Dwight Peck's personal website

Winter 2020-2021

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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.

Autumn views of Front Royal and Winchester, Shenandoah Valley, Virginia

An exploratory drive to see what's what in our new part of the world, 7 November 2020

First stop, Front Royal

It's a Saturday, and Front Royal's E. Main St. has been blocked off as a pleasant zone piétonne for shoppers and sidewalk diners. The late summer weather is a November bonus.

Front Royal is a venerable town at the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Shenandoah River, which carries on northward to join the Potomac near Harper's Ferry. It was settled in 1754 and incorporated under its present name in 1788 -- the origin of its name is disputed -- and now has about 14,000 residents.

A congenial setting -- we're actually here by a fortunate accident. We were careening north on Interstate 81, the Highway of Death, and took a wrong turn at Strasburg -- and Bob's your uncle.

But Front Royal is a prominent name for US Civil War buffs, as on 23 May 1862 Stonewall Jackson's Confederates pulled a number of magic tricks on the Union Forces here, deceiving the main Federal Army based in Strasburg into dashing away towards Winchester.

Very pleasant, if somewhat undersubscribed for such a fine afternoon. One of the fun facts of the Battle of Front Royal is that the Union army's 1st Maryland Regiment was ranged against the Confederates' 1st Maryland Regiment -- many northerners were taken prisoner when the southerners won the battle, who 'nearly all recognized old friends and acquaintances, whom they greeted cordially, and divided with them the rations which had just changed hands' (Wikipedia).

At the eastern end of East Main, here is the gazebo in the Town Square.

That nice building, facing the Town Square, is the Main Street Pawn Shop.

Near the Town Square

Artifacts from the old rail company. The train line was put in over the Manassas Gap in 1850, destroyed during the war and rebuilt in the 1870s. The Norfolk Southern apparently still runs by north of town, but the length into the downtown (i.e., here) was discontinued for passengers and then cargo in 1946 and 1959 respectively.

The end of Saturday's pedestrian zone -- It's all called 'Dine, Shop, Discover', every weekend.

That's worth a look, over there -- is that a vintage telephone box?

The building looks awfully like a train station, and it seems to have a ticket window. It appears at the moment, though, that one is meant to take a taxi from here a few miles north to Front Royal Junction, out near the Bing Crosby Stadium, to catch the once-daily train.

A pretty side street, Blue Ridge Ave.

Back up E. Main St.

Historical mementos ('we take our grim history very seriously round here')('it's good for Civil War tourism, too')

Street scene

The I Want Candy store, featuring truffles and taffy

The place to go for various iterations of the US flag (legal?, we wonder)

Bong's HairStyling and Barber Shop, featuring Waxing

Leaving pleasant Front Royal -- that didn't take too long. There's likely a lot more see here, when one has the time . . . especially for Civil War buffs.

Now we need to reassert our original purpose, and this is SR 522 northwest to Winchester.

Next stop, Winchester

Through the suburbs

We're rotating through the city streets looking for the famous 'Old Town' historic centre, and we must be getting close.

So here we are, parked for a nominal fee on W. Boscawen St with the Old Town in our sights. (Not that way, behind us.)

Old Town Winchester, with many buildings dating from the late 18th century, begins here on N. Loudon St at Piccadilly St and extends 500 meters south, onto S. Loudon St halfway along, and ends at Cork St (most of the early 18th century settlers were Scots-Irish).

Excellent, an American town with the sense to block off a permanent pedestrian zone for relaxed shopping and maybe the tradition of the late afternoon, leisurely see-and-be-seen stroll through the downtown, the passeggiata.

The Water Street Kitchen, doing a decent sidewalk and inside business on a fine, warm afternoon. This area got its start, as far as European settlement goes, in the late 1720s, populated mainly by Scots-Irish and Quakers from Pennsylvania. The settlements had coagulated into 'Frederick Town' by 1738 and was chartered by Virginia Commonwealth, as Winchester, by 1752. George Washington spent several of his early years here working as a land surveyor for various dignitaries. There are presently about 27,000 citizens here, a few more than in our town of Staunton.

With a near-zero acquaintance with American architectural history, when I noticed this, the lower part of my brain kept whispering 'Federalist Style', 'Federalist Style'. How pleasant to discover later that that was correct and that the Godfrey Miller Home, built in 1785, is often cited as a good example. (Like nearly all sizable Shenandoah homes, it served as a 'hospital' for wounded Union and Confederate soldiers, sometimes at the same time.)

