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Friends, family remember Stowell

February 03, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Special to The Herald-Mail

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. -- He loved whimsy, was a bit of a pack rat, and reveled in the company of artists and running his bed and breakfast. He earned a reputation locally and statewide, even nationally, for his architectural designs and knowledge of historic preservation.

Friends and family of Walton D. "Kip" Stowell, who died at home Jan. 20 of congestive heart failure at the age of 72, remembered him this week with stories and anecdotes.

"Kip loved to support artists and he loved giving shows," said Mary Evalina "Nena" Stowell, his wife of 37 years. He ran Stowell Galleries, a collection of artworks and antiques, at the family home at 729 Washington St.

"Kip had many personal friends who were artists and he liked promoting their work," said Nena, who teaches art at C.W. Shipley Elementary School in Charles Town, W.Va.

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The Stowells were married at the design center at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in 1965, said their only child, Walton D. Stowell II, 32, of Frederick, Md.

He followed in his father's architectural footsteps and the two often worked on projects together.

He remembered his parents as being a very close, very devoted couple.

"They reminded me of a close-knit Jewish couple, even though we weren't Jewish. They only ever had one car," Walton D. Stowell II said.

Kip Stowell, a Worcester, Mass., native, earned a degree in architecture from The University of Pennsylvania in 1960. He worked for the Department of the Interior, and the Army and Air National Guards before joining the design center at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in 1970.

Between then and his retirement, Stowell traveled around the country designing visitors centers and other facilities for the National Park Service.

"I visited Acadia National Park in Maine and I knew that Kip had designed the visitors center there because he had a drawing of it in his house," said Linda Rago, a former member of the Harpers Ferry Town Council. "He always had some project going and he loved to give tours of his house. Kip had a lot of high energy."

Stowell served on the council for 18 years and was the town's mayor from 1994 to 2001.

Stowell's architectural, interior and landscape designs over nearly five decades netted numerous awards.

He was an emeritus member of the American Institute of Architects, West Virginia's representative for years on the National Trust for Historic Preservation and he worked on the design for the visitors center at the Washington Monument, among other national projects, friends said. He also did the design work for numerous area historic renovation projects.

"He was instrumental in the founding of the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia," said Al Levitan of Shepherdstown, W.Va., who knew Stowell in the park service.

"Kip was a unique character," Levitan said. "He had a wide range of interests, especially in historic preservation and fine arts, and he possessed a great sense of whimsy."

David Sanders, a Circuit Court judge based in Jefferson County, said he and Stowell belonged to the Order of the Bell Tower, a loosely organized group of local history buffs who gave tours of the Jefferson County Courthouse.

Sanders and Stowell also served together on the board that headed up the renovation of Fishermen's Hall in Charles Town in the early 1990s. The building was the headquarters of a self-help group of black men that organized before the Civil War, Sanders said.

"Kip had a lot of expertise, was public-spirited and had a lot of positive energy," Sanders said.

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