Preston House now on endangered historic places list | Community
Stephanie Porter-Nichols | Smyth County News and Messenger
The tangible threat hanging over the 19and-century Preston-Crockett House has earned it a place among Virginia’s most endangered historic sites.
Each May, the private nonprofit Preservation Virginia publishes a list of Virginia’s most endangered historic places in an effort to bring attention to the sites and seek solutions that can prevent their destruction.
Released earlier this week, the 2022 list includes 11 locations ranging from battlefields to slave dwellings to the 22-room Preston-Crockett House at Seven Mile Ford.
Of the Smyth County site, Preservation Virginia said, “Built on the ‘Wilderness Road’ in the 1840s, the Preston-Crockett House is at risk of demolition for a planned roadhouse. Its high visibility on Interstate 81 could make it a regional tourist destination and its preservation could add value to any new development in the area.
Soni Holdings LLC is developing an on-land truck stop off I-81 Exit 39 that includes the Preston-Crockett house.
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The project, according to Arpit Soni, would be built in two phases, the first allowing the center to accommodate around 200 semi-trailers, then 500 trucks when the second phase is completed.
A preliminary drawing of the truck stop shows it, including a truck wash, restrooms and truck repair center, travel center, and four possible outbound packages.
Earlier this year, Soni said Wendy’s, Subway and Circle K had confirmed they would be settling into the travel spot, and they spoke with Taco Bell, Buffalo Wild Wings and Cracker Barrel, among others.
In February, Soni presented county officials with a study that indicated that in its first year of operation, the truck stop would generate $5.5 million in local, state and other taxes.
Sonja Ingram, associate director of field preservation services at Preservation Virginia, said the organization was made aware of the truck stop plans when an individual proposed the Preston-Crockett House be included on the list. 2022 endangered historic places and through newspaper articles that followed the county. hearings of officials and decision to issue a special use permit for the plans. When the nomination was considered, Ingram said, the home’s rich historical value really stood out.
Preservation Virginia is not averse to development, Ingram said, and would like to work with developers on alternatives to demolishing the house.
During a public hearing on the proposed permit for the truck stop, passion and affection was expressed for the late Lucy Herndon Crockett and her home. However, the house and its historical significance predates Crockett.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969, the house was built in 1842 by John Montgomery Preston on land that his wife, Maria Thornton Carter Preston, inherited from her father, General Francis Preston. The property had come into the possession of this branch of the Preston family through the marriage of General Preston to Sarah Buchanan Campbell, the daughter of General William Campbell, a Revolutionary War soldier and hero of the Battle of King’s Mountain. General Campbell had inherited the property from his father, Charles Campbell.
The structure originally served as a tavern or stagecoach inn along the Wilderness Road, which served as the main thoroughfare for hundreds of thousands of people heading west. It was transformed into a private house in 1864.
John Clark, who serves as Chilhowie’s city manager but said he was speaking as a private citizen during the hearing earlier this year, also noted the Civil War’s ties to the country.
He noted that Union General George Stoneman allegedly led troops there in 1864.
In “Smyth County History and Traditions,” Goodridge Wilson wrote, “Stoneman passed through southwestern Virginia on his famous raid. His troops take possession of the premises. They ground beef on the mahogany tables, stabled their horses in the hallways and upstairs rooms, and generally ruined the place.
Lauren Rhea of Chilhowie told the hearing that the pre-Civil War home continues to serve as testimony to Crockett.
Crockett has distinguished herself as a writer and artist. She also served as a Red Cross worker in the Pacific during World War II. She traveled as a speechwriter and secretary to the president of the American Red Cross. These experiences inspired his best-known novel, “The Magnificent Bastards.” Paramount turned the book into an Oscar-nominated film called “The Proud and the Profane” in 1956.
Crockett has written nine books and illustrated 10. The illustrations from his award-winning first book are on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Crockett operated the brick house on US 11 as the Wilderness Road Trading Post.
In 1984, Crockett wrote a letter to the editor of this newspaper. She explained that she “offered this historic abode, my home, to the organization of the United Methodist Conference of Holston, this mansion to be used exclusively and always as a religious retreat”.
If that didn’t work out, Crockett wrote, “Otherwise when I go this house goes…. Inevitably, when I die, this magnificent monument will be destroyed. Demolishers, bulldozers and property developers would move in: the lake would fill up and factories would go up. Shame. A pre-Civil War building, the house features both quaint and rare backyard structures: a sturdy, and almost never encountered, traditional smokehouse – a delicate spring, where women worked. Together they form a delightfully antique whole, which everyone should hate to see destroyed.
Crockett continued, “Please share with me my fervent wish that this does not happen.”
Preservation Virginia answers the call from 38-year-old Crockett.
She said the organization would like to speak with developers and help them become aware of financial incentives such as historic rehabilitation tax credits that could be used to help fund work to save the house. She noted, “There’s so much local support to save the house.”
Preservation Virginia will also work to publicize the Crockett-Preston House and the other 10 sites on the 2022 list.
Ingram urged those who support saving the structure to write letters to the county so they can be passed on to developers.
Ingram observed that the Crockett-Preston House is “extremely visible” from I-81 and is seen by thousands of people daily.
Long before he was Smyth County Administrator, Shawn Utt knew the house. Traveling on the highway, he said, Seven Mile Ford has always been known “because of this house.”
Utt said he would like to see the Travel Center built and the house saved, but he also expressed his understanding if the developers don’t go that route.
He described the Soni family as community-minded. The family reopened the Adwolfe Food Mart in recent years.
Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places program has seen significant success through his work.
Ingram, who has worked for the organization for 14 years, said about 50% of listed sites have been rescued, while 40% continue to be monitored and 10% have been lost.
“We’re here to help,” Ingram said.
“This year’s list reflects the resilience of the many historic places in the Commonwealth that have persisted for generations to support their communities,” said Elizabeth S. Kostelny, CEO of Preservation Virginia, in a press release. “The dedication of organizations, local governments and individuals currently working to preserve these places reflects the very nature of the historic preservation movement – the ability to adapt to challenges and maintain relevance in an ever-changing world. .”
Preservation Virginia is a private, nonprofit organization that seeks to inspire and engage the public in the promotion, support, and sustainability of Virginia’s historic places through leadership in advocacy, education, revitalization, and conservation. ‘stewardship.
The list of endangered sites is published in May, National Historic Preservation Month.
A page dedicated to the Preston-Crockett House is available on Facebook under the name “Save-and-Restore-The-Preston-Crockett-House”.