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Farmville??""The Heart of Virginia"

by Proctor Harvey, RLA, ASLA, and Nathan Harbin, Creative Director, Harvey Design Land Architects, Inc.

The HDLA design for the "Welcome to Historic Farmville" entrance arch at South Main Street in Farmville, Va. used three fluted light poles to form each side of the support columns. Diversified Signs created a custom steel bracket to secure the poles at the tops and make them function as a single support post/column. The footings are reinforced concrete faced with brick. The arch is constructed of aluminum tubing with an aluminum mesh backing. The lettering is dimensional high-density urethane, known in the industry as "sign foam." The prismatic-face lettering was painted gold to give the reflective qualities from multiple viewing angles.

When you step away from Northern Virginia and the metropolitan Richmond area, Virginia becomes an interconnected web of towns and cities linked by scenic highways and interstates. The state is steeped in American history. Farmville is a community that has wholeheartedly embraced its history, but also understands the importance and impact the profession of landscape architecture can provide.

Harvey Design Land Architects (HDLA) began working with Farmville (pop. 8,216) 10 years ago, little knowing the transformation that would ensue for this charming community in central Virginia. Farmville is driven by a highly motivated town manager, Gerald Spates, along with a dynamic town council and supporting staff.

HDLA evaluated blighted Farmville downtown areas, established a new visual identity for the town and built on the community's many efforts already underway. HDLA work over the last decade includes a federally-funded multiphase streetscape project; development of a new municipal logo; design and production of 46 signs, and three informational kiosks; development of a thriving farmers market from a building slated for demolition; and connecting these designed elements to Farmville's history.

The Mayor Crute Kiosk Plaza is located at the corner of South Main Street and 4th Street. The overall structure of the kiosk is aluminum. Acrylic blocks framed in aluminum make up the top portion. The roof and finial are copper. The recessed can lights in the overhang and the graphics panels are embedded aluminum. The inks for the panels are "tattooed" into the metal, a new process at the time of construction. The ink is long lasting and vandal resistant. The panels can be wiped clean with solvents if spray-painted, for example, without any damage to the underlying art. The plaza brick (???Pathway Full Range' from Pine Hall Brick) is dry-laid on a sand setting bed, with mortared brick in a herringbone pattern forming a raised edge for seating to watch outdoor movies and events at the stage. The turf is an existing fescue/bluegrass blend. The plate on the lawn covers a July 4, 1998 buried "Farmville Bicentennial Time Capsule" to commemorate Farmville's 200th birthday. It will be opened in 2048 as part of the 250th birthday celebration. The benches (CR-10 Classic) and litter receptacles (S-42) are from Victor Stanley.

The connection from Main Street to the Longwood University Campus was designed by HDLA. The iron tree grate protects a hedge maple. The powder-coated square steel planter (Twist & Turns) sports the town logo. The planter shrub, selected and installed by the town horticulturalist, is a Japanese ligustrum; shrub roses add color in the background.

It was a landscape architect's dream to have the beginning palette Farmville offered. The beautifully preserved building stock was unparalleled. There were many unique elements about Farmville to build upon: the evolution of rail transport, the town's place in Civil War history and the economic successes of the manufacture and distribution of tobacco.

At the end of the Civil War in 1865, General Robert E. Lee led his troops down Farmville's Main Street on his way to Appomattox, 20 miles to the west of Farmville. Generals Lee and Ulysses Grant were both guests of the Prince Edward Hotel on Main Street, of course not at the same time. The hotel was demolished many years ago.

HDLA assisted the town in writing multiple grants, preparing detailed narratives, before and after sketches and overall budgets for improvements. HDLA also applied for federal funding through Virginia DOT to pay for the majority of the streetscape improvements. The town provided matching contributions in-kind. There were laborious reviews and approvals to meet local, state and federal requirements.

Design Overview
HDLA worked directly with a branding and marketing expert to develop a new municipal logo. People don't often think of landscape architecture as providing graphic designs and branding, but it is an integral part of what we do and love at HDLA. The logo represents handles of an old plow breaking ground. Through the late 1800s, Farmville was the largest manufacturer of plows in the U.S. The logo immediately gained acceptance and is now ubiquitous.

Railroad Plaza runs along the west side of North Main Street. The track pattern of the 8 x 8-inch Belden pavers is where the old rail line used to be. The route of the old line continues as the High Bridge Trail State Park, a wide, level and mostly flat, finely-crushed limestone surface trail. At one point the trail goes over the 2,400 foot-long High Bridge (below), 125 feet above the Appomattox River. The building at right, designed as a replica of the old freight depot, is a public restroom. The trees to the right and left of the plaza are Chinese elms.

Monument Plaza at the corner of North Main Street and 2nd Street has a compass ???Circle Kit' (Cambridge Pavers, Inc.) with directional arms of 8 x 8-inch laser engraved Belden pavers. The historic marker in background reads in part: Site of the Randolph House: Here stood the hotel where General U.S. Grant made his headquarters April 7, 1865, and opened correspondence with General R.E. Lee, which terminated in the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox.

