THE NORFOLK & WESTERN RAILWAY STATION AT BOYCE, VIRGINIA

INTRODUCTION
DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION
SIGNIFICANCE
THE GILPIN FAMILY
Photos Of the Station
 

INTRODUCTION


The Boyce railway station is unconventional in the size and grandeur of the structure relative to the town's population and revenue it generated for the Norfolk & Western Railway.  Its remarkable background interplays with the functions it performed, both as a railway station as well as post-1956 usage.

The citizens of Boyce and the surrounding area were certainly proud of their town.  When the railroad wanted to upgrade the frame train station in the early 1910s, the locals were dissatisfied with the design presented by the railroad.  According to one newspaper article, the people of Boyce wanted a more "pretentious" station.  They were able to secure a better site, this time along the east side of the tracks and off the south side of Main Street, and are reputed to have donated funds for the construction of an improved station.   The Boyce railway station that was completed in 1913 was a truly modern structure not only in its fire-proofing construction but in the fact that it had running water and electricity.

Use of the station by a N&W agent ended in the 1950s.  At about the same time, the station served in a new role for the community as its post office.  Mr. Ben Harrison, Postmaster, began operations of the Boyce post office on April 16, 1955 in the large waiting room.  He was succeeded by Russell B. Lloyd in 1974, who continued operations in the same location.  He retired in 1981 and Eva P. Kibler was appointed postmaster in 1982.  In 1984, the post office was moved to its current location at 112 West Main Street.   For many of these years, the depot was also used by Clarke County Feed and by a local FISH charity for the distribution of clothes for the needy.    Subsequent usages have been as a restaurant, railway historical society meeting room, and a woodworking shop.  Thus, this building has played a role in the daily lives of Boyce townspeople for five decades following the discontinuance of the N&W agent and passenger train services.

Thus, the historically-distinguishing attributes of the station building are not only its usage, location, design, construction, size, and amenities such as central heating, but the fact that local towns-people raised the majority of the original $14,000 construction cost in order to receive a better-than-justified structure.  There are few community-railway joint ventures recorded anywhere that reflect similar generosity by the local village or city, which makes this event particularly historic and remarkable.  Indeed, the appreciation of railway heritage within Boyce continues to be so strong that this station has become the town's icon, appearing on the cover of its 2003 Comprehensive Plan as well as the town decal for vehicle registration.  According to architectural historian Maral Kalbian, the fact that the town's railroad station still stands is "so significant" as a symbol of why the town grew up.


DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION


The Boyce Railroad Station is a one-story rectangular building that measures approximately 142 feet long by 26 feet wide.  Constructed in 1913, it sits along the eastern side of the Norfolk and Western (now Norfolk Southern Corporation) railroad tracks at milepost H-46.1 in the town of Boyce in Clarke County, Virginia.  The building is of terra cotta block construction faced with stucco.  The fourteen-bay station has the following architectural details: a hipped roof clad in standing seam metal; 2 hip-roofed dormers on both the front and rear elevation (one with four, six-light windows and one with six, six-light windows); deeply overhanging eaves with integral gutters, beaded tongue-and-groove soffets, and wooden brackets; a central projecting polygonal bay with a pyramidal roof on the front elevation; a central brick chimney with a corbeled cap; a high water table; a stepped cornice; single and paired six-over-six-sash double-hung windows with three light transoms above; double paneled wooden doors with five-light transoms above; two concrete steps at each entrance; concrete ramps for entry and exit from the baggage room; and, a concrete platform that runs about 540 feet along the railroad tracks on the west side of the building.   There was originally a train shed that ran along 400 feet of the platform.  The train shed was removed by the railway after passenger services were discontinued in 1957, but almost 50 years later much of the concrete platform remains.

Just south of the train station is a small, frame, one-story, square, hip-roofed shed clad in weatherboard.    This shed was constructed at an unidentified time after 1917 to house a pump used to supply well water to inside plumbing at the station.  The construction year is based on the building not appearing in a 1917 picture of the station, but does appear in an undated photo taken a few years later during the 1920s.   It is wood frame construction on a cement slab, measuring 10 by 12 feet, and 9 feet high to the edge of the eaves.  The roof covering is raised seam metal.  There are no gutters or downspots but a vent near the roof peak is in place.

