Best of the Valley – Round 1

We are honored to be nominated in the Daily News Record Best of the Valley contest in several categories and humbly ask for your support by casting a vote for Gaines Group Architects. There are many awesome companies on the list and we understand that you will have a hard time deciding who gets your vote. Voting is easy after all, just click this link and go to each of our categories. You can vote every day from May 7 until May 14th in round one. You have all the power to move us on to Round 2!

The categories we have been nominated for Best of the Valley include:

Best Home Improvement Company

Best Company to Work For

Best Gallery Space

Here are some reasons why we need/want/beg for your vote in each:

Best Home Improvement Company

We don’t do home improvements but we plan for them. Without a solid plan in advance of starting your home improvements you are bound to run into unexpected challenges and the details likely will not fall perfectly in place. We work hard to understand materials, building science, structural capacities, and trends to help guide you to just the right solution to meet your goals. We also created this helpful resource tool for people thinking about building a custom home to make it more fun. We work hard to help you achieve your dream home, after all, #designmatters.

Best Home Improvement Company

Best Company to Work For

We think being the best company to work for might be hard for you to judge since you probably don’t work for us – after all, there are only 12 of us and there are millions and millions of you reading our blog posts. So here are some fun facts about working here. We have 200+ years of combined experience. The average tenure of employees at the firm is over 15 years (this includes Annie that has been here since January) showing people love to stay here. We have fun celebrating each other. We celebrate birthdays, holidays, donut day, and even pizza day. We volunteer together in the community. We like being the best at things, so why not be the best place to work. Last – we create coloring books for our projects, what could be more fun than that?

Best Gallery Space

We think having the best artists, food, and building for a gallery automatically makes us the Best Gallery Space! Come on, it is the Depot after all. I don’t think there is a cooler building in town, of course, I am a little biased about being in love with this building. We put out a massive array of food and drinks for our guests each month. Most important, we have the coolest artists exhibiting in our space which is really the point – to support local artists. Many of our artists have exhibited for the first time in our gallery. We don’t charge a gallery fee, we pay for all the food and drink, and we invite over 1,000 people to attend each month. We also have our own parking lot. So other than being 1/4 mile from court square, I cannot think of a reason why we are not the best Gallery in Rocktown.

A love story, Architect, Depot

On this anniversary of moving into the Depot I wanted to share a love story about an Architect and a Train Station. This story starts many years ago around 2009. When I first moved to Harrisonburg and opened an office downtown I used to walk around looking at buildings. There was still a lot of empty storefronts and a lot of potential. On the outer fringe of the Historic Downtown there was this one beautiful building that was looking a little rough.


It has a powerful presence even in a neglected stage of life. It was often blocked from view by building products being stored all around the structure. One this sunny day as I was walking I snapped a photo of the building as a dreamed of what it could become in a new life. I would have loved to have my office in the beautiful structure. However, at the time I was a 1 person firm with little resources to expand my office needs and certainly no resources to renovate such a structure.

Depot Harrisonburg

A few years later in 2014 I was invited on a trip to Warroad, MN to learn more about Marvin Windows. This is a training that is offered to architects and builders to see how the window is made / performs and to meet some of the people involved in the process. We were fortunate to have a private jet fly us up and back to shorten the time the trip would take away from our work that needed to be done at home. On this flight I was able to sit with R.S. Mongers & Sons, Inc. President Jim Higgs. We discussed many things as we got to know each other. One topic that came up was this beautiful building at the end of their street and how it would make a perfect window and door showroom and professional office space for an architect. The seed was planted perhaps.

Depot HarrisonburgDepot HarrisonburgDepot Harrisonburg

The building however was still a little rough.

Depot Harrisonburg

Then the stars aligned and I was in need of an office move. We were out of space in our current building and it simply did not fit the narrative we were trying to tell about our business. I started making calls to find the right next office space. It turns out at the same time the Depot building owner was also getting ready to renovate his building. I called Jim Monger and we discussed a strategy to provide design services and for us to take a good portion of the second floor professional office space. The timing was perfect and we all agreed on how to best move forward on the project. Design kicked off in early 2015 and construction soon followed. Construction was painstakingly slow for me but in reality moved quickly for a building that had suffered so many years of neglect, fire, and water damage. Jim Monger was there most days and I was as well. It was a process for me of learning about the building, researching the history of this structure, and making design decisions as challenges arose. I learned the incredible history of the Chesapeake Western Railroad, why the building was built at all, the evolution of train culture / industry in Harrisonburg, and honestly fell in love with this building. I refer to it all the time as my Depot – even though it has other owners.

Depot Harrisonburg

I was fortunate to be able to invite some of my friends to join me in the professional office space upstairs as construction finished up in the summer of 2016. It was an incredible project to be involved with on a daily basis for over a year. Then on July 5, 2016 we got permission from the city to inhabit the building. Moving day had finally arrived.

Depot Harrisonburg

Now three years later time has flown by and I am still just as much in love with this building. Our work on this building, signage on the street, and monthly parties has grown our business without question. Saving a historic building in downtown Harrisonburg has expanded the narrative I want to tell about design, our business, and the importance of making sustainable decisions. The historic Chesapeake Western Depot building is a gem in our town and the CW has helped to shape our city in the past and my firm for the future.

Depot Harrisonburg

As our 3 year anniversary arrives on July 5th I want to invite you to our monthly celebration of the arts, our building, and our small business. Just like our very first art opening in our space back in August 2016 with Rhett Miles, we have some amazing artists for you to see this month. I was blown away by their work as they were hanging it yesterday. You are going to want to be there! It is worth the drive, walk, scooter trip, or uber – come on by and see us!

