West Beverley Street: Staunton, Virginia
The quintessential mid-19th and early 20th century Victorian charm found in Staunton, Virginia, is at its most charming along West Beverley Street. The street, mostly unscathed by urban renewal and in-town highways that transformed many towns and cities after World War II, has one of the nation's largest collections of the most opulent examples of Victorian architecture.
Nine blocks between Coalter and Jefferson Streets.
Throughout much of the 19th century West Beverley Street prospered in its role as Staunton's gateway to the western frontier. But as the city's economy changed and then declined during the 20th century, historic buildings were seen by many as part of the problem, not the solution. That thinking led to the city approving a 1962 proposal to rebuild the Central Avenue business district. The project was contested, but eventually upheld by the Virginia State Supreme Court, leading to the demolition of 32 historic properties near West Beverley Street in 1965.
Although the Central Avenue project was never completed because it did not meet all federal aid requirements, another proposal was made to locate an inner-city highway in the path of more historic buildings. Further motivated, those favoring protection of these and other buildings formed the Historic Staunton Foundation in 1971. One of the foundation's first steps was to inventory and educate residents about the city's Victorian architecture, including the buildings on West Beverley Street.
The foundation also initiated a facade improvement program, recognizing that investment in the repair and upkeep of Staunton's historic buildings would draw tourists visiting the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah mountains. Staunton's city council approved a $600,000 streetscape project in 1981 that included historic lighting fixtures, brick sidewalks and, later, burying power lines. The projects helped attract an additional $1.5 million in further improvements.
Today, Beverley Street continues to draw individuals from all over the country through its museums, restaurants, shops, theaters, and finely restored architecture. New York screenwriter Adam Greenbaum spent months traveling the East Coast looking for a community in which to open a movie theater. He found that town in Staunton, an "amazingly preserved Victorian town" where Greenbaum now operates several movie theaters — including the Art Moderne-styled Dixie Theater on Beverley.
Defining Characteristics, Features
- Staunton's first comprehensive plan was completed in 1959
- Comprehensive Plan 2000 was first plan to contain a downtown section with recommendations for historic preservation and public improvements for Beverley (1981)
- Staunton Downtown Development Association maintains the economic integrity of Beverley; its design committee oversees aesthetics of buildings, signs, and landscaping on the street (1995)
- $2 million for city hall, $1.4 million for city courts complex on West Beverley (1990-1992)
- Corridor Overlay Ordinance and Guidelines implemented (2008); addresses new and renovated structures, signage, lighting, site design along downtown streets
Public, Private Partnerships
- Facade improvement program begun by the Historic Staunton Foundation (1971); more than 250 buildings rehabilitated to date
- Historic District Ordinance and Design Guidelines established for historic district, including Beverley Street; since 1996, $60 million in private investment has been spent on district rehab
- Property values climb 279 percent on average since 1983 due to private property investment; since 2000 alone, more than $50 million is invested on historic tax-credit projects
- Anonymous resident donates $9,000 in 2002 to allow the street to keep hanging flower baskets that had become expensive to maintain
Historic Character, Architecture
- Street is named after English merchant and Staunton founder William Beverley, who established village in 1736; street initially had 10 buildings on some nine blocks in downtown
- Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike (1840s) transformed street into a western frontier gateway
- Beverley Street runs through Newtown, Beverley, and Gospel Hill Historic Districts; it is situated south of the Stuart Addition Historic District and North of the Wharf
- Tallest building on street is Beaux-Arts and Neo-Classical Masonic Building
- National Valley Bank designed by T.J. Collins and modeled after the Roman Arch of Titus is fine example of Beaux-Arts architecture; enormous stained glass skylight illuminates interior
- Trinity Episcopal Church was built in Gothic Revival style, and contains 12 Tiffany stained glass windows; demonstrates decorative brick work
- Dixie Theater redesigned in Art Moderne style by New York architect John Eberson; redesigned in 1981 as a four-plex movie theater in use today