Thursday, July 5, 2012

Brief History of the Barnes House

Though once quoted as saying, “I'd be more than happy to be the historic preservationist who lives in a glass box," it seems that Jay Holloway will be living in a restored 18th century structure, Falmouth’s historic Barnes House.

The Barnes House, its oldest part dating to 1780-1790, has served as a caretaker’s home and guesthouse for the historic Belmont Estate, a school for black children (according to oral histories), and a field laboratory for UMW Historic Preservation classes. The Barnes House is one of the oldest structures in Falmouth and is the only gambrel roof structure in the area, making it potentially eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places for it distinctive characteristics and workmanship.

The builder and original owner of the Barnes House are unknown. The earliest known owner was businessman Joseph B. Ficklen, who owned both Belmont and the Barnes House. Ficklen, who sold Belmont to Gari and Corinne Melchers, sold the Barnes House to Harrison B. Barnes in 1850. Barnes and his sisters lived there for many years, ultimately leaving the structure to Annie Duncan Lucas and her husband until their deaths. There is speculation that Annie Lucas was one of several black children taken in by the Barnes sisters and taught in the basement when it served as a school.  Barnes heirs sold the structure to Gari and Corinne Melchers in 1920, once again reuniting the Barnes House with the Belmont Estate.

Ten years after the death of her husband, Corinne Melchers gave the Belmont Estate, including the Barnes House, to the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1942. The Payne family, friends to whom the Melchers rented the house, occupied the house as life tenants from 1942 into the late 1980s. The state sold the Barnes House in 1994 to private owner Geoffrey Nesbitt, who stabilized the structure but never started restoration. The Revolving Fund Program of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA), whose “goal is to save endangered historic properties across Virginia from demolition and severe neglect,” purchased the Barnes House and sold it to Jay Holloway in 2006.

Since purchasing the house, Jay has collected much research on the history and fabric of the Barnes House, explored restoration and addition options, and undertaken archaeology. (The archaeology report should be done by the end of the month, so stay tuned for a summary of the findings!) The Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) has a protective easement on the Barnes House, so the DHR must approve all work done to the structure. As the Barnes House is a contributing structure in the Falmouth Historic District, which was listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register in 1969 and the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, the Stafford County Architectural Review Board must also approve any work done to the structure. This will be an exciting project for Habalis Construction to undertake in the near future. I think everyone is excited to see the restoration of this awesome structure!

1 comment:

  1. Team Habalis,

    It's great to see a blog about the restoration project. I'd like to clarify one point, however, about the Stafford County Architectural Review Board (ARB). The ARB's design review of historic properties in the Falmouth Towne Historic District is based on a local ordinance (May 1985), not on the National Register or state landmark designations.