By Brandon Martin
Plans are still in the works to install a bronze plaque near the Historic Henry County Courthouse in Uptown Martinsville, according to former Martinsville Historical Society President Virginia King.
The plaque was donated by the Garden Club of Virginia (GCV) following a 2015 restoration project at the courthouse by architect William D. Rieley.
King said the plaque is heavy and some details about the base for the plaque must be figured out before it makes an official debut on the grounds.
Betsy Worthington, chairman of the club’s Restoration Committee, said the plaques are designed in such as way that they “try to be as historically accurate as possible.”
Typically, plaques at a minimum include information to show the restoration was a gift from the Garden Club of Virginia, the date the project was completed, and the name of the project’s architect.
Worthington said club members currently are in the process of obtaining pictures of the plaques at various previous project sites to ensure each is still in good condition.
After the county vacated the premises in 1996, King said the courthouse became home to the historical society, which agreed to restore the property.
The club, along with the City of Martinsville, began the restoration project in 2012.
King said workers “completely redid landscaping in the front plaza and on the sides. They made both doors handicap accessible, moved the flagpoles and planted trees to line the plaza” during the restoration project.
Since the project’s completion five years ago, King said the courthouse “has become the icon of uptown. People are always coming by to have pictures taken out front, and we even rent spaces for weddings and receptions.”
The first restoration project undertaken by the “GCV “was in 1929 at Kenmore in Fredericksburg, Va. Since, the has used proceeds from its signature event, Historic Garden Week, to restore and preserve vital segments of Virginia’s landscape, with nearly 50 projects completed to date.
Properties must meet certain criteria to qualify for restoration, according to the club’s principles and policies.
First, each garden must be open to the public on a regular basis. Private properties are not to be considered for restoration projects. Second, the property’s governing body must approve the restoration project. Third, the property’s governing body must agree to maintain the restoration and finally, GCV will engage professional landscape architects to plan and oversee the restoration project.
Given that the restoration projects are funded annually by the Historic Garden Week, the coronavirus has impacted funding this year since the week was cancelled over concerns of the pandemic Worthington said.
However, the committee is still overseeing three major projects with funds obtained in previous years, Worthington said.
“Since we couldn’t have Garden Week this year, we are finishing what we already had on the books, but we aren’t starting any new projects this year,” Worthington said.
In its 87-year history, Historic Garden Week has been cancelled only once before — during World War II.
More than 250 homes, gardens and historic landmarks are typically featured during the week and approximately 30,000 annual visitors from around the nation come out for the 8-day event.
The next Historic Garden Week is slated for April 17-24, 2021.