Residents across the Commonwealth were shocked August 23, 2011 when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake, centered in Louisa County, shook the east coast. Downtown Culpeper was one of the hardest hit communities—left with numerous damaged historic buildings. Some of these buildings had to be immediately condemned due to their instability, and the County’s total damages were initially estimated be over $6.5 million.
The historic downtown is the heart of the Culpeper community, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. PEC’s Director of State Policy, Dan Holmes, lives in Culpeper with his family and witnessed the damage firsthand:
“Many historic structures showed visible damage,” remembers Holmes. “Shortly after the earthquake, heavy rains hit the area—causing more damage. When I found out about all of the buildings that were compromised, including some from the Civil War era, I knew we had to do something to avoid the loss of our community’s historic resources.”
PEC moved fast—partnering with Culpeper Renaissance, Inc. (CRI), the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Town of Culpeper, and Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Together, these groups contributed $25,000 to assist Culpeper property owners and business owners with stabilization work and repairs.
“PEC was integral in obtaining financial assistance,” says Jessica Brewer of CRI, “and they also played a vital role in pulling together the partnering entities.”
Reconstructing Culpeper’s Oldest Church
St. Stephens Episcopal Church, built in 1821, is the oldest church in the Town of Culpeper. It served as a shelter for residents during the Civil War, and it eventually became a hospital for war casualties.
When the 2011 earthquake damaged this historic structure to the brink of condemnation, many in the Culpeper community were saddened. The cost of rebuilding was estimated to be $500,000.
“Many, many generations have gone to church here, were married here, were buried here…” explains Billy Green, a Culpeper resident and parishioner of St. Stephens. “People value their historic resources so that they can enjoy them and learn from our past … So there was an emotional tug.”
So, when PEC and its partners presented St. Stephen’s with a check for over $13,000 in August of this year, the congregation was immensely grateful. “It’s a blessing to us,” says Green. “We really appreciate PEC and all of the folks who have pitched in. This money will help us continue our work and ministries, despite the reconstruction costs.”
St. Stephens is now virtually finished with the reconstruction work, and the sanctuary reopened this September. Green, and many others, now see a positive side to the earthquake:
“It was literally an earthshaking event, but the reaction was so positive. Every time there is a huge need, the Culpeper community responds.”