Archive for the ‘Virginia History’ Category

A Glorious New Year’s Day 2014 Trip From Eastern Shore Virginia To Williamsburg, VA’s Historic District

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

CBBTBright, sunny, beautiful from dawn till dusk, New Year’s Day 2014 was simply lovely.  We had planned early on to ring in New Year’s Day in Williamsburg and the weather could not have been more co-operative.  One of the  delights of a trip to the historic area of Colonial Williamsburg in December are the beautiful holiday decorations– the door of each home in the restored area is adored with a unique, handmade wreath.  And since they are all crafted by the residents, no wreath is duplicated.  For about the last ten years we have made an annual pilgrimage on New Year’s Day to enjoy a guilt-free buffet brunch at one of the hotels because afterwards we take a brisk walk through the restored area to work off all those calories !   ( An excellent excuse for sampling several deserts …..)  And the trip from the Eastern Shore of Virginia to Williamsburg is so easy,  a glide over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, clear blue waters below,  chop-chop-chop up I-64 E , exit onto Colonial Parkway and, insto-presto, in less than 2 hours it’s napkin in lap, fork in hand, ready to enjoy a luscious lunch.

 

Williamsburg InnLunch this year was an interesting buffet at the always special Williamsburg Inn– in addition to  Southern regional dishes like oyster pie,   seafood fritatta and minced Smithfield ham salad,  a surprisingly excellent offering was a black-eyed pea bisque.  For those not familiar,  it is a Southern tradition that on New Year’s Day, one must eat black-eyed peas – they are supposed to bring good luck for the coming year.  I don’t really enjoy them and the idea of black-eyed pea bisque was initially not appealing whatever. But Hubby tried some, wow, said he, this bisque is really excellent, you really should try it.   So I did…. once, twice and three times a charm !  Couldn’t believe it, that’s how delicious it was, best darn thing on the menu, I shall remember it aways.  Well, maybe not always but at least until next year when I hope they will serve it again !  The desserts were fun, especially the crepe’ station, rich, thin crepe’s filled with Bananas Foster, topped with a little scoop of fabulous ice cream and sliced fresh strawberries, very, very yummy indeed.

Williamsburg Historic area shop 244The weather was  delightful,  a little warmer than usual, about 55 degrees,  so when we started our walk  Duke of Gloucester Street was teeming with folks from all over, tourists wearing their badge passes,  locals,  students from the College of William and Mary which is located just a few blocks away, everyone quite  relaxed, just enjoying the afternoon, strolling down this historic street.  If you love dogs, Gloucester Street is also a “meet and greet” heaven for dogs of all kinds and sizes, as owners leisurely traipse down the street behind their pooches.  This year was an especially great year for ”people walking dog”  watching– a Bernese Mountain dog, Labradoodle, Great Pyrenees, Scottie, Doxie, Boxer, you name it, they were enthusiastically escorting their owners down this four hundred year old street where individuals  like  George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, both alumni of William and Mary, probably walked their dogs too.   Interestingly, you almost never see aggressive canine behavior there, just doggie curiosity and tail wagging which makes the whole “man’s best friend” scene lots of fun. And to add additional interest to this convivial scene, the  period style carriages were out in force, each drawn by two gorgeous, well-cared for horses, stepping high, coats gleaming in the afternoon sunlight, liveried driver seated high above.  The carriages are apparently hand- manufactured in Austria according to one of the drivers but the wheels themselves are actually handmade at the wheelwright shop right in the Williamsburg Historic Area. Anyway, four or five horse-drawn carriages traveling down the street is quite a sight.

Williamsburg Christmas Decorations 241 This year’s batch of wreaths and swags was interesting as always.  Nearly every home and shop in the Restored Area is decorated each holiday season with a wreath or swag made entirely of materials which would have been available to residents of  the 18th century, basically constructed from fresh greenery pine, fraiser, boxwood, holly, magnolia and decorated with a myriad of dried different flowers, seeds and fruits, no artificial decorations allowed.  To up the ante’ a bit for residents, 1st, 2nd. and 3rd place blue ribbons are awarded and given the obvious amount of  effort many wreaths show, I’m guessing there is a bit of friendly competition every year to win a ribbon.  The effect is so pleasing that every year literally thousands of visitors come each year over the holidays to see the decorations and enjoy a holiday meal in one of the period taverns.  Each Tavern is  gaily decorated for the season, softly lighted by candles with costumed servers offering food authentic to the period– one of the most famous is the King’s Arms Tavern which is famous for its peanut soup,  Game Pye as well as an unusual veggie offering, a rich creamed celery with a hint of nutmeg,  which doesn’t sound that great but which was quite delicious.   There is always something new to see or try in Williamsburg and a visit there is  a great way to kick off the New Year.

 

A Fitting Memorial Ceremony At The Eastern Shore Of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge, Previously Fort John Custis, Near Cape Charles, VA

Thursday, June 13th, 2013
Susan Rice and Dignataries on the Dais At Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at Refuge

Susan Rice & Visiting Dignataries At Ribbon Cutting Ceremony At Eastern Shore Wildlife Refuge

On Saturday, May 25th, along with hundreds of others, including scores of  local veterans, we attended  a very moving ribbon cutting ceremony at the Eastern Shore of Virginia National  Wildlife Refuge as part of the placement of a very special gun.  A great deal  of time and effort was expended, most  particularly by Alan Stanz, a US Navy veteran from the Eastern Shore, as well as by Terry McGovern,  author of a very fine pictorial history on coastal defense systems entitled The Chesapeake Bay At War“,  to make possible the transfer of this historic  gun from the US Navy  to  the Refuge.  Present on the dais were Ms. Susan Rice, Manager of  the Refuge, Col. Paul Olsen representing the US Army,  Barry White, USN retired, who had actually served aboard the Missouri, representing the US Navy, Vincent Rojas representing the Pearl Harbor Battleship Missouri Memorial in Hawaii,  as well as representatives of Senator Mark Warner and Governor McDonald.

Battleship_Missouri[1] at sea

Mighty Mo underway at sea

Photo of Bunker # 2 at The Eastern Shore Virginia Wildlife Refuge

Gun Barrel #393 Standing In The Remains Of Bunker # 2 At The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony At The Eastern Shore Of Virginia Wildlife Refuge

This is the story of the voyage of  that gun, a  single 168 foot long Mark 7,  Barrel # 393,  from her initial deployment to her final resting place here  at the National Wildlife Refuge at the southern tip of the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  She proudly sailed on one of the most consequential battleships of WW II,  USS Missouri, the “Mighty Mo“, christened in January, 1944 by then Senator Harry Truman’s daughter, Margaret.  Fittingly, the “Mighty Mo”  was initially stationed in nearby Norfolk, VA , swiftly  cutting through the waters of the Chesapeake Bay during her  shakedown and battle practice before setting sail for Pearl Harbor in  December of that year.  The gun of our story was one of only nine aboard  in her class, a  16″ 50 Caliber Mark 7, constituting part of the main battery on  the Missouri.  But she was destined to play an important place in history, firing her heart out as the “Might Mo”  participated in the invasion of Iwo Jima, then in  the invasion of Okinawa as the Third Fleet flagship of  the great Admiral  Halsey and in the final assault on Japan in her home waters. This particular gun was a silent witness on V-J Day to the momentous surrender of  the Empire of Japan on Sept. 2, 1945 as the world heaved a great sigh of relief when Admiral Nimitz and General MacArthur came aboard the USS Missouri shortly before 9 am to sign the Surrender Documents on behalf of the United States of America.  And  this gun, # 393,  with the ribbon cutting ceremony  at the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge over the Memorial Day 2013 week-end,  has now become ” Our  Gun”.   At  168  feet long,  firing a 16″ shell  weighing 2100 pounds,  capable of hitting a target at  a distance of 23 miles, she is at last peacefully quiet,  resting in her final emplacement, in Bunker # 2, which once wielded an identical 168 foot long Mark 7  gun during  deployment  at Fort John Custis from 1942 to 1945 as a part of  its  gun battery for the critical coastal defense system.