Stylistically, the architectural details of the train station render it as an example of Vernacular Craftsman architecture.  The interior of the building consists of eleven rooms.  Each of these will be described as one would encounter them while walking through the building from north to south.

The northern end of the building contains a men's toilet room only accessible from the exterior of the building through a door on the northwest corner.  This restroom was designed for use by railroad employees as well as male Caucasian passengers.

On the other side of the wall from the exterior men's room is an anteroom for women that provided entry into an adjoining ladies' restroom.  South of those rooms, through a door in the antechamber, is a 24 by 24 feet waiting room.  During the segregation area, it was utilized by Caucasian railroad patrons.  This large room features double doors with five-light transoms flanked by paired six-over-six-sash windows with three-light transoms on both the front (west) and back (east) sides.  Other details include a cathedral ceiling that is approximaely 24 feet high with clerestory six-light windows and exposed wooden ceiling joists that rest on a wooden top plate; a wooden chair rail; and concrete floors.  Wood beams around perimeter of the room approximately 14 feet above floor level are lined with light bulb sockets spaced about two feet apart.  These lights provided primary illumination and were intended as a showcase for electric lighting, which was still a novelty around rural America in 1913.  Even today, they create a striking appearance.  The cypress woodwork consists of plain unfinished architrave trim with a stepped entablature and is used throughout the station.

The next room, continuing south through the building, is the agent's office.  Passenger transportation was sold through ticket windows on its north and south walls that lead out to both waiting rooms.  These ticket windows are wood framed with scroll-shaped wooded supports under each ledge.  Telegraphy for railroad communications as well as Western Union telegrams were handled by an operator seated at a table within the protruding polygonal bay window along its west trackside.  At the office's back wall is the original fuse box for the building.  Although wiring has been routed around the procelain fuse holders with mica-lined sockets, these remain as reminders of the pre-circuit breaker era.  The building is up to current electrical codes, with 400 amp service and breaker panels in the basement and freight room.

Along the wall east of the ticket office is a door leading to the records storage and supplies room.  This small room is very plain and has a window facing east on back of the building, above a stairwell leading down to the basement door.  The combined measurements of the agent's office and records room is 13 by 29 feet.

The next room to the south in the building is the waiting room that was likely used for Black citizens.  Although separate- but-equal was a guideline for segregated facilities, its size was six feet narrower than the main waiting room.  Measuring roughly 18 by 24 feet with many of the same architectural details as the waiting room for the white citizens, its women's room did not have an antechamber (called a "women's retirement room" on building plans), nor was mid-level room perimeter lighting installed.  This second waiting room has double doors on both east and west walls, leading into the room from curbside and out onto the platform on trackside.  Off of this waiting room are the two main restrooms: the men's along the southwest side, and the women's along the southeast side.  These still retain most of their original fixtures.

The next room to the south is the baggage and express room.  It also has paired doors along the front and back walls and originally did not have a walkway within the building between the waiting room.  This room measures 18 by 24 feet, with an 11 feet high ceiling.  A ceiling fan and lights installed in this and other rooms are not original.

The southern-most room in the station is the freight room, used for less-than-carload shipments that disappeared from railroads during the same era as widespread passenger train services.  The freight room measures 45 by 24 feet and has its three original roll-up steel-slat freight doors that were an early 20th Century innovation.  Two face the east side and one is one the west side.  In 1987, the building was used as a restaurant, and this room was converted into the kitchen.  The dropped ceiling was added at that time but will be removed in 2004 to allow a full floor-to-rafters view.  The freight room retains its original wood-plank flooring.  A floor platform balance-beam scale was removed and plywood has been placed over the scale pit that is level with the rest of the freight room floor.  A creosoted timber freight platform that was approximately four feet high, 12 feet wide, and 45 feet long outside the rear of the building was removed  during restaurant-usage, leaving eight concrete footers in place.  Also, three small dormer windows above the freight room facing east, south, and west were removed when the metal roof covering was replaced in the 1980s.  These are intended to be replaced when funds permit roof and soffet restoration.

