Sunday, April 19, 2009


Taking a short hiatus ... posting will resume in a few days.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Courthouse resolution #3: Materials

Third in my series of "10 things I can find to like about the new Rockbridge County Courthouse" at Nelson and Randolph streets: The final design incorporates characteristic Rockbridge area granite (dark grey prominently veined with white), red brick (an ubiquitous building material in these parts) and the white Tuscan columns so often seen on local Roman Revival buildings (albeit ersatz, alas -- you can see the vertical seams quite clearly in person).

This view is from Nelson St., looking toward what used to be Davidson Park.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bird curve

Some clever person outfitted this guard rail on Monticello Rd. with a series of birdhouses, linking the cul-de-sac to the fields and views beyond.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Edwardian style

The arts and crafts style seems to have arrived in the valley in the 1920s. This 1928 house is at the corner of Jordan St. and Highland Rd.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Rockbridge scene

A brick pier at the entrance to the drive of an old house in Rockbridge County.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


The Bear Building on Main St., c. 1828, under a mackerel sky.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Red door

A perfect little 1928 cottage at the "new" end of Jackson Avenue.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Church on Sunday: Boxwoods

The Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Main St. hides its c. 1850 manse from view.

The church, built in 1963, is sited on what was once the long front lawn of a Gothic Revival cottage on South Main St, formerly known as "Boxwoods." The church's use of an existing Gothic building as a manse for a much newer church building resembles St. Patrick's Catholic Church and rectory on Nelson St. -- both cottages are even painted a similar shade of yellow.

A very Happy Easter to all!

(Here's a closer look at "Boxwoods":)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

That time of the year

An afternoon Little League game at the Waddell playing fields.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Fourteen by sixteen

This tiny 1871 house at the corner of Davidson and Short streets is only 16 feet wide by 14 feet deep, according to city records.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Solid footing

Another in my series of shots under Lexington's bridges.

This is the main Nelson St. bridge, which runs adjacent to the new courthouse. The construction of the courthouse has given a whole new feel to this spot -- you may now arrive here from a set of steps beside the courthouse door. Directly underneath the bridge the ground has been paved, but in both directions it is a road to nowhere. (This bridge spans a wide swale, not a stream or river.) A strange place, but not without attractions.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Courthouse resolution: #2

The grilles screening the parking levels at the new courthouse make an interesting pattern against a blue-grey sky.

Back in January I made a New Year's Resolution to find 10 things I can like about our new Rockbridge County Courthouse, which finally opened for business last month. I do like these grilles, which are set in openings in the sides of the attached parking garage.

OK -- 8 more to go. Among the many things I don't like about the building: Anybody else think that the Halls of Justice should not have revolving doors?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

That light again

My favorite light (the setting sun) shines on the side of a Victorian era house above North Main Street.

This is a third look at a building I've become a little fascinated with. See other views of it (in the morning and at midday) here and here.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Man and nature

The spring house at Brushy Hill preserve.

The city of Lexington owns over 500 acres in Rockbridge County, about three miles from town, kept as a nature preserve, with former logging roads now forming a network of trails. This old stone spring house (with its shiny new roof) sits down by Union Run, next to the small parking area. It's a little bit of man-made that is not out of place in its natural surroundings, I think.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Church on Sunday: Zack

Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Zack (built 1879), dressed for Easter.

This clean white clapboard church, with its churchyard in back, is the larger of two in tiny Zack. The other, and a little about Zack, here.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

March of time

English ivy creeps up the turret of a hundred-year-old house.

Though it can't be good for the siding, I love to see vines growing like this on buildings, and wish there were more of it around town. If I could find some "vine eyes," - small metal eyes which slip into the mortar joints between bricks, through which can be threaded wires for non-clinging vines - I'd try to grow flowering vines like cross vine and jasmine on the outside of our house. As it is, we have to tear back our ivy every year to keep it from damaging the brick.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Just east of town

Another view of the spring fields off of Old Farm Rd.

One of the great pleasures of living in Lexington is that only a few minutes' drive from the center, in almost any direction, takes one into some of the most beautiful country in Virginia. It is even possible to walk out along a few of the less-traveled roads, without resorting to a car at all. The scene above can easily be reached by foot (if you like walking).

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Runner up

In my search for yellow around town I also found these empire yellow walls at Hamilton Robbins on Main St.

The image of the arch-top window in the display is echoed in the reflections of both the courthouse and the R.E. Lee Hotel across the street.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Theme Day April 2009: Yellow

A spring display in the window of Pumpkinseeds, at the corner of Washington and Main.

Today is the first of the month, and daily city bloggers around the world are posting on the April theme: Yellow. Many shops around town have displays featuring yellow at the moment, so there was much to choose from. This shot had a special appeal for me.

To see how other bloggers have interpreted the theme, click here to view thumbnails for all participants.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


The signpost for the rural locality of Zack, with Walker's Creek Community Church in the background.

