The Village of Aldie and the Grace Heritage Center in Lincoln have been listed among the most endangered historic places in the commonwealth in the Preservation Virginia’s annual ranking.
The county government’s controversial plans to raze the Aldie Tavern to build a new the Aldie fire station have faced mounting resistance from the area residents and historic preservation advocates, and the county Board of Supervisors is still reviewing its options on the property in a series of closed-door meetings with fire-rescue leaders.
“This listing represents another example of an intentional act by a locality to demolish or replace resources central to its identity,” Preservation Virginia wrote.
Local opponents to the plan say putting a fire station on the property would scar the landscape of the village, which has little changed in 150 years. Aldie was both an important industrial community in Loudoun’s early years and the site of a significant battle in the summer of 1863 as Confederate forces successfully shielded from Federal discovery the march of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army northward to Pennsylvania at the start of the Gettysburg campaign.
However, the current Aldie fire station is undersized, outdated, and prone to flooding, and the county has been trying for 10 years to find a new site for it—going so far as to buy one property east of the village before opposition from the neighbors and a lawsuit derailed those plans. Fire department leaders and county staff members say there’s no better option available.
Preservation Virginia’s listing says “a preservation-informed compromise is possible with the cooperation of both the western and eastern portions of the county.” The tavern has recently been named one of the Loudoun County Heritage Commission’s highest-priority sites for a stewardship plan.
The Grace Heritage Center in Lincoln, formerly the Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, was built in 1885 by black residents with the support of the Quaker community.
The congregation got its start in 1872, meeting at Lincoln School B, believed to be the first public school for black children in the commonwealth. In 1884, Quakers and freed slaves began building the church, a simple two-story fieldstone structure that included a bell forged at the Purcellville Foundry. The basement was used as a vocational school where Quakers taught sewing, cooking, shoe repairs and other skills to the black community.
Although there is still an active cemetery, the stone church is in disrepair and has been out of use since 1950. Preservation Virginia cites “enormous development pressures” on western Loudoun in its listing.
The Lincoln Preservation Foundation is leading a project to restore the building, called “Saving Grace.” The foundation and the Trustees of the Grace United Methodist Episcopal Church have developed plans including restoring the cellar rooms, the sanctuary, windows, doors, ceiling, roof, bell cupola, furniture, and grounds. The trustees formed the nonprofit The Friends of Grace Multicultural Center to open the building up to preservation grants. The goal is to be done by 2019.
“The Grace Heritage Center, once rehabilitated for community use, promises to preserve a significant social, religious, cultural and racial chapter in Loudoun’s and America’s past, in tangible form, to share with present and future generations,” the listing reads.
Preservation Virginia is a private, statewide historic preservation nonprofit founded in 1889. Read Preservation Virginia’s full 2018 report here.