Fire House Gallery To Close

The Berryville Main Street board has decided to close the Fire House Gallery retail shop so the organization-legally known as Downtown Berryville Inc. – can focus all its attention on promoting and supporting downtown businesses and the Town. The gallery, located at 23 E. Main St., will close on September 30.

The Fire House Gallery opened on January 9, 2010, as an economic development project featuring distinctive handmade arts and crafts from local and regional artist to enrich the local culture.

It was able to provide incubator spaces that were rented to start-up business owners who needed space to launch their businesses.

The Town of Berryville owns the historic, two-story former fire station building and has rented it to Downtown Berryville Inc. Town Manager Keith Dalton said Downtown Berryville has expressed interest in utilizing the second-floor space for its Berryville Main Street office. The Town will find a new tenant for the former gallery space.

Berryville Main Street president Nathan Stalvey said by closing the gallery, board members and Berryville Main Street volunteers can put all its energy and resources into projects and events, with the continued support of the Town of Berryville.

Events include the hugely popular Berryville Main Street Summer’s End Cruise-In in late August, the Berryville Main Street Yard Sale on the second Saturday in April and September, and Berryville Main Street Music in the Park on Friday nights throughout the summer. Berryville Main Street also organizes

a decorated parking meter contest during the winter holiday season and a Christmas tree lighting event. It supports the annual Christmas parade along Main Street.

Residents formed Downtown Berryville, Inc., a 501© (3) non-profit organization to promote the town much like a Chamber of Commerce might. The following year, the Berryville Historic District was listed in the National Register, and the town became a designated Virginia Main Street community in

1992. That’s when Downtown Berryville, Inc. adopted the Berryville Main Street moniker.

“The Berryville Main Street board appreciates all the volunteers and staff who worked in the gallery over the years,”Stalvey said. “We are also grateful for the many local artists and craftspeople who kept the gallery filled with their extraordinary work.”

The Town of Berryville is one of more than 2,400 American communities in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Program, and it is one of only 29 Virginia towns with the designation. Nearby, Harrisonburg and Luray also have Main Street designations.

The Virginia Main Street program, managed by the Virginia Department of housing and Community Development, aids in providing assistance and training to communities so they can increase the economic vitality in downtown commercial districts by focusing on their unique heritage and attributes.

Stalvey and the board want to assure the community, “Downtown Berryville Inc. is not going out of business. By closing the gallery, we won’t have to worry about running a business while trying to promote other businesses.”

Clarke County Historical Association Bids Farewell to Mary Morris

Longtime archivist retires after three decades

By Rebecca Maynard

Clarke County Historical Association (CCHA) archivist Mary Thomason Morris has retired after more than 30 years, but her infectious enthusiasm for preserving local history has not diminished. She has been with the organization since 1987, during which time she has seen incredible changes.

“One thing I love to focus on is how the dissemination of information has changed from 1987 to today,” she said. “When I look back, when I came on board, there was no computer and I was working on index cards. Everything had to be written out unless I typed it on the typewriter, and there was no way to get information out about what we had unless people came in.”

“Today, it’s all online and accessible through the Google index,” Morris said, noting that people as far away as Dublin, Ireland, have accessed the information she has archived.The CCHA archive, found at www.clarkehistory.org, contains church and burial records, historical photographs, newspaper files, maps, drawings, and other materials. A large portion of their archives is available to search online, and the search function is intended to be user-friendly even for those who are not computer literate.“K.I.S.S.,” Morris quipped when referring to the ease of the search function. “Keep it simple, stupid.”

In the late 1980s, Morris worked for the CCHA, Handley Library, and the Warren Heritage Society in Front Royal all at the same time before the CCHA became her sole employer in 1990.

“It was good that I was able to tap into all three of those county histories, because Warren and Clarke are the last two daughters of Frederick County,” she said, explaining that Clarke County was founded in 1836 and a number of planters from the Tidewater area sent their sons and enslaved people to the county.“

One of the first people I had contact me was a lady from Georgia who said she knew her great-grandfather was in Virginia during the Civil War,” Morris said. The man had deserted and was sent back to a different regiment, but after July 1864, the family never knew what became of him.

