill Mountain at that time, the Henritze brothers, constructed it as a toll road, at a cost of $90,000. The road is 18-feet wide with no shoulders and a low stone retaining wall. In 1941, Junius Fishburn donated 100-acres of Mill Mountain to the City of Roanoke. After the new asphalt road was built up to the Roanoke Star in the 1970s, this concrete loop road was closed, and it and its stone wall have been forgotten and neglected.
Washington Park Caretaker’s House (Orange Avenue/City of Roanoke) (listed in 1999): The house was part of a 1,000-acre tract known as the “Barrens” along Lick Run in what would become part of Washington Park. Two mills were located along this spring, one of which operated for over 100 years. The Caretaker’s House is one of the earliest structures in Roanoke dating to ca. 1840, and once served as a Tavern along the Salem to Lynchburg Turnpike (Orange/Melrose Avenue). The house and the land for the park were donated to the City in 1922. Although once part of a thriving community, the house has been vacant for decades and is threatened with demolition by neglect.