Under the agent's office and records room is a concrete-encased boiler room that is likewise 13 by 29 feet.  Central heating of rural railway stations was uncommon during the early 1900s, making this installation particularly significant.  The hot water radiator system piping extends lengthwise  along the east and west walls between the north end of the station and the firewall between the baggage and freight rooms.  These pipes are laid in four trenches in the concrete foundation, with movable cement panels covering the areas where branches run from the trunklines.  All radiators and the majority of the plumbing is original.  Originally, the western half of the boiler room was a coal bunker, with a coal-fired furnace positioned midway in the basement.  The coal-fired boiler was replaced at an unknown date with an oil-fired furnace.  In 1985, the present propane-fired boiler was installed.  The one brick chimney in the building extends from the south wall of the basement and along the south wall of the records room.  The freight room was designed to be an unheated area.

Generally, both the exterior and interior of the Boyce train station are in remarkably unaltered condition, retaining more than 90 percent of their  appearance in the 1910s and 1920s.  The chief change was the 1950s removal of the train shed between the station and the track, covering 400 feet of the concrete platform.

The building was used as a passenger and freight station until the 1950s, when it was purchased by Kenneth Gilpin, Jr., a local resident, and used for feed storage and as the Boyce post office .  The building was converted into a restaurant in 1987 and remained open until 1991.  Owner Ian Rodway carefully restored the building's interior, retaining most of it original features .  In 1991, the building was purchased by the Winchester Chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society, which intended to convert the building into a railroad museum and chapter headquarters.  These objectives were never accomplished and Boyce station was vacant for nearly nine years, during which  it lapsed into disrepair.  In early 2001, Burke Daughterty purchased the building and established a wood shop and art studio that occupied the premises until Autumn 2003.  He attempted some limited restoration and building stabilization.  On October 16, 2003, title to the station was sold to the Railway Mail Service Library, Inc. (RMSL).  The RMSL will relocate its specialized library collection and artifacts to the historic Boyce station for display and preservation during 2004.  The building's past use as a railroad depot as well as the town post office tie closely to the RMSL's specialized orientation.  Thus, the station has become the largest and most valuable artifact in the collection, deserving restoration and preservation.


SIGNIFICANCE

The Boyce railway station draws much of its significance from the historical context of railway transportation and the reason for the town's development.  In this regard, it satisfies the criteria for the property being associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history.

Boyce is an incorporated town located in southern Clarke County around the crossing of US Route 340 (Greenway Avenue) and State Route 723 (Main Street).  The town developed in the early 1880s at the intersection of the newly-constructed Shenandoah Valley Railroad (now part of the Norfolk Southern) and the Winchester-Berry's Ferry Turnpike (currently East and West Main Streets).  Like many small railroad towns in Virginia, Boyce served the local and surrounding agricultural area as a center for commerce.  The Town of Boyce is seeking historic village status and the railway station is an important contributing structure in that application.  Boyce would not exist at all, however, were it not for the interface between early road and railway transportation as catalyst in town development.

The Winchester-Berry's Ferry Turnpike and the Berryville-White Post Road were major pre-railroad routes in what is now Clarke County.  The Winchester Berry's-Ferry Turnpike led from the Shenandoah River, through the village of Millwood, and on to Winchester.  During the late 18th century and for most of the 19th century, Millwood was a large commercial hub with the Burwell-Morgan Mill at its center.

The Shenandoah Valley Railroad (known as the Norfolk and Western (N&W) for many years and now named the Norfolk Southern Corporation) was constructed in Clarke County in 1879.  The railroad opened from Hagerstown to Berryville on October 1, 1879."

When the Shenandoah Valley Railroad Company planned to build a road between Hagerstown, Maryland, and Roanoke, Virginia, Clarke County invested $100,000 in its stock.  By the early 1870s, much of the railroad in the county had been graded and prepared for the placement of rails, but a lack of funds brought the work to an abrupt halt.   The project was revitalized by Col. Upton Lawrence Boyce, a St. Louis lawyer who had moved to Clarke County after the Civil War and became vice-president of the Shenandoah Valley Railroad.  Col. Boyce married a niece of Col. Joseph Tuley, who had built the magnificent estate known as the Tuleyries, which is located about 2 miles southeast of present-day Boyce.  Much of the funding to complete the railroad came from northern capitalists and newspaper accounts of the time document the slow progress that was made.  A December 11, 1879 entry notes that, "On Sunday last workmen were employed and the S. V. RR. was completed through Clarke County.  A magistrate in White Post protested against working on Sunday, but the workmen disregarded the protest."

