Carol Geiger and Greenfield Preservation Advisory Commission member Angela Coon talk with Greg Webster of Hill Studios at last week’s meeting about plans for the historical preservation area at Botetourt Center at Greenfield.
Hill Studios representatives offer an outline of a possible historical park on the designated preservation area at Botetourt Center at Greenfield during a public meeting last week. It included incorporating existing buildings and cemeteries with an educational walking trail about the county’s and country’s history.
Photo by Ed McCoy

The Greenfield Preservation Advisory Commission (GPAC) members and about 50 others got their first look at the possibilities for a historical attraction at Botetourt Center at Greenfield during a presentation July 11 at Greenfield Education and Training Center.

Hill Studios is the consulting firm hired by the county to work with GPAC to develop a plan for a 25- to 30-acre historical preservation area at Botetourt Center at Greenfield.

Hill representatives made a presentation to those at the meeting before breaking out into sessions when individuals could make comments on some of the ideas.

From that session, and morning workshops with GPAC members and others earlier that day, Hill Studios will develop a draft proposal with funding recommendations that’s expected to be ready for GPAC’s August meeting.

David Hill and others with the consulting firm went through various scenarios— from how other comparable historical sites have evolved and operate to a possible model for the Greenfield site.

Hill said setting priorities for the historic site will be important, and he said they needed to decide, “Is it a park? Is it a historic site?”

“We’re trying to make it work as both,” he said.

He also told the group that it could be possible to show Botetourt’s history and its contribution to the country’s history.

A possibility to do that is using the existing structures and creating an interpretative “timeline walk” through the historic area that could have an “augmented reality linkage” with a visual time loop that used reality technology that would connect visitors with site resources, regional resources and perhaps national resources.

The links to local resources could include the James River and Kanawha Canal, Fincastle, The Great Road, etc.

Architect Don Harwood suggested developing the park may require “baby steps.”

One of the priorities is stabilizing and restoring the buildings now on the site. Those include the slave cabin and summer kitchen that were moved from their original locations last year to make way for an industrial shell building.

A third building, the Holiday House, and two historic cemeteries are also on the property.

Harwood said GPAC may consider using teaching by trade masters as a way to restore the buildings and engage the community in do that.

It’s similar to what is being done at Poplar Forest in Bedford County where on-going restoration is done educationally at Thomas Jefferson’s summer home.

Craftsmen teach others how to do different types of restoration work as a revenue source for the historic site.

“The actual stabilization and restoration is an educational process in itself,” Harwood said.

That could be a first phase for the historical site.

A second phase could be restrooms near the parking area, then signs to tell what’s going on, using found materials for the restoration, then moving on to developing the Holiday House for small displays and artifacts.

Future elements could include a visitors’ center added to the restroom structure with display areas and perhaps a theater.

“It (the visitors’ center) may never come to fruition, but start with baby steps and move forward to the point where there may be a need for this phase,” Harwood said.

The idea of a history trail that included stops at the Holiday House, the slave cabin and summer kitchen got good reviews from many at the meeting.

That trail, Hill said, could cover history from 1607 to 1900. A very preliminary drawing showed the trail looping from the parking area near the current Honey Bee Sanctuary to the Holiday House, around part of the site property and back to International Parkway and the access road to the parking area.

Individuals had a chance to talk and share additional ideas with Hill Studios’  representatives after the presentation.

That included offering ideas for names for the historical preservation site or park.

Hill said his consulting firm will put together a draft proposal for the GPAC, whose members will review the draft and make recommendations.

The consultants will also offer some funding recommendations.

A final proposal is expected to go before the Board of Supervisors by October.