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  • Scott Bessette

PICCADILLY PLACE: What Do You Do With An Old Building?

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

We've all seen them as we drive down the road: The old pole barn with the sagging roof and the weeds growing through the walls; The neglected family home that hasn't seen a visitor in decades, with the broken windows and the off-hinge door; or the city structure that has seen 25 years-worth of decline in the last 3 years, simply because it's been vacant, neglected or forgotten.

We stroll, jog or drive by and think to ourselves, and maybe go so far as to articulate to our companion, "It's just such a shame".

I believe a building, like the rest of us, needs purpose.

A house should be occupied, full of laughter, memories, and even family squabbles. A barn should have livestock... equipment... or agricultural products to give it legitimacy. Otherwise it's just another room with a roof. And a city building should have traffic like the streets around it, with people going in and out on a regular basis, remembering the past of the old structure and everything she used to be; considering all the things on the list they need to complete today; and dreaming about the events to come in the future... next week, next year, and beyond.

Old architecture restaurant. A good evening with good friends.

Four years ago, I had dinner in this building with great friends. We had to sit in a corner in the back, because it was happy hour, and the place was crowded.

I don't remember what I ate, but I do remember it was a very fun evening, with laughter and wine, in a building that had been standing for almost 200 years.

It had been a home to families, a boarding house for strangers, a hospital in time of war and a bank in times of prosperity. It had hosted the sale of wedding gifts that have become family heirlooms, and I'm sure, items that were divided when the gifts outlasted the marriage.

Regardless, the building, throughout the ages, had had purpose.

When the restaurant failed for whatever reason, the occupants left. The doors were locked, the power was turned off, and the mansion that had raised families, sheltered travelers, comforted soldiers, thrilled brides, and fed the masses, was left without purpose.

The decline, at first, was subtle, but then it accelerated. For a few years, I walked and drove by, and thought to myself, "It's just such a shame".

Old mansion at Piccadilly Place before the restoration. Old restaurant space foreclosed and bought at auction.

Three years later, we bought the building at the foreclosure auction. Not so much because we needed a building, and certainly not because we had any idea of what the building would become. On that August day, we didn't even know what the history of the building was, much less what its' future held.

We simply wanted to save the building. To take her back to the way she used to be, and at some point in the future, to leave her much better than we had received her.

Over the last fourteen months, we have replaced all the systems, repaired all the damage, and restored the architecture and workmanship created by artisans and craftsman almost two centuries ago. We have stopped, and even turned back the decline of this beautiful old building.

Before Picture: Peeling wallpaper and water damage in a forgotten part of the old building
After Picture: A new cast iron clawfoot tub fits under the original archway.

Before & After : Our upstairs Bridal Suite with a semi-open concept floor plan to include areas for social reception and dining, hair and makeup, dressing room, and multiple bathrooms.

But it isn't enough to save her. A building needs traffic and purpose, and although we've completed the restoration, we had yet to answer the biggest question of all: What Do You Do With An Old Building?

After months of thought, discussion, wild dreams and careful consideration, we've decided to let this old building be whatever the people, and the city, of Winchester, Virginia want her to be. She will be available to host whatever event that may provide her with the purpose she needs.

The newly restored ballroom at Piccadilly Place has three chandeliers, two fireplaces, and many windows

Be it an elegant wedding or a gathering of the ladies for Book Club; whether a Sweet 16 Party for your daughter or poker and billiards night with the boys; maybe movies on the patio on a warm summer evening or an intimate gathering of friends and family for a celebration of a life well lived; perhaps a Bridal or Baby Shower, or a strategic business meeting or conference.

The old building at 25 W. Piccadilly Street, is now available to be whatever the people of Winchester want her to be.

That will be her purpose for the foreseeable future: Hosting events and making memories. Full of laughter, joy, maybe a few tears, and celebration.

Scetch of Piccadilly Place, The Pilip Williams Jr House

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