The town of Boyce, located eight miles south of Berryville, began in 1881 with the arrival of the Shenandoah Valley Railroad.  Located at the railroad crossing with the Winchester-Berry's Ferry Road, Boyce remains much as it was in the early 20th century.  The town was named after Colonel Upton L. Boyce who lived at the nearby Tuleyries estate and who was very influential in persuading the railroad to pass through Clarke County.  When the new railroad was proposed for Clarke County, its route was laid west of Millwood through unsettled forest.  The stop that occurred at the intersection of the newly constructed railroad and the prominent east-west road was known as Boyceville, named in honor of Col. Boyce.  A post office soon opened as reported in the Clarke Courier in June of 1880, "A new post office has been established at Boyceville, in this county, between Berryville and Millwood, with Thomas H. Sprint as postmaster.  It is known as Boyce."

The Shenandoah Valley Railroad not only spawned the town, but is responsible for it being named "Boyce" and not "Boyceville."  The railroad discouraged the use of "Boyceville" because of its similarity to "Berryville" and the potential for mistaken train orders.

Businesses quickly began to appear around the crossing.  The 1880-1881 Virginia Business Directory and Gazetteer lists three general merchandise stores, a hotel, and several other commercial enterprises that operated in Boyce.  By the mid-1880s, the town added two attorneys, a sawmill, a saddler, and a physician to its list of businesses.

In 1890, historian J. E. Norris described Boyce's impressive growth: "Boyce is quite a thriving village, and is growing more rapidly than any town in the county.  It is at the crossing of the Shenandoah Valley Railroad and the Millwood Turnpike from Winchester.  Several fine businesses are conducted here, and church and school facilities are increasing."

Before the arrival of the Shenandoah Valley Railroad to Clarke, local farmers had to take their goods to areas outside of the county, such as Winchester, in order to ship them to market.  Boyce became a hub of commercial activity with several grain elevators and stockyards.  The newspaper reported a large cattle sale in 1883, "Messrs. Russell & Moss unloaded 650 cattle at Boyce--300 of them were taken by Mr. Griffith, of Washington County...the remainder, I understand, belong to Henry Gibson of Loudoun."  Chickens were also loaded in Boyce: "Four tons of poultry were shipped from Boyceville during the month of December, commanding on average 15 cents per pound or aggregating $1200."   In 1908 the Eidison & Gibson Livestock Company was formed on part of the Roseville farm and stockyards were set up along Roseville Run at the south end of town, primarily to facilitate the loading of railway stock cars.

An 1886 snapshot of raiload traffic at Boyce identifies that 3,235 passengers departed from Boyce during that year, while  3,035 arrived.  1,518 tons of freight originated and 1,609 tons were delivered to Boyce that same year.

By the end of the first decade of the 20th century, Boyce was so well established that it became officially incorporated on November 28, 1910.  The incorporated town limits included 232 acres with a population of 312.  Thus, between 1879 and 1910, the arrival of the railway gave birth to the town and largely accounted for its growth during three decades.  The town was incorporated on November 28, 1910 at which time it had a population of 312.

Previous to the current railroad station, there was another much smaller one located on the same side of the tracks but right along the Millwood Turnpike.  The railroad was apparently upgrading some of their railroad stations during the early 1910s, and were going to replace the original station in Boyce.  The new building was to be a small wooden one, and sit along the west side of the tracks at its intersection with the Millwood Turnpike.  According to local tradition and some historical accounts, the citizens of Boyce (and neighboring Millwood) wanted a larger, more ornate building and also wanted it to be located on the east side of the tracks.  They apparently raised money on their own and gave it to the Norfolk and Western to upgrade to a larger more commodious station.

A December 11, 1912 article in The Clarke Courier entitled, "New Depot for Boyce" states:

The public spirit of the citizens of Boyce has again scored a victory.  Some time ago the N & W Railway Company announced that it would erect a new passenger station at Boyce.

The plans submitted by the railway company did not entirely suit the Boyce people, and they at once started a movement to secure a better piece of ground in order that a more pretentious station might be erected.