Benches: CR-10 Classic Series by Victor Stanley, Inc.
Bike Racks: "Bike Rack" by Dero Bike Rack Co.
Bollards, Decorative
Capitol Series, Cast Iron by Antique Street Lamps
Kiosks/Signage: Diversified Signs & Graphics
Trash Receptacles: S-42 Ironsites Series by Victor Stanley, Inc.
-Belgian Block: Boxley Block
-Clay: Pine Hall Brick & Belden Brick
-Compass ???Circle Kit': Cambridge Pavers, Inc.
-Precast: Interlock Paving Systems, Inc.
-Thermoplastic ???TrafficPatterns' ???Brick': Ennis-Flint
Planters: Custom made by Twist & Turns Manufacturing,
with custom logo

Project Team
Landscape Architect: Harvey Design Land Architects, Inc.
Project Manager: Proctor Harvey, RLA, ASLA
Landscape Contractor: Burkhardt's Nursery
Architect: Virginia A&E
Civil Engineer: Wilson Wiley
General Contractors
-Keith Barber Construction
-Virginia Carolina Paving

The old brick monument sign at North Main and 1st streets was upgraded in phase-two of the streetscape improvements. The top portion of the sign is aluminum, attached with a welded aluminum base plate that matches the angle of the brick cap. It is secured with stainless steel anchors. The name panels are painted aluminum and have premium vinyl lettering. Branching out from the town logo on the brick fa?_ade are decorative aluminum scrolls. The plantings at the monument base are ???Otto Luyken' Skip laurel, ???Henry's Garnet' Virginia sweetspire, ???Walker's Low' catmint and ???Silver Dragon' liriope. For the crosswalks, the landscape architects selected an easily applied thermoplastic pavement (???TrafficPatterns' by Ennis-Flint) with a brick look to accommodate the town manager's request for an alternative to precast pavers to avoid excavating the thick, old concrete.

The east side of Railroad Plaza continues the design from the west side of Main Street with a shelter design inspired by old photos of the Farmville train station. The shelter is a painted steel I-beam with tubular steel and steel ???sleeves' for the vertical support posts that extend to the bottom of the footings. The structural members were then skinned with a wooden ceiling, truss system and wood trim with recessed lighting. The roof is asphalt shingles. The builder was Lee Hall of Hall Construction.

The initial approach to the downtown streetscape was to break up the monotony of concrete and asphalt paving, better connect the historic building fa?_ades and make the higher areas areas safer for pedestrians. The gateway arch is a welcoming identity for the community. Approval of the overhead archway was no easy task. By the size of the footings alone, you would have thought we were building an interstate sign to span eight lanes of traffic.

The materials palette was a simple, tasteful selection of pavers, Belgian block and period-style lighting, complemented by attractive site furnishings, planters and three custom-designed informational kiosks. Near the end of the project, the town manager asked us to come up with an alternative to precast pavers for the crosswalks, as they required significant construction time to excavate the thick, old concrete. HDLA selected an easily applied thermoplastic pavement product with a brick patterned look.

All the old sidewalks were torn out and reconstructed to include brick accent paving and a continuous band in line with all of the new decorative lighting. The brick banding also hides the access to electrical conduits. All ramps and curb cuts were brought up to ADA standards, including tactile warning surfaces. Integral truncated domes were specified in lieu of "stick on" mats.

The plaza at South Main Street and 4th Street, home to many town events, is the site of one of the first informational kiosks we designed. The HDLA team held an evening information gathering session with the Farmville Historical Society. Artifacts were scanned and photographed, and interviews conducted. This productive approach provided graphic content and information used in many subsequent town projects. A railroad line used to cross North Main Street. The rail bed was converted and resurfaced with finely crushed limestone to make a trail suitable for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding. Now called High Bridge Trail State Park, the centerpiece is High Bridge, more than 2,400 feet long and 125 feet above the Appomattox River.

The trailhead presented a perfect opportunity for a plaza to highlight Farmville's railroad history. HDLA designed the plaza with paving accents to denote the location of the original rail line. The restroom building was designed as a small-scale replica of the historic freight depot that once stood at this location.

Outlying town areas also received substantial design upgrades. HDLA had the idea to preserve a portion of the old tobacco warehouse and convert it into a regional farmers' market. HDLA designed the site improvements and signage for the market, which has quickly become an active spot. When the market is closed, the town gains additional public parking. HDLA has proposed having one of the local schools participate with the firm to develop a mural for the concrete retaining walls alongside the main building.

Specified for the Farmville Town Hall was a town clock by Verdin Bells and Clocks of Cincinnati. Verdin's first installation was a tower clock in Cincinnati in 1842. Six generations of the Verdin family have been involved in the business.

Signage along Main Street matches the style of the entrance arch and leads pedestrians down an alley to the farmers' market.

Plantings have been a minimal but complementary component of the master plan. Most small towns, and even larger cities, often lack maintenance funding. With this in mind, native species were planted whenever possible. Street trees are often a controversial feature in any streetscape projects, but Farmville was supportive of including trees along Main Street. Plantings also extended into adjacent plazas and pocket parks. The tree selection included a variety of maples, dogwoods, hornbeams, gingkos, Japanese Zelkova and Japanese tree lilacs.

Custom designed planters featuring Farmville's new logo line the streets at select locations. Town horticulturalist David Fowlkes maintains the planters with seasonal flowers.

Farmville is progressive in its thinking and eager to take action to better prepare for future growth. Farmville's maintenance crews and staff not only assisted during project construction, but have also absorbed the care of the project area into their daily jobs. Robin Atkins and Bill Caldwell deserve a tremendous pat on the back for their efforts.

HDLA is appreciative and proud to have played a role in Farmville's continued successes. The town is now evaluating the idea of a river walk along the Appomattox River just behind Main Street.

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August 19, 2019, 10:18 am PDT

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