The William A. Cooke Foundation garnered yet another recognition for its ongoing community-based contributions as members of the Louisa Court House Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution and guests gathered in the Purcell Gallery of the Louisa Arts Center on Wednesday, April 24. The foundation was honored with a DAR National Society Historic Preservation Recognition Award for the preservation of the Cooke Building.
“We honor the foundation’s contribution not only to the town of Louisa and the county of Louisa, but to our nation,” said Regent Sunny Agee during the ceremony. “It was an honor for the Louisa DAR to submit them for this national recognition. The lovely Cooke Building greatly enhances Main Street.”
DAR historian and preservation chairman Pattie Cooke presented a certificate and pin to foundation officers Chuck and Randy Tingler who spearheaded the project.
“The hotel and before that the tavern are pivotal to the history of the town …we are so glad you chose to preserve it,” she said.
Chuck Tingler, trustee of the William A. Cooke Trust as well as president and chairman of the board of the William A. Cooke Foundation, acknowledged that the project involved much preliminary discussion.
“At one point we said that we could build a nice, modern office … for half the price of fixing up the old building. But, that was not what we were about,” he said. “We were entrusted with this charming building. We did it for Louisa.”
Randy Tingler, president of William A. Cooke Inc. and vice chairman of the William A. Cooke Foundation, added the project was “an adventure” as removing deteriorating walls and siding uncovered fire damage and worse than expected conditions. He added humorously that in taking down a dead, hollow tree, the crew discovered dozens of empty liquor bottles inside that past generations had probably dropped through a hole in its trunk.
The William A. Cooke Foundation is also well known for its charitable work including refurbishment of the Cooke-Haley Theater and contributions to the Montpelier Foundation, the Louisa Library and the Trevilian Station Battlefield Trust, as well as college scholarships to students in Louisa and Orange counties.
Obtaining nation recognition
Pattie Cooke was the moving force behind the local chapter’s efforts to recognize the saving of the former hotel. She admits that she accidentally learned about the possibility of the recognition when contacting Elizabeth Reynolds Kuster, a national DAR vice president, with a question on a completely different topic.
“But, this is something I have always wanted to do,” said Cooke. “Recognize someone who made a major accomplishment or made the town look better. The Cooke Building was just a natural for this award.”
In January, Cooke submitted a form, a one page historical synopsis, photographs and The CV newspaper articles about the renovations. Judge John Cullen, Mayor Jim Artz and retired businessman John Nolen wrote letters in support of the selection.
“Kuster told me it would take about eight weeks to receive a response, but she called me back in a few days and said we were approved,” said Cooke. “She was so impressed that she is planning to use us as an example at conferences with others hoping to receive the recognition.”
A history as old as the county
Almost a century and a half ago, advertisements promoting tourism in Louisa County claimed the benefits of soothing waters in nearby Green Springs, along with relief from the Richmond’s heat, as well as that of the peninsula area. Often passengers disembarked at the town depot and walked the short distance to become guests at the Louisa Hotel, a three-story white pine Victorian-style building on Main Street.
Built in the 1880s by Rice P. Cammack and operated under the proprietorship of George H. Johnson, the hotel would change ownership several times and survive two fires during its history. It was also known at various times as the Piedmont Hotel and the Hotel Patrick Henry.
Guests registered at a desk placed on the right side of the airy hallway on the main floor. A restaurant on the opposite side provided meals. A wide rear staircase circled to guest rooms on the two upper levels. Each floor had shared bathrooms at the end of the hall.
Read The Central Virginian’s May 16 edition for the full story.