A bit more history….   During WWII,  the defense of the 15 mile wide mouth of the Chesapeake Bay against possible attack by enemy warships was of the highest priority to the US military, particularly in consideration of the strategic importance of  protecting the US’s largest Navel Station in Norfolk only a few miles away, the very important  shipyard in the Hampton area as well as the necessity of  keeping ports and the critical shipping channels between Norfolk and Baltimore secure and open.  The upshot of this concern was that in September, 1941 a fort was established by the US Army at the very southern tip of  the Eastern Shore.  It’s mission was to work together with Fort Story on the Virginia Beach side of the Bay and Fort Monroe in Hampton to create a series of  coastal fortifications of the highest level at the mouth of  the Chesapeake.  Originally designated Fort Winslow, re-named Fort John Custis in honor of a local Eastern Shore hero in 1942,  at peak staffing over 1000 troops were stationed there,  manning a variety of gun batteries, state of the art radars, controlled mines, searchlights and tall fire control towers, 24/7.

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Aerial View of Fisherman's Island and the Eastern Shore VA National Wildlife Refuge

Aerial View of Fisherman’s Island & Eastern Shore VA National Wildlife Refuge Where Fort Custis & The Cape Charles Air Force Station Once Stood

And just a teeny bit more history…. After the War, the Army closed the Fort Custis but in 1950 it got a new lease on life when purchased by the US Air Force, re-named the Cape Charles Air Force Station, home station of the 77 1st Squadron.  Here about 500 airmen during the 1950′s & 60′s were stationed,  manning very specialized equipment as part of the military’s  new national air defense radar network .  In 1963 it became a joint use facility with the FAA but in 1981 all these missions were moved to the  Navel Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, and the Cape Charles Air Force Station faded into the sunset.  Enter the US Fish and Wildlife Service which in 1984 purchased part of the property to establish the now totally awesome Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge.  This pretty much brings us to the present except to say that currently  the Refuge owns 1340 acres at the Shore’s very beautiful southern tip, including all of what was once Fort Custis.  And to quote from the program handed out at the ribbon cutting:  “The Refuge staff continues history’s theme of protection– not one of protecting the Chesapeake Bay as Fort John Custis, nor protecting the skies as Cape Charles Air Force Station, but one of protecting the waters, the land and skies for wildlife  and their habitates for the continuing benefit of the American people.” 

 

Rosie the Riviter WW II Poster saying "We Can Do It "

WE DID DO IT — Thanks To The Efforts Of Millions Like My Father & Mother

So the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony wasn’t  just about this impressive and historic  gun, it was about remembering  the sacrifices of those who fought and those who died to protect us and to keep this nation free.  As Col. Paul Olsen, representing the US Army at the Ceremony, said so eloquently,  not every warrior returns from war.  And Memorial Day is the time for we the living to contemplate the abstract idea of freedom and to remember those who paid for it with their  last full measure of devotion.  And not just those who fought in battle or those who died,  but also  those who sacrificed in so many other ways.  I’m sure that almost everyone in my generation has a relative who was touched by WWII  in a very personal way. For myself, I would like to pay tribute to my father, now passed on, captured by the Germans, managed to escape,  awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, who struggled the rest of his life with medical issues from his war wounds.  And to my mother, who after graduation from college went to work, not in her chosen profession, but in an aircraft assembly plant, noisy, dirty, difficult but like so many other women across this country, worked  her heart out for her country.  And so on Memorial Day I always think of them, of their sacrifices, as well as of our debt to those who died.  It’s because of  my parents and the millions of men and women  just like them all over this nation, the Greatest Generation,  we are all still free, still speaking English– not German, not Japanese. Thanks, Dad.  Thanks, Mom. We can never repay our debt to you.

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A Historic Home For Sale In Eastville, VA., One Of The Oldest Towns On The Eastern Shore of Virginia

Monday, February 18th, 2013

Courthouse Green, Eastville, VA

If you thought that when the Pilgrims first dipped their toes into the freezing waters of Cape Cod Bay in November, 1620 that they were the first group to contemplate serious colonization in the New World you would have overlooked the discovery in 1608 of Virginia’s Eastern Shore by  Capt. John Smith, of Pocahantus fame, as he sailed into the mouth of the mighty Chesapeake Bay, making the first of many commentaries about lifestyles on Virginia’s Eastern  Shore when he  said “Heaven and Earth never agreed better to frame a place for man’s habitation“.   So although the Pilgrims got all the fame, fuss and memorialization ad infinitum via grade school Thanksgiving pagents, our little penninsula was the true spot where serious colonization got started, leaving aside the Lost Colony.  And the spot where it all started was here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, in Northampton County,  in what is now known as the little town of Eastville, VA.   Eastville became the official county seat in 1690 when what is now called the old courthouse was built there. Today, Eastville is nationally famous in historical circles as being the oldest repository of continuous court records in the US and folks come from all over to study the old wills, deeds, etc.

Front view of historic Eastville home

Eastville now is a quaint, tiny town centered around the Courthouse Green. The town is very much as it was more than a hundred plus years ago when many of the existing homes were built.  Tree lined streets and beautiful old homes with wide front porches set a relaxed tone.  One of these gorgeous, elegant  old homes is now for sale, listed by Blue Heron  Realty Co. agent Gerry Forbes.  Built in 1917, this 5 bedroom, 4 bath historic home is in simply beautiful condition throughout. Gorgeous, gleaming hardwood floors, original of course, and Bfine moldings show off the excellent craftsmanship of this fine brick home. The formal living room and the formal dining room both have fireplaces adorned with charming old mantels and fabulous pocket doors. Lovingly updated keeping in mind retaining the historical integrity, this home now has updated plumbing and electrical service, like-new  heat pumps and central air conditioning.   The very spacious kitchen sports new glass front cabinets, trash compactor and a gas downdraft cooktop, everything at the ready to cook a five course meal at the drop of a hat.  For anyone thinkling about opening a B & B,   the third floor guest suite makes this home a great candidate for a B & B, especially as the third floor would offer a lot of private space  for the owner.

