Fincastle Presbyterian Church
Fincastle Presbyterian Church
Address: Fincastle, Va. 24090
At the formation of both Botetourt County and Botetourt Parish in 1770, an acre of land in Fincastle, the county seat, was designated for use by the Established Church of England for a church building and cemetery. After the American Revolution and disestablishment of the Anglican Church, the structure erected on Back Street came to be used by dissenters rather than by its former members. In December 1813 the Presbyterians of Botetourt petitioned the General Assembly "for erecting a church on the grounds formerly occupied by the establishment." Whether a new building was constructed or the original structure was repaired and reused cannot be determined definitively at present. Probably the structure was rebuilt and then altered in 1818 and 1849 respectively, but a decline in membership and attendance by the early decades of the twentieth century led to a general neglect of the church building and property.
In 1940, officers of the Roanoke Valley Garden Club approached The Garden Club of Virginia about adding the churchyard to its growing list of restoration projects. When Club members showed a distinct interest in this possibility, their enthusiasm proved infectious, as remaining church members began to cut away undergrowth in order to identify the exact needs of repair and landscaping. During the summer of 1942, while the World War expanded, specific plans began to take shape as the women of both clubs moved to initiate restoration efforts "before labor and critical materials get too scarce, and prices are too high to undertake the work."
Work began with the building of a wall along the west side of the church graveyard and the repair of numerous damaged and toppled headstones. In front of the church, a brick terrace was laid and a walkway leading from the entrance to the church door was restored. A particularly nice touch included the conversion of one of the original town lamps, originally oil-burning, to electricity, which was then mounted at the entranceway to the churchyard. Plantings included climbing euonymus on the west wall and at the entrance gate, along with Virgin's bower over the iron fence on the south wall. Weeping willows, magnolias, holly trees and crape myrtles replaced the locust trees that had grown up wild in the churchyard.
After the congregation added an educational wing at the rear of the church building in 1959, The Garden Club of Virginia supervised some additional plantings, designed, as landscape architect Stanley Abbott noted, to minimize rather than emphasize the effect of this new construction upon the "historic scene." Unfortunately, plans from neither the 1943-1944 restoration nor the 1959 plantings survive in The Garden Club records.
The images presented here record various stages of the property's landscape restoration. Since additional work has been supported by The Garden Club of Virginia at many properties, these images do not necessarily represent the current-day experience. Also, accession numbers reflect the year in which an image was received by the Virginia Historical Society, not the year in which it was taken.
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Last updated March 15, 2011