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Historical Society could preserve Allen House

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — The Carroll County Historical Society and an heir to the Sidna Allen home report progress in talks to preserve the historic Queen Anne-style home in Fancy Gap.
While still negotiating on the exact language, the parties hope to have good news to share soon, according to Bill Webb, a board member with the historical society.
Bonnie Wood, one of two heirs of Bert and Marlene Widener, said that the legal work continues, but did not want to comment further until after an agreement is sealed.

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Historical society members hope to soon reach a deal on a transfer of the Sidna Allen home, built in 1911 by a businessman and prominent Democrat who would in 1912 participate in the infamous courthouse shootout with court and county officials. This resulted in the death of five, injury to seven and the execution of Floyd and Claud Allen.
The effort to preserve the home would transfer it and about 1.5 acres to the historical society so the non-profit group could raise funds to stabilize and restore the 103-year-old structure.
If successful, the historical society intends to launch its fundraising effort to coincide with the performance of Frank Levering’s dramatization of events related to the shootout, called “Thunder in the Hills,” starting in March.
“I think we’re getting close here,” Webb said. “We hope to get it signed and sealed by the start of the play and move forward from there.”
(See the sidebar for more information on the play performances.)
To tackle the job of preservation, historical society members would create a committee or a subcommittee, Webb said. Membership would likely consist of people with expertise and experience in construction, architecture, preservation, restoration, grants and fundraising.
Webb expects the effort would require a lot of fundraising.
Community support will be needed and encouraged from all those who want to see the home restored and the history preserved, he added.
The historical society wants to “stabilize and restore” the home first, if the deal goes through. As part of that, Webb said members would document the ongoing work to share what it takes to bring the Allen home back.
The property has settled so much, members of the historical society may have to do things like remove the stained glass windows to keep them from being lost.
“It will be a big task to stop the deterioration and get it to where we want to start improving things,” he said. “So, it’s expected to be a long process.”
It will take a lot of work to make this a success, but, given the opportunity, this is something the historical society board wants to do.
“If there’s any chance of preserving this home, this is something we have to do,” Webb said. “I think we have to try — this is one of the topmost historic structures in Carroll County. We’ve got to make an effort.”

'Thunder in the Hills' play brings history to life

“Thunder in the Hills”  — local playright Frank Levering’s original drama about the 1912 Courthouse shooting in Carroll County and its aftermath — will resume in March.
The popular play — first performed in the 100th anniversary year of the incident in the Carroll County Courthouse that killed five and injured seven — sold out and received rave reviews from audiences, organizers say.  
A portion of the proceeds from the play will benefit the effort to restore the Allen home, according to organizer Shelby Inscore Puckett.
Most of the cast members from the 2012 presentation will return for the upcoming performances, including Galax natives Stu Shenk and Kay Cox as J. Sidna Allen and his wife Betty Mitchell Allen.  
All performances will be in the historic Carroll County Courthouse on Main Street, Hillsville — the site of the real shootout.
The 10 performances are scheduled for March 6-9, March 14-16 and March 21-23. All evening shows begin at 7 and the Sunday shows at 2 p.m.
Ticket sales will begin Jan. 27 at 10:30 a.m. at the Carroll County Historical Museum, located on the first floor of the historic courthouse. Cost of each ticket is $20.
“We went up on the tickets from $15 to $20 with the idea there will be extra money for the restoration of the house,” Puckett explained.
Tickets may be purchased at the museum, by phone at (276) 728-4113 or by mailing checks payable to Courthouse Productions at 246 Brady Pike, Hillsville, VA 24343.
The Hale-Wilkinson-Carter Home Foundation will again offer meals at the historic home next door to the courthouse before play performances.
The cost for the homemade food is $10 per meal to be served from 5:30-7 p.m. on weeknights and 12:30-2 p.m. on Sundays.
The menus include: March 6-9  — chicken pie, green beans, baked apples, dessert, drinks; March 14-16 — pinto beans, slaw, pickles, onions, corn bread, dessert, drinks; March 21-23 — variety of soups with grilled cheese sandwich, dessert, drinks.
Organizers encourage making reservations no later than March 1. Call Elizabeth Huff at (276) 728-7737 or Jeanette Thompson at (276) 728-2947.