Morris wondered whether he had been killed in Berryville’s Battle of Cool Springs. She was able to verify her hunch thanks to a book with the list of names in the Confederate section in Mt. Hebron Cemetery in Winchester. “I was able to write these folks to tell them, after 130 some years, and they were able to put a marker on his gravesite beside his wife saying where he died and his death date, after generations of no one knowing,” she said.“

At that time, I was still working with pencil and paper,” she recalled. “To me, watching the progression from then to now is the biggest thing, to see things go from boxes on a shelf that maybe no one would look at for 50 years, and now they’re catalogued and indexed online.”

Local history doesn’t have to be grand or of great interest to those outside Clarke County for it to be important, Morris believes. “History can be people enduring their lives, for good or for bad,” she said. One of her goals in her 30 years with CCHA was to make sure that everyone in the county, regardless of circumstances or family history, was included.

“Mountain people, small farmers, people who came here after 1900, their history is as much Clarke as the Tidewater planters,” she explained.Morris also hopes that young people realize the importance of genealogy and local history and over the years enjoyed having fourth graders visit the CCHA office, where she would show them photographs on microfilm. On one occasion, she showed the children a photograph of a basketball player. “One little boy looked at me and said, ‘There’s my daddy!’ He figured out that his father and he were both history, and that people make history every day,” she said.

“Think of kids getting out of  high school today, how many wars they’ve been through,” Morris said. “They don’t think they make history, but they do. Children are like trees: They need roots before they can stretch to the sun, and having a sense of belonging to a place are the main roots for a child, knowing that they are part of the history of a place.”

“Mary is so dedicated,” said CCHA director Nathan Stalvey. “Every historical association needs someone like her, who loves what she does. She’s inspiring, but she’s humble.”

“As for proud moments, my highest is when I passed the miller’s class and became a legal, bona fide grinding miller for the Burwell-Morgan Mill,” Morris said. ”You wear many hats in a small organization, including sometimes potty cleaner!”

Morris received CCHA’s Professional Achievement Award in 2004, and was awarded the Heritage Hero Award by the Mosby Heritage Area Association in 2016. She also helped Clermont Farm in Berryville catalog its collection and created a database of more than 3,000 people associated with the property over the years.

“Mary has never, ever been about attention grabbing,” Stalvey said. “She genuinely just loves what she does and people see that. It reflects back and that’s why people love to listen to her stories.”

Morris is stepping down for health reasons, but has been involved in the interviewing and hiring of her replacement, whom she plans to help become acclimated to the position. She also hopes to remain involved with CCHA on a volunteer basis.

“It’s all going to depend on health, but over the years I’ve said there’s a plank in the office for them to carry me out, because I always figured I’d never leave,” she joked. “I’m keeping the plank around. I can’t give up the CCHA and I can’t give up learning. If I stop trying to help, I stop living.”

Clarke County Historical Association is hosting a retirement party for Mary Morris Sunday, July 21, at 2pm, at the CCHA headquarters at 32 E. Main Street, Berryville, VA 22611.

Oak Hart Farm Expands Produce and Pantry

Shawna Hartsook sums up the aim of her family farm in simple terms: “I want to keep people shopping in their community.” Oak Hart Farm, which expanded this year to offer a larger store with an expanded variety of goods from spices to grains, to coffee and kombucha, serves as a curator of local and regional produce and pantry items.

They also farm rows and rows of their own chemical-free vegetables, herbs, and flowers, an enviable sight alongside the gravel road leading to the store. Oak Hart sells fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs (chicken and duck), and dairy items from several local and regional farms – including sauerkraut and kombucha to appeal to the pucker-lovers.

And their “low waste” ethos permeates the store, where shoppers are encouraged to bring their own bottles, jars, and bags. Bulk items for sale include olive oil, vinegar, and a host of cleaning supplies. All products are carefully researched and vetted for sustainability, and Hartsook stands strong in her insistence on chemical free products across the board.
On a recent visit to the new store, I felt a nice, slow-down vibe hit me, as apparently did several customers who wandered in and out of the store and shared in conversation. It’s as if someone opened up her own well-kept pantry, with so much to please the senses, and said, “Come on in and stay a while.” You might find something tasty if you do.

