Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation finds new home

Lee-Jackson Bldg and SVBF StaffAfter 13 years of protecting and interpreting Civil War battlefields in the eight-county Shenandoah Valley National Historic District, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation has a new home.

The Battlefields Foundation has purchased the historic Lee-Jackson Building at the intersection of Congress Street and Old Cross Road in New Market, the original portion of which was constructed around 1808 for John Strayer’s home and mercantile business.  The Foundation plans multiple uses for the building.  The first floor will include a food service facility (in cooperation with the Town of New Market), a store, and the SVBF’s fourth Civil War Orientation Center; the center will help visitors understand the Civil War history of the middle Valley and then direct them to the sites where they can explore that history today.  The Foundation’s offices will be housed on the second floor, and the third floor offices will be rented.

Denman Zirkle, Executive Director of the Battlefields Foundation since 2009, said the Foundation has been negotiating with United Bank for the property “for some time”.  He said, “The Foundation is fortunate to have acquired such a valuable, historic, and commercially viable building that is integral to our Valley’s Civil War experience.  Having our own home will present opportunities for community engagement, cooperation, and commercial operations that were not possible during the first years of our operation.”

The Foundation is planning to move into the facility by March 1, and a formal opening is planned later in the year.  Frazier & Associates of Staunton is working with the Foundation to provide appropriate exterior treatments and signage, as well as to improve the parking area at the rear of the building.  Since 2007, the Foundation has been located at the Shirley House, a facility just north of West Old Cross Road, owned by V.M.I.

“SVBF’s purchase of the Lee-Jackson Building will strengthen the Foundation’s capabilities,” said Rod Graves, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, “Especially its mission to promote tourism in the Valley.”

Since its construction in 1808, the building has expanded and has housed various enterprises.  In 1884 the building was converted to become the first hotel on the site, Hotel Carrolton.  In 1903, the name was changed to Hotel Thaxton, and in 1921 to the Battlefield Inn before becoming the Lee-Jackson Hotel. In 1980, the building was converted once again into a retail business, this time selling pottery and antiques while using the old hotel rooms to depict bedrooms from different periods.  In 2004, the building came into the possession of Larry and Sharon Smith who completed extensive refurbishing of the building the following year, opening the Publik House restaurant on the first floor, and renting offices on the second and third floors.  In 2008, ownership of the building was assumed by United Bank, which sold it to the Foundation.

The Lee-Jackson building has seen its share of history and famous visitors.  In 1862 General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson conferred with his chief cartographer, Col. Jedediah Hotchkiss, then later that year reviewed his troops from the stoop of the building as they passed on their way to Luray.  Later, in 1864, Confederate General Jubal Early was a visitor in the Strayer home, and in 1909 bandmaster and composer John Philip Sousa and his wife and daughter were guests at the Thaxton Hotel.

The Foundation was incorporated in 2000 as a public non-profit corporation and the management entity to implement the 1996 legislation that created the National Historic District.  Since then, SVBF and its partners have protected over 6,000 acres of Valley battlefield land, while providing interpretation of the battlefields and promoting educational and visitor programs.

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