Located in the Front Royal Historic District, Balthis House is a vernacular Federal-style townhouse of the late 18th/early 19th century and a rare surviving example of its type in Front Royal.
Local history holds that the Balthis House is the oldest surviving structure on Chester Street, the oldest street in Front Royal. The kitchen dependency is reported to be the only surviving example of a detached kitchen in the town. The original frame section of house dates to 1787-1802 and was owned or built on property owned by two of the Trustees named in the 1788 charter incorporating the Town of Front Royal. Previous owners of the property also include a revolutionary war hero, a famed local educator, a family of blacksmiths and a family of plumbers.
By 1838, when the Balthis family bought the property, Front Royal was a prospering center for wagon manufacture serving the Southern and Western States. The property served dual purposes as the family’s residence and place of business. As a successful family of blacksmiths, the Balthis family was part of the emerging middle-class in the mid 19th century and it was during their ownership that the two surviving additions were made to the house.
Come enjoy Front Royal at its best. Arts and crafts abound in the heart of our historic district. Come enjoy Heritage Square on the grounds of the Warren Heritage Society at 101 Chester Street where you will find museums, tours of our historic homes – Belle Boyd Cottage (Front Royal home of Confederate spy Belle Boyd) and 18th-century Balthis House – and their outbuildings, re-enactors, living history demonstrations, craftspeople, and apple butter making, to name a few. A day of fun for all ages, Saturday, September 25, 2021, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
We look forward to seeing you at Heritage Day!
Open House at Bel Air in Front Royal
On Sunday, May 29th, the Virginia Piedmont Heritage Area (VPHA), based in Middleburg, Loudoun County, conducted an open house of the Bel Air property in Front Royal at the invitation of the LeHew family, the current owners of the property. Travis Shaw, VPHA Director of Education, introduced Bel Air owner Jeff LeHew, who welcomed the attending guests to his home. The featured speaker of the event was Dr. Elizabeth Baer, editor of the diary of Lucy Buck. Lucy and her family lived at Bel Air during the War Between the States, 1861-1865, and hosted General Robert E. Lee when he brought the Army of Northern Virginia through Warren County in late July 1863, following the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg, Pa.
Built in 1795 by Captain Thomas Buck, Bel Air was the ancestral home of Lucy’s parents, William and Elizabeth Buck. William was a merchant and a leading citizen of Front Royal. His great grandfather was one of the first settlers in that part of the Shenandoah Valley.
Bel Air is located a quarter mile east of town on a prominent elevation. The front of the house faces southward toward the town and the beautiful panorama of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Thomas Buck was a captain in the Virginia militia in the American War of Independence, 1775-1781. It is believed that he named Bel Air for Bel Air, Harford County, Maryland, located north of Baltimore. This Maryland community also was the home of the noted theatrical Booth family (which included the famed Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth and his actor/ brother, John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865), the home of Nancy Richardson, Capt. Buck’s wife.
Bel Air is considered one of the oldest brick houses in Front Royal and is one of the finest examples of the Classical Revival style. During the Open House, visitors toured the home’s beautiful first and second floors and looked through the windows at Lucy and her family’s views during their residence there. The highlights of Bel Air include the penciled signatures and comments on the walls and ceilings preserved in a room on the second floor. The first of these graffiti dates to August 30th, 1796, shortly after the house was completed. Another is the signatures of the entire Buck family, including daughter Lucy, dating from the early 1800s to the beginning of the 20th Century.
Bel Air has had just three owners since its construction in 1795. Capt. Buck and his descendants owned the property until the early 20th Century. Sydney Byrne Downing acquired the property and made a number of alterations to the house in 1905. In the early 1970s, Larry LeHew purchased Bel Air; it is currently owned by Larry’s son, Jeff, who recently completed the rehabilitation of the exterior stucco and porches. He and his family continue to preserve this beautiful home and property.
Lucy Rebecca Buck was born on September 25th, 1842, in Warren County, Virginia, the third of thirteen children of William and Elizabeth Buck. She learned the social graces at two local schools. On Christmas Day, 1861, eight months after the War Between the States began in April, Lucy was given a diary which she kept for the duration of the War, during which time troops were quartered in her home, and battles were literally waged in her front yard.
Lucy recorded first-hand accounts of the numerous troop visits and occupations of Bel Air. Her daily life was centered around the domestic routines of a large household and included reading, sewing, visiting, and tutoring her younger brothers. Numerous friends and relatives were received regularly at Bel Air during the War. Her diary, Shadows On My Heart, was edited and published in 1997 by Dr. Elizabeth Baer.
