Belle Grove Plantation Opens the Beverley B. Shoemaker Welcome Center
1918 Barn restored to include museum shop, event space, exhibits, and visitor amenities
Belle Grove Plantation celebrated the grand opening of the Beverley B. Shoemaker Welcome Center on Saturday, April 13, 2019. The Welcome Center project was announced in May 2018 along with a $1.1 million gift from The Shoemaker Family Charitable Trust. Mrs. Beverley Bowman Shoemaker serves as the Trustee of The Shoemaker Family Charitable Trust and on the Belle Grove Plantation Board of Directors. The Welcome Center is named in honor of her longtime and generous commitment to Belle Grove.
Fred Andreae of Frederick Andreae Architects in Front Royal designed the Welcome Center as an innovative restoration of the Bank Barn that is adjacent to the Belle Grove Manor House. Built by former Belle Grove owner, J. Herbert Brumback, the restoration has retained many original features while creating spaces for the Museum Shop, exhibits, and visitor amenities on the lower level and event space on the upper level. KEE Construction Services, Inc. of Winchester served as the general contractor on the project.
“Belle Grove is delighted to see Mr. Andreae’s vision and careful planning become a reality,” said Kristen Laise Executive Director. “We are grateful to KEE and their contractors for their expertise and ingenuity on this project and we look foward to sharing the results with our community.”
The Brumback family owned Belle Grove from 1907 to 1929 and farmed the land and, for a time, operated an inn in the Belle Grove Manor House. One of their frequent inn guests, Francis Welles Hunnewell of Wellesley, Massachusetts purchased the property in 1929. He restored the Manor House and used it as a vacation home, while the Brumback family stayed on as caretakers and farm tenants. Mr. Hunnewell bequeathed Belle Grove to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and it was opened as a museum in August 1967. Today, the property is a National Trust Historic Site, owned by the National Trust and operated by Belle Grove, Inc. While Belle Grove is still actively farmed today by Mr. Brumback’s grandson, the barn no longer serves an agricultural function. Belle Grove staff and volunteers worked with 1717 Design Group in Richmond, Virginia to create exhibit panels for the Welcome Center about the history of the Barn and Belle Grove’s role in Shenandoah Valley agriculture.
“The Beverley B. Shoemaker Welcome Center has gently and respectfully repurposed the agricultural building to serve the visiting public. Bringing a new purpose to the old barn invites visitors to engage in Belle Grove’s layers of history and ensures its survival for future generations,” said Katherine Malone-France, Interim Chief Preservation Officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
John Adamson, Manager of The Historic Barns of Shenandoah County, stated “I have personally visited and documented more than 180 historic barns in the last two years and know first-hand the threats that are causing the Shenandoah Valley to lose old barns every year. Belle Grove’s preservation of this historic timber frame barn through adaptive reuse will allow guests to appreciate its original construction.”
Visitors will now enter the Belle Grove property through the Welcome Center and purchase tickets to tour the Manor House in the Museum Shop. The Museum Shop, exhibits in the Welcome Center, restrooms, and vending machine will be accessible when Belle Grove is open to the public. Visitors may also enjoy new patio space outside the Welcome Center donated by Perry Engineering Company, Inc., Reading Landscapes, Inc., Gull Corporation, and Carmeuse Lime and Stone.
The Welcome Center has an upper level event space that can accommodate up to 150 people and may be rented for private functions. Rentals include the use of a catering kitchen. In addition, there is a lower level meeting room available to smaller groups. Stairs connect the two levels and a lift makes it fully handicapped accessible.
The idea to restore the 1918 Bank Barn began in 2011 with a convening of preservation and history professionals under the leadership of Belle Grove President Elizabeth McClung, who retired in 2013. Fred Andreae of Frederick Andreae Architects in Front Royal and past Chair of Belle Grove served on this committee and donated his services to design the building. He worked with current Executive Director, Kristen Laise and Belle Grove’s staff and board on an extensive planning process for the last several years.
In 2016, Mr. Andreae donated funds and oversaw an initial phase of construction on the upper level. New flooring, railings, interior and exterior lighting, and ceiling fans were installed. The doors were adapted to meet code and the electrical system was upgraded. This allowed the barn to begin to be used as an event space. Belle Grove’s leadership and supporters immediately recognized the potential of the entire project and spearheaded efforts to make the vision for the Welcome Center a reality.
The Shoemaker Family Charitable Trust's gift, along with additional donations from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and other donors, funded the renovation project and also a complete security, internet, and septic upgrade for the entire complex. The creation of the Beverley B. Shoemaker Welcome Center and these related projects have been the most extensive infrastructure improvement since Belle Grove’s founding as a museum in 1967.
Beverley B. Shoemaker Welcome Center
Project Architect: Frederick Andreae Architects, Front Royal, VA
Construction: KEE Construction Services, Inc., Winchester, VA
Barn Restoration Kick Off, May 7, 2018
Danny McKee, President, KEE Construction Services
Fred Andreae, Fred Andreae Architects
Kristen Laise, Executive Director, Belle Grove
Bevereley B. Shoemaker, Shoemaker Family Charitable Trust
Elizabeth McClung, Past President, Belle Grove
Renderings by W. Scott Guerin
Visitor Entrance into Museum Shop
Lower Level Hallway Exhibits
Upper Level Event Space
Upper Level Event Space