At the far north boundary of Rockbridge County - about 20 miles from Lexington - lies Zack, here amidst the green fields and leafless wooded hills of early spring. This settlement, though tiny, has two churches! (I'll post the second next Sunday.) One church hosts services Sunday mornings, the other offers three services on Sunday afternoons -- at 1, 3 and 5pm. Other than the farms, the firehouse, a handful of "interlopers," and a surfeit of natural beauty, that's about it for Zack. The old store and gas station are no longer in operation.

According to a local resident, underneath the vinyl siding above is a log structure close to 175 years old.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Late afternoon again

A front porch on White Street catches the setting sun.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Church on Sunday: A different view

The back side of the Randolph Street Methodist Church has but three openings: a red door (with sidelights), a small Gothic window, and an even smaller round window up top. Makes you wonder what's up there....

(The front has a much larger window.)

This photo was taken from the east end of the Nelson St. bridge.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Stairway to...

...not heaven, but the parking lot.

The stair inside the cupola at the Lenfest Center for the Arts at Washington and Lee leads to a bridge over Nelson St., and the parking garage beyond. The distinctive railings, with circles forming a top border, are used throughout the campus.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Post office frieze

The frieze over the entrance to the post office on Lee St.

The U.S. government erected this building at the corner of Nelson and Lee streets between 1911 and 1913. The land had formerly been the grand front lawn of the house of Samuel McDowell Reid, built 1824. (The Reid-White house is still there, its original front door now facing the unlovely back of the post office.)

There are three symbols repeated across the width of the frieze: The caduceus of Hermes (two serpents intertwined about a staff with wings), Hermes having been the first symbol of the U.S. Post Office; a torch with a laurel wreath (presumably symbolizing victory); and a third motif, of crossed swords and perhaps a shield or crest, the meaning of which I cannot identify. (If you know what it is, please leave a comment.)

A neighbor of mine likes to say that this building was intended as a symbol of the strength of the federal government in the post-war South. The words "Erected by the United States Government," with the year, figure prominently above the architrave.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Old Farm

Another composition in orange-red and green, this time in the county. Could this be the old farm that gives Old Farm Road its name?

The farmhouse appears to be being gutted inside (that's a dumpster behind the boxwood at left). I wonder what will become of that beautifully rusty roof.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Serpentine walk

A wooden gate echoes the pattern of the brick walk beyond.

Although this house on Jackson Avenue is classically symmetrical, the front walk does not beat a path straight to the door (as is usual), but curves around from the side. This confounds the symmetry, but makes the front porch seem much more private - even mysterious - behind a hedge and two boxwood domes.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Hills off of Old Farm Rd., just south of the city limits, facing west. Sorry I couldn't catch the birdsong.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Top of the hill

This 1906 house on Jackson Ave. has an especially pleasing color palette, I think, particularly in combination with the lawn and brick steps.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Church on Sunday: Grace

Ivy clothes part of a window at Grace Presbyterian Church.

The congregation of this church has worshipped in this building on South Main Street since the early 1950s. Before that, it was (probably originally) a private residence, an apartment building, and a fraternity house. Now Grace Presbyterian is planning to build a new church outside of the city limits, and this old building is for sale.

One wonders what the future has in store for it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Proof of spring

The pear trees are in bloom in front of Gaines Hall again.

Among the first trees to bloom in spring, and last to lose its bronze-red autumn leaves, the Bradford Pear (Pyrus calleryana) might be a superior tree except for two weaknesses: the smell of the blossoms is unpleasant (!), and the crotched trunk is brittle -- prone to snapping in high winds. (We lost two in one night, north of here, during the inland winds of Hurricane Isabel.) This set may be protected by its proximity to the building's walls.

Gaines Hall is a residence for upperclassmen at Washington and Lee, completed in 1988 in the "suite" dormitory fashion. I received many demurs to my (rather tongue-in-cheek) assertion that residents of Graham-Lees were "living in style." So -- how are things at Gaines Hall?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Photo finish

Iron horse heads support a balcony at the Sheridan Livery Inn, an inn and restaurant in a former livery stable (built in 1887) on Main St.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ladies of a certain age

Victorian houses along Jackson Avenue.

The clear, late-day light makes everything look straight out of a dream.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


This sign of spring was just around the corner from yesterday's garden, with the evening sun warming the beautiful brick house behind it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wearing green

A front garden on McDowell St. is cloaked in winter greens, soon to be supplemented by the colors of spring.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Foreground, middle ground, background

The VMI lacrosse team practices on the field behind the stadium bleachers, with House Mountain looming in the distance. (I don't think the players can see the mountain from down there, though.)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Church on Sunday: Arches

The south tower and entrance front of Trinity United Methodist Church on Main Street.

The roots of this church run back to 1794, to a lay preacher named William "Billy" Craven - a stonemason - who first organized Methodist services in the home of a friend.

The present Romanesque Revival church on Main Street is the fifth structure, on the third site, that the congregation has built as they have expanded. It dates to 1926. According to the church website, the debt from the construction cost of $120,000 proved onerous during the Depression that followed. It does seem an impressive sum for that time.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Friday, March 13, 2009

Living in style

Graham-Lees Hall at Washington and Lee, looking like a luxury hotel from this vantage point on a parapet by the Warner Athletic Center.

