The Mountain Valley Preservation Alliance, Inc. (MVPA), created on October 30, 2013, was preceded by the Ruth Anderson McCulloch Branch of Preservation Virginia and the Southern Shenandoah Valley Branch (SSVB) of Preservation Virginia.
The Ruth Anderson McCulloch Branch existed for many years as a local branch of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA), a state-wide organization founded in 1889. (The APVA originally became a 503(c)(3) tax exempt organization as a result of a ruling in 1941. In 2003, the APVA changed its name to APVA Preservation Virginia (APVA/PV) to reflect its broader focus on statewide historical preservation activities. In 2009, APVA/VA shortened its name to Preservation Virginia (PV). Likewise, the Ruth Anderson McCulloch Branch changed its name to Southern Shenandoah Valley Branch in 2011 to reflect its expanded regional preservation activities. Both the Ruth Anderson McCulloch Branch and the Southern Shenandoah Valley Branch enjoyed 503(c)(3) tax exempt status as branches of the umbrella organization, APVA and its successor, PV.
In 2012, PV headquarters in Richmond, Virginia announced that it had decided to divest itself of its branches throughout the state as of the end of 2013. Therefore, it became necessary for the creation a new independent 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, non-stock corporation so the Southern Shenandoah Valley Branch could continue to carry out its historical preservation activities. As a result, MVPA, Inc. was incorporated on October 30, 2013, to replace the Southern Shenandoah Valley Branch. It will serve the western Virginia counties of Allegheny, Augusta, Bath, Botetourt and Rockbridge.
MVPA installed the same Directors who were previously the Directors of PV’s SSVB which no longer exists. As of the date of its formation on October 30, 2013, MVPA took over the activities and the assets of the SSVB
Narrative Description of Mountain Valley Preservation Alliance, Inc. Activities, 2009-2013
A summary of our organization’s (referred to as “the Branch”) preservation activities over the past several years is detailed below, beginning in 2009:
In late January 2009, during its annual meeting, the Branch focused on the life of Cyrus McCormick and his home on the Rockbridge-Augusta county line, the National Historic Landmark, Walnut Grove. Mary Miley Theobald, whose article on Cyrus McCormick would appear in the June 2009 issue of Virginia Living, was the guest speaker. The branch also presented its annual Ravenhorst Award to the “Friends of the McCormick Farm” for their efforts to promote the farm as an educational resource.
The Branch partnered with the Historic Lexington Foundation (HLF) and the Rockbridge Historical Society (RHS) during the week of May 18, 2009, to discuss historic cemeteries in Rockbridge County and the need for their conservation. Included in the program was a panel discussion on historic local cemeteries. (Our Branch had conducted a survey of historic cemeteries in the area in the late 1990s and this was part of the discussion.) A lecture was given at the Lexington Regional Library on historic cemeteries in Virginia with specific reference to Rockbridge. During this focus on cemeteries, our organization participated in a workshop at the Oxford Presbyterian Church and Cemetery in Rockbridge County, VA. In addition to a tour of the cemetery, one of the Branch’s members led a discussion of preservation planning for cemeteries and a noted professional gave a demonstration on gravestone conservation.
In June 2009, our organization sponsored and led a tour of historic homes in Staunton, Virginia, highlighting the accomplishments of the noted Staunton architect, T. J. Collins.
On September 30, 2009, the Branch continued its celebration of the McCormick family with a tour of McCormick-associated sites. The tour began at Old Providence Church, with its roots in the 1740s. The church’s 1793 stone meeting house still stands, and its 18th century cemetery has been the burial site of members of the McCormick family and the related Hall family. Tour participants learned of the role that the Presbyterian Church played in the McCormick family. The tour also included the McCormick farmstead where Robert and his son, Cyrus, worked in the log forge to develop a machine for harvesting grain. In addition to the 18th century forge and mill, tour participants visited the ca.1820 brick home, which replaced the original log home. A noted historian lectured on the McCormick’s role in the agricultural revolution in the Valley of Virginia and beyond.
The Branch began work in late 2009 on designating an area along the Buffalo Creek in Rockbridge County as the “Buffalo Creek Historical District.” By the year’s end, the State of Virginia’s Historical Resources Office had approved the Branch’s preliminary nomination of the historic district and the Branch had begun undertaking an inventory of buildings and structures within the proposed rural historic district.
In May 2010, the Branch teamed up HLF, RHS and the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council (RACC) to sponsor a week-long series of public events entitled “River, Road & Rail” which entailed an in-depth examination at early roads, bridges, turnpikes, canals and railroads in the area. The events included a lecture by Ann Miller, Senior Scientist (historian) at the Virginia Transportation Research Council, on the evolution of roads and bridges in the Rockbridge area. A member of the the Branch participated in a panel discussion covering turnpikes, canals, rail in the Lexington and Buena Vista, Virginia areas. The largest event took place in the Jordan’s Point area of Lexington on May 22, 2010 when Branch members, along with members of other preservation organizations, arranged for tours of the Miller House, lectured on Jordan’s Point and Reid’s Lock on the Chessie Trail, conducted a workshop on stonemasonry, and gave a bateau demonstration.
In June, 2010, the Branch sponsored and led a tour of historic homes in Lynchburg, Virginia, area, highlighting the Poplar Forest home of Thomas Jefferson as well as the historic homes of Sandusky, Point of Honor and Garland Hill in addition to the historic City Cemetery of Lynchburg.
On September 24, 2010, the Branch, in cooperation with Historic Fincastle, Inc. (HFI) and the Botetourt County Historical Society, conducted a tour of historic homes in the Troutville and Fincastle areas of Botetourt County, Virginia.