The old buildings have been removed from the Page-Manning lot, and work on a new and commodious passenger station, of concrete construction, will be started at once.

This is the spirit which builds cities.

The Boyce people are quick to go down in their pockets and contribute to any and every cause which will advance their town....

The train station was completed in late 1913.  A November 26, 1913 article in The Clarke Courier states:

The new N&W station, with fine concrete platforms, and promenade, long train shed, electric-lighted throughout, with all modern conveniences for the comfort of patrons, is a great addition to the town."

In a December 23, 1914 article in The Clarke Courier, entitled "The Hustling Town of Boyce," the railroad station is described:

...water is now piped to the magnificent railroad station.  The handsome railroad station of tile and concrete construction with its 400 feet of train shed, and 540 feet of concrete platform, with its 3 acres of grounds and tracks, is a noble response by the officials of the railway to the requests of our people, and furnishes ample railroad facilities.

In 1913, George B. Harrison, a town councilman, wrote about Boyce and described the train station in the following manner:

The Norfolk and Western Railway in kind response to the request of the community has erected a magnificent station of latest design and material with spacious grounds and facilities, fully equipped and provided with electric light and water.

Undeniably, the Boyce train station is a surprisingly large building for a community the size of Boyce.  It was much bigger than the Berryville (county seat) station, constructed at about the same time.  The reason for such an elegant station can probably be attributed to the wealth of many of the local citizens around Boyce and Millwood.  Early in the twentieth century, Clarke County experienced an influx of wealthy settlers from the West and North.  They were drawn to the county because of the presence of fox hunting, cheap land, and good climate.  Many purchased older homes and restored them.  Horsebreeding and cattle raising became very popular.  The local citizenry of Boyce and Millwood wanted a more elegant train station than what the N&W initially proposed, and they wanted it larger because they were transporting thoroughbreds and cattle on it.  The Boyce Railroad Station is thus an example of a rare instance where the citizens of the community wanted a larger and more pretentious facility than what the railroad company was willing to provide, and helped to fund the construction of the building themselves.

It appears that the N & W owned the building, although there is a metal sign on the central part of the station's polygonal bay that identifies its location as "H-461-A" and one that says "Not N & W."  According to oral tradition, this means that the N & W did not own the building.  However, when Mr. Kenneth Gilpin, Jr, purchased the building in the 1950s, he bought it from the Norfolk and Western.   Since then the building has conveyed through several owners.  The land on which the building sits, however, is still owned by the railway and is only leased to the owner of the building.

In recent years, several of the more substantial railroad stations on the Norfolk and Southern line in the Lower Shenandoah Valley have been demolished.  The Boyce train station is thus one of a few surviving examples of a large and elegant station in this pan of Virginia.  Not only is the Boyce train station a reminder of the influence of the railroad on this area, it is a testament to the hard work of the local citizens who partially paid for its construction.
 

THE GILPIN FAMILY

Scaleby is located about 1/4 mile from the Norfolk and Western Railway station at Boyce.  My historical research has primarily focused on how and why a station as large and well-appointed as it is was constructed in a town with about 350 people.  The station was larger than the one in Berryville, which is Clarke County's seat and had a population several times the size of Boyce in 1913.

A theory about Boyce station has evolved in my mind in recent days.  It was triggered by an auction catalog, THE CONTENTS OF SCALEBY, from a 1981 Southeby's sale.  It seems that the lineage of Scaleby ownership of this estate by the Gilpin family ended in that year.  I speculate that the downward turn in the economy in 1981 forced the descendants to sell off assets of what must have been a very expensive manor as well as farm to maintain and operate.

As already discussed above, Kenneth Gilpin was cited at the owner of the Boyce station in 1955.  This was Kenneth Gilpin, Jr., since Kenneth Newcomer Gilpin lived between 1890 and 1947.  After railroad usage ended around then (no agent is listed at Boyce in 1956) he leased it to the Post Office Department as the community's post office.  The freight room was used for feed storage, presumably for his horse raising operations at adjoining Kentmere farm.

