currents National Park Service
Virginius Island
Historic Overview
Existing Conditions
Assessment & Analysis
Preservation Philosophy
Implementation & Management
Outreach & Education

Stabilized ruins along river, 2001. NPS Photo

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implementation & management
Even before the cultural landscape report was published in 1993, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park started to implement the first phase of its treatment plan. The main emphasis of the first phase work was on the stabilization of built features, rehabilitation of historic circulation patterns and control of vegetation.

A shift in the management of the island's resources occurred after two major floods inundated Virginius Island within eight months in 1996. Due to the destruction caused by the floodwaters, the park's stewards focused their efforts on "stabilizing" the remaining industrial ruins before another freshet destroyed those that remained. The island remained closed to the public for four years after the floods, in order to make it once again accessible to visitors.

What follows is a discussion of what was initially implemented based on the treatment plan and ruins stabilization plan between 1993-1995 (Before the Floods of 1996) and the resultant changes to the plans based on how features responded to the floods, 1996-2001(After the Floods of 1996).

Before the Floods of 1996 (1993-1995)

Ruins Stabilization

Harpers Ferry NHP sought the expertise from the Historic Preservation Training Center (HPTC), a National Park Service affiliate, to develop a Virginius Island Ruins Assessment and Stabilization Plan for the most prominent ruins. The project was initiated with a plan for the cotton/flour mill. The historic preservation approach emphasized the need re-establish the appearance of lost mill features that also function to stabilize the structure during times of high water. The project utilized original stone material from the mills collapsed walls in the immediate project area in order to reload critical walls that were vulnerable during high water. Availability of original stone masonry, replication of construction details, mortar color and texture, and historic craftsmanship were key elements for re-establishing the foundation walls of the cotton/flour mill structure. Two phases of the cotton/flour mill stabilization plan were completed before the 1996 floods.


Phase II stabilization plan for the cotton/flour mill, Historic Preservation Training Center, by Paul Neidinger, 1993

Construction detail recommending placement of key ring stones for the arch opening of the water intake tunnels, Historic Preservation Training Center, by Paul Neidinger, 1993

Several other key structures were also assessed at this time. The report recorded the condition of the ruins affected by "micro" hydrologic patterns, vegetative growth, and masonry deterioration. Here, a stabilization treatment approach was outlined for all structures. Depending on the structural integrity of the ruin, the treatment strategy responded according. For masonry it ranged from simply repointing the mortar joints, to rebuilding certain missing portions of the walls and vault tunnels based on documentation. For vegetation, the strategy ranged from hand pulling herbaceous vegetation from within the joints to removing large trees on or near foundations. The approach to prevent the structural ruins from deteriorating further, while avoiding unnecessary restoration, followed the Rehabilitation Guidelines that accompany the Secretary of Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.

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