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Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation presents annual awards

Published: Nov. 14, 2021 at 9:01 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Every year the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation recognizes organizations and individuals who help protect our natural, cultural and historic resources. In 2021, the list covers a lot of ground, from one of the region’s most prominent landmarks to its hidden history.

Everyone in the Roanoke Valley witnessed the multi-year, multi-million dollar renovation of St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, but fewer people know about George Kegley’s restoration of the Monterey Smokehouse. Or Joe Cobb’s research into three cemeteries displaced by development and urban renewal.

“It’s a way to honor the ancestors who went before us,” Cobb said Sunday evening, “and to remember their names and to really help the healing of family members who don’t know where their loved ones are buried.”

The Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation presented eight awards during the group’s annual meeting at the Mill Mountain Discovery Center.

One went to Roanoke Trails and Greenway Coordinator Renee Powers for her work on the Mill Mountain Trails Plan.

Heritage Education was also an important theme, with recognition of historian and activist Jordan Bell for his Gainsboro History Tours.

The group presented a lifetime achievement award to Margaret and Alice Roberts for their efforts to preserve the history of Gainsboro and Roanoke’s African American Community.

Whitney Feldmann is a Preservation Foundation board member who served on the awards committee.

“I think they’ve enriched us all as citizens and continue to,” she told WDBJ7.

Roanoke College President Michael Maxey accepted an award for a range of preservation projects on the Salem campus.

And the foundation presented another to Isabel Thornton of Restoration Housing, an organization that has proven historic preservation can breathe new life into aging structures.

“It’s a commitment to preserving the past,” said Whitney Leeson, President of the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation. “It’s a commitment to dedicating the resources to preserve the past. I think all of these individuals really think about and take very seriously that stewardship of the past.”

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The Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation works to protect historic, cultural and natural resources.

Sunday evening, the organization recognized people, programs and projects that have made a difference here.

The foundation held its annual meeting at the Mill Mountain Discovery Center.

Leaders of the group handed out eight awards for restoration projects, environmental stewardship and advocacy.

Whitney Leeson is the President of the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation.

“It’s a commitment to preserving the past,” Leeson said of the award recipients. “It’s a commitment to dedicating the resources to preserve the past. I think all of these individuals really think about and take very seriously that stewardship of the past.”

Honorees include St. Andrew’s Catholic Church and Restoration Housing.

The Foundation also recognized the work of individuals, including Jordan Bell, Joe Cobb, George Kegley, Michael Maxey, Renee Powers, Margaret and Alice Roberts and Isabel Thornton.

Following is the text of the news release announcing the awards:

Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation to Present 8 Kegley Preservation Awards at Annual Meeting on Sunday, November 14

A wide variety of restored buildings, programs and individual accomplishments are recognized by the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation.

Eight awards were presented Sunday afternoon at the Foundation’s annual meeting at the Mill Mountain Discovery Center, where the recently adopted Mill Mounntain Trails Plan was one of the projects recognized. The Foundation promotes the protection and stewardship of historic, cultural, and natural resources in the Roanoke Valley through education and advocacy. “Recognition of people, programs and projects that help to promote good stewardship and preservation of these resources is an important part of achieving the mission of the Foundation,” explained Alison Blanton, Awards Committee Chair. Awards have been presented for more than 20 years.

The 2021 Kegley Preservation Awards are as follows:

Honoring Their Breaths - Heritage Education & Advocacy

As part of his doctoral program, Joe Cobb chose a topic for his dissertation relating to three or more cemeteries in the Roanoke area that were disrupted in the sixties and seventies to make way for such projects as the Roanoke Civic Center (Berglund Center) and Virginia Western Community College. Many graves were individually moved to a city-owned cemetery at Coyner Springs. But the individual graves were never marked. In fact, the names of the decedents were often not known. Joe is developing a community-based effort to document the gravesites, to eventually include a virtual map of the gravesites that can be updated by its viewers… friends and families of the decedents. He also plans to write and publish a book on the project.