This extraordinary chronicle mirrors the experiences of many women torn between loyalty to the Confederate cause and dissatisfaction with the unrealistic ideology of white Southern womanhood. Two of Lucy’s brothers, Alvin and Irving, enlisted early in the Confederate army. When Lucy was given the diary that Christmas morning, she wrote:
I cannot but feel a little sad this morning for my thoughts continually revert to those dear absent brothers who were wont to share our Christmas cheer and gladden the hours of this festive season for us. When I think of the unexpected changes that have occurred in the last year, I feel as if I could not count upon ever having them with us again as of yore with any degree of certainty.
In powerful, unsentimental language, Lucy Buck’s diary reveals her anger and ambivalence about the challenges thrust upon her by the upheaval of herself, her family, and the world as she knew it. This document provides an extraordinary glimpse into the “shadows on my heart” of both Lucy Buck and the American South. Lucy’s diary gives a detailed look at civilian life in and around Front Royal during the War years. Her diary entries describe daily life at her home with an extended family that included parents, a grandmother, aunts, cousins, younger siblings, visitors, and enslaved servants.
As the war moved closer to Front Royal, Lucy and her family were exposed to menacing raids by Northern troops. Her diary writings indicate that she was challenged to maintain the everyday pattern of family life during that difficult period. In January 1862, Lucy detailed in her diary the occupation of Front Royal by the Union army under the command of Brigadier-General Nathan Kimball, a physician in Indiana before and after the War; he was the first to use Bel Air as a headquarters in the Spring of 1862. His troops were quartered in the meadows surrounding the house.
Union Major-General James Shields also stayed at Bel Air prior to the defeat of Union troops in the Battle of Front Royal on May 23rd, 1862. Other visitors to Bel Air included Confederate General James Longstreet and General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. General Jackson’s victory at Front Royal was one of the strings of Confederate successes in General Jackson’s famed Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862.
The most significant change in the family’s routine occurred in the middle of 1863; Lucy confided to her diary:
Ma told me that the servants (household slaves) had all left in the night and carried our three horses with them. Laura and I went to milk the cows while Ma, Grandma, and Nellie cleaned the house, got the breakfast, and dressed the children.
Lucy and her sisters suddenly had to deal with household chores for the first time, but servants from neighboring households came to help them through the ordeal. On July 22nd, 1863, a day after winning a victory over Federal troops attempting to destroy Lee’s army at Manassas Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains, just east of Front Royal, when the Army of Northern Virginia marched through Warren County on its retreat from the Battle of Gettysburg, Pa., Lucy’s father, William, met General Robert E. Lee and his staff at the pontoon bridges over the Shenandoah River. He invited them to Bel Air for some refreshment, and General Lee accepted the invitation. Lucy wrote in her diary that day how the officers arrived to…stretch their cramped limbs and drink fresh buttermilk. I shall never forget the grand old chief as he stood on the porch surrounded by his officers, a tall, commanding figure clad in dusty travel-stained gray but with a courtly dignified bearing.
Lucy and her sister Laura played and sang Southern songs at General Lee’s request while he stood by the piano. After the enjoyable respite, the Southern troops continued their line of march south through Rappahannock County and eventually into Orange County, where the army spent the Winter of 1863-1864.
In spite of the hotly contested actions going on literally in their front yard and the loss of their slaves, Lucy and her family emerged from the War virtually unscathed. From her diary, we learn the titles of all the popular novels Lucy read during the period and all the parlor games the young people played for an evening’s entertainment. Sometimes the “guests” in the family parlor wore Union blue instead of Confederate gray – and on those occasions, Lucy stayed in her room and sulked.
Lucy Buck, a fervent supporter of the Confederacy, was grieved by the final defeat of the Southern armies in 1865. Lucy was 76 years of age when she passed on August 20th, 1918; she is buried at Prospect Hill Cemetery in Front Royal.
At the Bel Air Open House on May 29th, the visitors were welcomed by Ian McDougall, Public Programs Co-ordinator for the Virginia Piedmont Heritage Area (VPHA); and by Travis Shaw, VPHA Director of Education. Travis introduced the featured speaker for the Open House: the editor of Lucy’s diary, Dr. Elizabeth Baer. During the Open House, Dr. Baer read a number of excerpts from Lucy’s diary; her readings provided an excellent backdrop for the visit to the property.
