Sure, we're primarily a working class town, but there are many professional businesses and even an art community, small as it is, here in Town. Add to this, many well-educated folks from Northern Virginia and elsewhere who are retiring here because the Valley is so beautiful, and we really have quite the mix.
The Comprehensive Plan speaks a great deal about character. I realized, however, it doesn't speak much about identity and style.
In conclusion, the answer to the question of Mount Jackson's identity and character, is that the majority of it's architecture came about between the period immediately following the Civil War and up till World War II. Of course, there has been much constructed since then, but I'm talking specifically about Main Street Mount Jackson.
More precisely, though it's history goes back to the Indians and the Town grew around the Old Valley Pike, Mount Jackson really is a Town whose hey-day developed around the Railroad.
An eclectic and walkable little Railroad Town in transition - that is MJ's Character.
In an article earlier this week in the Daily News Record, it was stated, "It's a pretty house on the outside. On the inside, there's nothing extraordinary about it." Au contraire! The inside is as noble as the exterior. The structure is not pretty. Victorian is pretty. Prairie Style is handsome. This house is handsome outside and in! It's considered "streamlined". The home was designed in a period that was purposefully distancing itself from the frills of the Victorian, which may have had exceptional wood turnings, but was also replete with dark and heavy interiors.
The inside of the Nelson House is light and airy, with an ever so small nod to the past, particularly in the Living Room which has a diminutive plaster decorative frieze running it's perimeter. Really, it's a Masterpiece of Restraint.
From a pure real estate development perspective, moving the Nelson House does not make [immediate] sense. (Though, with a $500,000 moving and restoration budget, the project will run a mere $167 per square foot - this house can't be built new for that!) Indeed, trying to lease it as office space might mean that it would cost $14.00 per square foot in rent. Clearly Mount Jackson is not that kind of market. Or is it?
The Food Lion shopping center leases for $11-14.00 per square foot. Why is Downtown Mount Jackson so undesirable? We have nice new sidewalks and new street lamps. More importantly, what will it take to make Downtown Mount Jackson more desirable? The answer: Investments like this! From a standpoint of long term vision, stewardship and maintaining the identity of the Town, preserving this house make perfect sense.
The point is that at some point, there needs to be someone who comes along and realizes that the "investment" may not come for another 10, 20 or even 30 years, but invests in the community for the long haul. The Nelson House has to be preserved as an investment in the Town's Legacy, not purely as a profit-maker. That's tough unless you're independently wealthy, or have just won the lottery (which I regret to inform everyone that I did not last night.) It's not so tough if there is demand and community support, and/or if there are those with the funds in the community who are willing to pass on the legacy to the next generation through low interest loans and even mentoring. That's the sort of legacy Mount Jackson desperately needs at present.
The pursuit of moving the Historic Nelson House is not about practicality anymore than driving a luxury car is. Practical is driving a Prius. Image is driving a Mercedes or a Jaguar. (I can assure you there is nothing practical about driving a Jaguar. My late model Jag - meaning it has no monetary value at all - has been parked in the garage for months now - but it looks good and is fun to drive. I drive a Ford F150 pickup most days because that what's most practical around here, and for going to job sites.)
Ah, but this is where we hit the grey area between business and beauty. For those looking for a short term profit off the project, moving and restoring the house so that it can sit, waiting for a tenant that may never be found, is indeed a bad investment. For those seeking to preserve a monumental structure and piece of our heritage, it will be worth every penny.