Thursday, April 19, 2007
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Roanoke to fund restoration of Mountain View

The city council voted to transfer funds in order to save J.B. Fishburn's historic mansion.

Roanoke's Mountain View Recreation Center

The Roanoke Times | File 2007

Roanoke's Mountain View Recreation Center was donated to the city by J.B. Fishburn. The 42-room mansion was named to the Virginia Landmarks Register and designated a National Historic Landmark.

Mountain View's Centennial

Roanoke's Parks and Recreation Department is planning a series of events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the old Fishburn Mansion.

  • Home tours on the second Wednesday of each month.
  •  Tea in the mansion's rose garden, May 20.
  • Tours of the press at The Roanoke Times, which was formerly owned by J.B. Fishburn, June 4, July 12, Aug. 5.
  •  Mr. Fishburn's Birthday Party, Sept. 29.
  • 100 Holidays at Mountain View, Nov. 30.
  •  New Year's Eve Gala, Dec. 31.
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Mountain View, the deteriorating landmark former home of J.B. Fishburn that's now home to Roanoke Parks and Recreation activities, will have its roof repaired at last.

The city government, which pledged half of the $350,000 cost more than a year ago in the hopes that the state might match it, will pay the full cost of the repairs.

"The roof repair ... is a significant step in making sure we don't lose this home to time," Mayor Nelson Harris said Wednesday. The city is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 13th Street home this year.

The roof work, including repairs to hidden gutters, amounts to the first phase of a full restoration, with other exterior repairs and an interior upgrade to follow in hopes of making Mountain View not only a home to parks and recreation activities, but a "historical showpiece," said Steve Buschor, director of parks and recreation for the city.

"This will literally be a top-down restoration," Harris said.

The city is hoping a grass-roots effort, called "Friends of Mountain View," will produce not only funding for the later phases, but also materials and expertise.

"I would like to personally challenge our business community and our residents to join us in our work here," Harris said.

Some people and organizations, including Old Southwest Inc., have already come forward with offers of help, Buschor said, many of them prompted by a recent story in The Roanoke Times about the state of Mountain View.

The city inherited the mansion from Fishburn upon his death in 1955.

With more than 40 rooms and some of the most modern conveniences available in 1907, it reveals the idiosyncrasies of its former owner. The original light fixtures are both gas and electric, apparently because Fishburn didn't trust electricity. Institutional-type firehoses were installed on the upper floors.

The foundation and footers were allowed to cure for a year, to reduce future settling of the house.

The sea green terra-cotta roof is made of glazed, hand-fired tiles and came with an unheard of 400-year guarantee when it was installed, but the company that installed it didn't survive the early 20th century.

The roof began leaking a few years ago, causing damage to other parts of the building, including the massive Ionic columns on its front.

Repair work will involve removing all the tiles, repairing or replacing the sheathing, and reinstalling the old tiles.

The city is funding the repairs by shifting Community Development Block Grant funds. The funding had been committed to other projects that won't move forward for a few years.

The Roanoke City Council approved the move Monday.

City Manager Darlene Burcham stressed that the city remains committed to the other projects, but grant funds in hand can be useful now at Mountain View.

With the roof repaired, perhaps by the end of the year other exterior work can move forward.

Buschor said the city also sees the project as a way for students, such as those in the architecture school at Virginia Tech, to view and participate in the restoration.

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