Each week Oak Hart’s website posts available produce offerings from their market. This week you’ll find kale, chard, beets, potatoes, turnips, and lots more. Hours of operation and offerings can be found at https://oakhartfarm.com/market.

Oak Hart Farm is located at 822 Shepherd’s Mill Road, Berryville, VA 22611.

Hanging with the Presidents

If a visit to Mount Vernon is in your summer plans, be sure to take a close look at the pictures hanging in the full-scale restoration of the grand Front Parlor. Curators painstakingly recreated the room down to the smallest details. The gilded frames holding the Washington family portraits were handmade by Berryville’s own Peter Miller, a highly skilled carver, gilder, conservator, and restorer. He creates one-of-a-kind frames using the same traditional methods used by 12th and 13th century craftsmen.

Miller was contacted by a Mount Vernon curator to craft 13 historically accurate frames. These replicas were essential because some paintings are too valuable to be put on public display, some original frames did not survive, and some paintings are owned by others. After extensive research and trips to photograph and take exacting measurements, Miller and his apprentice and assistant Christian Ferrante produced the ornate hand-carved and gilded frames.

Miller has also crafted frames for pictures in the George W. Bush Presidential Library. They hang in a floor-to-ceiling recreated Oval Office, the only recreation of the Oval Office in the world.

Originally from Connecticut, Miller learned to work with wood as a child, serving as his father’s eyes and additional hands. His father was a wood shop teacher in the 1940s–50s as well as a hobbyist, but lost his sight when Miller was just a year old. “He continued to work in his home shop,” Miller recalled. “My first tasks were sanding for him and cleaning his brushes. Eventually, I learned to use a drill press.”

Miller didn’t do any woodworking in high school, and gave no thought to a career in the field. In fact, he had no idea what he wanted to do, so his guidance counselor advised him to go to a business college. “I got a bit of business, accounting, economics,” he said. “It wasn’t for me.”

He gave woodworking a second look and switched to another college, where he majored in teaching woodworking, in what was called industrial technology. However, he never did teach, deciding that, “I couldn’t teach in the public school system and build birdhouses for the rest of my life!”

After college, he went to work drafting and engineering for New England Log Homes, then for a millwork company doing cabinetmaking, drawing, engineering and estimating. However, it was a family business and he could advance no further with them. He started thinking of what he could do on his own, and framing was a viable option. A family member had a framing business and he went to work for them.

He started his own business in 1983 in a small frame shop that had been established a few years before. “All they had been doing was typical ‘walk into a frame shop and see the stuff you would order from distributors.’ Then one day a client asked, ‘Do you ever get or work with closed corner frames?’”

Miller explained that with ‘closed corner’ or ‘finished corner’ frames, all of the work—the joinery, carving, etc.—is done prior to any finishing, resulting in a frame that looks seamless. “That was the kickoff point for me,” he recalled.

He began seriously learning more about hand-made frames and became enthralled with gold leaf. “The community I got involved with, The International Society of Gilders, is primarily in the USA but with members around the world. These are the people who taught me to gild. I went in there as a newbie and took workshops and studied with some of the finest gilders in the United States for many years, and I still take classes.”

He added that most of the work he does is focused around frames, but he also does furniture. In addition, he does architectural gilding—he gilded the crosses at the Episcopal Church in Berryville.

Christian Ferrente, 22, was working on an ornate wall bracket that will be gilded. “I’ve been working here a little over a year. I’ve been doing woodworking since the summer after high school, taking whatever cool opportunity came my way, and I’ve been lucky enough to do some pretty awesome jobs. I did a little bit of gilding, but just very basic. I got referred to Peter. There are very few people around that know gilding like Peter does, so I’m here, learning.”

“Christian doesn’t boast,” added Miller, “but he has done timber framing at Mount Vernon, and a little over a year working at the National Gallery in the Conservation Department.”

Miller explained that they use very old traditional techniques. “One of the things I’m most passionate about with gilding and this entire art form is that virtually nothing has changed since the Renaissance.” He pulled out a translation of a book on techniques and materials written by an Italian craftsman in the 15th Century. “Our tools are the same, nothing has really changed, even the formulas and recipes.”