Spacious Kitchen

One of my favorite rooms is the large glassed-in sunroom.  South facing, with a view the lawns and  backyard pool, this room just feels totally relaxing,  it  cries out for  comfy rocking chairs and some  really good books.  Sited on a two acre +  parcel, the house is surrounded by mature hardwoods and hollies. The  magnolia tree in the side yard is one of the tallest magnolias I have ever seen- I’m sure it is absolutely breathtaking when in full bloom !  And cuter than cute, three historic sheds estimated circa 1880′s, complete with antique hardware,  grace the backyard  just behind the magnolia tree. Without a doubt,  this is a great opportunity for someone who is looking for a historic home in a little  town in a coastal area.  Eastville is so close to beaches, boat ramps, marinas, golf, etc., lots of fun lifestyle amenties which are only about 10 minutes away. For more information about  this exceptional property, call  Blue Heron Realty Co. at 757-678-5200 or email gerryblueheron@esva.net. (Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134 Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA )

Ringing In The New Year In Historic Williamsburg, VA

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

This year,  as has been our habit for the last 10 or so years, we  made a New Year’s Day trek to Williamsburg, VA to enjoy lunch and a leisurely walk through the Colonial Historic Area  to admire this year’s  door  decorations.   Fortunately it’s just a hop, skip and jump from the Eastern Shore of Virginia to Williamsburg….. Well, maybe more of a longish glide.  As in glide smoothly over the incredible Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, sparkling blue waters of the merge point of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean swirling below,  a sight that never ceases to amaze me with its ever changing face.  Sometimes smooth as glass, other times presenting as long, undulating waves, yet again as wild angry chop, covered with foam, something different every time one goes across.  Then gliding west on Rt. 64 which, on New Year’s Day, usually is a fat, low-key drive because most folks are likely trying to get the ole eyeballs focused after a rollicking New Year’s Eve.  Anyway, it seems like no time at all and one is on Colonial Parkway, heading for Duke of Gloucester Street.

The Historic Area of Colonial Williamsburg is an on-going restoration effort of the  Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, was made possible by massive endowments by the John D. Rockefeller family, is a truly  amazing place, a living history museum consisting of an entire town, replicated from the Colonial era.  It’s like a time travelers dream, suddenly you’re back in the 1700′s, walking down cobblestone streets, past shops filled with long gone items like candles, bonnets, leather pockets, thick pottery, pewter mugs, etc.,  as well as replicas of the one and  two page local newspapers of that era which are so amazing to read. Horse- drawn grand coaches clatter down the streets, young drummers from the Fife and Bugle Corps march purposefully towards the Governor’s Palace, drums counting the cadence, aromas of hot spiced apple cider waft through the air as folks from literally all around the globe visit during the holidays to see the Historic Area and the famous Christmas door wreaths and swags.

A quick lunch at one of the several taverns was in order before setting out to see this year’s crop of  decorations.   Taverns were public houses of that era and were places for visitors and travelers to eat and relax. The Foundation offers 4 authentic tavern experiences with menus offering foods  similar to the dishes which would have been popular with folks like George Washington or Thomas Jefferson back  in the day.   At dinner,  what would have been typical Colonial era entertainers stroll through the dining rooms, singing and accompanying themselves on lute and mandolin.  Both the servers and the entertainers are in authentic costume, the lighting is by candle which creates an old-fashioned ambience.  My favorite tavern for a quick lunch is  Josiah Chownings, which was a real tavern, operated by a real Josiah Chowning back in the mid-1700′s.   I especially look forward to their peanut soup appetizer which is served with long strips of chunky,  very dry, crisp seasoned bread called “sippets”.   Peanut soup probably sounds less than palatable but well made, with a good quality chicken stock and heavy cream, it is silky smooth and absolutely delicious.  My husband often orders the Brunswick Stew which is a very old Southern dish, popular still, chicken stewed with corn, lima beans, tomatoes, herbs, etc..   The original recipe for Brunswick Stew called for squirrel instead of chicken, no squirrel for me, thanks anyway, but with chicken it is quite  tasty.

Lunch enjoyed, we set out for a leisurely walk  to view  this year’s wreaths.    Somehow, we never seem to tire of looking at these lovely, all- natural decorations.  No matter how many times we have gone to Williamsburg over the holidays,  it always seems that fresh and new ideas hang on each  door. Every conceivable type of plant material is used in quite creative ways —- fresh cedar, pine, Frasier fir and boxwood sprigs are used to form the basic wreath which is then decorated with all sorts of colorful fruits, seed pods, magnolia leaves, grasses, dried flowers, pine cones, shells, etc.  Over the years,  these lovely wreaths  become so famous that the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation finally published an elaborate hardcover book entitled “Christmas Decorations From Williamsburg” which gives step by step directions on how to make a Colonial style wreath at home.  Order the book at  http://www.Williamsburgmarketplace.com.  I have the book but confess that somehow I’ve just never gotten around to making one myself although the directions are quite well illustrated.  Maybe next year…..

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

“Living a Modern Life with History” Symposium At Ker Place Museum In Onancock, VA October 19-21, 2012

Friday, December 21st, 2012

My grandson Charlie Morgan attended a week of history camp at Ker Place, the headquarters of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society.

Presented by the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society, http://www.kerplace.org the seventy attendees at the historic Ker Place Museum in Onancock, Virginia had the opportunity to tour spectacular Eastern Shore historic  homes, enjoy a gourmet dinner in an early 18th century home  and gather the wisdom of eight nationally acclaimed experts on diverse subjects related to the historical theme of this symposium.  Friday, the first day  of the symposium, was dedicated to touring five of  Virginia Eastern Shore’s very special Chesapeake Bay area homes, both historic  and new, to see the many different ways that folks live a modern life with history. Emphasis was placed on architectural features and their preservation and restoration, the interior design components that showcase their owners’  lifestyles  and the landscaping that enhances the exterior features of the homes and environment. After a full day of lectures from the experts on Saturday, the attendees were treated to dinner at Vaux Hall (cir. 1710) located on Warehouse Creek, a colorful saltwater  inlet from the Chesapeake Bay,  only a few miles outside the historic town of Onancock. This early Georgian colonial home is believed to be the oldest two-story residence on the Eastern Shore and features beautifully preserved wood paneling, moldings, doors and heart-pine floors. On Sunday, the program finished with three more lectures of very special interest.  To see a full program of this wonderfully educational event go to http://www.kerplace.org/symposium.pdf .  The Eastern Shore of Virginia has many properties with 17th and 18th century homes,  some with accessory buildings that date as  far back as the 1670′s, and many more homes dating from the 19th and early 20th century. With such a rich collection of historic homes in our relatively small geographical area, a peninsula which  is literally surrounded by water,  it is indeed fortunate that we have a historical society so dedicated towards education and appreciation of our heritage.  Anyone who loves the Eastern Shore,  residents and visitors alike,  should not pass up the opportunity to tour the amazing Ker Place Museum in Onancock,  headquarters of the Eastern Shore Historical Society.

