The central building in the image to the right is the Fraternal Building, built in 1908. One of the iconic structures of downtown Winchester, it displays a certain majesty of its period with classical detailing and massing, despite later modifications which changed its character somewhat at the street level.
It also shows the ingenious ways that were used to accommodate the slope of the site as it drops to the west.
What the photo also clearly illustrates is what beauty resides downtown if one just looks up. We are all so affixed on what is at street level that so few of us ever raise our eyes to see how wonderfully this town is blessed with its variety of upper stories and the decorations which abide there. The miniature arches, the terra cotta decorations, even two small circular windows at the very top which, while adding to the architecture can be barely noticed from street level, all contribute to the beauty of this building.
Unfortunately, this photo illustrates some disastrous shortcomings of Court Street which partially negate the beauty of the buildings. And these shortcomings are perhaps more odious on Court Street than on any other street downtown (although the north side of East Broadway springs to mind).
Look closely at the photo. (If you click on the image, you will see a larger version.) Notice the not-quite-vertical power pole with its quasi-cobra head light and the plethora of overhead power lines that block the façade.
Even though the street lights that once so majestically adorned Main Street have replaced the ugly sodium vapor lights, those same multi-globe fixtures probably never were present on these side streets. And even though the narrowness of the sidewalk on Court Street would seem to obviate against placing there the same fixtures that occur on Main Street, surely some semblance of them could be installed here and the need for overhead power lines dispensed with.
Even more pronounced are the power lines that loop toward the adjacent building, the old Citizens National Bank Building where once was housed a Subway sandwich shop, and the hideous arrangement of conduits and meter boxes affixed to the side of that building which obviously could use a good dose of power washing.
Then there is the white downspout which snakes its way down the side of the building, probably necessitated by the removal of the upper level of the building many years ago.
Those who walk on this side of Court Street know quite well the impediments to walking as trash cans are frequently left on the sidewalk and create a very narrow pathway making it impossible for two people to pass one another.
One additional note. It would be nice if the building owners would provide some consistent window treatment for the windows on the upper two floors.
It’s really sad that such a beautiful combination of important and historic buildings is reduced to ugliness by the accouterments that surround and are affixed to them, but this picture clearly shows some of the factors that need to be addressed in order to make downtown a more inviting place, one that may even encourage pedestrians to “look up.”
Thanks to Harry Enoch for providing some historical information on the Fraternity Building.