An open letter to the Washington Town Council:
As both an historian and a resident/voter in the town of Washington, I was greatly distressed to read a legal notice in the Sept. 29 issue of the Rappahannock News that the small house and lot owned by the town on Leggett Lane were up for sale “with or without the existing structure.”
I have heard members of the council say, many times, that Washington’s history and its historic buildings form the core of our personality as a town and I completely agree. I think that this particular long-vacant “structure” is as much a part of that history as any other in the town. At least three edges of the town were originally small African American enclaves — one on Warren where this home is located; one on Piedmont Avenue around the old Rosenwald School and a third at the north end of Main Street where I now live. While it may be true that some of these structures were left out of the original historic district, these are different times with a larger and more inclusive sense of American history. These three enclaves merit better recognition than simple demolition.
The town has already realized a substantial profit on the sale of the Avon Hall property. The need to cover that purchase loan is now gone, happily, and the possibility of a larger civic concern for what remains seems possible. There are substantial tax incentives provided by both the federal and state government for the rehabilitation of historic structures like the Warren Avenue home: indeed the worse the condition, the more valuable these credits become.
I respectfully ask that the council reconsider its willingness to sell this small lot “with or without the existing structure.” This home and others like it housed families that contributed to the building of the town. Their labors, both skilled and unskilled, and their presence in the town of Washington are an important part of our shared history. There is no reason that the small home on Warren Avenue cannot become another important gateway structure to the town, welcoming both residents and visitors and quietly acknowledging the valuable contributions of many to the history of this small town.
Thank you for your consideration.
T. Allan Comp