Although I was unable to attend the symposium’s  house tour and dinner, I made an effort to attend several  of the lectures on both Saturday and Sunday. As a REALTOR who has had the privilege of handling the sale and restoration of dozens of historic homes,  I wanted to expand my knowledge base to better help me serve my clients and customers, and ultimately the unique historic properties I represent. In particular, I wanted to gain a better understanding of the history and architecture of a historic  home  that Blue Heron Realty Co. has listed  for sale  located  on sixty acres of land near Machipongo, Virginia.  This property,  known as “Prospect Hill”,  is only a few miles from my own home on the Eastern Shore.   In its heyday, it was once a thriving farm and the grand old  house, believed to be circa 1790-1820,  offers great promise for restoration and renovation to bring it up to 21st century standards. If this old house could talk, what would she say?  I have many questions for her and would love to share the answers with a prospective buyer who has to consider restoring and then living in this old house. ( To see details and photos of this property visit  www.blueheronva.com/historic_real_estate/ and look for “Prospect Hill.”

"Prospect Hill" cir. 1790 awaits a new owner who will love and cherish her wonderful, charming heritage.

The first lecture I attended was a talk by Matthew Webster, the Director of Historic Architectural Resources of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. He emphasized methods for indentifying the signs that reveal the architectural history of old buildings, a subject that interested me hugely. He spoke about examining the wood framing for saw marks, checking the joinery of posts and beams, looking for different layers of paint, identifying the fastenings of the structure such as nails, dating the types of windows, and determining the type and bonds of brick masonry. Also, he gave a study of different types of houses according to the time period of their construction which would be exemplified by certain styles of architecture such as Georgian 1720-1780, Federal 1780-1820 and Greek Revival 1820-1850. Accompanying his lecture with projected photographs, he distinctly pointed out the different characteristics of which he spoke.

The second lecture was given by Chris Ohrstrom, a founder and co-owner of Adelphi Paper Hangings, LLC. They specialize in reproducing antique wall papers and he gave a wonderful illustrated talk about their special process that revives the old tools and craftsmanship of the industry from the 18th and 19th centuries. I was mesmerized by the old techniques, his descriptions of their factories and tooling, and the examples of wallpapers his firm manufactures. I learned that wallpapers were meant to be only a shortlived wallcovering that imitated much more expensive wall decorations.

On Sunday, I was glad to hear the talk given by Ken Farmer, well-known antiques appraiser from the PBS series “Antiques Roadshow”,  who has been collecting and selling the finest antiques from his shops in Radford and Charlottesville, Virginia. The gist of his remarks centered around the theme of “antiques are the epitomy of green – recycling”,   informing his audience about how to find, evaluate, and purchase antiques. I learned that oftentimes one can purchase better quality used furniture while avoiding the higher cost of good quality reproductions that have a lower value.

The second lecture that Sunday was given by Jeffrey Price, the director of Sales and Marketing for Virginia Lime Works. His company specializes in reproducing mortars for the restoration of aged masonry construction, especially from the 18th and 19th centuries. His slide show presentation demonstrated the old techniques for making lime as well as how old handmade bricks can be damaged by the use of modern mortars, a risk that never occurred to me when I have examined restored colonial brickwork.

The final lecture was the most entertaining,  given by Paul “Chip” Callaway, a certified landscape architect/owner of Calloway and Associates.  His hilarious commentary that accompanied a voluminous slide show of his special projects, those restoring the gardens and landscape of historic buildings, kept the mood of his audience light, focused and amazed.

Handmade doors with mortise and tennon joinery open from the through passage to the living room in the earliest part of the home. Note the deep, paneled recess of the doorway, indicating a former exterior wall.

Now fortified with this interesting knowledge base gained from my attendance at the symposium, I again visited my listing “Prospect Hill” located on Seaside Rd. approximately 22 miles north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. I had previously guessed that the first section of the home was of Federal design and construction around the period of 1790-1810, the second, larger and more ornate addition in  a Greek Revival tradition dated around 1830  and the third section, a one and one-half story addition containing the kitchen, was of the 1890′s period.  Upon my next visit to the property, I used the tips from the symposium to confirm or deny my original assessments. First, up in the attic area and down in the basement, I examined the exposed beams and joinery for sawmarks and fasteners. Second, I studied the great wall of bricks and exposed chimneys for telltale signs of handmade bricks, like thumb and finger impressions. Third, I then closely examined the windows and glass. My post-symposium investigation revealed that the home was constructed with oversized handhewn, heart of pine beams with diagonal but straight sawmarks and plenty of mortice and tennon joinery. Also, I found square cut nails with machine cut heads, both indicating the first section was probably produced shortly after 1790. This part of the house was finished with interior wood paneling, fireplace mantel and cabinets distinctly styled from the Federal period, (cir. 1780-1820).

In the Greek Revival addition, handcarved wood panel wainscoting with marbellized baseboards - note fluted columns in panelling.

The second part, a larger more ornate addition was finished with elaborately decorated woodwork, especially the very fancy, intricately hand-carved fireplace mantels. Further, the marbellized paintwork on the baseboards and the fluted doorway surrounds confirmed the style of the Greek Revival period (cir. 1820-1850). This addition has a massive 3-brick thick, free-standing three story brick endwall laid in the Flemish bond pattern. The top three feet of the exposed chimney had been blasted by lightening and I found on the ground plenty of bricks with thick slabs of mortar. Close examination of the bricks revealed holes and thumbprints, indicating that these were handmade sometime prior to 1833.

One of three massive handcarved fireplace mantels of museum quality - note the marbelized paint on the baseboard below the wood panel wainscoting.

Lastly, off to the east of the home is an overgrown boxwood garden of formal design interspersed with crepe myrtle and one of the few cork trees  on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The size of the boxwoods indicates an age of well over one hundred years and the garden certainly begs for restoration and rejuvenation.

The 1890's kitchen addition - note the floor-to-ceiling cupboard and tin ceiling.

As the listing agent, I have become very attached to this old house and her museum quality architectural features. Her situation on a sixty acre farm of fields and forest is ideal for a country estate property and a lovely 3/8 mile driveway approach draws one’s imagination back to the days of self-sufficiency and fox hunts. Many generations and all their attendant celebrations have graced this property and she now awaits a new owner who will love and cherish her spacious, well-appointed rooms that, if walls could speak, could tell many stories. For even more information on this home, call  David Kabler at Blue Heron Realty Co., 757-331-4885 .

A Dramatic Presentation of the Early History of the Eastern Shore of Virginia At The Palace Theatre In Cape Charles, VA

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Chief Debedeavon and his tribal warriors appeal to the heavens

Demonstrating the incredible strength of our volunteer spirit here on Virginia’s  Eastern Shore, members of our community, including myself,  came together this November, 2012, for the production of “Piece of Eden” in the historic Palace Theater in downtown Cape Charles, Virginia.Written by long-time resident of our town,  Jean Collins,  and adapted for the stage by our very talented Sheila Cardano, this epic musical drama reenacts the significant events and politics of the 17th and 18th centuries which  not only are the foundations of our country but also the basic principles of  American liberty and democracy. Few people realize the importance of the Eastern Shore of Virginia in not only providing sustenance for the early Jamestown Colony but also the Eastern Shore’s role in saving that colony from annihilation by the Powhatan Native American tribes in the massacre of 1622.  If truth be told, Jamestown would have been wiped off the face of the earth if the “Laughing King” of the Eastern Shore, Indian chief Debedeavon, had not warned the colonists of the western shore of Chief Powhatan’s plan to poison their wells and attack their settlement. The Eastern Shore’s Indian chief’s timely and courageous action prevented the massacre from achieving its objective of killing all 1100 settlers; as it was,  more than 350 were murdered during the massacre but Jamestown survived as the capital of Virginia. Who can begin to speculate about our nation’s history if the Jamestown settlement had been completely wiped out?

