Blog Posts

Using video to promote property listings

This professional video, produced in March 2019 by Steven Shires of PixelProShop for my recently listed property at 6 Coe Place in Lexington (offered at $385,000), is just one example of the marketing tools that I use to promote properties for sale. This video doesn’t have a soundtrack added, and is just over a minute long — since research shows you have to keep marketing videos short and sweet! To enable easy viewing and sharing of the video, I first downloaded it to my YouTube channel (yes, I have a YouTube channel!), then distributed it to other platforms by embedding or sharing links to the video. It’s now accessible through our local MLS, this website, and my Facebook business page, and can be shared by you too!

I’m hoping to eventually produce and share other types of videos — interviews with local folks and businesses; walk-throughs of historic homes; on-camera tips about real estate, community, and preservation topics; and more. Soon, soon! I’ll keep you in the loop.

And for much more information about 6 Coe Place and its many distinctive features, be sure to check out the full listing at:

History Underfoot

Lexingtonians love their star bricks. A sidewalk paved with the star-emblazoned stamped bricks is a sight to behold, the vitrified finishes glistening in a mineral rainbow of reds and purples and browns. Star bricks are such a feature of Lexington’s downtown and older residential neighborhoods that it’s no surprise people think they’re unique to Lexington, but they’re not. You’ll find them in Roanoke, Savannah, and elsewhere, too.

Brick paving has a long pedigree in America. Plain brick pavers were popular for walkways in the colonial period, and in the early nineteenth century Washington and Lee University added brick stairs to one of its buildings so the thundering herd of students wouldn’t thunder as loudly as they would on wooden stairs. In 1870 a Charleston, West Virginia builder named Mordecai Levi had the idea to pave a Charleston street in brick. Levi’s timing was good—with mass production and rail transport bricks were cheap enough that cities could afford to pave entire downtowns with them, and they did.

At the end of the nineteenth century brick plants in Ohio’s Hocking Valley began to manufacture vitrified bricks in a variety of patterns. The glassy vitrification gave the bricks a hard water-impervious finish and the patterns, in addition to providing visual interest, may have helped with traction. The beautiful patterned bricks of the era have withstood the test of time, and today their stars, bull’s-eyes, and hatchings enliven the experience of historic communities across the nation.

Contributed by Dan Pezzoni, Sept 2017

George W Adams House at 302 S Jefferson Street

20151214_122239The George W. Adams House, located at 302 South Jefferson Street in historic downtown Lexington, Virginia, was one of my old-house listings a few years ago.

The Adams House started out as a two-story, side-passage, double-pile dwelling of braced-frame construction on a coursed limestone foundation.  Adams was a merchant-artisan, specializing in tinsmithing and other metalwork.  As their family grew, he and his wife Elizabeth added on to the house (ca. 1860), incorporating a large formal parlor on the first floor and a large master bedroom on the second. A rear ell was added in the late 1800s, with a kitchen and dining room on the 1st floor and 2 more rooms upstairs.  The home, which retains most of its original Late-Federal and Greek Revival architectural elements and wonderful heart-of-pine floors, has been sensitively updated with modern mechanical systems, central cooling and heating, and a custom kitchen and baths. Well arranged for entertaining, it is situated on a lushly landscaped corner lot and has been featured twice on tours of Lexington during Historic Garden Week in Virginia.

Lexington is a charming small town in the Shenandoah Valley, and an easy drive to Washington DC, Charlottesville, Richmond, Charlotte, or Raleigh. Home to two institutions of higher education, Washington & Lee University and the Virginia Military Institute, Lexington is a tourist destination AND a great place to raise a family or retire.  Friendly, walkable, and bike-able, it has an attractive downtown with art galleries, antique shops, boutiques, and a lively restaurant scene.  The Adams House, chock-full of authentic features, is just a short stroll to everything!

Updated 2 February 2019

“Back Spring Cottage” Is Under Contract!

11 NRandolph May 2015

This sweet little 2 bedroom cottage in downtown Historic Lexington, Virginia, is now under contract and slated to be sold at the end of June.   With commercial zoning and previous residential use, it has flexible usage options.  In addition, as a contributing building in the Lexington Historic District, it is a candidate for state and federal rehab income tax credits, which return up to 45% of rehab expenses to the owner upon completion of a qualifying rehabilitation project.

The Harlow family acquired the home on its very large park-like lot (nearly an acre) in theIMAG4432 mid-20th century.  It was owned in the late-19th and early-20th centuries by the Sheridan family, who operated a livery and stable a block away (the “Sheridan Livery Inn” on N. Main). The property is historically known as the “Back Spring Lot,” after the very bold spring in the back yard that serves as a principal source of water for Town Creek, a tributary of the Maury River.  As one of downtown’s only “waterfront” properties, it offers a shady respite from the summer heat.

The building’s unusual shed roof with a tall front parapet-like façade lends the cottage a IMAG4321less-residential look than other houses nearby; the two 4-panel front doors suggest it was  previously used either as a duplex or as a house + shop/office. The cottage appears to have been built in at least two stages, and was last renovated in the 1990s. Original wood siding, a 1920s Craftsman-style front porch with exposed rafters and shaped rafter tails, and most of the stone perimeter foundation are some of the cottage’s intact character-defining features.  The turned wooden posts are 1990s replacements of what were likely plain square posts.

