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Browntown

Bentonville, Warren County, VA

The Browntown Historic District [†] encompasses most of the village of Browntown, located in southern Warren County, Virginia. The village occupies an area of the county known since the eighteenth century as Gooney Manor, through which flows Gooney Run, a tributary of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. The Gooney Manor valley is surrounded on the east and south by the Blue Ridge Mountains, which locally rise to over 3,000 feet in elevation, and on the west by several smaller mountains. Browntown itself lies mostly at elevations of between 900 and 1,000 feet above sea level. The village in its present form developed in the 1870s, centered on the intersection of the east-west Bentonville Road and the north-south Browntown Road (SR 649) and its continuation, Gooney Manor Loop. The 75.08-acre district contains 37 primary and 94 secondary resources for a total of 131 resources. Most of the resources are houses but there are also a number of stores, barns, churches, and secondary buildings like sheds, privies, and garages. Development is densest at the aforementioned intersection at the north end of the village, with farm fields predominating at the district's midsection and a smaller concentration of houses at the south end. The south end is where a small creek known as Broad Run flows into Gooney Run. A second small creek, Morgans Spring Branch, flows through the district's eastern tip. The historic district has high integrity of location, setting, design, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association as a linear, rural crossroads village that retains a broad array of historic buildings, sites, structures, and objects illustrative of the village's establishment during the early nineteenth century and continuing through the mid-twentieth century.

Browntown's historic resources date largely to the 1870s to 1950s period, with a few resources dating to the first two-thirds of the nineteenth century. The majority of resources are houses of one-story, story-and-a-half, and two-story height and frame construction, with weatherboard, stucco, or synthetic exterior siding. House styles include Italianate, Craftsman, and Minimal Traditional, though many houses are devoid of pronounced stylistic character. Stone foundations and brick chimneys and flues predominate (brick and cinder block also occur as foundation materials and there are a few stone chimneys). Houses are often accompanied by secondary auxiliary resources; in fact, Browntown is especially rich in secondary domestic resources. Secondary domestic resource types include garages, carriage houses, privies, smokehouses/meat houses, springhouses/wellhouses, root cellars, a water pump/trough (along with a drinking fountain, the district's only enumerated "objects"), and miscellaneous sheds. Two of the district's springhouses date to the antebellum period and number among the few resources built of stone.

The most prominent resources in the district on account of their height, architectural presence, and main road placement, are the two nineteenth-century churches, the circa 1882 Browntown Union Church and 1897 Browntown Baptist Church (a third church, the circa 1950 Browntown Pentecostal Church, is a low cinder-block building on a side street). Other important resource types include stores, notably the Baublitz-Rudacille, Manuel, and Smelser stores; the 1910s Browntown Bridge; and barns. The barns include the circa 1885 Creekside barn, which shows Italianate influence, and the 1940s Shadybrook Farm barn, a large cinder-block bank barn with cupola-form ventilators and a concrete stave silo. The district's most unusual agricultural resource is the early twentieth-century corn dryer on the Edmonds-Nossett Farm, a bolted metal structure consisting of two silo-like elements joined at the top by a domical roof.

The district possesses a high level of integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling, and association. The majority of resources date to the period of significance and possess exterior integrity of design in that they retain their historic form, structure, and style. The district possesses integrity of setting in that it retains the character that developed during the period of significance. The majority of resources possess integrity of workmanship in that the physical evidence of the crafts involved in their construction and ornamentation remains evident. This includes the refinishing of a number of resources with stucco in the 1930s and 1940s, which falls within the period of significance. A few resources have been resided in vinyl, though the number is too small to adversely affect the overall integrity of the district. In a few instances, such as the Smelser House at 73 Gooney Alley Road, vinyl siding in addition to other modernizations have rendered the resource non-contributing, but these instances are few. The majority of resources possess the materials that have characterized them since the end of the period of significance and the area as a whole conveys a sense of the particular period of time during which it was developed and gained its historic associations. The area possesses integrity of association in that it is directly linked to the historical and architectural developments that formed it. A few resources are known to have been moved. When this occurred during the period of significance it does not render the resource non-contributing. One prominent resource, the Charles F. Updike Doctor's Office and Browntown Post Office at 52 Browntown Road, was moved after the end of the period of significance, however the resource retains its association with its historic-period location and is classified contributing. The resources of the district are strongly contributing, with 28 of the 37 primary resources classified as contributing (76 percent). The total contributing percentage for the district is 68 percent.

Adapted from: J. Daniel Pezzoni, Landmark Preservation Associates, Browntown Historic District, 2021, nomination document, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C., accessed October, 2021.

Street Names
Bentonville Road • Browntown Road • Gooney Valley Loop • Smelser Lane • Smelser Lane • Smith Run Road