Stephen Charlton leads the settlers in the first protest against unfair taxation.

Piece of Eden” also portrays the peoples who made important contributions to our early history, especially the Native Americans. Living amongst us today in our community are the descendants of the Indians and the early colonists who shaped the foundation of our nation. Names like Opecancanough, Fox, Custis, Savage, and Charlton as well as the Indian tribes, Machipongo and Occohannock,  who inhabited the Eastern Shore before the arrival of the colonists, are threaded throughout the play. Authentic costumes worn by the actors and the lively portrayal of  the cultural life of early colonial times effectively bring to life the characters who made history here on the Shore.  Portrayed on stage is a portion of  the very first play acted on American soil in our town of Pungoteague titled “Ye Bear and Ye Cub”.   “Piece of Eden“  also incorporates scenes from  historic meetings of the colonists with the Indians including the spreading of the small pox disease,  the timely warning of the impending Jamestown massacre, the flight of  Virginia’s early governor from Jamestown to the Custis family estate of Arlington  during Bacon’s Rebellion, Northampton County’s letter of grievances which was the very first protest in the colonies against taxation without representation  and the reading of the Declaration of Independence from the courthouse steps in Eastville in 1776.  And lo, these many years later, Eastville is still the Northampton County seat.

The Declaration of Independence is read from the Northampton courthouse steps on August 13, 1776.

Over the week of November 15-20, 2012, our enthusiastic cast and crew played five performances of “Piece of Eden” to interested  and appreciative audiences. Our last performance was held at 9:30am to accommodate all of the  fourth grade students in the County as they   are now studying Virginia history in their classrooms. The actors were able to greet the audience members after each performance and I heard many wonderful comments, such as ”I never realized how important the history of the Eastern Shore is to the founding of America.” When one considers the impacts of such an enormous production, it is astounding to think of the educational, social, economic and cultural benefits that accrue to our community. Who knows what impressionable children may gather from seeing this spectacular and educational play?  Or what decisions a new visitor to our area may make when they see such creativity and cohesiveness demonstrated by the members of our community?  The Palace Theater,  owned and operated by our own Arts Enter Cape Charles,  is undoubtedly a most important resource to our community and well deserves the  generous support it receives.

A proud and grateful cast takes their bow!

If you’ve never been involved in a little theatre group it is not easy to appreciate what goes into a production of this magnitude, especially for a non-profit entity as Arts Enter Cape Charles. Approximately 3600 hours were dedicated by more than sixty individuals to write this original play and it’s music,  perform original musical scores, design and build elaborate sets, operate audio and lighting programs and fixtures, design and sew dozens of the amazing period costumes and rehearse the many scenes performed by actors of all ages from five to seventy-five years.  And the support of family and friends in time, effort and funding was crucial as well. Such spirit of generosity and involvement really is a big part of what makes our small but vibrant community so special. Only in a small town like Cape Charles can  amateur actors  such as myself  realize their dream of acting on the live stage when their lack of  professional talent and experience would preclude such an opportunity in a large metropolitan area’s  drama groups.  I am enormously grateful to have that opportunity  and am especially appreciative of  being able to join the company of  fellow thespians,  enthusiastic individuals who hail from all over the country and who so generously give of their time and energy, enabling   productions  such as “Piece of Eden“  to become a reality.

Celebrating Op Sail 2012 On The Eastern Shore of Virginia- Part I, The Parade of Sail

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

Op Sail 2012 was a big shebang, very big, celebrated in the US in the ports of  New York, New Orleans,  Norfolk,  Baltimore, New London and Boston.   Organized around the Bicentennial anniversary of the War of 1812 and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner,  the 2012 event is  6th  Operation Sail event.   Kicked off in 1964,  Op Sail was the culmination of worldwide efforts by the late maritime historian Frank Braynard and IBM executive  Nils Hansell to create an event designed to  foster international  goodwill by bringing together sailing ships from nations from all corners of the globe  to gather for  a fabulous parade of sail into New York harbor.  And so  in conjunction with the New York World’s Fair,  Op Sail was born, an instant huge success  which has been followed up by 5 additional Op Sail events, each tied to an  American historical event, each bigger and better than the last.  But Op Sail 2012  seems to have been the most spectacular of them all, especially in Virginia,  where the event was expanded for the first time to include not only the traditional port of Norfolk but also several small nearby ports including Cape Charles as part of the Tall Ships at Cape Charles Festival as well as the port of  Onancock on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Fortunately for those of us who live on the Eastern Shore, one of the main events of the entire festival is the “Parade of Sail“,  the magnificentfive mile long  flotilla  featuring of  scores of  international tall ships accompanied by military vessels from the US Navy and Coast Guard as well as literally  hundreds of local sail and power boats,  streaming across the water, escorting the international ships  to the tall ship’s main anchorages in downtown Norfolk and Portsmouth.  The ships overnighted in near Lesner Bridge in Virginia Beach and at dawn  prepared to parade from the Lynnhavenanchorage,  through the mouthof  the Chesapeake Bay and up the Elizabeth River  into Norfolk, a  spectacular fleet  which, if all the ships were placed end to end, would be an amazing 7700 feet long !

Happily, this Parade involves  passing  directly over the  first tunnel of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel which connects the Eastern Shore of Virginia to the city of Virginia Beach on the mainland !   Which meant that tickets to view from both the first and second Bridge Islands were available for this one-of-a-kind show and we were lucky enough to get  two tickets for the closest Island, One  Island at Thimble Shoal, rather than for Two  Island without  restaurant and restroom facilities.  So even though we are not normally crack-of-dawn people, by 5:30 am on the day, we were up and scurrying around,  grabbing hats, sun screen, a tiny cooler for water, binoculars, all the little comfort things, getting on the road before 6.  Seating was on a first-come basis and we were  hoping to get a front row seat on the bleachers, which, amazingly,  we were able to do  !

The day was simply beautiful- a sunrise of pinks and peach, cloudless sky, good breezes all morning long ( thank heavens, hard to sail without the wind gods behind you), water sparkling, everyone on the Island in sky-high spirits, thrilled to be there for this special, once in a decade or so, event.  The Parade was kicked off by the US Coast Guard ship, the USS Eagle. The 295 foot Eagle has an interesting history having been built in Germany, launched in 1939 as the SSS Horst Wessel,  but ending up in the possession of the United States after WWII as part of German war reparations.  A training ship for  Coast Guard cadets and a goodwill ambassador  for the US,  the aptly named Eagle gleamed in the morning sun, her 22,000 square feet of  white sails billowing,  proud as a mother swan with all her cygnets streaming along  behind her although probably those magnificent ships behind her might not like the comparison.

