The caretaker’s house in Fairview Cemetery, built more than a century ago, could soon be a thing of the past.
At its meeting last week, the Culpeper Town Council Planning and Community Development Committee unanimously recommended that the circa-1907 structure be demolished. It’s been vacant since 2012 when the last cemetery caretaker died.
Culpeper Hardware Manufacturing constructed the two-story, t-shaped frame dwelling with a cross-gable roof and clipped gables. It is located just beyond Gate 6 in the circa-1855 municipal cemetery, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.
The front wing, which faces Sperryville Pike, features a one-story, wrap-around porch with turned posts and spindle-work, according to the National Register. Most of its windows are two-over-two, double-hung, sash and an original interior brick chimney is located roughly in the center of the house. The structure has clearly endured non-historic modifications over the last 112 years.
“I think it’s time for the caretakers’ facility to go,” said Councilman Pranas Rimeikis at Tuesday’s meeting, receiving support from his colleagues on the committee.
Added Councilwoman Meaghan Taylor, “There’s no use for it.”
Culpeper Public Services Director Jim Hoy said the town recently received a complaint about the condition of the house, which he call dilapidated.
“The interior is in poor shape,” he said, adding the citizen concern was that the house, which has extensive termite damage on the inside, “takes away from the overall appearance of the cemetery at the Gate 6 entrance.”
Hoy said there is no planned use for the aged structure. He said the house has been modified multiple times through years and is not individually listed as part of the National Register designation.
“It’s not eligible,” Hoy said. A historic designation for the house, he added, is “a stretch.” To bring the caretakers house up to historical standard would cost as much as $275,000, he said. “Without an end use, it doesn’t make much sense.”
According to an architectural survey form from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, the house “has no apparent association with any event or person important in our nation’s history, lacks historical significance and does not appear to have the ability to yield important information.”
However, the house is considered “a contributing element” to the nationally listed Fairview Cemetery.
Five years ago, the Town Council discussed the same topic—what to do with the Caretakers House. At that time, leaving it be seemed to be the consensus.
The home visually separates the former African American Cemetery in Fairview from the former Citizens Cemetery, the site of one of the earliest efforts to legalize racial segregation in Culpeper, according to the National Register. Before 1903, Citizens Cemetery was open to black and white; in that year, Culpeper Town Council approved a resolution requiring that all African Americans be buried in a separate section. It wasn’t until 1970 that the African American Cemetery became part of Fairview Cemetery.
A 2012 town staff report urged caution in determining the house’s future, stating, “Considering the historic nature of the property as well as the visible general condition of the caretakers residence, the town should give very careful consideration of all possible uses of the 1907 building before resorting to demolition.”
Five years ago, Councilman Keith Price supported saving the structure. Last week, his stance had changed.
“I was in favor of saving the caretakers house, but five years went by and nothing has changed so I do support taking it down now,” Price said.
He noted the old home probably had some salvageable architectural elements someone, including himself, might be interested in purchasing. According to Hoy, it will cost the town around $25,000 to raze the caretaker’s house. The issue goes to full Town Council for a final vote at its Dec. 10 meeting.
Within steps of the old caretakers house are several aged graves with interesting inscriptions, including a military issue headstone marked, “William H. Yates b. Feb. 18, 1910 d. June 24, 1951 Pennsylvania Sgt. 3368 QM Truck Co. World War II.” Another old stone near the house is marked, “My Mother Louisa Patton died July 1885 aged 74 years Asleep in Jesus.”