I love getting a new box of history in the office! Working in the Chesapeake Western Railroad Depot (more posts here, here, here, here) is a true joy. It seems almost every day someone comes in to share their story about the short-line rail, nicknamed the Crooked and Weedy. Here are some of the latest finds. I also have new things on display in our foyer if you want to drop by during business hours to see them. Share your stories about the CW with me – I love learning more about this short-line.
D.W. Thomas in 1926 was hired by W.E.D. Stokes of New York to try to make a last-ditch effort to save the short-line. Mr. Thomas was named the General manager of the CW and was innovative in his approach. He put competing bus lines out of business by cutting his rider fees to one-half cent per mile. The CW became the first 100% radio controlled rail in the country. He also started the CW trucking line to compete with other trucking companies moving into the area. Apparently he even gave out autograph copies of his photo!
Anybody know what the going rate for shipping bags of fertilizer. Here is a ticket from 1898 for 260 bags. It seems like $1,277 is a lot of money to move fertilizer in the late 1800’s. The average annual income in 1903 for a railroad wage earner at the time was $593.
Even in the early 70’s the CW struggled to keep people from walking on their rail. This is such a dangerous practice, but it happens every day here in Harrisonburg.
I want to know more about assembly park. Who has a story?
I am sure this was a fun bunch of hard workers. Can anyone tell me more about the Elkton Lead rebuild?
Chesapeake Western Railroad Depot History Display open this Friday from 5pm – 8pm
You are going to want to come visit our office this coming Friday at the Chesapeake Western Railroad Depot. We host an art opening each month in the hallway outside of our conference room. The building is located at Gaines Group Architects office (141 W. Bruce St. Suite 201). This month Wendy Custer will join us with an incredible display of her work.
We have also made some great progress on the Chesapeake Western Railroad Depot History Display. We now feature photos of the 101 and 102 engines that started the rail line here in the valley. We have historic photos of the building donated by Neal Menefee on display (reproductions blown up and printed on canvas). We also have many artifacts including switch locks, dated nails, an ash tray from the passenger car, oil can, and lamp. There is also a wood block die that was used for printing marketing material for the CW that basically shows the CW as the key line for rail travel in any direction. There is a notebook of historic postcards, check stubs, shipping tickets, stock certificates, a tribute to Tinky, and a rare picture of the 105.
Also, did you know there was an engine house next door to the CW station? We now have pics of it before and after the explosion on display. You need to come visit us this Friday, May 5th from 5pm – 8pm to enjoy the display, art opening, some food and drink.
We love our building and love sharing that love with everyone – so we made t-shirts with our logo and a picture of the depot! The art work was created by Stronge Designs. He included a sketch of one of the diesel engines that used to run on the track next to the building as part of the design. The Depot logo featured on the shirt was created by Estland Design that has an office on the second floor along with us. This is the first time we have printed t-shirts for marketing our firm. What do you think?
Of course t-shirt marketing is not anything new. In fact, our friends at Cheido labs held a cool fundraiser earlier this year. They challenged fans to wear a Cheido shirt in front of their business sign and take a selfie on a particular day and post it to social media. With each post, Cheido made a contribution to support On the Road Collaborative. A great concept to do good in the community, market their business, and have fun!
I wonder what contest we could hold to good in the community and a little marketing? Thoughts?
Chesapeake Western Railroad History collection coming together at The Depot
We are slowly building the content of the Chesapeake Western Railroad History collection that will be on permanent display at The Depot. This display is to honor the history of this railway that gave us this beautiful building that we get to call our office. Each day people stop by to enjoy the building and tell us stories about their experience with the railway. I often get to give tours and tell them the history of the renovation. In addition we have many folks that have experience with the building and railway stopping by the office to add to our display. I have a stack of burnt documents in my office that a retired engineer from Winchester is letting us copy and display. I am not sure yet how we are getting this done (budget or technology) in a way that preserves the history. He was an intern in the building early in his career and was able to pull some drawings and ledgers out after the fire. Neil Menefee has loaned us photos and negatives of the trains from the railroad that we are getting scanned so we can display them. Again, this is a labor of love and budget will determine how much we can display. Also, the grandson, Charles Byers, of Tinky (Walter P. Bryan), has sent me items to honor his grandfather who was superintendent of track maintenance. Tinky loved the rail line and worked until he passed away on July 3, 1973 (three days after I was born, just as an interesting connection).
If you have pictures that we can scan, stories to tell about the railway, or any other artifacts you want to share, let me know. If you want to help support this effort in any way, please let me know. Over time we will keep adding items, come by and visit to see what we have so far.
We have been building our firm here in the valley for a little more than 8 years. I opened our branch office in Harrisonburg in July 2008 in the basement of my Timberville home. Most of my jobs were still in the Central Virginia area at the time. There was a lot of driving over the mountain and many many hours networking and building our brand here in the valley. Our first job in the valley was a LEED Consulting job for Glen Stoltzfus – we had met months before at a building science seminar in Charlottesville. It was the start of a real business in the valley.
As jobs grew and more important for this decision – we lost jobs because we did not have a Harrisonburg office location (this was the specific reason given by one client that did not hire us) we started looking for space. Our budget was small in the slow economy so I was using old desks from storage, shelving from my house, and paper print art work of past projects for the walls to decorate. We opened our first Harrisonburg office space in May 2009. It was nice office space with north light, but was small and hard to find. I started my blog, social media marketing, and volunteering to build our brand. Each First Friday we hosted a new artist in our space and had lots of visitors. We worked hard to establish our firm as the go to for healthy, energy-efficient, and durable design solutions in the valley. This is a reputation we had already developed in Central Virginia, but the valley market had less opportunity and less demand for these ideas and for architectural design in general. We spent two years in that small office space, enjoying our art openings and building a client base.