The announcer for the nearly 3 hour program was  Captain Sara Cole, commander of the Learning Barge. ( The Learning Barge was, of course, not in the Parade but it is a fascinating vessel in its own right. Winner of several national awards including one from the EPA,  this vessel was hand built over 3 years as a project between  the University of Virginia School of Architecture and the Elizabeth River Project, a local environmental group.  The Learning Barge is essentially a floating lab where students can sample water quality, identify pollution, learn about restoration of wetlands, grow algae, learn about sustainability, all hands-on. )  At any rate, Capt. Cole had amassed a great deal of information about each of the tall ships and military vessels participating in the Parade.

Thus I learned several new nautical terms including “dressing ship”  which she indicated means just what it sounds like- dressing  the ship to the nines, no diamonds or rubys  included there,  just every signal flag flying, weighted, an array of colors and symbols adorning these dramatic  ships, many like the Eaglefunctioning  as training ships and goodwill ambassadors for their countries.  Several Navy ships participated,  including  a helicopter escorted US submarine which was the concluding boat in the Parade.   From the US,  several well-known tall sailing ships including replias of the Bounty and Godspeed, the amazing Kalmar Nyckel from Delaware and the Pride of Baltimore as well as the 3 ships destined for Cape Charles, the Lynx, the Appledore and the Sultana.  In addition to  ships  from the US,  from Indonesia, Mexico, Columbia, Brazil, Spain, the Cook Islands, Bermuda, Germany, Canada, Denmark and the United Kingdom they sailed,  already having visited New York and New Orleans.  After the visit in Virginia, the longest visit of all, the fleet would be off to Baltimore, Boston and New London. And there they would no doubt wow their audiences,  just as all of us out on Thimble Shoal’s One Island that lovely summer morning  were thrilled by the 2012 Op Sail’s  Parade of Sail, serenely crossing  the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

Mount Vernon- George Washington’s Splendid Estate In Alexandria, Virginia

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

After a week-end in Northern Virginia for a meeting in Fairfax, it was such a beautiful day, clear, cool, huge puffy white clouds floating by,  we decided to make a quick  visit before returning to the Eastern Shore to nearby Mount  Vernon,  George Washington’s, famous ancestral home, which I had not visited  in eons.  ( Let me say  again, for the umpteenth time, one of the great things about living on the Eastern Shore of Virginia is how close  the Shore  is to so many other places of interest,  to-wit only four and a half hours from  home  to  the heart of  the metro area of our nation’s capitol. )  Our  ”quick visit”  turned into a 6 hour tour,  we could have easily spent twice 6 more and still not have properly seen everything Mt. Vernon has to offer.  George Washington wrote of  his  beloved Mt. Vernon ” No estate in United States is more pleasantly situated than this. It lies in a high, dry county… on one of the finest Rivers in the world… It is situated in a latitude between the extremes of hot and cold… with road roads and the best navigation from the Federal City, Alexandria and George Town…”   And to navigate places, Washington had his  “riding chair”, what an interesting contraption, and his coach, one of only 50 in the entire state of Virginia at that time.

According to the guidebook,  at  George Washington’s funeral he was eulogized by his  dear friend,  Henry Lee,  ( the father of Robert E. Lee ), as being  “First in war; first in peace;  and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”  I think to that could have been added “first in agriculture”  because agriculture in all its forms, from grain farming as a cash crop, horticulture, orchards and gardens  to wine and whiskey production, if it could be raised on his own dear lands,  it was a Washington  life long deep passion.  The original 2000 acres of  Mt. Vernon had been owned by the Washington family since the mid-1600′s  but  by the time of his death, Washington had purchased a great deal of additional adjoining acreage,  expanding the estate to over 8,000 acres, all actively  farmed, with Washington himself the maestro, directing  it all.  He was a real leader in the progressive farm movement.  Totally hands on, by experiment, through trial and error,  he tested innovative methods that seem commonplace today but which were considered novel and  radical land husbandry ideas at that time.

Such concepts as deep plowing  to reduce erosion and create healthier root zones, the addition of soil amendments such as manure and lime, the planting legume cover crops to enrich the soil, the rotation of  crops, the planting  in furrows rather than just scattering seeds across the land,  all these now accepted land management concepts were not just  brand new,  they were still unproven,  likely controversial,  practices in Washington’s day.   These revolutionary new farming methods were utilized on his farms starting in the  mid-to-late 1700′s yet most  are still accepted agricultural concepts 200 +  years later. In addition, Washington established a very successful rye  and corn whiskey distillery, one of the most successful of its time, producing over 10,000 gallons  of   ”liquid gold”  per year in its heyday, no doubt  enabled by  his very successful grain farms which  produced the corn and rye.  Time got away and we didn’t visit the distillary but it is still modestly active and is the gateway to The American Whiskey Trail.  ( It turned out 900 bottles of whiskey last year  to be sold at the gift shop, which was, of course, totally sold out,  maybe more in November according to the clerk.  But I’m assuming they saved back a few bottles because on Aug. 3rd,  Mt Vernon  is sponsoring a dinner event called Gentleman Distiller: Whiskey Tasting and Dinner at the Distillary. )

Since Washington was one of the most wealthy and  prominant  men of his time, as expected, the mansion itself  is magnificent.  But we were surprised to learn that the exterior siding, which appears to be stone, was actually wood siding,  beveled to look like stone and then “rusticated”,  meaning that sand was applied to the paint while still wet, giving it a look and feel of stone which was a prohibitively expensive building material, although “rusticating” itself was quite expensive as well.  Back in the day, apparently Washington made  Virginia’s most extensive use of this technique in his quest to make Mt. Vernon one of the country’s very finest estates.

Also interesting were the  paint colors.  I had never actually thought about it but learned on the tour that color pigments for paint were usually ordered from England.  These would be dry pigments, very, very expensive,  and they needed  to be carefully ground to a fine powder and mixed into the paint, homemade of course,   on-site. Because of the high cost of pigment, usually only rooms that would used by visitors as well as family were painted in bright colors– the rest would either be very lightly tinted, white or beige.  Green and blue were highly prized,  especially expensive pigments so naturally  most of the main rooms in the mansion are varying shades of  blues and greens,  Washington apparently being especially fond of green which he said was “restful to the eye”.  The craftsmanship of  the interior moldings and mantel carvings is just amazing,  as is the elaborate palladian window in the full house-width dining room.  Like Thomas Jefferson, Washington apparently loved the new and interesting, especially if it was useful. I found his combination “chair and fan” most unique, a chair with a pole behind it attached to a pedal on the floor.  The square of cloth attached to top of  the pole would then fan the occupant of the chair as he  pumped the floor pedal.

