State, local preservation experts evaluate county buildings

Recommendations coming for priorities, funding

Rappahannock County’s buildings along courthouse row on Gay Street are considered “the best enclave of historic county administrative buildings in the Piedmont” by Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources.

But maintenance of the buildings — some of which date back to the 1830s when the county was first formed — has been neglected for some time, resulting in damage that now needs urgent attention.

That was the assessment of the county’s board of supervisors after touring the buildings in April. Peeling paint, rotting window sills, roof deterioration, and damage due to water infiltration are clearly visible both inside and outside most of the courthouse row buildings, including the courthouse.

Last Friday, July 7, supervisors John Lesinski and Ron Frazier, along with state preservation experts and county building professionals, convened as a task force at the Country Cafe to kick off a day of building tours and discussion about how to address the maintenance issues.

By Patty Hardee
Building task force members outside the Rappahannock County Courthouse. (Left to right) Supervisor John Lesinski, Peter Kreyling (obscured by Jim Racer), Kees Dutilh, Alan Comp, Hugh Miller, David Edwards, Jay Monroe, Supervisor Ron Frazier, and Ricky Jenkins.

Washington resident and historian Alan Comp, nationally recognized for his work on environmental recovery in rural communities, led Friday’s session and will prepare the preliminary report from the group to go to the BOS.

After the board of supervisors’ tour in April, said Comp in a phone call Tuesday, he offered to enlist the talent and expertise of state and local resources to help the BOS plan how to move forward with the maintenance, repair and possible renovation of the county’s historic buildings.

“With so much talent available in the state and the county, there was no reason not to tap it,” said Comp. “I wanted the BOS to have access to significant expertise in the preservation and maintenance of these historic buildings. John [Lesinski] then called us a task force.”

Comp recruited Hugh Miller, the first director of Virginia’s DHR. A registered architect, Miller has worked for 40 years as a historical architect, preservation planner and teacher.

At the Friday meeting, Comp called Miller “a godlike figure in historic preservation.”

Also on the task force is architectural historian David Edwards, Director of DHR’s Community Services Division and co-author of “Buildings of Virginia: Valley, Piedmont, Southside, and Southwest,” published by the University of Virginia Press.

Local presence on the task force includes former Rappahannock resident and retired custom home builder Peter Kreyling; Rappahannock native and owner of Racer Construction LLC, Jim Racer; award-winning Rappahannock architect Jay Monroe; DC developer/contractor Kees Dutilh, now retired to Sperryville; and the county’s maintenance supervisor Ricky Jenkins.

Besides evaluating the maintenance issues to be addressed, the task force also wants to assess current space utilization in the county’s buildings. Comp is convinced that the additional storage and office space that the county needs can be found in the existing buildings.

“Storage for county records and supplies is a significant issue, as is finding additional office space for county employees,” said Comp. “But with a re-think of space allocation, the county may find it can identify the space it needs in its own buildings.”

After a morning tour of the buildings, the task force spent the afternoon discussing their findings and observations, in hopes of helping the county set priorities for repairing the buildings and tap potential funding sources.

Comp is writing the report that he expects to have completed in time for the BOS’s September meeting.

Additional resources:

Go to http://rappnews.com/2017/04/11/county-feels-the-pain-of-historic-office-space/ for a summary of the needed repairs identified by the BOS in April.

The BOS report from April can be found on Boarddocs at http://www.boarddocs.com/va/corva/Board.nsf/Public# Search for the July 5 BOS meeting, and scroll down the agenda for the Building Report and click on the attachments.

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About Patty Hardee 169 Articles
Writer, consultant, actor, director, recovering stand-up comic, Patty covers the county’s courts and other topics of interest for Rappahannock News. She lives with her grape-growing husband Bill Freitag in Flint Hill.