Can Moorefield House Be Saved?

Can Moorefield House Be Saved?

Town Council discusses contract with restorer that would save the house structure.

The fate of Moorefield House may yet be determined, but at least it won't end up in the garbage dump, local preservationists hope. In a swift change of events, the Vienna Town Council Monday approved a contract with Timothy Robinson of Heartland Restorations to dismantle the 1780 home. Robinson plans to work with another group to reconstruct the house on another site.

Robinson was approached by a newly formed group of historic preservationists and concerned citizens calling themselves the "Jeremiah Moore Society" to dismantle the building. Society members, meanwhile, will provide a storage container and storage site. If they can find a site for the house and come up with enough funding to reconstruct it or the house's frame within two or three years, the house will be theirs.

The house had been facing demolition in late March, but actions on it were postponed due to last-minute negotiations to save the property. Robinson has until Sept. 15 to dismantle fully the original house and the early-1800s addition.

"These guys have gone above and beyond," said Margaret Kennedy of Robinson and the Jeremiah Moore Society. Kennedy is historic administrator for Historic Vienna Inc.

SOCIETY MEMBERS hope to preserve the house because of its educational value. Not only is the house one of the few examples of a late 17th-century middle-class home in the area, it's family, Jeremiah Moore and his descendants, played key roles in American history. Moore, a Revolutionary War soldier and Baptist preacher, also counseled three presidents and was an advocate for religious freedom and women's rights.

"Here's this person who's a fabulous example of good citizenship," said Joan Randell, a Society chair.

This latest development in the house's fate hopefully secures its future. For more than 20 years, the town and local citizens have debated on how and where to preserve the historic property. The Council finally decided earlier this year to dismantle the property, believing the years of deterioration and vandalism that had occurred on the house made it beyond redemption.

"I'll see to it that this building is dismantled correctly. I'll see to it that this building is saved," said Robinson, who specializes in restoring old buildings.

THE COUNCIL ALSO approved during Monday's meeting the recommendation by the town's Transportation Safety Commission to install a four-way stop sign at East and Hine streets southeast. Although the streets don't meet volume criteria for a traffic-calming device, some speeding does exist, there are no sidewalks, and children wait for school buses at the corner of East and Hine.

According to a Vienna Police Department one-day traffic study on March 11, 898 vehicles traveled down East Street, with 40.3 percent exceeding 30 mph. The speed limit is 25 mph. On March 4, 380 vehicles traveled on Hine Street, with 20.7 percent exceeding 30 mph.

One resident, Liz Sampson, approved the installation of the stop sign.

"I have three children, and it's absolutely terrifying when those cars are barreling down those streets," said Sampson, who was one of many area residents who signed a petition calling for a stop sign. "Any intervention is better than nothing at all."

Although Town Councilwoman Laurie Cole shared concerns on children's safety, her concern was that the data on volume and speed didn't meet the criteria for a traffic-calming device. The town hadn't approved other streets' requests, even though they had similar data, Cole said.

"To be fair to other neighborhoods in the town, we need to be consistent," Cole said.

But the recommendation for the four-way stop sign passed 6-1, with Cole dissenting.