- Special Sections
- Public Notices
HILLSVILLE — The effort to preserve the Queen Anne-style J. Sidna Allen home could move under the umbrella of the Carroll County Historical Society.
Shelby Inscore-Puckett, long active in the historical society and an organizer in the effort to save the Allen home in Fancy Gap, visited the board she used to serve on with a proposal Monday.
She asked the museum’s board of directors to agree in principle to become a player in restoring the home of the 1912 courthouse shootout participant.
This is a change from the original vision of owners Bonnie Wood and Stanley Widener to create a non-profit foundation to oversee fundraising and restoration.
Difficulties getting non-profit status for a foundation led to the idea of forming a subcommittee under the historical society, which already has non-profit designation from the IRS.
“Bonnie is still very interested in donating the house and enough land to make the house usable,” Puckett told the 10 members of the board of directors present on Monday.
She presented the historical society representatives with a resolution for their consideration, noting the Allen home’s “dominant presence” on the Fancy Gap vista, and that it was “built in 1910 with craftsmanship unmatched in its era.”
“The J. Sidna Allen house is the second most significant artifact remaining of the historic Courthouse Tragedy of 1912,” the resolution states as a reason to proceed with the effort. “The tourist potential for regional development to the J. Sidna Allen house is significant but untapped.”
There’s an urgent need to stabilize the home because of its age and condition, the resolution said.
The proposal led to much discussion between the board members and Puckett as to some of the language, but in the end, all 10 board members indicated that preserving the Allen home lined up well with their goal of highlighting Carroll County’s history.
“This is going to be a momentous undertaking, let’s not kid ourselves,” board member Brad Dalton reacted to the proposal.
It will take a lot of time to raise funds, pursue grants and carry out restoration efforts. “But the interest is there.”
There’s probably more interest from the public than anything that the historical society has done, and Dalton couldn’t see how the board could not agree to the idea.
Puckett saw the resolution as just a preliminary step to indicate the board’s interest. Details would have to be worked out in discussions between the historical society and the Allen home’s owners.
If somebody doesn’t take action to stabilize the house, there’s a risk it might collapse before something gets accomplished, board members Ed Stanley and John Carpenter agreed.
“If you don’t want this to exist in 10 years, turn this down,” Carpenter said.
Puckett noted that if she wasn’t afraid that about the deteriorating condition of the house, there might be time to explore other approaches to preserving it.
Doctors don’t take six months of study to recommend a course of action for treatment of a critically ill patient, Carpenter agreed. And the house is in critical need of attention.
He could see benefits to the community beyond saving the county’s history. There could be economic boosts, as well. Carpenter said if the society could get $1 million in grants to fix up the Allen home, then that’s an additional $1 million in revenue that comes into the community.
After the historical society representatives amended the language of the resolution, it read that the board “expresses its desire to accept the donation of the Sidna Allen house and land freely and without encumbrance, according to the accession policies of the society operating manual and upon those terms that may be mutually agreed to with the owners, further resolves, that the board of directors of said historical society establishes a special committee to attend to the stabilization, restoration and preservation of the J. Sidna Allen house as soon as resources and personnel can be accumulated; and, finally resolves, that the board of directors of the said historical society shall convey a Historic Preservation Easement to the Virginia Board of Historic Resources on the stabilized and restored J. Sidna Allen house.”
Directors asked for a written ballot after Dalton made a motion to approve the resolution.
When Stanley read the ballots, all 10 were in favor.
The mission of the historical society is to preserve and present the history of Carroll County, Dalton noted after the meeting. Part of that mission involves portraying the 1912 Courthouse Tragedy “as honestly as we can, without biases of either side.”
“We currently do so through tours of the historic courtroom and by presentations about the events surrounding the tragedy,” he told The Gazette in an e-mail. “I cannot think of a better way to further our mission than by acquiring and restoring the home of J. Sidna Allen and using it to better tell his story.”
“It will be a long and expensive process from stabilizing the home to restoring it, but it is worth doing and doing right,” he said. “I believe the community will be behind our efforts and future generations of Carroll County will benefit from preserving this home and telling the story of its occupants.”