Originally posted in August 2011 after the Virginia earthquake:
Stevensburg, VA, August 23, 2011. At 1:51 p.m. Eastern, the largest earthquake to strike Virginia since 1897 damaged the most important colonial home in Culpeper County, Virginia. The earthquake’s epicenter was in nearby Mineral, Virginia, and was felt as far away as Georgia, New York, and Ohio.
Leta Scherquist, caretaker of the Germanna Foundation’s Salubria, reports that cracks in Salubria’s chimneys are visible, and that plaster inside the house has fallen.
Initial evaluations of the earthquake damage will be made tomorrow morning by distinguished architect Doug Harnsberger, AIA, a Germanna Foundation Trustee and descendant of the Lutherans who settled at Germanna in 1717/18.
Harnsberger and Andy Schwind of Hitt Contracting will provide a report to the Germanna Foundation on required remediation of Salubira.
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EARTHQUAKE IN CULPEPER: “Historic 18th Century Salubria in Stevensburg sustained structural damage.”
By: Rhonda Simmons, Steven Butler, Allison B. Champion and Jeff Say
Published: August 24, 2011
A 5.8-magnitude earthquake rocked Culpeper Tuesday, causing extensive structural damage downtown and prompting the county to declare a state-of-emergency.
Three buildings were condemned in town, including historic St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church; others downtown sustained structural damage.
With a possible hurricane on the way this weekend, officials are concerned about possible building collapse.
And it’s not over yet. A 4.2 aftershock was recorded around 8 p.m. Tuesday evening; more are possible in days to come. Culpeper County Public Schools cancelled today’s first day back as officials tried to get a handle on the extent of the damage.
Much of downtown Culpeper, town hall and the Depot, where the chimneys cracked, will also be closed today.
Local citizens reacted to the event with fear and awe.
Jeffersonton resident Donna Sutphin said Tuesday’s earthquake, as experienced in the county’s northern end, sounded like a plane crash. “I really thought the roaring and vibrations of my house was a plane coming down. I thought my whole house was coming down,” she said.
At the Depot on Commerce Street, several chimneys were cracked, and the mayor shut down all town offices in the wake of the quake. Major thoroughfares downtown, including East and a portion of Main, were closed for hours as officials surveyed the damage.
“So far the damage is severe and we have three buildings condemned,” Culpeper County building inspector Bob Orr said. “St. Stephen’s has structural damage inside. This building here (Culpeper Christian Assembly) and Chiusano Italian Table are condemned.”
He said it was the worst damage he had ever seen. Orr continued to inspect buildings downtown into the evening hours.
Buildings condemned Rev. Michael Gray, rector at St. Stephen’s on East Street, said Tuesday they had not been allowed in the main sanctuary, circa 1821, to see the damage, but early assessments indicated it could be repaired.
He said a structural engineer would offer his assessment today.
In the meantime, Gray said, the church’s chimney would be removed down to the boiler. “The top of it is pretty much fractured,” he said. “If a big wind came, it could blow it down,” Gray added, referencing this weekend’s expected severe weather.
St. Stephen’s will continue to hold services in the adjoining parish hall, he said, and the Culpeper Food Closet will open today as planned. “The town was gracious enough to turn the power back to the food closet so we don’t lose our food,” Gray said, noting the old church experienced “pretty heavy” damage during the Civil War.
He said it’s not the building that makes the church. “The people are the church,” Gray said. “We are doing fine – that’s the main thing.”
Todd and Lisa MacDonald, owners of Chiusano on East Cameron Street, stood outside the restaurant talking about the future. “There was enough stress on restaurants right now, this is just an added stress,” Todd said.
Lisa, who was inside with a cook, recalled the eerie feeling when the quake hit. “It was like a freight train running through the top floor,” Lisa said.
Charlotte Knighting’s husband Andy, one of five pastors at Culpeper Christian Assembly, was in the basement of the building when it began to shake.
The church and her home school business in the basement were among those condemned. “We’re just waiting to see what the next step in the process is … there is major structural damage on the third floor,” Charlotte Knighting said.
Adam Bellows, a waiter at the Copper Fish on East Davis Street, said he had just served wine to two female patrons when everything started shaking. “I was scared to death,” he said.
“My first move was to leave then the ladies were under the table so I said, ‘Come on ladies, let’s go – we’re getting out of here.’ My first thought was to get down there, too.”
Schools closed Meanwhile, CCPS cancelled the first day as a precaution. “We’ve looked at a number of cracks, but at this point, we don’t feel like there’s any danger,” said Hunter Spencer, director of facilities, planning and construction. “We have an engineer coming to assess the buildings today to make sure things are in order.”
All Germanna Community College locations will also be closed today, according to spokesman Mike Zitz.