Such another; there was plenty of occasion for turning accommodations over for wounded young'uns. In Winchester itself there were three named battles, in May 1862, June 1863, and September 1864, and two more in adjacent Kernstown, in 1862 and 1864. It's said that the city of Winchester changed hands between the Union and Confederates some 70 times during the appalling US Civil War, once 13 times in the same day.

'Federalist Style'. Winchester's position at the 'lower end', the northern end, of the Shenandoah Valley made it into a sort of gateway to the Valley, otherwise entered only over the Blue Ridge Mountains, so Confederate armies desiring to raid into Maryland or Pennsylvania, or even to the gates of Washington DC, passed through town, taking turns with Union armies working their way southward 'up' the Valley destroying everything that could be torched or knocked down in the Shenandoah breadbasket of the Confederates' Virginia armies.

The First Presbyterian church on S. Loudon St

Thinker Toys, neat. Across from the public toilets, also neat.

Street scene with tourist

At the southern edge of Old Town, looking across E. Cork St at an attractive building full of attorneys

The long view of the Old Town from Cork St northward

An attractive vintage white building housing Hair by Hannah

ArtScape is an annual competition by the Shenandoah Arts Council (ShenArts) and the Old Town commission to assess works submitted by local artists and reproduce photographs of the selected works on vinyl banners like this throughout the Old Town, 'to create an outdoor gallery experience'. The original works are then displayed in the nearby Museum of the Shenandoah Valley.

That (according to Google Maps) is the City Hall. Not bad, like an 18th century French château (but with all the mod cons)

An unmasked busker, not bad at all (except for no mask)

Despite the skyrocketing covid infections these days, we haven't seen many masks on our fellow afternoon strollers, so it's nice to see this guy refusing to infect passersby with the Trump Virus by masking up.

Oh goody. We've got to wonder if that old bronze guy is going to survive for much longer -- what will they set up in his place? [I vote for Mr Rogers.]

And here's another gentleman with his mask on -- though since he's got it round the wrong side of his head, that doesn't count. This is the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum, 'housed in the historic 1840 Frederick County Court House [Greek-Revival Style], which served as a prison, hospital, and barracks for both sides during the Civil War'. Famous for its prisoners' graffiti on the walls.

Lovely autumn colors and sidewalk café conviviality

The old Union Bank, now a restaurant, adjacent to the fresh fudge emporium

Winchester Old Town street scene

That's the old Taylor Hotel, built we're told by Bushrod Taylor in 1845 or 1848 on what was then the 'Valley Pike' running the length of the Shenandoah Valley (mostly on the route of what is now US 11). Given its location, it was popular with travelers of the time, and during the Civil War it was appreciated by officers and wounded soldiers alike -- in 1863 the Union General Milroy ordered repairs to be made for damages caused by his soldiers, 'resulting from its use as a hospital'. It fell into disrepair and was successfully restored in 2013, presently housing condos and a restaurant.

That's how I know all about the wounded soldiers and what not.

The Masonic Temple, now apparently enjoying other uses, like an antique shop, for one

The former Farmers and Merchants National Bank

We're back to the Mountain Trails shop; we admired the little gentleman's red bandana mask so much.

No consensus on mask-wearing here, but both agreed on the takeout.

Classy street scenes, buildings all nicely got up. That's the Old Town Snow White Grill LLC, 'a vintage diner with counter-stool seating and sidewalk tables'.

Approaching the northern end of the Old Town zone

That domish thing is evidently the Handley Regional Library (Beaux-Arts Style, 1913).

Our visit is winding up (or, to be honest, we are).

Unmasked buskers at every streetcorner (just two, actually)

A last look at the Civil War Museum

Shadows are lengthening.

That's the Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church (where I grew up, the Lutherans would have been pretty angry if you mentioned evangelicals in their presence; they were more interested in church suppers).

In the roundel window there is the inscription 'Brevitt Chime', which we surmised was some sort of Latin that had squeaked through the cognitive cracks. In fact, it just celebrates a chime bell (or bells), that were installed in 1917 and still ring out on some schedule that many Winchesterites probably welcome. It was provided by the doting, rich parents of young David Brevitt Glaize, who died, sadly, at the age of 17 in 1905 (there's also a bronze statue of the lad in the Mt Hebron Cemetery just a few blocks to the east). (We hadn't time to wait about for another chime.)

Farther along W. Boscawen Street (in fact, that's our car), that's the Rouss Fire Co. volunteer fire service building.

The wind vane on the Renaissance-ish tower would bear further scrutiny, but not just now.

Next up: TBA


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 1 December 2020.


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