The Stone House is actually a structure with two main parts built with more than just stone. The original part of the house on the south side was constructed with local limestone and hand hewn timbers during the 1760s. The addition to the north was built in 1786 out of hand-hewn logs. Later additions were constructed with hewn logs and sawn timbers. In 1843 the stone side was separated from the log side when the building was turned into a duplex with separate owners on each side. The building remained a duplex until the end of the twentieth century when the two sides of the structure were reunited by the Stone House Foundation. It was the original stone part of the Stone House that inspired our museum’s founder Mildred Lee Grove to establish the not-for-profit foundation that bears its name. Since the year 2000 the Foundation has been engaged in a research effort to professionally study the history of the Stone House. The firm of John Milner & Associates was hired to produce a historic structure report on this increasingly rare surviving example of early American vernacular architecture in the lower Valley of Virginia. That report was finished in August of 2006 and with its help we have a much better idea of not only who has lived there, but also how this building has been added onto and altered since it was constructed in the early 1760s.
Miss Grove had purchased the stone side of the property in May of 1940. By 1987, after leasing it to tenants for forty-seven years, Miss Grove (who was 85 that year) was beginning to consider the future of the stone side of the property and the legacy she would leave behind after she passed away. On 24 June 1987 she sent a letter to Mr. John R. Riley Jr., a Frederick County, Virginia, official. In this letter Miss Grove articulated her vision of “a small museum or center” that could be “not only a repository for material of interest, but could serve, also, as a nucleus for information about the history of this area and the people who lived here.” Miss Grove predicted this “museum or center would attract . . . the attention of tourists or those interested in genealogical help.” She originally conceived that all of this could be housed in the stone side of the property, and in 1990 she created the Stone House Foundation with this vision in mind. In June of 1992 the Stone House Foundation purchased the log side of the structure, thus reuniting the two sides of the property once again. Miss Grove passed away in 1997, and she left a generous endowment to ensure that her vision for this historic property could be carried forward. With this bequest the work to determine the property’s future as an exhibition building began.
Those who knew her will attest to how Miss Grove wished to see the Stone House restored to its early appearance and opened as an exhibition building not unlike other historic house museums in Virginia. In her letter of 24 June 1987 to Mr. Riley she articulated how she hoped school children would be able to “find clues in the building itself that would show how construction methods and materials have changed” over time. Miss Grove had lived during a period of unprecedented growth in the realms of historic preservation and the American history museum. While the preservation movement was initiated by European aristocrats prior to the nineteenth century, Americans soon joined in and developed their own approach to the cause. Beginning with the Hasbrouck House (George Washington’s headquarters) at Newburgh, New York in the 1850s, historic homes associated with famous American historical figures began to be preserved and opened to the public as museums. During the twentieth century large “open air” or “living history” museums like Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village (opened 1929), Mystic Seaport Museum (opened 1931), Colonial Williamsburg (opened 1932), Old Sturbridge Village (opened 1946), and Plimoth Plantation (opened 1947) became popular tourist destinations. They also became shining examples of how original and reconstructed historic buildings (not necessarily associated with famous historical figures) could exist for educational purposes. The exhibition buildings at these museums no doubt had a powerful influence on Miss Grove. As an early member of the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society, she had participated in the local preservation movement. She was among those who influenced the way George Washington’s Office, Abram’s Delight, the 18th Century Valley Cabin (from Cork Street in Winchester), and Stonewall Jackson’s Headquarters in Winchester were preserved, renovated, and presented to the public as exhibition buildings. They were also, no doubt, what Miss Grove had in mind as she conceived her vision for the Stone House.
The Stone House is an artifact that has suffered the typical unsympathetic assaults on its historic architectural integrity. Over the past 250 years it has given shelter to individuals and families who experienced a wide range of joys and economic vicissitudes while living there in the structure. The Stone House bears the imprints of their economic fortunes as well as (to some extent) their aesthetic and decorative tastes. As we have considered what we know of the long history of this building, and how we should honor Miss Grove’s vision, we recognized the need to define what we mean when we use the term “restoration” in conjunction with the Stone House. We know that a restoration is not a renovation. The U.S. Secretary of Interior’s Standards defines restoration “as the act or process of accurately depicting the form, features, and character of a property as it appeared at a particular period of time by means of the removal of features from other periods in its history and reconstruction of missing features from the restoration period.” In other words, a restoration is more than merely fixing up an old building and making it look nice in an “olden-time” way. Among the factors that we know must be taken into account when a period restoration is being considered is what survives with integrity in the structure itself from the time of its historical significance. Some buildings have been compromised so badly by botched renovation jobs, past remodeling campaigns, or even well-intentioned but amateurish attempts at restoration, that they are no longer good candidates for a restoration project. In other cases the loss of original structural material due to natural disasters, fires, or demolition by neglect can require so much in the way of speculation and conjecture that a true restoration cannot be accomplished with integrity. (In other words, the finished product is based more on fantasy and imagination than historical fact.) The rare exception to this rule can be found in those instances where a building has been properly documented with photographs and measured drawings prior to its destruction or the loss of its significant features and fabric.
The Stone House, while it has suffered many alterations and additions over the past 250 years of its use, retains much of its historical integrity. Alterations have been largely additive in nature rather than destructive. Therefore, we feel it is a candidate for a proper restoration that would accurately depict its form, features, and character as they appeared during a specifically significant period of its history. The Stone House Foundation’s Board of Directors has determined the structure’s period of significance by balancing Miss Grove’s wish for a colonial era restoration against the reality of what parts of the structure from that period survive today. They also took into consideration what is ethically appropriate. While Mildred Lee Grove imagined that it would not be too difficult to take the house back to the appearance it had during the late colonial era, our investigations have revealed that this would be more complicated than she anticipated. In fact, it would involve the removal of the entire log addition built in 1786. Then there are the alterations that date to the early decades of the 1800s, when a man named Henry Jackson owned the property. Those alterations include raising the roof height of the log side and the addition of a new bulkhead entrance to the cellar in the back of the house under the stone side of the property. There is also reason to believe that the first floor windows on the stone side of the structure may have been enlarged during this period of Jackson’s ownership. There are other features that post-date the colonial period, including the Greek Revival style molding around the front door and windows of the first floor on the log side. It is for these reasons that the Foundation’s board unanimously voted to restore the structure to its appearance of 1830 when Henry Jackson was the owner-occupant of the property.
These pages are dedicated to telling the story of this restoration project. In them we will address the methods and steps we are taking to uncover historical facts and the physical evidence remaining in the property itself. The discovery process for the structure requires the use of what is called “historic building archeology.” This type of archeology involves the careful, documented removal of surface layers, features, and later additions to uncover the history of the physical changes that were made over time to an original form of the structure. The physical discovery process will also require that we employ the traditional ground excavation type of archeology as we seek to uncover the remains of earlier structural foundations in the rear of the property.
To learn more about the steps we are taking in this discovery process click the links below.