Depot Harrisonburg

Visit with Santa at the Chesapeake Western Railroad Depot First Friday Art Opening

Join us for a very special First Friday night before heading downtown to the Harrisonburg Holiday Parade. On December 1st, Santa will join us at the Depot in the R.S. Monger & Sons window and door Showroom. Take pictures with the kids and start your Christmas celebration early. Then join us upstairs for hot chocolate, cookies, and libations. Red Wing Academy will be performing in The Gaines Group Architects office. Brad Striebig will have his photography on display in our gallery. Everyone is welcome!

Take your picture with Santa!


Listen to the Red Wing Academy

First Friday Exhibit: Scenic Shenandoah Mountain

I grew up in a farming community in Pennsylvania and loved the outdoors. I spent as much time as possible in the mountains and waters along the Appalachian mountain chain, ofter with camera in hand. I love the vibrant colors of the seasons throughout this region.

The photographs in this exhibit represent the beauty of this region’s Shenandoah Mountain. Located west of the Shenandoah Valley in the George Washington National Forest, Shenandoah Mountain is one of the largest tracts of wild land in the Eastern United States. Shenandoah Mountain provides diverse wildlife habitat, outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities, and clean water for drinking and aquatic life.  It also helps support our local tourism-based economy.  Friends of Shenandoah Mountain is a coalition of local citizens, businesses, faith groups, wilderness advocates, mountain bikers, hikers, hunters, and other forest users working to protect the wild heritage of Shenandoah Mountain for future generations. To help provide good stewardship for this unique are visit the Friends of Shenandoah Mountain website to endorse a proposal to make this area a National Scenic Area at:

Reddish Knob

Reddish Knob

First Friday Artist: Bradley A. Striebig, Ph.D.

Photography is something I’ve enjoyed since I was about 6 years old, when my father introduced me to to film cameras. I haven’t put the camera down, although the camera has changed quite a bit, since that first brown plastic Kodak I had as a kid.Over the years, my work has been published in newspapers, calendars, magazines, book covers and numerous websites. I have been fortunate to be able to incorporate photography into service work with Engineers Without Borders and other NGOs. Currently I am working with Friends of Shenandoah Mountain to help conserve this rare wilderness in the Eastern US. Photography has played an important role in documenting various projects in Benin, India, Malta, Rwanda and the Nez Pierce Reservation in Montana. I have also worked with local non-profit organizations, donating services to the Lehman Center, a home for children, and the Interfaith Peace Camp at Eastern Mennonite University.

In addition to photography, I am a founding member and professor in the Department of Engineering at James Madison University. Prior to joining the JMU Department of Engineering I was a faculty member at Gonzaga University where I helped developed the WATER program in Benin. I am also the lead author of Engineering Application in Sustainable Design and Development, published by Cengage Publishing in 2015.

I’ve been blessed with two children who bring home the importance of pursuing sustainability. They also serve as a constant reminder that the pursuit of one’s curiosity can be a fun, exciting and sometimes downright silly pursuit – and also a meaningful journey.

First Friday Art Gallery Opening Featuring Jude Dayton

Jude Dayton

Each month for Harrisonburg’s First Friday, we host a new artist in our building’s 2nd floor gallery at the Chesapeake Western Depot at 141 W. Bruce St. (second floor entrance is on Chesapeake). Artwork will remain on exhibit through the month. Come view the show and get a tour the Depot! We will have food and drink available!

Artist Statement- Jude Dayton

For many years I have experienced great enjoyment from the creation of art. I started with pen and ink drawings, then progressed to the media of watercolor and oil and finally moved to acrylic. That led me to incorporate collage and encaustic into my creations. Later I developed a business in which I transferred prints of my work onto wearable art. My art has been influenced by my study of art history and by learning from other artists.

I had art shows while living in Annapolis and displayed my art in my studios in both Annapolis and Baltimore. In 2002, I had a month-long one-person exhibit at the French Embassy in the District of Columbia. This show emphasized paintings that had been inspired by Cro-Magnon cave art that I had visited in southern France. Some of my work on canvas is currently displayed in a gallery in Tucson where we lived for several years.

I recently moved from Arizona to the Shenandoah Valley and was inspired to return to painting with watercolors. This month’s exhibit includes some of my latest paintings. Also, I have available stationery cards showing some of my watercolors and prints of earlier works that were influenced by ancient cave art.

The Gaines Group Harrisonburg Office Is Taking Shape

Our new office is open and getting into shape.


The interior brick walls along the stair that were once covered in black char from the 80’s fire have been scraped. The stairs have been rebuilt leading to the second floor.


Heading into the second floor, the window and door opening from the fire was preserved showing the fire damage.


Where there once was a hole in the floor, now there is a kitchen finished with Alberene soapstone counters and Wolf Cabinets.


Our signage is installed done by Eddie Edwards Signs.


The front desk is installed using wood from attic fire damaged wood.  The base of the desk was fabricated by Excel Steel.


The high top desks face the Marvin windows.


Our LEED certificates are hung on the wall along with our awards placed on the shelving.


The 100-year-old drafting desk from Ray’s family has been refinished and installed into my office.


My office space is generous enough for a meeting table in addition to my desk. The wall behind is a dry erase board using Sherwin Williams system.


My miniature architect toy is hanging out with my CSI, Interchange, On the Road Collaborative, and CATEC mug.


My World’s Best Boss mug is there to remind everyone.


Several of my old models from college and a few 3-D printed models are on the file cabinets.


In our conference room we have a new table and chairs. What do you think? Again, there was no floor here a few months ago.


Our new old lights have been redone to be energy-efficient and to preserve the patina from years of use. Thanks to Live Wire for their wonderful work.


Maybe best of all, we have a large storage closet with lots of shelf space.

20160715_171105-02 20160716_133119-01

Stop by and visit. Let us know your memories of the space. If you have any pictures from what the building used to be, we would love to see them.