Governor Terry McAuliffe announced this week that Virginia State University has received the inaugural Outstanding State Stewardship Award for its preservation of Summerseat, an historic house built around 1860 near present-day VSU.
The effort to restore the university-owned property began almost a decade ago and has grown to include the Petersburg-based Cameron Foundation, Preservation Virginia, the Department of Historic Resources, and many others. The HistoriCorps Institute, a national non-profit that oversees the rehabilitation of historic structures, joined the coalition in 2015 and agreed to undertake the project.
“With its success at Summerseat, Virginia State University has cemented its status as a leader in historic restoration,” said Governor Terry McAuliffe. “Virginia is full of treasures like Summerseat and I hope this effort will serve as an inspiration and example for other state stewardship projects across the Commonwealth.”
Leveraging an outpouring of support from VSU and the local community, the project’s initial phase was completed in about six weeks. During that time, HistoriCorps volunteers and others removed vinyl and aluminum siding from the dwelling’s exterior, repointed masonry, repaired a front porch and windows, repainted the house, and demolished a modern addition to return the building to its original footprint. The restored structure has been repurposed into office space by Virginia State University. Having found considerable support for historic restoration in Petersburg, the Colorado-based HistoriCorps Institute has selected the city to house its regional offices.
“Virginia is home to countless historic properties, each with their own set of stories and restoration challenges,” said Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward. “Thanks to the specialized training provided by HistoriCorps, a new generation of craftsmen has the traditional building skills it needs to properly care for our historic properties.”
A one-room house with modest Italianate detailing and a raised brick basement, Summerseat is among the last remaining dwellings of Ettrick, a small African-American community established across the Appomattox River from Petersburg in the mid-19th century. Its name is derived from local lore which says that the structure previously served as a county judge’s courtroom during the summer months. Both Summerseat and Ettrick are eligible for listing in the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.