Staunton approves certificate for Stonewall Jackson Hotel sign removal
In reaching the decision to issue the certificate, the zoning administrator was guided by the city’s long-established practice for city staff to review and administratively act on COA applications for signs in the city’s historic districts without submission to the entire Historic Preservation Commission, as permitted by the Staunton City Code.
Staff did make members of the City’s Historic Preservation Commission aware of the application.
It also is a matter of practice that staff invite the external expert input when considering applications. In this case, Frank Strassler, an expert in historic preservation with the Historic Staunton Foundation, as part of the established process analyzed the application and submitted a written briefing and recommendation before Rhodes acted on the application and approved the COA.
Based on his review and analysis, Strassler noted the following regarding the significance of the sign:
- While the current sign is prominent in contemporary local memory, it is relatively new compared to the history of the hotel and the historic district. Architecturally, the sign does not reflect or relate the overall design and significance of the historic building or district.
- The sign was not constructed during a period of significance for the historic district. With remnants of the 18th century and early to mid-19th century, the majority of downtown architecture reflects a period of prosperity between the 1870s through the 1920s.
- The roof top sign dates to the early 1960s, when Downtown Staunton experienced a well-documented period of decline through Urban Renewal demolition, and with attempts to modernize storefronts. Modernization included metal façade coverings, boarding over windows, installing cement stucco awnings, and overuse of internally lighted signage in an attempt to compete with the look of new business construction at the outskirts of the community.
Strassler recommended that the COA be approved for the removal of the roof-top mounted neon sign and steel support structure, noting:
- The sign type, location, and size do not reflect the adopted guidelines for the Beverley Historic District.
- Upon review of the historical accounts, photographic record, and review of the architectural design of the 1925 hotel, the sign is not significant as a historic sign for its age and in relation to the overall architectural importance of the historic hotel building and historic district.
In addition, Rhodes determined the existing sign to be a nonconforming structure in that it does not conform to the zoning regulations of the applicable zoning district. Roof-mounted signs and signs with exposed bulbs or external illumination are prohibited in the Business District, the zoning district in which the hotel is located.
The issuance of a COA does not confer approval from any other local, state or federal authority that may have jurisdiction in the matter. And it does not address anything other than the removal within the context of the historic preservation provisions of the Staunton City Code.