Inmates at the Culpeper Adult Detention Center in downtown Culpeper were relocated to other regional correctional facilities. “There was damage to our administrative office and we’re moving inmates as a precautionary measure,” Culpeper County Sheriff Jim Branch said.
The scene from Mount Pony Even Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, got in on the action. He arrived in Culpeper, a few miles east of town, about 10 minutes after the quake for a previously scheduled appearance at the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation.
The building had been emptied of its staff and the approximate 75 people who came to hear Warner so the former governor talked from under a tree atop Mount Pony.
“I was not going to mention the fact that one of the last times I was in Culpeper there was a tornado,” he said of an appearance years ago at CulpeperFest marked by wild weather. “If you don’t want me to come back, there’s an easier way to do this. If we start seeing frogs, it may be a sign of things to come,” he said.
LOC staffer Orysia Bilan was working in proximity to old reels of film when the cans started rattling. “It felt like we were marbles on top of a shaking trampoline,” she said.
Fellow LOC employee Edward Graham said he was working on the loading docks when he felt it. “Everything was rattling,” he said. “I just jumped straight off the dock. I’ve been telling people for years we have a fault here bigger than San Andreas.”
Local newsman Donnie Johnston was in the LOC Theater waiting for Warner when the quake struck. “The walls were shaking, the chandeliers were shaking,” he said. “At first I thought they were trying out the Surround Sound.”
The Architect of the Capital allowed the crowd and LOC staffers to re-enter the theater after about 20 minutes, and no major was damage was evident inside.
“We had quite a feeling,” said Greg Lukow, chief of the LOC Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. “We’re on granite here so if it shakes here you know it’s doing something good.”
The epicenter of the earthquake was the town of Mineral in Louisa County, about 36 miles from the town of Culpeper.
Buildings and houses started shaking around 1:50 p.m., and it soon became the talk of the town and the county with crowds gathering downtown to share their quake experience.
“I thought at first it might be an aircraft or something. It’s a scary feeling,” said Rixeyville resident Richard Batson, who described the quake as a “deep rumble like a thunder that’s way off.”
“We haven’t found any damage or anything yet, just a good shake. I was sort of stunned to start with. It’s a rare feeling.”
Meanwhile, sounds of sirens blared continuously as rescue personnel responded to countless emergency calls including structural collapses, gas leaks and house fires.
Marc Wheat said historic 18th Century Salubria in Stevensburg, sustained structural damage. “There are cracks in both chimneys,” said Germanna Foundation president.
“We have some fallen plaster and this is going to take us some time to figure out the level of damage. This may delay our September opening.”
Several reports of a roof collapse at Target forced the store to close just before 2 p.m. Target spokesman Antoine LaFromboise said, “There was no structural damage reported at this time. There was some product that had fallen. All our team members and customers are safe at this time.”
LaFromboise said Target reopened at 6 p.m. Culpeper Regional Hospital spokeswoman Molly Mueller said her incident command opened immediately following the earthquake at 1:53 p.m. “
After an initial assessment of the hospital, no major damage has been found. We have had the appropriate staff checking the infrastructure. We have been communicating directly with patients and staff to keep them informed. And we have taken precautionary measures for any aftershocks that may follow.”
The Culpeper County Courthouse, county offices and town offices will be closed today. ‘Bricks just started falling’ By Steven Butler Wesley Cropp of The Wright Cut barbershop feels lucky to be alive after Tuesday’s magnitude 5.9 earthquake.
As Cropp was cutting a customers hair, he felt the S. East Street building begin to shake. At first, he suspected the town’s utility work outside the shop as the culprit.
With the building shaking, he opened the front door and saw a “huge puff of smoke.” As he was about to walk out the door to investigate the smoke, he stopped and looked up.
“The whole ledge just dropped right in front of my face,” he said. “Bricks just started falling.”
Bricks covered the sidewalk in front of the business. Police had red-taped the entire line of businesses adjacent to the barbershop.
“I’m blessed. I know the Lord was protecting me,” said Cropp.
After the close call, he immediately went to ensure the safety of his family. He was still visibly shaken an hour after the quake in front of the barbershop. “It definitely had me jittered up.”
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Little Fork Church Damaged By Earthquake
Little Fork Church, whose colonial rector was the Rev. John Thompson of Salubria from 1740 to 1772, suffered a crack in the north wall, according to parishoner John Ragosta. Further evaluations are forthcoming, as the region continues to suffer from aftershocks.
Little Fork Church was voted into existence at Germanna, and over two centuries later continues to enjoy a close relationship with the Germanna Foundation. It was the site of the annual Germanna Reunion in 2010.
Salubria remains as a testament of the Rev. Thompson’s love for the woman he sought to be his wife. The story of their union is romantic and endows Salubria with no small amount of rich historical texture. At the death of Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood in 1740, he left a widow named Butler Brayne Spotswood.