As is evident from this photo,  Martha Washington oversaw quite the state-of-the-art kitchen– for her day,  she had the most advanced appliances and implements that money could buy or skills could fashion.  ( This  included a  brand new “automatic”  rotissary,  an appliance  involving a chain attached to a fan placed up in the fireplace flue.  The rising heat then turned  the fan blades, which then turned the chain, which then turned the spit.  This was revolutionary, making  it possible to roast on a spit without having a person whose primary job would be  just to turn the spit.   Martha  had a reputation as  a generous and patient hostess– apparently it was not unusual after the War and especially after the Presidency,  for all sorts of very important people  to come to Mt. Vernon to pay their respects,  by the hundreds, making Mt. Vernon one of the most visited homes in the new nation !   In one year there were over 400 guests to Mt. Vernon, most of whom stayed several days and possibly longer.  Because of this,  a great deal of her time was spent planning the meals to be served to guests. ( She was also in charge of distilling the household medicines, had a special, tiny still for that purpose and possessed a sought-after recipe for chapstick, called lip balm back in the day,  Walgreen’s  being a few hundred years in the future.)

Martha Washington was especially famous for her delicious  hams, soaked first in her special curing recipe and then slowly smoked to perfection in the large smoke house just off the kitchen. A  ham was served everyday, boiled and/or baked, along with other meats and poultry and fruits and vegatables from their  gardens and orchard.  Apparently Martha’s signature desssert was a cake called  the  “Great Cake”  ( I’m guessing  for size as well as taste ).  According to the tour guide, guests and family alike longed for this cake,  the  recipe for which included copious  quanities of  brandy and Medeira wine, needed 2 hours to bake  and  began:  “Take 40 eggs….”    The “Great Cake” was often served not only at dinner but also at her well-known “afternoon teas”,   enjoyed in good weather on the rear  veranda overlooking the wide sweep of  the Patomac River.  Ships and boats of all sizes  plyed these broad blue saltwaters as  Washington and his guests, family and friends  relaxed  in the veranda’s 40 Windsor chairs.  Similar  Windsor chairs are on the veranda still, available to the public to rest a bit and to enjoy the commanding view from the Mansion, which is sited atop a high hill with the dramatic river view framed by the trees below the hill, carefully planted specifically for that purpose by Washington. ( Actually, after walking and walking, it is truly delightful to be able to relax on the veranda in one of those chairs and just soak in the postcard-like scene.)

Martha Washington had inheirited   a rare family treasure, an extensive  handwritten cookbook,  which she  received  in 1749  and kept until 1799, when she gifted this heirloom to her  grandaughter, Nelly Custis.  This unique manuscript was  brought back to life in a 1981 edition from the Columbia University Press,  edited by the late Karen Hess, entitled Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of  Sweetmeats“ .  It  is a marvelous,  detailed glimpse into not just the  art of cooking of  that era but into its social customs and manners.  ( It’s worth twice the price just to read the recipes for some of  the various puddings,  recipes  with titles like  how to make:   “A  Marrow Pudding”,  A Bak’d Almond Pudding,  An Almond Pudding To Boyle,  A Haggis Pudding,  A White Pudding, A Curd Pudding,  A Quakeing Pudding,  A Light Pudding,  A Bagg Pudding,  A Fryde Pudding, A Hearbe Pudding,  A Good Pudding,  A Very Good Pudding and,  last but not  least,  how  To Make A Pudding In A Loaf “.  )   Another terific book about food and entertaining  at Mt. Vernon is  “Dining With The Washingtons: Historic Recipes, Entertaining and Hospitality From Mount Vernon“  edited by Stephen A. McLeod, from  the University of North Carolina Press.  Both books are available at the extensive Mt. Vernon gift shop, either would make  a nice gift for a friend  interested in culinary history or,  in my case,  for oneself.

Time was unfortunately too short to see many of  the amazing exhibits in the museum/education center which is the exit  building but we did get to see George Washington’s  famous false teeth.  These were held in the mouth by springs, quite painful no doubt, and the video on how these dentures were manufactured  leads one to a great appreciation of modern dentistry.  But  most interesting to me was the exhibit which explained how state of the art technology had been used to create  facial and body models  of what Washington likely looked  like in his younger days, before any portraits had been painted of him.  There is an exhibit of  him as a young surveyor and as a middle aged soldier atop his horse, these models are believed to be very close to his true appearance at those ages, a tall, thin, very attractive man.  And then,  time to go but wanting  to come back soon to see everything we had  missed. P.S. For animal lovers out there, Washington loved animals too, especially dogs,  whom he often gave whimsical names. When he became General of the Revolutionary Army,  he took his favorite, Sweetlips,  along with him leaving True Love and Mopsey behind !     P.P.S.  Lots of fascinating info at www.mountvernon.org , www.gwpapers.virginia.edu , and www.marthawashington.us .

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

“Art & Music on the Farm”–The Barrier Islands Center’s 10th Anniversary Celebration

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

The Eastern Shore of Virginia’s Barrier Islands Center  marked its 10th  anniversary with a walloping big  day- long celebration billed as “Art & Music on the Farm”.   Kudos to all the planners, the festival  was beautifully executed and great fun for all who attended.  A little history is likely in order here for those not familiar with Virginia’s chain of pristine off-shore Barrier Islands,  given world class status by the United Nations who has named it as one of  its Biosphere Reserves.  Stretching along Virginia’s  Atlantic Ocean coast  from Chincoteague, VA  all the way south to Smith Island at the convergence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay,  these barrier islands have a rich history as homes to hearty watermen,  destinations for tourists and hunters, outposts for Coast Guard stations and locations for lighthouses  as well as sheltering a singular diversity of  plant and animal life.  Except for Cedar Island, which still has a few remaining summer homes accessible only by boat trip,  most  of the remaining Islands have been purchased by the Nature Conservancy, 14 islands in all, some with romantic names like  Parramore, Rogue and Revel.  Purchased to  preserve them from development, the Conservancy’s protection has allowed the wildlife to flourish, especially critical for the many species of shorebirds and waterfowl that are now able to safely nest there.  It was to protect  the unique heritage of these  unique Islands that the Barrier Island Museum was established in 2002.  Located in the little hamlet of  Machipongo, VA , it has truly met its mission statement.  In the last 10 years, over 7500 artifacts from those by-gone days  have been collected for preservation and display at the Museum and the adjacent Almshouse Farm but the Center has ventured well beyond that initial mission, establishing itself as a place for classes for all ages, a lecture series,as well as a hands-on resource for local schools to teach young  children about the history and culture of the Eastern Shore .  ( Visit them at   www.barrierislandscenter.com  )

So Saturday’s anniversary celebration brought together the important 3 “F“s– Fun, Food and Fiddling and the equally important  2 “S” s-  Shopping and Sipping.    Under the leafy shade provided by the  Center’s  huge broad oaks, tables were set up for rest, dining or just enjoying a glass of wine from the tents set up by two local vineyards,  a tall cold glass of freshly brewed  iced coffee from Eastern Shore Coastal  Roasting Co. booth or perhaps a frothy pint from  Wendell Brewery’s travel truck.   Lots and lots to see, do and hear– from 40 little tents filled with local artists,  several booths bursting with flowers and colorful shrubs from local nurseries  to a sound stage set  for the 4 different musical groups set to perform.  We arrived just as the  Carribean group, Ban Caribe,  was finishing  its toe-tapping opening number to much applause, “we”  being husband,  daughter-in-law and 2 grandsons.    Right off the bat,  the boys gravitated towards  the little sheep pen where a freshly shorn mama stood in the shade with her sweet-faced tiny  lamb, carefully people watching  the people sheep watching.   From there,  we made our way over to the  Kids Activity Tent staffed by patient volunteers who helped the kids get started on making  their creative picture project while I drifed towards the Appleseed Nursery area which was doing a brisk business from their  colorful display of cut sunflowers and blooming perennials, so winsome to the eye.

