Founding member of Virginia Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architect (Va. IFRAA) William Robson, AIA, is seeking professionals and students to field measure and document a historic church building that is nearing a point of collapse. It would be an effort to capture in drawings and photographs an historic Virginia church — and perhaps even reverse the course of decay by building public awareness. Robson hopes to also create a written narrative outlining the back-story of the building and its place in the local history. He noted that members of Va. IFRAA and the Virginia Historic Resources Committee (Va. HRC) might be particularly interested in participating.
The church, on Route 522 in Culpeper County, is known locally as “The Winston Family Chapel.” The brownstone chapel, built around 1908, has been unused for many years and is falling into disrepair. An inquiry with local residents revealed a compelling story of human drama. The chapel was constructed around 1908 by the patriarch of the Winston family, who apparently was quite wealthy. His will allocated the ownership, care, and maintenance of the chapel to the Winston family decedents. As the locals tell the story, the Winstons were at odds with another local family, the Somervilles. The Somervilles constructed their own church in a place called Mitchels, also in Culpeper County (and apparently still standing today).
As time went on, the families remained at odds, with the exception of two young lovers who, as you may have guessed, ended up getting married, linking the two families. As time passed, the Winston family members have all passed away, and through inheritance, all assets (including the chapel) ended up in the hands of the Somerville family. As Paul Harvey said “the rest of the story” is evident.
There is one remaining descendent, who is a Somerville.
Robson hopes to gather a team to implement this project and potentially present the results at Architecture Exchange East or another suitable venue. When this team has been assembled, one of the first tasks will be to approach the remaining Somerville family member to request permission to undertake the documentation. The potential exists for generating considerable local enthusiasm and goodwill, based on initial inquiries.
If you are interested in participating in this project, please contact Bill Robson at firstname.lastname@example.org.