Clarke County Historic Preservation Commission Awards Mark Silver Jubilee

By Cathy Kuehner

For the past 25 years, the Clarke County Historic Preservation Commission has annually recognized residents, researchers, writers, and business owners who have made significant contributions to preserving the county’s historic heritage. The Historic Preservation Commission will add more names to the list of honorees when it hosts a celebratory luncheon in mid-May — May being National 
Preservation Month. 

This will bring the total number of historic preservation honorees to 104 since the Commission presented the first four awards in May 2000.

“The Clarke County Historic Preservation Commission recognizes the commitment, hard work, and resources necessary to preserve and the county’s historic and cultural landscape,” said Katherine Berger, who chairs the Commission. “Thanks to those who see the value of such stewardship, our Clarke County story remains vibrant for generations to come.”

While the county’s first Comprehensive Plan, completed in 1974, recognized that the preservation of historic sites was integral to maintaining the character of Clarke, there was no local ordinance dealing with the protection of historic properties. The Board of Supervisors adopted a Historic District ordinance in March 1985 to provide such protection and encourage rehabilitation of old and historic sites, and then immediately established the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) in May 1985.

The Supervisors gave the HPC authority to issue Certificates of Appropriateness for changes and renovations in historic districts. At the time, there was only one — the Village of White Post — recognized at the state and national level in 1983, but not locally. 

Today, Clarke County has seven Historic Districts; however, only two fall under the purview of HPC: White Post and the commercial area of Millwood.

The first appointed HPC members — chair Billy Thompson II, vice chair Sally Trumbower, Mary Farland, Thomas Gilpin, and Alice York — met for the first time on Aug. 7, 1985, for a training session led by consultants from the National Preservation Institute. 

Today, the Commission is: chair Katherine Berger, vice chair Page Carter, Betsy Arnett, Deborah “Dee-Dee” Liggins, Billy Thompson IV, and Robert “Robin” York. Bob Glover serves as the Planning Commission representative and David Weiss represents the Board 
of Supervisors.

Billy Thompson IV has served on the HPC since April 2021 and, until recently, did not know his grandfather was an original Commission member. Beyond the fact his grandfather served on the first HPC, Thompson smiled when he noted another coincidence: he was born the year the HPC 
was established.

“It makes sense to me now that White Post was the county’s first historic district,” Thompson said. “My grandfather did so much. It’s incredible what he accomplished.”

Longtime residents of Clarke County remember well Billy Thompson II and his handlebar mustache and his legendary showmanship. He was the driving force behind many community events and put the family’s White Post Restorations automobile business on the 
world map.

At 39, Thompson is the youngest member of the HPC. He believes historic homes are worth saving and likens them to the vintage cars he has grown up working on. “The craftsmanship in old cars and old buildings are difficult to replicate. And, once they are gone, they’re gone.”

To be clear, Thompson said houses, like cars, sometimes need new parts. “But standing back and looking at a home, does it retain the character of the time it was built? That’s what matters.”

Because the preservation of the county’s historic resources matters to Thompson, he hopes to serve on the HPC for quite a while. “People move here. Some of us grew up here. We all need to do what we can to preserve what we love about Clarke County.”

In May 2000, the first-ever HPC Historic Preservation Awards were presented to Virginia and Roland Mitchell (Lifetime Achievement for “Saratoga”), Jean Lee and Henry Julius (Certificate of Merit for “Brexton”), the Pritchard family (Certificate of Merit for “Smithfield”), and the Clarke County Historical Association (Certificate of Merit for the publication of the book, 
“Berryville Celebrates!”).

This year, HPC members will present the 25th annual Historic Preservation Awards to: Gail Gallagher and Paul Perez (Certificate of Merit for a South Church 
Street building); Brook and Michele Middleton (Stewardship Award for “Woodley”); Sisi Gallagher and Michael Williams (Certificate of Merit for “Spout Run”); and George L Ohrstrom (Lifetime Achievement Award in the area of historic preservation).

For more information about the Clarke County Historic Preservation Commission, its annual awards, and Clarke County history, contact architectural historian Maral Kalbian at (540) 955-1231,, or Clarke County Senior Planner & Zoning Administrator Jeremy Camp at (540) 955-5131,