Project for the ages

September 02, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

Heston Van Evera, 16, is going places.

In two years, he'll begin a two-year mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Next summer, the Boy Scout will head to Philmont, a Scout camp in Arizona.

And over the next year, Shepherdstown's past will become a small part of his and the town's future.

To earn his Eagle Scout badge, Van Evera wants to hang small plaques on each of the town's 51 buildings listed in the brochure "A Walking Tour," which is distributed at the town visitors center and the museum in the Entler Hotel.

Dressed in his Boy Scout uniform, Van Evera presented his idea and a model plaque to members of the Shepherdstown Council at a recent meeting. Council members unanimously approved the project, which was endorsed by the Historic Shepherdstown Commission.


"We really very much are (behind him)," said Cindy Cook, administrator for Historic Shepherdstown and a recently elected town council member. "I think it's a great idea. It will make the walking tour so much easier."

Each home and shop, church and cemetery listed in the 24-page brochure is assigned a number. Although the centerfold of the brochure is a hand-drawn overview map showing the general location of each property, finding some from the street level can be difficult because no addresses are provided.

When he took the walking tour after coming up with the plaque idea, Van Evera said he had a difficult time finding some of the sites. After he did find them, he took a photograph of each to determine where the plaque should be placed.

Assuming each property owner permits him, Van Evera should have all the plaques, each emblazoned with a number to correspond with the property's number in the walking tour guide, up by next summer.

Most people visit Shepherdstown in the summer or during holidays, Cook said. Day-trippers from the Washington D.C. area come seeking the solace of a small town that has no fast food restaurants, no stoplights, several art galleries and, of course, a lot of history.

"The Pendleton property (No. 4) was built in the early 1800s, and was spared from the fire of 1912. Charles Harper started his apothecary shop here in 1816. After the Civil War, B.S. Pendleton, a Confederate veteran, bought the property and opened his Green Grocer store. In the early-20th century, Ben Pendleton was still selling Generals Lee, Jackson and Stuart lead pencils, and 'Blind John' Lamb operated his roasted chestnut and peanut stand just off the sidewalk here."

- From the walking tour guide

Historic Shepherdstown has produced a walking tour pamphlet for years, Cook said. She does not know how many people take the tour, but said 10,000 brochures have been distributed in the last three years. Jim Price, the town's historian, wrote the brochure's text, Cook said.

Van Evera has lived just outside of Shepherdstown his entire life. He originally planned to build a bike rack for his Eagle project, but could not find a suitable location in town.

As he pondered a project, Van Evera's mother, Stephanie, happened to walk the tour as part of a school field trip and remarked afterward that it would be nice if the buildings had numbers on them.

"The reason this project appealed to me is because it is both unique and beneficial to my community," said Van Evera, a junior at St. Maria Goretti High School in Hagerstown.

"Continue east on German Street. The next property has three structures. The small rectangular brick building served as a doctor's office from ca. 1850-1890. Behind it is the old carriage house, which was converted into a tea room and tourist inn (ca. 1920). Author Willa Cather spent one summer here working on a novel. Both the carriage house and the Greek Revival-style brick house are known as Gray Lodge (No. 37), built for the Shepherd family as a town house. Notice two horse stones along the sidewalk and several front and side yards in this block."

- From the guide

Van Evera's 51 plaques - which will be about 6 inches square and contain a glazed ceramic tile in the middle with a number on it - will cost $90. Historic Shepherdstown has agreed to pay the bill, Cook said.

Van Evera presented his idea to members of that organization's board before approaching the town council.

"Everybody was very impressed with him," Cook said.

The pressure-treated wooden frames should last about 20 years, said Mayor Arthur "Jim" Auxer III. The glaze on the tile cannot be washed off and will never fade, Van Evera said.

Scouts with Troop 68, based in Harpers Ferry, will put together the plaques. Van Evera credits his scoutmaster, Jim Bauer, with encouraging him to complete the project and earn his Eagle badge before heading to Arizona.

"Official town records state that as early as 1805 a log Poorhouse (No. 39) was located on the northwest corner of German and Mill streets. The house has been enlarged and improved. There are still iron rings in the attic rafters, indicating that some of the residents may have been restrained."

- From the guide

Along with getting permission from the property owners, one other obstacle stands in Van Evera's way. He must present his plan to the Eagle Board of Review for approval. He's confident they will OK it, but even if they don't, he said he'll probably put the plaques up anyway since so many people seem to support the idea.

Several historic sites are special to him, and Van Evera said he wants to return the favor to those who cherish Shepherdstown.

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