Restoration Housing - Neighborhood Preservation

Isabel Thornton created Restoration Housing in 2014 because of her passion for historic preservation and affordable housing. The mission of Restoration Housing is to develop affordable rental properties for the social benefit of low-income communities through the preservation of historic architectural resources. Restoration Housing believes that all people, regardless of circumstance, deserve to live in strong, healthy communities and dignified housing. In 2019 RVPF and Preservation Virginia recognized Restoration Housing with awards for the renovation of the ca. 1820 Villa Heights in NW Roanoke to provide affordable office space to local nonprofits. Since then, they have continued with other projects that define their passion for historic preservation and affordable housing. The year-long Architectural Minutes series produced 12 different videos focusing on the organizations’ preservation projects that included the history of each neighborhood to help promote an appreciation for the community. Their on-going Affordable Housing Development Projects utilizes historic tax credits to renovate formerly-vacant historic houses to provide affordable housing units while preserving their historic character. Three houses on Day and Patterson avenues in SW and Dale Avenue in SE have been completed to date and two more vacant houses in the Belmont neighborhood await a new life. Finally, their Community Impact Development projects, including the annual fund-raising event—Preserve Campaign and Community Volunteer Day, demonstrate how we can all be part of the solution to build stronger, healthier communities with dignified housing. This year’s Pre-Serve Campaign focused on the hashtag ##StrengthInNeighbors with a 12-part video series featuring families, neighbors, and communities who have benefitted from the Restoration Housing programs.

St. Andrew’s Catholic Church - Restoration

St. Andrew’s Catholic Church stands high on a hill as an iconic landmark overlooking downtown Roanoke. The church, built in 1902 to serve the first Catholic congregation in the new city, is a fine example of ecclesiastical Gothic Revival architecture. The tall twin steeples that flank the front of the church have endured as prominent features of the Roanoke skyline for over a century and the impressive sanctuary has housed worshippers from many ethnic backgrounds dating back to Roanoke’s origin as an industrial railroad center.

In 2014, RVPF recognized St. Andrew’s Catholic Church with an award for reconstruction of the iconic steeples in a $2.5 million project. The church continued their efforts to preserve this important landmark for the next generation by replacing the slate roof with its copper detailing, repairing the exterior masonry walls, and restoring the interior of the sanctuary with its decorative painting and marble flooring. As a historic tax credit project, all work meets the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. The more than $4.8 million of work associated with Phases 2 and 3 bring the total project cost to more than $7 million and represent a huge investment by the parish as its members recognize their responsibility to be good stewards of this iconic local landmark.

Margaret and Alice Roberts - Lifetime Achievement in Heritage Education

Alice and Margaret Roberts, two highly educated and civic-minded sisters born in Gainsboro in the 1920s, have made a tremendous impact on the cultural awareness and preservation of Roanoke history. After sister Alice passed in 2014 (?) Margaret Roberts has continued this vital work. Historical heritage projects they have been involved with include: the Gainsboro History Walk interpretive panels on Wells Avenue Plaza; the Burrell Memorial Hospital interpretive panels; the restoration and reuse of the Oliver White Hill Home at 401 Gilmer Avenue NW; contributions to National Register Historic District nominationsfor the Gainsboro Historic District, Burrell Memorial Hospital, and Henry Street Historic District; contributions to Historic Virginia highway markers for Oscar Micheaux and the Oliver White Hill Home; and contributions to the

Henry Street interpretive panels at Roanoke Higher Education Center. Their persistent advocacy and involvement ensured that the history of Gainsboro and the African-American community of Roanoke would be accurately interpreted in these projects and inform the direction for both public and private investments in the community.

