Some say Augusta County’s courthouse proposal contradicts Staunton’s historic preservation

Some say Augusta County’s courthouse proposal contradicts Staunton’s historic preservation

STAUNTON, Va. (WVIR) - Augusta County’s new plan for its courthouse dilemma could change the skyline of Staunton’s downtown. Some believe it could be a threat to the town’s historic character.

One through 11 Court Place sits in downtown’s Beverley Historic District. According to Frank Strassler with the Historic Staunton Foundation, it was built in 1843 and is a very significant building.

Five Lawyers Row is also in the district.

“It is so rare,” said Strassler. “No others like it in the community.”

A proposal by Augusta County leaders is moving toward the destruction of these and two other historic buildings making way for a new Augusta County Courthouse.

“We are not talking about buildings with massive roof leaks or structural deterioration, or on the edge of where you know you can use it or not,” stated Strassler. “These are perfectly useable, good historic buildings.”

The five-story, 95,000-square-foot new-build would sit behind the Echols Building, wrapping around the backside of the historic courthouse.

“It is a massive addition. It overwhelms the 1901 courthouse,” voiced Strassler.

Based on federal standards and Staunton’s adopted guidelines,Strassler believes the proposal is too tall, too wide, and out of scale, dwarfing everything around it.

“There’s no reason to destroy so much cultural fabric and physical fabric of the city,” said Strassler, adding that it has a significant impact on the community. “This really should be a public process, not just people sitting around a table in a back room.”

Right now, an application for appropriateness is in the hands of Staunton’s Historic Preservation Commission. It’s Strassler’s job to review the application and make a recommendation to the Commission.

“Historic preservation in Staunton, Virginia is not a special interest,” Strassler stated. “This is a choice of our community to redevelop its five historic districts in its downtown in a manner that’s respectful to this community. And it has been on the books for well over 20 years.”

Strassler will deliver his review and recommendation to the Staunton Historic Commission and participate in the October 27th meeting.

The application is available to view on the Staunton City website.

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