Reverend Thompson of the Little Fork Church longed to make this widow his wife and he was crushed when she first rebuffed his advances.
The widow Spotswood’s family opposed the proffered marriage on the grounds that a clergyman was beneath the station of Lady Spotswood. Undaunted, Reverend Thompson appealed directly to Lady Spotswood imploring her with these words:
“Now, if I can make it appear that the ministerial office is an employment, in its nature most honorable and in its effects most beneficial to mankind, I hope your objections will immediately vanish and that you will keep me no longer in suspense and misery, but consummate my happiness.
I make no doubt, Madam, but that you will readily grant that no man can be employed in any work more honorable than immediately relates to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and to the salvation of souls, immortal in their nature and redeemed by the blood of the Son of God.
And therefore if a gentleman of this sacred and honorable character should be married to a Lady, though of the greatest extraction and most excellent personal qualities, (which I’m sensible you’re endowed with) it can be no disgrace to her nor her family…
And therefore, Madam, your argument being refuted, you can no longer consistently refuse to consummate my happiness.”
Signed by the Reverend John Thompson, May 1742
They were married on November 9, 1742 and later lived at Salubria.
Salubria is one of the few surviving structures linked to the time of the settlement of Germanna. It is located seven miles east of the town of Culpeper and stands as the oldest brick house in Culpeper County.
It was constructed in formal Georgian style at a time when Culpeper County was still on the frontier.
Although the precise date of construction is not certain, a dendrochronology study sponsored by the Germanna Foundation suggests that Salubria was constructed at the beginning of the French and Indian War in 1756/57.
The house received the name Salubria , Latin for “healthful,” from a later owner, James Hansbrough, in the early 1800s and has been known by that name since that time.
Salubria’s exterior is distinguished by unusually tall, corbel capped chimneys, enclosed at each end of a hip roof. Those chimneys were severely damaged by the recent earthquake that struck Virginia.
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Salubria at risk from Hurricane Irene; rescue work to begin today
by Clint Schemmer, The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star
Marc Wheat says it was “really shocking” yesterday to see photos of Tuesday’s earthquake damage to Salubria, a pre-Revolutionary house in Culpeper County.
Strong shaking by the quake fractured and twisted the tall chimneys above Salubria’s roof, putting the circa-1757 structure in danger if more bricks fall or the chimney tops–through which one can now see blue sky–collapse.
But Salubria’s steward, the Memorial Foundation of the Germanna Colonies in Virginia, isn’t going to take chances, said Wheat, the foundation’s president.
Racing to beat the winds and rain coming north with Hurricane Irene, now a Category 3 storm, the Germanna Foundation and committed experts–many volunteering their time and effort–will work furiously over the next 48 hours to disassemble the unstable top of each chimney so that they don’t threaten to puncture the house’s roof.
The Orange County-based nonprofit is acting “on faith that they money for this will come,” Wheat said. “There’s no time to raise funds.
“We hope that people will realize that Salubria is important to the culture of the Piedmont and that they will be generous in making contributions earmarked for quake damage to Salubria.”
It is believed that Salubria was built by the Rev. John Thompson for his wife, Butler Brayne Spotswood. He was the rector of St. Mark’s Parish. She was the widow of the Colonial governor, who brought the first German settlers to the Virginia frontier, forged an iron-making industry and built one of the grandest homes in the land, which visitor William Byrd II waggishly dubbed the “Enchanted Castle.”
The home has some of the finest original interior paneling in the entire Mid-Atlantic region.
Just as Tuesday’s earthquake was the strongest to rock Virginia in more than a hundred years, Wheat said he hopes that the need for emergency repairs–and the fundraising appeal–will be once-in-a-century events.
“This is something we have to do,” he said. “We don’t want anything crashing through the home’s 18th-century roof and its support structure.”
Wheat vowed that the graceful chimneys will be restored, using as much of their original material as is possible.
“We’ll be very careful, we’ll save every brick and once we get the money, every brick will be going back up in place–for the next 250 years.”
Douglas Harnsberger, principal of Legacy Architecture Inc., was optimistic about the prospects for safeguarding the house and restoring the portions damaged by the quake.
Harnsberger, who has long experience with historic buildings in Virginia, had left his home in Swarthmore, Pa., before dawn on Wednesday to hurry to Salubria and begin sizing up the damage to its chimneys, walls and plaster.
“Out of this crisis, something good can happen,” he said on site. “We can manage this.”
Contributions can be made via the foundation’s website or by calling 540-423-1700. If you own a quake-damaged historic property, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources is eager to hear from you so that it can properly gauge the harm the quake did to structures across the commonwealth. The department’s staff can also offer advice on how to diagnose and treat such problems.
(As I was writing this blog post at 1:08 a.m Thursday, another earthquake aftershock was felt rumbling through The Free Lance-Star newsroom for a solid minute or two.)