Two earlier dorms, Graham and Lees, were joined in 1940 to make this U-shaped residence hall for freshmen. According to the W&L website, the entire structure was renovated in the 1980s at a total cost of over $3 million, or about $12,000 per room. So -- luxury hotel is not so far off. Though I suspect the residents don't quite see it that way.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Man in grey

The grey day seems to suit this image of Stonewall Jackson over his grave in the cemetery named in his memory -- click photo for more detail. (He's facing south, of course.)

The 1891 sculpture was done by Edward Virginius Valentine, a Richmond artist known also for his likenesses of Thomas Jefferson (in Richmond), Robert E. Lee (standing, in the Capitol in Washington; and recumbent, in the Lee Chapel), and Jefferson Davis (on Monument Ave. in Richmond).

Valentine's studio has been preserved and is open to the public. It seems to have been an attraction even during the artist's lifetime -- a guest book there contains the names of both Woodrow Wilson and Oscar Wilde.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


These wooden railings on a roof terrace and stair at the corner of Jackson Ave. and White St. have an almost lace-like delicacy, in nice contrast to the very solid red-brick house next door.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sorority Row

The crescent of five sororities at W&L, seen from Woods Creek trail.

In 1985, Washington and Lee admitted its first female undergraduate degree candidates. Fraternities had long been a center of social life on campus, so it was inevitable that "Greek" life would soon expand to include women. These five houses were completed in 2000 on a hillside southwest of the playing fields, for the members of the University's sororities.

I recently heard that a 6th sorority house is planned soon for the far left side of this group. If true, I think W&L should revisit the decision (even though a 6th may have been planned for from the start). This group of five different, but closely related, Greek/Roman Revival structures is a spectacularly successful architectural achievement for a modern institution. In scale, siting, and harmony with pre-existing buildings, it has turned out unusually well. The addition of a 6th house would cause the center of the group to fall at a void, however, rather than on the central portico, eliminating much of the power of the composition. (As I understand it, there is no room for a corresponding 7th structure on either side; if there was, 7 would work too -- though five seems just right.)

I hope the University preserves the strength of what it has in Sorority Row, and lights on an equally inspired way to incorporate additional houses.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Snow white

The dazzling, bare white branches of an American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) on the Washington and Lee campus.

I'm itching for spring, but one of the things I'll miss when the leaves come out is the sight of the Sycamore branches - particularly in profusion along the stream and river banks - that brighten the landscape in winter.

The building behind the tree is the Reeves Center, an 1842 house which now contains W&L's collection of porcelain and ceramics, including what is reported to be an especially fine collection of Chinese export porcelain. (I've never been in there; I'll have to take a look.)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Church on Sunday: Spring

The Oxford Presbyterian Church, surrounded by spring greens.

It's been so warm and spring-like the last two days that I couldn't resist posting this photo I took last year on a soft, rainy April afternoon. This handsome church is out near Collierstown, not far from Buffalo Creek. It will be green like this again soon.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Premium parking

The new parking lot above N. Main Street at VMI.

A year or so ago, a row of charming, if not "historically" old, houses was demolished to make way for this new parking lot at the Virginia Military Institute. It would be amusing to know what the cost was per parking space, all told. Parking has become a persistent problem in Lexington, as it is so many other places.

The view of the campus once you have parked your car is rather pleasant, though. And the silver lining for me (since I'm not permitted to park here), is that structures such as this lovely old house are now visible as one drives down North Main on the route out of town.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Five, if you can find them

The Presbyterian Manse on White St. has five identical and unusual chimneys.

There was no good vantage point from which to catch all the chimneys (from up in the air would have been best!), but this shot has pretty light, and shows the inspired shed with matching trim work hidden behind the house.

The Manse, built in 1848 for the Lexington Presbyterian Church in the up-and-coming Gothic Revival taste -- and in strong contrast to the Greek style of the church itself, completed just 3 years earlier -- is one of my favorite houses in Lexington. (I'll show the front in a later post.) The site chosen was then on the outskirts of town, in an almost pastoral setting several blocks from the church. As the small lane or alley on which it fronted attracted new construction over the next couple of decades, the road was eventually widened and named White St., after the first occupant of the Manse, Rev. William S. White.

The Manse remains the residence of the minister of Lexington Presbyterian Church.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Last light

601 S. Main St. (1858), looking very somber at the end of the day.

An eclectic garden has been constructed on what was formerly a long expanse of lawn between house and street.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

And three more...

...chimneys, that is -- on three successively smaller parts at the back of Stono. (There's actually a fourth chimney, if you count the one to the right side.)

I wonder how many chimneys I can work up to?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Two more chimneys

A belvedere between two chimneys on a house on Jackson Avenue.

This house is not far from the highest point of Jackson Ave. I'd love to see the view from the little cupola -- it must look west to House Mountain and the Alleghenies, and east to the Blue Ridge. (North and south you'd see mostly chimney.)