Miller offers occasional classes and workshops on frame-making and gilding.

P.H. Miller Studio is located at 1 East Main Street, Berryville. For information, visit www.phmillerstudio.com or call 540-955-3939.

Praising The House Centipede

by Doug Pifer

I was one of the boys in charge of stacking the books in the back closet of the school room on the last day of second grade. That’s when my first house centipede ran across the floor and under a bookcase. Girls shrieked. Boys whooped. Our teacher, a gray-haired lady wise to the ways of children, patiently explained this was a house centipede, and that it was completely harmless and simply disturbed because we invaded its secret hiding place.

Since that day I’ve been a house centipede fan. Its angled legs carry it gracefully across a wall or floor. The long legs move in waves like synchronized dancers. The creature is a wonder of engineering. The delicate antennae and the hindmost pair of legs of a house centipede are extremely long, so neither prey nor predator can be sure if the centipede is coming or going. Its movements are lightning fast and can change direction in a second.

The animal is tough and resilient, yet so delicate it’s almost impossible to catch one without breaking its legs and destroying it. Its love of darkness and its ghostly transparency add an air of mystery and fantasy. As a wordsmith, I appreciate the scientific name, Scutigera coleoptrata. A tongue-twister, the species name defies both autocorrect and spell check. It’s not coleoptera, the order of beetles, nor Cleopatra, queen of Egypt.Despite my fondness for this creature, I’ll admit there’s an undeniable creepy factor that freaks many people out. With 15 pairs of legs, accentuated by dark and light banding, a house centipede can be imposing.

I’ve heard brave people call it the scariest thing they ever saw. The biggest adult females are four and a half inches long, the legs contributing to almost half that length. Shy and retiring as it acts in the open, the creature is a voracious predator on small invertebrates such as crickets, spiders, and beetle larvae. After running its prey down, it gathers it up in the segmented tips of its legs. Then it injects venom into its prey with tweezer-like fangs to immobilize it. The fangs of a house centipede are too weak to penetrate human skin.

Having lived in a succession of old houses, my wife and I have always been at peace with house centipedes. If you have a house with a cellar or crawl space, you’re likely to harbor a few of these characters there. Their presence is not harmful to the house or your belongings. If you can seal all cracks in walls and floors between your damp cellar and the living area of your house, you’re less likely to encounter these leggy creatures.Centipede, meaning “hundred legs,” is a charming exaggeration.

A house centipede adult in perfect condition has only 30 legs. Immatures just hatched have four pairs and somewhat resemble crickets. As they grow, their leg pairs increase from 6 to 8 to 10, until they are adults. 

Conservation Groups Meet At Cool Spring

Nearly 30 area conservation groups and land trusts met June 20 at Shenandoah University’s Cool Spring Campus for a summit of the Blue Ridge Conservation Alliance. They gathered to explore more cooperation and collaboration to protect what is considered one of the most threatened mountain landscapes in the Eastern Seaboard, the Blue Ridge and surrounding area from Front Royal, Va., to the Potomac River in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. 

The Blue Ridge Conservation Alliance, or BRCA, is a network of partners working to protect the natural, scenic, and historic values of this landscape, and to conserve land, safeguard watersheds, and preserve the historic landscape along the Appalachian Trail corridor and the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. Its steering committee includes representatives from Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Land Trust of Virginia, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Piedmont Environmental Council, Virginia Working Landscapes, and Berryville-based The Downstream Project.

Guest speakers at the event included Trail Conservancy (ATC) staff members working on two initiatives with direct impact in Clarke County. Dennis Shaffer, ATC’s director of landscape conservation, described how partnerships like BRCA are collaborating along the trail’s 2,180-mile corridor to conserve land and become more connected with the towns within the trail’s view-shed — Berryville, for example, is a recognized Appalachian Trail Town. Anne Baker, ATC landscape partnership manager, invited local groups to tap into Wild East, a promotional campaign that highlights the role of the Appalachian Trail as a vital natural corridor for wildlife, plants, and quality of life for people. 

