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Times-Dispatch

My Article In Today’s Times-Dispatch

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There’s an article about me on the front of the Flair section (page E1) today. This is the online version.

State group honors teen for historic preservation

By BILL LOHMANN
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER

As a cold rain fell outside, Trevor Dickerson sat in the back pew of the old, unheated church and savored the warmth of success.

“I don’t particularly want to take credit for myself,” Dickerson said of his role in the relocation of the church, Springfield Baptist, that saved it from demolition. “I’m just happy it’s still around for others to see and enjoy and see what Short Pump used to be like back in the day.”

That Dickerson helped spearhead a movement to save the 19th-century church is not surprising. He’s been working in historic preservation for almost half of his life, which is astounding not so much for his years of service but because of when he started.

He was 11.

His efforts caught the attention of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (also known as APVA Preservation Virginia) which today will present Dickerson, 19, with the organization’s first Young Preservationist of the Year Award as part of its annual statewide awards ceremony at the National Theater in Richmond.

“That’s how he got on our radar screen,” APVA Executive Director Elizabeth Kostelny said of Dickerson’s work with Springfield Baptist Church. “But the reason the award panel decided to recognize him in this way was really the body of work. That sounds sort of funny when you’re talking about a 19-year-old, but he developed this passion at such an early age.

“I think we see a growing number of young folks involved in preservation, but I think Trevor hit the high note.”

Dickerson, a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University and a graduate of Deep Run High School, has been actively involved in historical preservation since his family moved to the Wyndham area of Henrico County. He was 11 when he noticed old homes disappearing along Nuckols Road to make way for new developments and thought he should do something about it.

He started making photographs and videos and interviewing longtime residents about their way of life that was going away. He built a Web site (www.henricohistory.com) for his growing collection of pictures and oral history. And he started showing up at county planning and Board of Supervisors meetings to speak on behalf of saving old structures from demolition, keep alive pieces of the county’s past and generally be an irritant to developers.

“It’s always been in my blood,” Dickerson said of his interest in preservation. His mother, Linda, is a vice president of the Henrico County Historical Society. His grandfather, Wallace Allen, was a history buff, and his grandmother, Jean Allen, used to take him to Short Pump Grocery every week as a young boy for a candy bar and soda. When West Broad Street was widened and the grocery was relocated to a site in Goochland County, Dickerson remembers thinking, “That’s pretty interesting.”

The grocery is on the grounds of Field Day of the Past, on Highway 623, between West Broad and Interstate 64, along with other relocated Short Pump buildings, including Springfield Baptist Church. The church was moved there in July from its original location that had become squeezed in by stores and shopping malls. Once a church deep in the country, its more recent neighbors were Best Buy and Kohl’s.

Asked if he ever took any ribbing from his peers for his grown-up hobby, Dickerson said: “I used to. I didn’t really let many people know about it back when I was in middle school. Those are the years when everybody makes fun of you. People think it’s really cool now.”

Dickerson hopes to major in either graphic design or film production with a minor in history. Whatever his major, he plans to use it for historic preservation. He also has ideas about making a documentary on the history of Short Pump, which, as Dickerson put it, “has changed from a real outpost to a real hot spot.”

“You’ve got to preserve the past and present for the future,” he said. “I’m just doing that any way I can.”
Contact Bill Lohmann at (804) 649-6639 or wlohmann@timesdispatch.com.

Find out more:

Visit Trevor Dickerson’s new Web site, www.shortpumphistory.org

Other 2008 APVA award winners

Outstanding Public Sector Preser vation Project Award: The Virginia Capitol Restoration and Extension
Outstanding Commercial Project Award: Commonwealth Architects for 1840 W. Broad St.
Outstanding Service in Community Preservation Award: Loudoun County for The Loudoun County Historic District Interactive Web site (www.loudoun.gov/historic) and Mary Jordan and the Spencer-Penn School Preservation Organization for The Spencer-Penn Centre, Spencer
Outstanding Domestic Project Award: Aaron Wunsch and Preservation Piedmont for the James D. Nimmo House, Charlottesville
Outstanding Adaptive Use Award: Warm Springs Investment Company for Old Dairy Community Center, Warm Springs
Outstanding Historic Preservation Research Award: Thomas Finderson, Carrollton

West Chase House Fire

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This house, in the West Chase subdivision just outside of Wyndham, caught on fire Monday evening. Although the woman who lived there was badly burned (after safely escaping she went back in her burning house to save the family pet), there is an amazing story behind who pulled her out. This story just reaffirms my belief that there are no coincidences in life. Everything happens for a reason. A friend of mine, Rachel Rainer, took the photo at the left that ended up in the paper. Article via the Richmond Times-Dispatch (more photos from me follow the article at the bottom).

Two Henrico County advertising executives have emerged as the Samaritans who dashed into the burning inferno of a home to try to save a woman’s life Monday night.

“Thinking about it now, it all seems like a dream. I’d never in all my life pictured myself in this sort of life-and-death situation,” said Barry Martin, the first man inside a fully engaged house fire in the 12100 block of Jamieson Place in Henrico’s Wyndham subdivision. “I never knew I had it in me.”

The victim, career nurse Jo Ann Casazza, remained in critical condition this morning in the burn unit of VCU Medical Center, in a medically induced coma.

The fate of Casazza now hinges on the skill of the doctors and nurses at the burn unit — and perhaps on a higher power.

It’s a belief in that higher power that her rescuers discovered they held in common.

Martin, founder of The Idea Center advertising agency, and Brian Gordon, who works at The Martin Agency, had never met until Monday.

Martin had set out that night with his 9-year-old daughter Mira to put his family dog down, Buddy. Gordon was just looking for a good place to have dinner with his girlfriend.

Martin and daughter Mira stopped to pray at the family church, Mount Vernon Baptist, after the dog succumbed, and set out for home. Gordon, stumped for a dining spot, paused at a Nuckols Road intersection, wondering whether he should turn right or left.

Then Mira saw a throbbing orange glow of light from the house fire. Gordon saw the image at the same time and the two vehicles changed direction and headed together to the light source.

On the lawn of the Casazza home, a crying girl and a screaming, petite woman, Casazza’s mother, were the picture of abandonment and lost hope.

“We heard that the woman had been safe but ran back in to save a family pet,” Martin said. “It was a very strange feeling after Buddy.”

Martin frantically tried to call 911 but misdialed, at first hitting 411. It was about 7:30 p.m. He had been thinking about how to pull himself out of the despair from the lost pet only to be suddenly confronted by another life-and-death situation on a grander scale.

“I just ran into the house. The front door was the only opening, and black smoke was just pouring out.”

Inside, the victim presented a daunting challenge.

Casazza was literally burning up before his eyes.

She was large, and “her skin was literally fused to a rug in the foyer,” Martin said.

When he pulled on her wrists, “the skin just pulled off. It was a gruesome thing to see.”

Suddenly, Gordon burst into the home and together the two men pulled the woman free of the house on the rug, dragging Casazza all the way to the street.

“I will never forget the people who had gathered there, and this terribly burned woman in the middle of the street on a rug with just terrible, terrible burns,” Martin said.

“I tried to comfort her: ‘Have faith. God is with you and you are going to be all right,'” he said.

“Do you mean it? Do you mean it?” Casazza answered.

Martin said he heard Casazza to describe how the family Christmas tree may have ignited. And then she was gone, carried to the hospital by rescue workers.

For more on this story, see tomorrow’s Times-Dispatch.