Kenneth Gilpin, Jr. was the owner of the Boyce train station until he in turn sold it to Ian Rodway around October 1985.  He was born in 1923.  In June 1989, Kenneth Gilpin, Jr. donated family papers to the Manuscripts

Department, Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, SOUTHERN HISTORICAL COLLECTION as group 4535, GILPIN FAMILY PAPERS.  He later withdrew them and subsequently redeposited in September 1991.  Much of the family information cited below is from abstracts included from a website about this collection.

Kenneth, known by friends as "Kay" Gilpin, died of congestive heart failure on April 29, 1996, at Kentmere when he was 73.  He attended the Gilman School then attended Princeton, graduating in 1944.

His brother, McGhee Tyson Gilpin, who was born in 1919 lived in Winchester and sponsored a 1995 application for the National Historic Register of the station while it was owned by the Winchester Chapter NRHS. Tyson also attended Princeton and graduated in 1942.  Later in life, Tyson was vice president and director of Coal Creek Mining and Manufacturing Co. in Knoxville.  He was 80 when he died at the Winchester Medical Center on Sunday, May 7, 2000.

It is my belief that the entire $17,000 of private funds donated for station constructed came solely from Kenneth N. Gilpin.  Since the family had a long-standing interest in the building, the family acquired it after N&W control and usage.  This lead to the Post Office rental between 1955 until around 1984.  Once that rental income was lost following construction of the new post office on West Main Street, a decision to sell the building for restaurant usage seemed to be the best alternative.

A few additional musings make the overall story more interesting.  The older Kenneth married Knoxville socialite Isabella Tyson.  The Tyson family heritage is well known in Knoxville.  She was the daughter of U.S. Senator and Brigadier General Lawrence Davis Tyson (1861-1929) and philanthropist Betty McGhee Tyson (1865-1933).  Her grandfathers were Wall Street financier and railroad magnate Charles McGhee and Knoxville founder James White.  The airport south of Knoxville is named McGhee Tyson, linked to the same family.

I am not sure how Kenneth met Isabella, but my anticipation is that he began traveling from Boyce to Knoxville via Roanoke.  Likewise, she probably began visiting the Scaleby estate.

Right in the middle of this courtship, the N&W announced intentions to build a new wooden station on the west side of the tracks, across from the existing Shenandoah Valley Railroad-constructed station.  My speculation is that to impress the eventual bride-to-be and persuade her that a life near Boyce would not subject her to harsh encounters with an unimpressive station lacking 1913 refinements, Ken Gilpin arranged for the immense stucco-finished station that now exists.  It featured all of the amenities of the time: electric lighting, natural air conditioning in the summer with its high ceilings, central heating, and inside plumbing.  Of note is that the colored waiting room at Boyce does not have the perimeter electric lights, nor does it have the inside white men's toilet, both of which are features of nearly identical Charles Town station constructed less than a year later.  The outside entrance for white men's room was likely arranged so that station employees did not encroach upon the upper-crust clientele who awaited train arrivals inside.  As for the absence of colored waiting room perimeter lighting around the ceiling, Mr. Gilpin may have regarded it as an unnecessary extravagence for a portion of the station that the hoi poli of estates would never see.  Although townspeople, businessmen, and families from other neighboring estates such as Carter Hall, Long Branch, and Saratoga would pass through the station, it was really built for his and Isabella's use.

Isabella and Kenneth married in April 1918.  Her social activities in Knoxville and New York continued throughout the period prior to and after the marriage.  Gilpin and Tyson family money was largely invested in the New York Stock Exchange, justifying trips to Manhattan for meetings with brokers and bankers.  Train travel by sleeper from Boyce to New York for the mother and father, similar accommodations for the sons for their trips to and from Princeton, New Jersey, plus travel to the Tyson home in Knoxville, were all made more comfortable from the main waiting room at Boyce.

In summary, my belief is that Boyce station in its early years were less a part of Boyce township and more an extension of Scaleby and Kentmere.  What better reason to keep the station on the east side of the tracks so that fancy stock could be loaded to and from wagons, as well as the Gilpin family never being blocked by a train at the road crossing?  Further research may evolve into a movie script for a well-to-do love story than it is about railroad research.  Even in GIANTS, Rock Hudson never built a train station for Elizabeth Taylor.

Credits: Ms. Maral S. Kalbian, architectural historian, prepared portions of this narrative on January 16, 1995.  The remainder of research and writing is by Frank R. Scheer.

Updated December 22, 2004