The Art Deco Theater in Town was aptly named the "Nelson Theater." The Nelsons set up a fund, which included a $4.75 million trust which was to be divided between Shenandoah Memorial and Rockingham Memorial Hospitals, to ensure the hospitals were adequately capitalized in their infancy.
Mr. Nelson, despite only ever receiving a 5th grade education, built a reputable business, was a Virginia State Senator (1942-1946) and became well known in the Commonwealth. He was a member of the Virginia Highway Commissions and later the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Commission, as well as a Shenandoah County School Board Trustee. He was a Lutheran, and likely gave considerably to the local historic Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church in Town. According to other sources, Mr. Nelson is said to have "helped boost financial assistance to medical school graduates as they set up their practices in the Shenandoah Valley."
Inside, the home boasts a Main stair, with an interesting configuration that allows a rear stair to descend from a landing on the Main Stair.
To the left of the Entry hall is the Formal Living Room and to the right is a small den. The Dining room is at the rear of the Living Room and connects behind the stair via a butlers pantry to the kitchen, which is to the rear of the den.
From the pictures, you can see the carefully detailed plaster crown molding of the Living Room, which appeared to have gold leaf at one point.
The ceiling in the dining room seems to soar, as the plaster walls are gently curved about a foot below where they meet the ceiling and die into the ceiling so there is no apparent visual distinction between the wall and the ceiling.
The foundation is poured concrete and the overall structure is quite solid. The roof is in pretty good shape for 101 years old, although a few terracotta tiles need to be replaced.
Currently, all the old wavy glassed-windows have been removed. The home is going to make way for a new Office building, at least that's what the plans have been for some time. (I do not begrudge the property owner the ability to develop his property the way he wants. I simply think the Town's responsibility is to the Historic nature of the Downtown, as part of Economic Development of the Town. I believe there is a win-win solution for both the property owner and the Town.)
While not the Civil War era home that preservationists are accustomed to in this area, the structure is significant in its era of architectural style and prominence in the Town. This sort of mindless destruction happens where there is no review of structures, and little concern for the historic fabric of a town. The razing of this historic structure is another short-sighted decision being made by the property owner and the Town; and disrespects the Town's Character as a whole.
It's yet another sad loss in our small Town, whose good architecture is quickly becoming destroyed to make way for modern frivolity.
The real shame is that there is an ample sized lot just a few blocks away where this house could be moved if the owner and the Town work together. For approximately $60k for digging a new basement on a new site, and $200k for moving the structure, as well as historic tax credits that could be made available, it would be well worth preserving the old place somewhere in town. Surprisingly, many of our homes in Town, were moved at one time or another.