Mill Mountain Trails Plan - Environmental Stewardship

Renee Powers, Trails & Greenway Coordinator for Roanoke City Department of Parks and Recreation, is credited with successfully amending the 2005 Mill Mountain Trails Plan to meet today’s needs. As stated in the Amendment, “Sound conservation and stewardship are essential elements in Roanoke’s philosophy regarding access to its natural landscapes, as evidenced in the conservation easement on Mill Mountain Park.” The Trails Plan Amendment was approved unanimously by City Council on May 17, 2021. Michael Clark, Director of Roanoke City Parks and Recreation, singles out Powers as deserving individual recognition for the award. She worked tirelessly to research and implement this plan. In her own words, “It is exciting to complete this process and start on a new chapter on Mill Mountain focusing on neighborhood connections to the park and improving loops for all trail users. "

On National Public Lands Day on Sept. 18, 2021, supervised volunteers began work on implementing improved Mill Mountain trail access to the Garden City neighborhood.

Gainsboro History Tours - Heritage Education

Jordan Bell is a historian and community activist. He takes pride in his involvement with organizations that support the Gainsboro Neighborhood. Jordan gives his Gainsboro Revisited walking tours throughout the year honoring the rich history of the Gainsboro Neighborhood. On these tours he shares with participants the triumphs of Gainsboro’s residents along with the destruction inflicted on the neighborhood through federal urban renewal policies. One of Jordan’s most successful tours took place on Juneteenth in 2020 which had over 100 participants. Jordan has a passion for collecting the written and oral histories of elders within the Gainsboro community. In his free time, He is also working on a documentary and book regarding the history of Gainsboro.

Monterey Smokehouse - Preservation

George A. Kegley, for whom these awards are named, continues his lifetime commitment to preserving the Roanoke Valley’s built landscape in his latest preservation project—the Monterey Smokehouse. This was a preservation project to save both the structure of the smokehouse and a smaller attached structure believed to have been a chicken coop, with a facade that dated back to at least the 1880′s. Care was taken by the contractor, Southwest Restoration, in the disassembly of the smokehouse and coop to save and retain as much original material as possible while returning the structures to their original dimensions. After recreating more appropriate footers and rebuilding its foundation using the original stone, Southwest Restoration filled in the timber framing’s material voids using local, similarly dressed timbers, mainly pine and cedar posts, as well as poplar roof sheating and cedar siding. The smokehouse reconstruction matches the original in design, including the use of hand-made mortising and tenons and the reassembly of the hip joints of the eyelash roof. Though it has been refreshed with new cedar, much of the history remains in details like the original meat hooks installed on the joists, and the original door that now hangs back on the coop.

Michael C. Maxey - Heritage Education & Stewardship

As the 11th President of Roanoke College, Michael C. Maxey spearheaded the renovation and restoration of multiple historic properties on campus, supported the creation of a Public History Program at Roanoke College, and welcomed the Western Regional Office of the Department of Historic Resources to Elizabeth Campus in 2010. Notable preservation projects include the former Farmers National Bank building on Main Street, home to the History Department and Public History Program; Clay Street House, a mid-19th century, two-room structure known as one of the oldest homes in Salem; Lucas Hall, the college’s first LEED-certified building; Monterey, a large, Greek-Revival style house built in 1853 turned college guest house; and a former slave quarters behind Monterey that now houses the college’s Center for Studying Structures of Race founded in 2020. The center, which serves as a venue for teaching, research, and community engagement about issues of race and forms of institutional racism at local, national, and international levels, is an outgrowth of President Maxey’s forward-thinking commitment to investigating the historical relationship between institutions of higher learning and slavery. In 2021, President Maxey unveiled two bronze plaques on the Administration Building to honor the lives of the enslaved skilled laborers who directly built the College, or who generated wealth invested in the College. He also recently announced Roanoke College’s community-centered plan to construct a campus monument to honor enslaved persons. It will be the sixth in the nation erected on a college campus. President Maxey’s decades-long commitment to heritage education in the greater Roanoke Valley also includes his service as a multi-term board member and past president of the Salem Museum and Historical Society.

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