Dr. Baer is Research Professor in English at Gustavus Adolphus College; Gustavus Adolphus College is a private liberal arts college in St. Peter, Minnesota. It was founded in 1862 by Swedish Americans led by Eric Norelius; the school is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Gustavus College gets its name from Gustavus Adolphus, the King of Sweden, from 1611 to 1632.
Dr. Baer currently works in the Senior Historian’s Office at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C. From 2016-2017, she served as the Ida E. King Visiting Distinguished Scholar in Holocaust Studies at Stockton University in New Jersey. She is the author of The Blessed Abyss: Inmate № 6582 in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp for Women (Wayne State University Press, 2000); Experience and Expression: Women, the Nazis, and the Holocaust (2003); The Golem Redux: From Prague to Post-Holocaust Fiction (2012); and The Genocidal Gaze: From German Southwest Africa to the Third Reich (2017).
Would you like to tour BelAir? The Warren Heritage Society is hosting another tour on September 24, 2022. Click here for more information and tickets.
Enjoy this photo gallery of BelAir.
National Dog Day to be celebrated Friday, August 26th
On August 26, 2022, approved adopters can adopt a dog for just $26 at the Winchester SPCA Adoption Center, located at 111 Featherbed Lane in Winchester, between 10am and 5pm.
Whether mixed or purebred, embrace the opportunity for all dogs to live a happy, safe, and abuse-free life. They all give us companionship, keep us safe, and aid those in need. They keep us healthy, both physically and mentally.
While many of our days aim to find loving homes for dogs, this day expands that consideration to look beyond the breed. Look into the heart of the animal. The purpose of the National Dog Day Foundation is to rescue 10,000 dogs each year! Lear more at www.winchesterspca.org.
Patriot grave marking ceremony with Sons of the American Revolution
On August 14, 2022, the Colonel James Wood II Chapter of the Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution participated in a patriot grave marking ceremony held in Stafford, Virginia, to honor John Wallace.
Wallace was a patriot from Stafford County. He enlisted with his twin brother, Thomas. They participated at the Valley Forge encampment as well as other battles and campaigns for the duration of the Revolutionary War.
The ceremony was co-sponsored by the Colonel Fielding Lewis (CFL) SAR Chapter and the Falls of the Rappahanock DAR Chapter. Jim Wachter, President of CFL and Seth Roderick (CFL) emceed the commemoration with support from the Virginia State Color Guard.
The color guard was led by Brett Osborn (Colonel James Wood II Chapter CJWII) and honor guard led by Ken Bonner (Sgt Maj John Champe) composed of members from Colonel Fielding Lewis, Colonel James Wood II, Culpeper Minutemen, Fairfax Resolves, George Mason and Williamsburg Chapters. Bruce Meyer, President of the Virginia Society presented greetings along with Susan Wachter (Regent, Washington Lewis DAR Chapter), Susan Harvin (Regent, Falls of the Rappahannock DAR Chapter), Delegate Tara Durant (Virgina House of Delegates) and Darrell English (Stafford County Board of Supervisors).
Thirteen wreaths were presented, followed by a three round musket salute. The color guard/musket squad was composed of the following compatriots: From Colonel James Wood II – Sean Carrigan, Dale Corey, Erick Moore, Patrick Moore, Brett Osborn (Northern Region Color Guard Commander), Clay Robinson, Marc Robinson, Mike St Jacques and Richard Tyler; Colonel Fielding Lewis – John Hamilton; Culpeper Minutemen – Charles Jameson and Bill Schwetke; Fairfax Resolves – Dave Cook; George Mason – Ken Morris; Jamestown – Chris Melhuish (Virginia State Color Guard Commander); Sgt Maj John Champe – Ken Bonner and Barry Schwoerer; and Williamsburg – John Lynch.
This week’s showtimes at Royal Cinemas as of August 18th
Are you looking for the full movie-going experience without having to wait in the long lines that often accompany that experience? Then look no further because Royal Cinemas movie theatre is the answer. Get the whole gang together and enjoy a movie! Reserved seating in all auditoriums.