If you’re an investor or business owner looking to buy or sell a house or commercial property such as this one located in Historic Lexington, please get in touch.  540-460-2201 or [email protected]


Penciling isn’t about pencils


Ever heard of “penciling”? Not commonly practiced nowadays, it was once regularly used by brickmasons here in Virginia and elsewhere.  Penciling refers to the technique of applying painted lines on the mortar joints of brick walls.

Bricks were once locally produced, using clay dug out of stream banks. The clay was minimally refined in pug mills, then tamped into wooden molds, then air dried, and finally baked in wood-fired kilns that had uneven temperatures.  The resulting bricks were often quite irregular in size, shape, and color.  With irregular bricks,  even courses (rows) could only be achieved by setting the bricks into mortar joints of varying widths.  In a conservative region and time period that valued regularity in masonry surfaces, brickmasons couldn’t leave those irregular bricks with their uneven mortar joints alone!

So, they pulled out their white paint, straightedges, and levels, and applied very thin stripes to every mortar joint.  From a distance, especially in bright light, the stripes emulate finely struck mortar, and disguise the irregularity so typical of handcrafted brickwork.

Almost every older (pre-Civil War-era) brick building I’ve ever documented in the eastern U.S. uses penciling.  Penciled joints have another virtue:  alongside exterior doorways they often host signatures left by prior owners, family members, and guests.  Architectural graffiti, if you will.  But that’s a story for another post.

This Old Stone House

Vineyard Hill (ca. 1774), on Forge Road in Rockbridge County, Virginia

Early settlement period buildings in Virginia were typically built using locally sourced materials.  And by locally sourced, I really mean locally sourced: old-growth trees harvested during land clearing, stones removed from fields being prepared for planting or from mountainside outcrops, and bricks that were shaped from hand-dug clay, then burned in homemade kilns using wood cut from local forests. Here in Rockbridge County, a limestone-rich area in Virginia’s southern Shenandoah Valley, we are lucky to have a few spectacular stone buildings built with locally quarried limestone.  Vineyard Hill, on the Virginia Landmarks Register, is one of those special places.

Begun about 1774, the home is built into an embankment with a lower-level kitchen that has a massive “walk in” fireplace with old wrought iron fittings. Above the basement, the home was originally one-and-a-half stories, with winding boxed-in staircases between levels and interior partition walls constructed with beaded tongue-and-groove boards that range in width from 10 to 20 inches.  Old photos of the home revealed evidence that the house was expanded to accommodate a second story, with an attic above that, in the early 19th century.

Located on one of the old roads traversing the Shenandoah Valley, the home is about a mile south of Buffalo Creek, a major tributary of the James River.  It was originally the seat of a much larger farm owned by Alexander Beggs, and later owned by the Weaver and Brady families (associated with Buffalo Forge, a major player in the regionally significant iron industry during the 19th century).

Other stone buildings on the Vineyard Hill property survive in restored or adapted form, including a fulling mill,  and a springhouse with a lined spring. There is evidence the old fulling mill, initially built to process flax fibers into linen thread, was later used as a blacksmith shop or for some other iron-related activity.

This property is currently listed for sale with James River Realty.  Please contact me if you’d like to know more about it or other historic properties in Virginia.

Rehabbing Historic Buildings for Fun & Profit

11 N Randolph Street, Lexington; historic commercial property on Original Town Lot #9, “the Back Spring lot.”

Park-like rear yard of the Back Spring Lot at 11 N. Randolph, with picturesque Town Branch flowing through property.

7-9 N. Main Street, Lexington; 1920s automobile dealership renovated in the 1980s to resemble two Victorian storefront buildings.

When people think of restoring old buildings, often the buildings that first come to mind are historic houses or museum restorations.  But in places with historic commercial districts, there are also commercial buildings that warrant preservation and rehabilitation.  And while grant funds for renovating privately held properties are pretty slim pickings, for owners and long-term leaseholders of historic income-producing properties, there are financial incentives in the form of state and federal rehabilitation tax credits that exist. For qualifying projects in Virginia, tax credits can offset up to 45% of renovation expenses. So if you have a $100,000 renovation planned, you could get back up to $45,000.  Pretty nice return on that investment, right?

To qualify, your property has to be  historically designated, either individually or as a contributing resource in a historic district. The renovation has to be planned in advance of construction and pre-approved by state and federal reviewers.  It also has to be “substantial” in nature (meeting minimum spending thresholds). Once the project is completed, it has to be certified (again, by state and federal reviewers) to have met the standards and followed the pre-approved plan.  Finally, the property must be held by the credit-taking owner for at least five years.

That’s it!  Well, the process is pretty straightforward, but working with old buildings often isn’t so cut-and-dried, since every building has a different set of features that make up historic character, and therefore every renovation is custom, not cookie-cutter.

The two buildings highlighted in this post are in the Lexington Historic District, which is listed in both the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.  Both are potential candidates for the Rehab Tax Credits program, and both are currently listed for sale through James River Realty.   Contact me anytime for more information.


501 S Main, Lexington: Gallery 2