Arnold House restoration set to begin

Community comes together to save their history!

From The News Leader, Staunton, VA:

WAYNESBORO — After years of waiting to see if the red brick house on New Hope Road would be knocked down or restored, Waynesboro City Council voted in May not to demolish the house and to hand it over to Mark Holmes for restoration. At a small ceremony on the porch of the house on Friday morning, Holmes was handed the keys to the house and he announced plans to start construction as early as next week.

Holmes met with City Manager Mike Hamp and Red Brick House Inc., a restoration group that formed to help save the old home, for a symbolic handing over of the keys. “Now I have keys to a door that doesn’t have a lock,” Holmes joked.

Hamp handed the keys to Velma Ryan, president of Red Brick House Inc., who in turn handed them to Holmes under the condition that he has to restore the original structure. In May, the city set aside $12,000 to demolish the house before Red Brick House Inc. partnered with Holmes and successfully gained City Council’s approval to restore the structure.

Holmes, owner of contracting company The Wood Bore, is now solely in charge of the house that was built as a school in the early 1820s and has been owned by the city since 1955. According to Red Brick House Inc., the house once operated as a Masonic lodge and stood through the Civil War.

The first step in restoration is to fix the outside of the structure, including taking down the porch, which is not original, restoring brickwork and matching the exterior of the house to other houses of the era to keep it as original as possible, said Holmes.

“You can’t just go to Home Depot and buy bricks from the 1850s,” Holmes said. He said he is getting bricks for the restoration from a friend in Culpeper who has a pile of 1850s bricks behind his barn.

Holmes said the next steps include updating the plumbing and other systems inside the house, as well as removing some asbestos. Once the building is structurally sound and updated, Holmes will start looking for interested tenants before completing the inside of the structure. Holmes said he has spoken to a lawyer who expressed interested in using the house as an office space, but no tenant has been secured for the property.

Repurposing old wood, restoring the original hardwood pine floor, preserving the raised panels in the stairway and keeping the outside as original as possible are some of the restoration goals, according to Holmes. Overall, Holmes said he is anticipating spending $100,000 to $150,000 on the restoration.

“Eventually it’ll be a 21st century home that was built in the 1820s,” Holmes said.

Ryan said the building is the oldest brick schoolhouse in Virginia and the third oldest brick schoolhouse in the United States.

“It’s clear that this house with a long, interesting past now has a future,” Ryan said.

JB Yount III, former mayor and city attorney of Waynesboro, attended the small ceremony and told Holmes he was ‘the hero of the day’ for his work to save the house.

Right now the house is not structurally safe enough to allow people to view the inside, Holmes said. To show curious supporters of the house his progress on its restoration, he created the YouTube channel WoodBore to show the steps of the project, starting with a tour of how the interior looks now.

Holmes said the challenges moving forward will be establishing parking for the house and finding a tenant once renovations are complete, which could be within six months. Holmes is working on finalizing building permits and applying for the house to be an historic landmark through the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

As for Red Brick House Inc., Ryan said their work is only beginning. Now that the Arnold House is safe, the group will continue to work for the preservation of buildings throughout Waynesboro, she said.