Here is a list of this week’s showtimes at Royal Cinemas as of Thursday, August 18:
Ticket prices are as follows:
- Adult: $10
- Child (under 12): $7
- Military: $8
- Student (college): $8
- Senior: $8
- Matinees, All Seating: $7
Film Club Showing Tuesday, August 23:
“Last Man On Earth” @7:30
- “Don’t Worry Darling”
SAR commemorates reading of Declaration of Independence, Loudoun County Courthouse
On August 13, 2022, the Colonel James Wood II Chapter of the Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution participated in a ceremony to Commemorate the reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Loudoun County Courthouse on August 12, 1776.
In July of that year, the colonies were in a what amounted to a civil war against the British, who outnumbered them three to one and had the world’s top military. The Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to formally declare the reasons for a state of rebellion existing within the colonies. It was in June 1776 that Richard Henry Lee submitted “The Resolution for Independence”, which was passed by the Congress on July 2, 1776. This resolution resolved that the Thirteen Colonies in America were “free and independent States” and the document known as the “Declaration of Independence” was adopted on July 4th. It was sent immediately to the printing shop of John Dunlap, who printed an estimated 200 copies. These were distributed throughout the colonies.
The first unofficial reading of the document was held in Philadelphia on July 4th to a small group of people. On July 8th, the bells of the city of Philadelphia called the citizens to an official reading to be conducted on the steps of the Pennsylvania State House by Colonel John Nixon. Declaring independence made it possible to take the Revolution onto the international stage as a war for independence. The simplicity and eloquence of the Declaration of Independence immediately gained the attention of the world and has inspired democratic movements ever since. Getting the word out was a priority. Congress decreed the document should be given the widest dissemination. It was sent throughout the American colonies, printed by newspapers and read in communities throughout the colonies. On August 12, 1776, as reflected by the court order book, a bell at the Leesburg Courthouse was rung, and by the order of Virginia Governor Patrick Henry, the declaration was read at the Courthouse by County Sheriff, Philip Noland.
To commemorate this event, the Sgt Maj John Champe Chapter of the Virginia Society, Sons of the American Revolution conducted a reading of the Declaration of Independence on the Loudoun County Courthouse grounds, near the site where the initial reading was conducted. They were supported by the Colonel James Wood II (CJWII), Fairfax Resolves (FR), George Mason (GM) and Sgt Lawrence Everhart (Maryland) SAR Chapters; Ketoctin, Lanes Mill, Mary Hemings Bell and Elizabeth McIntosh Hammill DAR Chapters and the Rev John Marks Society of the Children of the American Revolution.
Dignitaries included The Honorable Kelly Burk, Mayor of Leesburg and Peter Davenport, Vice President General, Atlantic Middle States District, SAR. Ken Bonner, President of the Sgt Maj John Champe Chapter was the emcee with Barry Schwoerer leading the presentation of wreaths and the reading of the Declaration.
The Virginia State Color Guard presented the National Flag, led by Barry Schwoere, with colors carried by Mark Sink (SMJC) and Kelly Ford (CJWII). The SAR 250th Anniversary and Chapter flags were presented by an Honor Guard led by Darrin Schmidt (FR) with Dave Cook (250th, FR), Anita Bonner (DAR), Steve Riddle (SMJC), Jim Cordes (FR), Ken Morris (GM), Sean Carrigan (CJWII), and Jacob Schwoerer (CWG C.A.R. Society). Sentinels Clay Robinson (CJWII) and Richard Tyler (CJWII) were placed with additional support provided by color guard members Peter Davenport (GM), Dale Corey (CJWII) and Marc Robinson (CJWII).
Annual Wits for Wellness 5K Run/Walk happening Sept. 17
Laurel Ridge Community College’s annual 5K run/walk, Wits for Wellness, which raises money for student scholarships, returns to the Middletown Campus Saturday, Sept. 17. The multi-surface course weaves around the campus, starting and ending at the Student Union Building.
Those who register early – by Sept. 1 – pay a $20 entry fee and receive a race T-shirt. After that, it is $25 to register. Members of Shenandoah Valley Runners receive a $1 discount. Awards will be given to the top three male and woman finishers in each age group, which run from 10 and younger all the way up to 70 and over.
“We are thrilled to continue this annual tradition, bringing our college and community together to promote mental and physical wellness,” said Biology Professor/Science Academic Lead Liz Dingess, who is the new race director. “We’re moving away from the wave start, so all participants can run or walk at their own pace with one start time.”
This year’s race sponsors are Anthem Healthkeepers Plus, United Bank, Costco and Shenandoah Valley Runners. Shenandoah Valley Runners are keeping the time for the event.
To register or learn more, visit laurelridge.edu/5K.