Dwight Peck's personal website

Winter 2019-2020

A photographic record of whatever leapt out at us



You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

Staunton's Wharf District, and a welcome snow day

The city of Staunton showcases five "Historic Districts", each of which were listed in the National Register of Historic Places, independently, in the 1970 and '80s. They are: Beverley, basically the central downtown five blocks of so, like the 1896 Masonic Temple in this photo; the Stuart Addition, several blocks to the north of that, including Mary Baldwin University and our condo, the old YMCA; Gospel Hill, up to the east of Beverley Street; Newtown, several square blocks to the west of Beverley; and the Wharf District, the former warehouse district clustered around the railway station.

This is Middlebrook Ave., the former warehouse area and original commercial centre of town, the "Historic Wharf District", running past the Virginia Central Railroad station and out of town to the southwest, 6 January 2020.

The rail station, first built in 1854 (the oldest surviving buildings date from 1861), but generally destroyed by the Union Army in 1864, rebuilt and then knocked over by a runaway train in 1890. The present depot and former administrative buildings date from 1902 and the few years following; this 'concourse' was put in in ca. 1905 and renovated in 2013.

The American Hotel, built by the rail company in 1855, was spared during the Union's attack on Staunton in 1864 and hosted an overnight stay by Pres. U. S. Grant in 1874; he was serenaded by Stonewall Jackson's original HQ band, and raised his hat to them in greeting, an example of post-war north/south reconciliation. The building later served as a shoe factory and as part of a nationalwide wholesale grocery store. It presently houses some professional offices and a café.

Middlebrook Ave from the east end of the train station, recently renovated as an events venue for weddings, etc.

From the station, this is looking up S. Augusta, which becomes N. Augusta at Beverley St just two blocks down (where the white car is).

The front of the main station, newly an events venue. The present station and depot are occupied by various commercial enterprises and there is no ticket office, though the Amtrak's Cardinal train between New York and Chicago still runs through twice a week in each direction.

This building, right of centre, was a warehouse back in the day, law offices now, built in about 1880 and renovated in 1982.

The original train station from 1902

The city trolley on Middlebrook Street

Middlebrook St looking east

The Sears Hill Bridge, between the main station building and the row of wooden depot buildings from 1904.

A row of warehouses, all from 1870 to 1910 and now renovated, with large doors overlooking the street level, for winching stuff up to the second story (or 'first story' in European talk).

The depot along the tracks, from 1904, now some small businesses and, in the foreground, the Depot Grille, one of our favorites in town.

Some original Chessie cabooses, left behind by the then-Chesapeake and Ohio Railway in 1902

Back up Augusta Street toward home, we're passing the Masonic 'Temple'.

The Black Swan bookshop at the precise centre of town at the intersection of Beverley and Augusta

The vintage SunTrust Bank (1903) -- our bank, in fact, as the other 750 banks in the downtown look like cookie-cutter mall brick-blocks with their huge unused parking lots didn't interest us at all.

The town centre and its cigar store and smoking club

The Beja Bean restaurant on N. Augusta -- this is just the smoking section; the non-smoking Baja Bean faces onto Beverley St and connects through the kitchen. The Visulite three-screen cinema has latest run American films at which we haven't been present, but it also hosts the series of live Metropolitan Opera performances; we saw the four-hour Agrippina by Handel yesterday (two hours would have been fine for some of us).


Staunton Snow Day

Yikes! Welcome to the South. It's 7 January 2020 and this has been dumped upon us overnight.

Actually, it's embarrassingly little, but it's chilly and blowing round, and sticking just a little bit, so it reminds us of Switzerland heartbreakingly, and we're off for a little walkabout in town.

Banker's Row, 300m of four huge brick mausoleums with nearly always empty carparks -- the story is that the town got an urban renewal grant to knock down several blocks of unattractive buildings and create something innovative in their place, but subsequently (before the creative part) the grant was withdrawn and the banking community gobbled up the idle territory.

There's a very attractive Volvo V60 automobile experiencing its first snowfall. We won't require the use of it for the next few days anyway.

The St Francis Roman Catholic church, a T. J. Collins Gothic Revival creation from 1895, which some of us (call us unsophisticated) really think is beautiful. Not Chartres, but beautiful in context.

Heading downtown, towards the Clocktower on Beverley

Beverley St -- scarcely anyone's about. Good.

Our bank again, and it's open for business on our 'snow day'. Good.

The cigar store -- called the Marquis Building, formerly T. J. Collins's architecture offices.

New Street from Beverley, looking south

The American Shakespeare Centre's Blackfriars Playhouse, a replica of the private indoor theatre in use by Shakespeare's King's Men company from 1608 to the closing of the theatres in 1642.

A week ago we saw Beaumont and Fletcher's A King and No King (1607), hilarious and brilliantly done, especially since, as it was opening night, the actors occasionally missed a cue and said "Prithee", and a small voice from offstage fed them the line, almost unnoticed.

Beverley Street, sans voitures

Up E. Beverley at the east end of the downtown

Staunton boasts the usual spectrum of opinions and character types, so we can always feel that at least we're sometimes in good company.

East Berkley again

Part of the Woodrow Wilson birthplace and presidential library, several buildings running up N. Coalter St on the right

That's actually a Pierce-Arrow car that Wilson drove or had driven for him between 1919 and his death in 1924; it was actually government property, but his buds chipped in and bought it for him when he left office in 1921, and it was donated to the Wilson Museum by his widow.

Pleasing architecture on Berkeley St., a few doors up N. Coalter across from the Wilson Library

That's now the Berkeley House B+B.

A view down E. Frederick St past the Presbyterian church to our place of refuge

Very nice buildings of Mary Baldwin University, all along 250m of E. Frederick St and quite a ways up the hill behind, some of which are Greek Revival buildings from the 1840s

The First Presbyterian Church

The apse of the St Francis Catholic church from New Street

One of the buildings of the Catholic complex around the St Francis church, home of Project Hope, offering the assistance to unfortunate young women that only the Catholic Church can provide.

On New Street just above the church

Nearly a château right here in the USA -- in fact, it's described in the brochure as by T. J. Collins in the 'Chateauesque style', 1910. Note the 'finials'.

St Francis church

There's that very attractive Volvo V60, named Sven, again.

St Francis

Way back when Augusta St, now also called US Rte 250 right through town and on to Charlottesville, was on the primordial 'Valley Turnpike', this house, built ca. 1800, was a stagecoach stop, now 'one of Staunton's few remaining 18th century log houses'.

The holy district

The church seen from the bank's carpark

The 'Old Y', the former YMCA, aka our digs

A nice walk, reminiscent of the old days, but it's time for an afternoon nestle with an improving book.

But, as a snow day, this hasn't been much like the Old Days.

A few snaps from the Old Country over time

Villa Florence, Leysin, Switzerland, ca. 1980

The American College of Switzerland library, 1980s

Bassins, Switzerland, 1998

Clearing out in Bassins, Switzerland, 2006

Dieter the trusty Volkswagen, Bassins, Switzerland, 2008

A Swiss Army truck lost in the middle of Bassins, 2010

Next stop: Civil War momentos, Mary Gray Wilderness hike, and More Cat Pix


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 3 March 2019.


Recent Events