Dan Holmes, policy director for Piedmont Environmental Council, gave a presentation on utility-scale solar energy farms cropping up in the Shenandoah Valley. He urged partners to work with local planning agencies to develop ordinances that protect agricultural lands and scenic values while enabling expansion of solar energy. Learn more about BRCA at BlueRidgeConservation.org

Working Toward A Green & Prosperous Future For The Shenandoah

What comes to mind when you think about what makes the Shenandoah watershed so special? What images do you conjure when you imagine the river? That’s what dozens of people gathered to discuss at three meetings and three public forums this spring. Hosted by Shenandoah Riverkeeper Mark Frondorf and the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, the Green and Prosperous Shenandoah meetings took place in some of the places that are icons of the Valley: Front Royal, Harrisonburg, and Woodstock. The idea is to find common ground on a vision for potential futures for the river and its watershed. 

The Shenandoah couples with the long spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains to form the defining landscape feature over its length — each fork is about 100 miles long, and the main stem, which forms in Front Royal, is about 55 miles in length. It’s a popular recreation river that is often plagued by water quality issues like high fecal coliform counts. Over the last 15 years, the river has seen occasional fish kills, along with seasonal algae blooms that occur each summer.

It’s also the drinking water supply for Berryville and Charles Town, W.Va., and several other communities upstream. It passes through agricultural counties, industrial zones, many small towns, shopping centers, and huge shipping and warehouse facilities. Runoff and pollution from each of these sectors plays a role adding pollution loads to the river. Residential growth also is putting a strain on the Shenandoah’s ecology.

Stormwater runoff from towns and developments, and from the highways that serve them, is a major 
contributing factor.

Arriving at a shared idea for the future may have been the easy part. Not surprisingly, many people identified some cornerstones in their vision for the Shenandoah: a thriving farm economy and working landscapes, continued and expanded access recreation on the river, vibrant communities where people cherish their connections with the river, and a Shenandoah River that is much cleaner than it is today. The big questions folks grappled with centered around the steps, or milestones, that would bring about that future.

Participants included farmers, business owners, outfitters, conservation organizations, county and regional planners, and people who live along or just plain love the Shenandoah. They bandied around ideas that, if adopted or strengthened, would help restore the river and retain the rural character of the region.

Now volunteers are taking the feedback from all of the meetings to compile their ideas into that roadmap. “Potomac Riverkeeper Network is honored to host these sessions,” said Mark Frondorf, the Shenandoah Riverkeeper. “Ultimately creating a roadmap to a Green and Prosperous Future for the Shenandoah watershed will take many people from many backgrounds and interests.”

Frondorf says the volunteer team will work through the summer and unveil the roadmap in the fall. 

Sporting Library Offers Free Public Programs

National Sporting Library and Museum: it’s much more than The Hunt
The first time I visited the National Sporting Library and Museum in Middleburg, I had planned on a short stay. I was working on a travel book for the Journey Through Hallowed Ground, a national historic area following the route of the Old Carolina Road from Gettysburg to Charlottesville. I read about the library in a tourism brochure, and decided to stop in the next morning, take a few pictures, and add a one-paragraph entry into the book. It didn’t turn out that way.I arrived at 10am, just as the doors were opening to the public, and emerged about four o’clock. During the intervening hours, I combed through one of the most surprising collection of books on the outdoors. I spent the better part of an hour looking at two illustrated books on fly tying, got lost in books of paintings on hunting and fishing, and marveled at some of the best compilations of wildlife drawings I’ve ever seen.How did I not know about this place? Founded as the National Sporting Library in 1954, by George L. Ohrstrom, Sr. and Alexander Mackay-Smith, the institution has expanded to become a library, research facility and art museum with over 26,000 books and works of art in the collections. The library is open free to the public — note, it’s a non-circulating library. There is an admission charge to the museum, but you can visit free of charge on Wednesdays and the last Sunday of the month.My hunch is that a lot of people either don’t know about the NSLM or don’t know the breadth of its offerings. Whether or not you’re into the sporting life, the museum’s collections and programs have something for people of any age or interest. Take, for example, the exhibit “NSLMology: The Science of Sporting Art,” which runs April 12 through September 15. It blends art with science to create The Science of Sporting Art, an exhibition exploring scientific principles through three centuries of paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and hands-on activities. Learn how the human eye processes the speed of a galloping horse; the chemistry of bronze in sculpture; and the workings of wind and clouds and weather. You can experience The Science of Sporting Art free of charge April 27, including hands-on activities and kid-friendly snacks in the Library’s Founders’ Room from 11am till 1pm.NSLM offers a calendar of free programs open to the public. May through August is the Open Late Summer Concert Series. Concerts are free and open to the public, and the museum stays open late — free of charge. Food and drinks are available for purchase at the events. See the website for more details and information. Sunday Sketch is the first Sunday of the month, from 2–4pm. Each month a local art teacher or artist leads a sketching session in the art galleries, guiding participants on style, composition, or another aspect of drawing. Supplies are provided for attendees of all ages.Gallery Talks take place every Wednesday at 2pm. NSLM staff  give personalized views of traveling exhibitions, new acquisitions, or permanent collections pieces. Reservations are not required and admission is free.The National Sporting Library and Museum is member-supported. Once you attend a free program or two, you might consider supporting the mission and programs by joining.

