Preservation Heroes Receive HPAC Awards

The Henrico Theatre, a recently restored jewel from the Art Deco period, made a fitting backdrop Oct. 20 as the 2010 Awards of Merit were presented to six champions of preservation.

Awarded by the Henrico Historic Preservation Advisory Committee (HPAC), the honors went to individuals and organizations that have excelled at efforts ranging from creating a website to clearing cemeteries.

Dr. Jearald D. Cable received his award for the preservation of the Curle’s Neck Farm Plantation. The farm is significant for its long history as one of the oldest, largest and most productive agricultural operations on the banks of the James River. It features a 19th-century Colonial Revival mansion, a century-old stable, a stallion barn, and a blacksmith and carpentry shop. In 2009, Cable succeeded in listing a 156-acre portion of the farm on the National Register of Historic Properties.

Hilda Cosby also received an award for preservation of a farm, one located in the opposite corner of the county from Curles Neck. The Cosby Farm in northwestern Henrico County has remained in the hands of one African-American family since the late 19th century, passing from a tobacco farmer to his son, William Darl Cosby, Sr., a World War II veteran and prominent educator who served as curator of the Virginia Randolph Museum.

William D. Cosby, Jr. recalled recently that his father put in long, full days between his job as school principal and all the tasks of running a farm.

"We had cows, chicken and pigs – and he still maintained the garden," said Cosby. "[My father] used to say to the superintendent, 'I don't need a full day off; just give me a half day off. I can't cut hay [until afternoon] because it's still wet from the dew.'"

After determining that the original structure of the farmhouse could not be saved, Hilda Cosby had a reproduction of it built on the old foundation. According to her son, the restoration was so faithful and carefully done that passers-by on Pouncey Tract Road may have barely noticed.

"It looks," Cosby said, "like the house had a facelift instead of a restoration."

High-Tech and Low
Award of Merit recipient Terri Trembeth was recognized for her creation of the Henrico County Historical Society website, which provides information on genealogy, preservation, news and events, and membership. Beverly Cocke, the HPAC member who nominated Cocke, noted that the site highlights services provided by the Society as well as links to historical resources in a particularly user-friendly way.

John Shuck and his colleagues Vicki and John Stephens received their award for their efforts to spruce up Evergreen Cemetery.

Shuck, who began visiting cemeteries while pursuing his interest in genealogical research, recalls being overwhelmed at his first visit to Evergreen.

"I thought, 'This can't be too hard. I'll clear a plot – any plot,'" he said.

"I got half a plot done, and I was pooped."

The cemetery, which sprawls along the city-county border in eastern Henrico, was used as an illegal dump for decades. Shuck and his fellow volunteers – of which he says there are never enough – once pulled enough tires from the site to fill a large dumpster in only two hours. Because the cemetery is completely overgrown and laden with tombstones, vegetation and trash must be removed tediously by hand.

But Shuck and a core group of volunteers, together with teams of students from Virginia Commonwealth and Virginia Union universities, continue to return for regular work sessions. He's been rewarded by seeing at least one family locate the once-overgrown grave of an ancestor, and he is hopeful that their work will reveal more.

One of the elder members in the Henrico Historical Society, in fact, has told Shuck of hunting Easter eggs around the graves in Evergreen Cemetery as a child. The vegetation that took over in the ensuing 70 years, however, has made it impossible for Welford Williams to get his bearings at the cemetery -- and to find the long-lost grave of his mother. To Shuck, who believes they are close to uncovering the Williams plot, that's just one more reason to keep plugging.

Organizations Also Honored
Among the organizations honored with awards were the Henrico County Board of Supervisors and the Richmond Battlefields Association.

The association, a nonprofit organization of historic Civil War sites surrounding Richmond, earned its award for acquiring and protecting the Fussell’s Mill property associated with the Second Deep Bottom/Fussell’s Mill Civil War battlefield. The property features a historic house, ruins of an antebellum mill, and a series of Confederate entrenchments that figure into the fighting that took place in Aug. 1864.

Recently, the County of Henrico supported the proposal by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to place the property on a historic preservation and open-space easement in perpetuity.

The Board of Supervisors earned an Award of Merit for funding the restoration and renovation of Dabbs House in eastern Henrico County, which opened in September as a tourist information center and resource for the traveling public.

Named for Josiah Dabbs, who purchased the property in 1859, the museum and tourist center served as the field headquarters of Confederate General Robert E. Lee during the summer of 1862, and was later purchased by the county and used as an alms house and county police headquarters.

The museum not only showcases relics of the county's Civil War history and rooms furnished as they were in Robert E. Lee’s time, but also features a bomb shelter built in the basement during the 1960s cold war period.

Contact Patty Kruszewski at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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The film “Lego Batman” (PG) will play at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. at Henrico Theatre, 305 E. Nine Mile Rd. Tickets are $1 and can be purchased at the door. Refreshments are $1 per item. For details, call 652-1460 or visit http://www.henricotheatre.us. Full text

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