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High Banks house named to Virginia Landmarks Register

The High Banks house
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The High Banks house in Frederick County has earned a spot on the Virginia Landmarks Register, meaning the property is also nominated for the National Register of Historic Places. The house was originally built around 1753. Dennis Grundman/Daily

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By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

STEPHENSON -- The High Banks home in Frederick County survived the Civil War and represents a "vanishing" architectural style, say experts on historic sites.

Now the home has a place on the Virginia Landmarks Register, the Department of Historic Resources announced Dec. 22. The designation also earns the property a nomination for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, according to a news release from the state agency.

"It's important because it represents settlement patterns through the valley and especially in the northern end of the valley," Randy Jones, a department spokesman, said Monday. "It's representative especially of valley architecture, the Germanic building techniques and English house plan, sort of the Georgian-style house."

High Banks, known also as the Helm-Clevenger House in department records, sits along Opequon Creek near Stephenson. Thomas and Margaret Helm had the two-story house built circa 1753, from limestone found locally, according to the release. The property features ruins of a bank barn, built just after the Civil War, as well as an 18th-century icehouse pit, both made of stone, according to department information.

The property's owners made alterations to the house in 1858, the release notes.
Owners made more alterations in 1978 and in 2000, replacing a 19th-century wing destroyed by fire in 1920 with architecturally compatible additions, according to the release.

Architectural historian James C. Massey and historian Shirley Maxwell, of Strasburg, prepared documents for the property's nomination to the national register.

The "period of significance" extends from its construction to 1944, according to the documents. The Clevengers owned and operated High Banks for 95 years, from 1849 to 1944, the documents states.

The historians note the home was retrimmed in Greek revival-style architecture circa 1858. A two-story wing was added in the rear in 1978.

The property as nominated by the state department includes 70 acres surrounding the house, a portion of a 478-acre farm dating to the mid-18th century, according to the historians.

The land remains protected from development, and the owners are considering placing an easement on the property, the historians note.

Few examples of this architectural style remain.

"Certainly they're a rarer rare breed of house," Jones said.

"Many of them have been registered over the years, but they're a vanishing breed of style of house from that era."

The department's director, Kathleen S. Kilpatrick, also the state's historic preservation officer, will forward the sites to the National Park Service for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, the release states.

Designation on a register does not restrict what an owner may do with the property, but gives the chance to pursue tax-credit rehabilitation improvements for the property, according to the release.

Such projects must comply with standards that are set by the secretary of the interior.
Virginia ranks high among the 50 states as a national leader in registering historic sites and districts and for the number of tax-credit, rehabilitation projects proposed and completed each year, the release notes.

The department also touts the programs for promoting conservation of historic sites and spurring economic revitalization.

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