As time went on we needed to add staff and we needed a more professional space. So we found a new spot just up the street on court square in a building with other professionals. We still did not have outside signage, so finding us could be a challenge. The location was in the heart of downtown across from Jack Brown’s. There was an opportunity to have a private conference room and two offices. We upgraded some of our furniture, but the budget was still tight so we still had the same desks and shelving as before. It worked for our two person firm as I added an interior designer to my team in the valley. We were getting larger projects and building great relationships along with our brand awareness growing. The networking and blogging was working to establish our firm in the valley as a trusted and reliable source for design. This growth led us to grow our team again and our space was getting crowded again.
We started looking for available space with a focus of our attention on staying downtown. There were several options to be considered and each had obstacles to making it work. There was the old office building that had a mold issue. Then there was the incredible space that was just too much for us to renovate ourselves. Then there was the space that was just a little too small… I started to wonder if I could stay downtown. I had just one more option to look at on the outside edge of downtown.
As luck would have it, when I called Jim Monger to ask about The Depot he was ready to start a renovation project. We worked together to rezone the building to allow for professional office space, design the renovation, and apply for tax credits. Our work on the building started in March 2015. We hoped to finish in a year, but the tax credit process slowed us down a couple of times as we waited on a response to design options. The building had gone through a major fire and 20+ years of water damage. It was in rough shape, but it was perfect for our firm.
We figured out ways to make the building energy-efficient and comfortable. We started asking around to see who might want to share the second floor office space with us and had the floor full before construction began. The design started taking shape over the next few months.
The work took just over a year from our first visit in March of 2015. We moved in July 5, 2016 along with Herr and Company and Estland Design. The first floor space is almost ready to open and will be a Monger Building Supply Show Room. Our office furniture and shelving is no longer “what we had left over in storage.” It feels like a professional office finally. We had the opportunity to have our hands in the design from start to finish. The details are coordinated and work well together. It feels good to have a long-term home that we helped create.
It has been a lot of work and a long road to establish our firm in the valley. We started out with no clients and no reputation in a very slow economy. It has taken many hours of work to build to this point, to even survive to this point. However, I feel like we are becoming a resource for many in the community that are hoping to build a more sustainable future. This is the work that I want to do and the work that we are doing. So many people have helped us get here and I am very appreciative. However, I have to say, I am most appreciative today of the sign guy. It only took us 8 years, but we finally have a street sign so our clients have a better chance of finding our office.
Lots of progress since the last post about this exciting project. The spaces are starting to look finished and we are excited to see the progress each time we visit. In order to tell the story of this historic building there was a lot of work done to preserve original parts. Unfortunately, years of water leaking into the space destroyed a lot of the original wood. The floors especially suffered rot. Here you can see the new floor and old floor coming back together.
The floors are not the only interior woodwork. Jim Herr’s office is coming back to life as the original wood panels are finished and reinstalled. It looks incredible and it is not finished.
The trim carpenters are also taking great care to recreate missing trim and the paint crew is staining it so that it is easy to tell what is old and what is new.
The kitchen upstairs is starting to take shape.
The wall colors being added brought new life to the spaces. Jim Monger said the green we selected for our office was bright enough to wake us up in the mornings. What do you think?
Work has not been limited to the inside of the building. First the old chain link fence was torn down and all the weeds removed which did wonders for the building site. Then the new fence was installed.
The landscape installation certainly has brought a finished look to the exterior of the building.
The big achievement over the last few weeks has been the window installation. These things are huge, energy-efficient, and beautiful!
Over the last few week there has been an amazing amount of progress at the Depot job site. The electricians have almost finished wiring the entire building. The drywall crew has done an amazing job putting the building back together and repairing the plaster. The insulators have made the building more efficient than it has been in 103 years. The painters are bringing color back into the spaces. The HVAC crew from Excel have installed an efficient comfort system in all the spaces. Maust Excavating has cleaned up the site and installed the sidewalks. Bryan Nesselrodt Construction has most of the framing complete. Our move in date is still not set, but we are getting closer to the finish line.
Work on The Chesapeake Western Railroad Depot continues and Jim and the guys are making tremendous progress. The electrical, plumbing, and mechanical rough-ins are all done. The structural flooring repairs are done. The insulation is installed in the attic. The warehouse roof is being rebuilt and brick cleaned from the fire damage.
Chesapeake Western Railroad Depot in the News
These past few weeks the project was newsworthy for WHSV and the Daily News Record. It was a busy time doing hard hat tours and making final decisions.
Tours of the Chesapeake Western Depot
Michael Sheeler a talented young photographer in Harrisonburg joined one of the hard hat tours to document the event. His work enhances the beauty of the buildings.
Chesapeake Western Depot Warehouse Renovation has begun. While work continues on the office portion of the Depot, the roof and trusses are being repaired in the warehouse space. The majority of the fire damage in the building exists in this space. The entire roof is being replaced and many of the trusses will need major repairs. The transom window above the entry door has been re-glazed and put back in place. The new decking is being installed and the framing repaired.
I am really looking forward to being in our new office. There are many subcontractors in the building right now including plumbing, electric, HVAC, and framers. The roof repair on the warehouse has started which is a major change. The electricians have cut, sliced, and inserted wiring in all the upstairs walls and work downstairs will start soon. Our first window was installed to determine compliance with tax credit standards as well as trim requirements. There is still much work to be done.