                      

But it was the incredible  artwork  that  was the main focus of the day– some of the most famous artists on the Eastern Shore of Virginia  were there, works displayed  in  individual little white tents,  so many different creations,  a myriad of  art mediums.  Local painters like Thelma Peterson,  Mary Ann Clarke, Marty Burgess and Jack Richardson,  potter Elizabeth Hunt, sculpter  Maurice Spector,  metal artists  Copper Creations and Buck Doughty,  fine furniture craftsmen   Windsor Chairs, ceramics wizzard David Crane  and so many, many other fine artists and artizans were on hand, showing and selling  their unique creations.  Pungo Mills was there with their stone ground cornmeal, Chatham Vineyards was offering samples of  its  fine wine,  Machipongo Trading Company was madly selling cones of  delicious “Marsh Mud”,  the  super-delicious,  ultra- chocolate ice cream made homestyle by The Creamery.  Inside the Museum,  in the blissfully air-conditioned lecture room,  a  “Blues Workshop”  featuring the Harris Brothers was scheduled from noon to 1pm, followed by “Recollections from the Bay: Lives and Lore of Menhaden Fishing”  offered by the Northern Neck Chantey Singers.  Later in the day the well-known old time string band, Whitetop Mountain Band, was scheduled to appear out in the bandstand, see a video of that band below.  Out in the parking  lot,  a  sweet little collection of vintage cars caught a lot of eyes,  including my husband’s,  who has a real nostolgia for yesteryear automobiles.  All said,   having  enjoyed the 3 “F” s   as well as the  2 “S“s,  we set off for home, a few treasures in hand,  the end of a lovely Eastern Shore Day.

                     

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

Sears and Roebuck Historic Mail Order Catalog Homes– Alive And Well In Cape Charles, VA

Thursday, April 5th, 2012
Through the years Sears maintained a selection of some eighty house plans that were updated to keep abreast of developing trends and for the sake of variety.  The plans ran from the smallest sized bungalow  to a number of  truly substantial models including  the elaborate  ”Magnolia”,   which  for about $5.000, offered  ” Eight rooms  and two and a half baths. Two story portico with fluted columns;  open terrace across the front, side porte-cochere;  decks and sleeping porch off second floor bedrooms; glazed front porch with sidelights and arched transom.  Fireplace and nook in living room;  French doors off hall; open stairs” .   But, in general,  the majority of their designs were  in keeping with the  popular American tastes of the period and were designed to have broad appeal by offering a quality modern home for an affordable price. For extra flexibility,  most home plans in their catalogs  were able to be ordered in reverse layouts.  The styles of the homes seem to almost always follow  recognizable architectural traditions.  The gambrel roof was a mainstay of the Dutch Colonial style.  Roofs with steep pitches evoked English ancestry. The most popular style though,  by far, was the well-liked American Colonial,  rivaled  only by the “bungalow” concept.
The building of houses in America prior to World War II reached its peak in 1925,  but Sears home offerings would continue to expand through 1929, the year of the great crash of the stock market.  By 1930, across the nation,  Sears had opened 48 sales offices employing over 350 salesmen. Their 1926 catalog was a masterful marketing piece, presenting their products in color and with exceptionally glowing remarks about the product attributes.  Even the type of wood used in the construction of the homes was referenced because of the interest created by the then recent discovery of  well-preserved cypress found in King Tut’s tomb. The  Sears Modern Home catalog descriptions addressed every concern imaginable,  from the basic reasons for buying a home to touting the then unusual and innovative step of  the company’s  placement of a woman on the Sears Architect’s Council because she “would understand the needs of the modern housewife.” Nobody imagined that this incredible line of prefabricated housing would last only eight more years. The 1930′s brought the first losses after nineteen consecutive years of profitability. No matter what great ideas Sears employed in supporting its line, the effects of the Great Depression could not be overcome. The first division to fail was the home mortgage industry where, as the “farmer’s friend”, Sears had loaned generous amounts of up to 100% of the cost of a  home’s construction.  But by 1934, Sears had proudly delivered more  than 100,000 housing units throughout the United States, very high quality homes, professionally designed and planned for a lifetime of use by their owners.
The Town of Cape Charles on Virginia’s Eastern Shore has a number of  authentic Sears homes, most restored and well-preserved.  For sale by Blue Heron Realty Co. is a reverse plan of the Somers Model ordered from the 1926 catalog and  found at 3 Randolph Ave.,  just a hop, skip and a jump from the Chesapeake Bay and the beautiful Cape Charles town beach.  Professionally restored and renovated for modern living,  this home is a terrific example of the very popular Sears bungalow style.  Elevated well above eight feet from grade level, this  front porch enjoys a wonderful view out towards the western horizon of the Bay.  The ground floor of the home consists of a solid masonry, red-brick foundation for the actual kit home which makes up the second level. The kit home has beautiful cedar wood shingle siding protected with a weather-proof stain that retains the wood grain and color. Also, energy efficient, double pane insulated windows have been installed. Built on two town residential lots, there is a paved driveway, spacious yard with mature plantings, and an access alley behind the home that serves for utility and service access.
Inside,  one is suitably impressed by the beautifully refinished original red oak and pine hardwood floors, a bay window in the dining room, a modern kitchen and two bedrooms served by one bath. A heat pump supplies central forced air heat and A/C for the upstairs portion of the house, while beautiful ceiling fans provide the comfort of moving air. The entire home has been updated and renovated for modern living yet retains its historic appeal. A stairwell leads down from the second floor to a first floor apartment with its own kitchen, great room, two bedrooms, a bath and storage area. One may retain the official duplex status of the home or restore it back to a single family house. At present, the upper level which comprises the kit home is offered for weekly summer vacation rental while the lower floor is rented from month to month.
Life in the Town of Cape Charles is truly the “sweet beach life ” !  One of the few places on the East Coast of the United States where one can observe a beautiful sunset to the west over a saltwater Bay. Easily accessible from this bungalow is the boardwalk and “fun pier” from which observations of boats, kite board surfers and the local bird life are frequently found. Nearby are the public boat ramps and municipal and private marinas, world-class, intersecting Palmer and Nicholas designed golf courses, eclectic shopping and restaurants, and our very special historic Palace Theater, one of the best performing arts venues in Virginia. Only a few miles east of Town is the village of Oyster which is perched on the seaside of our penninsula and offers access to an entirely different marine ecosystem. Interests in colonial history, the performing and visual arts, nature exploration and photography, boating and fishing, architecture, gardening, bicycling, hiking, swimming, and especially birdwatching are eagerly pursued here. Come and try on this incredible lifestyle offered from such a wonderful residence as this historic Sears and Roebuck Catalog home. For further information on this listing and other properties for sale in Cape Charles and on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, contact David Kabler via e-mail ( david_kabler@hotmail.com) or via mobile (757) 647-1755.