On May 14, 2011, the Branch worked with the Botetourt County Historical Society and the Town of Buchanan to sponsor an presentation entitled, “All Fired-Up in Botetourt: 19th Century Bricks and Pots.” The event, held at the Wilson Community House in Buchanan, Virginia, was in two parts: First, Michael Pulice of the State of Virginia Department of Historic Resources led off by giving a presentation on brick-making. His presentation was followed by a “show-and-tell” tour of historic buildings in Buchanan to demonstrate some of the unique and varied brickwork in the town. The second part of the “All Fired-Up in Botetourt” presentation focused on early potters in Botetourt County. Kurt Russ, a noted historian and author, discussed local nineteenth century potters, including George M. Fulton and Pete Obenshain and their pottery.
During the following week, on May 21, 2011, the Branch cooperated with HLF to sponsor another presentation focusing on “Artists & Artisans: Early Industry in the Valley of Virginia”, this time in Lexington, Virginia. Wallace Gusler, a retired master gunsmith from Colonial Williamsburg, spoke on “The Development of the Frontier: Early Weapons and Dress in the Valley of Virginia.” Local residents were encouraged to bring historic firearms in their possession which Mr. Gusler then examined and discussed.
In June 2011, the Board undertook efforts to resolve a deteriorating situation in the historic McDowell Cemetery in Rockbridge County. A 20-foot section of the cemetery’s wall had collapsed some months before and a farmer’s cows had gotten into the cemetery. A Board member worked with the property owner to see that a temporary barbed wire fence was erected to keep out the cattle. Further Board efforts over the next couple of years would lead to the repair of the wall and improved protection for the cemetery.
In June 2011, a Board member provided support to the Buena Vista Colored School Historical Society in Buena Vista, Virginia in its efforts to receive grant funding for a preservation plan for the historic school building.
On October 9, 2011, The Branch, together with HLF, sponsored an “Heirloom Discovery Day & Road Show” whereby local appraisers were available to identify and estimate the value of historic items brought to the event by people in the area. Among the appraisers’ areas of expertise were decorative arts, pottery, porcelain, furniture, folk art, quilts and samplers, fraktur, baskets, ironwork and Civil War-era items.
On October 21, 2011, the Branch hosted a special presentation at the Natural Bridge Hotel in Natural Bridge, Virginia, on Shenandoah Valley pie safes. This presentation was part of the Branch’s continued effort to further public awareness of the area’s cultural resources. Leading the discussion was Kurt C. Russ, a Branch member and a Lexington-based independent scholar of Shenandoah Valley decorative arts.
In January 2012, the Branch became involved in working with the National Park Service and other interested organizations in developing information to support the establishment of a Lewis & Clark Eastern Legacy Trail. Communities which might be included on such an eastern trail were asked to provide data that justified a relationship to Lewis and Clark during the period 1803 through 1809. Branch members, in particular, Margaret Crosson, undertook the responsibility of coordinating efforts among the various local entities to obtain the required information. On March 3 and 4, 2012, the Branch assisted the Lewis & Clark Eastern Legacy Trail study team from the National Park Service when it visited our area. The Study Team presented a public workshop at the Natural Bridge Hotel, Natural Bridge, Virginia on March 3, followed by a public presentation on March 4. The presentation was given in conjunction with the Branch’s annual meeting.
On November 3, 2012, the Branch participated in the Botetourt County dedication of a Lewis & Clark commemorative disk on the lawn of the County Courthouse in Fincastle, Virginia.
On February 17, 2013, The Branch held its annual meeting in Lexington, Virginia. Dr. Ann McCleary, an expert in architectural history in the Shenandoah Valley, was the guest speaker. Her presentation, “The History and Development of Early Turnpike Towns in the Valley of Virginia,” gave a unique perspective of what the Valley towns looked like in the first decade of the nineteenth century.
On September 21, 2013, the Branch sponsored a dinner and tour of Forest Oaks, a large two-and-a-half-story Federal-style home in Rockbridge County which was built around 1806. The house and property have also been associated with several locally significant families, most notably the Houston family.
On October 18, 2013, The Branch’s work on the Lewis and Clark Eastern Legacy Trail bore additional fruit when Rockbridge County officials dedicated their Lewis and Clark commemorative disk at Courthouse Square, 2 South Main Street, Lexington. The ceremony also included dedicating a plaque commemorating the site of Eagle/Shields Tavern, also located in downtown Lexington on Main Street. In his 1809 “Memorandum,” William Clark noted his stay at Shields Tavern during his journey from Fincastle to Monticello. Ms Stephenie Ambrose Tubbs was the featured speaker at the event. Ms Tubbs is a renowned lecturer and author on the history of Lewis & Clark. A post-event reception after the installation event was sponsored by our Branch and several local businesses.
During the latter part of 2013, the MVPA, through its director, Kurt Russ, worked with the Friends of the Natural Bridge which had been established by the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council. Working in concert with the Valley Conservation Council (VCC) and other regional preservation groups and supporters, Friends of the Natural Bridge sought to insure that the Natural Bridge property, which is presently for sale, is purchased by a responsible buyer who will be encouraged to donate the Natural Bridge and a substantial portion of the surrounding property as either a state or national Park.
In addition to events detailed above, a number of the Branch officers, with its sponsorship and assistance, have opened their historic homes for public events to promote historic preservation goals during the past five years.
Our present and future activities are geared to expanding our membership and the public recognition of our organization and its mission to increase public awareness of the importance of historic preservation throughout our area. To this end, we are preparing a public mailing to those individuals who have participated in our predecessor organizations’ sponsored events in the past several years.