National Sporting Library and Museum
102 The Plains Road, Middleburg VA 20117
540-687-6542
www.nationalsporting.org
Hours: Wednesday – Sunday, 10am–5pm.Museum admission: Adults, $10; seniors and youth (13–18), $8; children, free

As the Crow Flies

For A More Successful Nesting Season

Story and photo by Doug Pifer

I’ve put up seven bluebird houses at various sites on our property. For the past couple of years, bluebirds have nested in them and successfully raised a brood or two of young. Tree swallows have also used them. When I clean out the nest boxes in late winter, I’m happy to have enhanced some of the wildlife habitat of this small plot of land.But successful nesting is far from certain. Over the three years since we’ve installed new fences, the barn cats have learned to walk on the top boards as if on balance beams. Now they can routinely investigate every bird house that’s mounted on a fence post. Red foxes, raccoons, snakes and other ground predators have learned to keep an eye on nesting boxes, waiting to grab eggs, nestlings, or even adult birds. Hawks and owls patrol the skies day and night.

Alternative nest sites
It’s easy to install bird houses on fence posts, and such sites are attractive to birds such as tree swallows and bluebirds. But studies of nesting bluebirds have shown that over time, fence post nests may be less successful. They offer predators a safety lane across an open field where they can hide, hunt and ambush nesting birds. And if all the bird houses are in the fence line, the nests are set up for failure. A safer alternative is to place some bluebird and tree swallow houses on free standing, non-climbable posts. Mount bird housing on metal fencing T-posts, PVC, or metal conduit pipe cut to appropriate lengths. Positioning them ten or twelve feet from a woods or fence line makes the nests less accessible to predators.

Installng baffles
Bird houses mounted on posts in open areas are even safer from predators if a baffle is provided. A baffle can be anything that allows the nesting bird easy access but excludes a predator. You can buy one or make it yourself. I put a pre-made baffle on the post supporting the wood duck nesting box I placed next to the creek. It resembles an upside-down funnel about two feet in diameter. A raccoon or blacksnake trying to climb up to reach the wood duck eggs will be truly baffled! Professional wildlife managers 
recommend using such baffles on every wood duck nesting box.After reading literature by the Purple Martin Conservation Association (PMCA), I learned that the telescoping metal pole that holds my martin house is climbable by snakes and raccoons. Last season I bought and installed a custom-made metal baffle to protect my martin colony. Great horned owls also can reach their talons into martin houses and grab nestlings. The PMCA sells owl guards that fit in front of martin house openings to prevent such predation, but I have yet to try them.

Predator guards
To further protect bluebird houses, attach to the entrance a 2.5- to 3-inch-thick square of wood, drilled with a hole the same size as the opening. A cat, owl or raccoon won’t be able to reach the birds in the nest with its paw or talons. To also discourage snakes, attach a simple tube of bent wire mesh extending from the entrance five or six inches. The outermost edge of the mesh is cut and bent outwards so the sharp wires deter a hungry snake. Bluebird predator guards are available online or at stores that sell backyard bird feeding and housing supplies.