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County presents plans to memorialize Alms House

By Alex Bridges

WOODSTOCK -- Shenandoah County's historic poorhouse may live on in the local museum and with an informational marker at the site near Maurertown.

But the county likely will store the old bricks salvaged from the rubble of the Alms House destroyed by fire.

County Administrator Mary T. Price gave an update to the Board of Supervisors on Thursday regarding the efforts to clean up the remains of the Alms House. Barbara Adamson, president of the board of directors for the Shenandoah County Historical Society, and other members also attended the meeting.

The county wants to recognize the historical importance of the Alms House, which it maintained since the 1800s, and officials as well as the historical society have proposed some options.

"We feel it's very important to have some sort of a display, at the historic courthouse of the artifacts," Price said.

A dinner bell, some of the metal construction spikes and nails and the Alms House sign were saved, Price noted. The county may have other items that the society could put on display.

Price added that county officials and society members have discussed making a display showing the "unusual" construction of a typical wall in the original Alms House building.

"It's not just a typical, one layer of brick," Price said. "It's about three or four layers."

Duane Williams, head of facilities maintenance for the county, along with society members, are working together to create this display, Price added.

The county would deviate from its current policy governing the disposition of any obsolete or unused materials, equipment and furniture, should the Board of Supervisors decide to give the artifacts to the historical society, Price said. Typically the county can either transfer the property to another department, return equipment to a manufacturer or vendor for credit or trade in for new equipment, sell to the highest bidder at auction or through sealed bids or by junking.

The Board of Supervisors could take up the proposal Tuesday and act on the donation at at its meeting June 17, Price said.

County officials also want to erect a sign memorializing the site of the Alms House and the building's significance that would provide information to visitors. Price provided a photograph of a sign for a Civil War site in the county as an example of such a memorial.

"So we'd like to do something, possibly telling the story on site," Price said.

The sign most likely would be installed somewhere along County Farm Lane off the main Zion Church Road. District 1 Supervisor Dick Neese voiced concern that such a sign should not be so far into the county's site as to lead visitors to wander around the property. Price concurred with Neese's concerns. The county leases part of the party to a local farmer for agricultural.

"We want to respect the farmer and the barn," Price said.

The county may incorporate some of the salvaged brick into the sign area, she added.

Chris Way, geographic information systems coordinator for the county, also will locate and identify the site using the global positioning system that would help in any future archeological excavation of the Alms House, possibly by university students.

However, most supervisors said they felt a proposal to give bricks not used by the historical society to the Shenandoah Alliance for Shelter to possibly sell the artifacts in a way to raise money came too soon.

"They've been good stewards of the property for many, many years," Price said. "It provides the citizens an opportunity to be part of the history."

Supervisors Chairman David Ferguson and District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey agreed that the county should just store the remaining bricks in a safe, secure place for possible use in the future. Bailey said the county should let the public give their input into any use of the remaining bricks. Ferguson said someone may come up with a different use for the bricks in the future.

"We want to do something with them in honor of the Alms House," Ferguson said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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