Winchester, VA 06/22/09…Beginning Friday, July 3, the historic weathervane known as “Old Jake” will be on display in Winchester’s Museum of the Shenandoah Valley (MSV).
A familiar part of the Old Town Winchester skyline for more than 150 years, “Old Jake” will now have a new perch in the Shenandoah Valley Gallery of the MSV. The weathervane’s owner, the Charley Rouss Fire Company, Inc., has entered into a long-term loan agreement with the MSV to display “Old Jake”.
According to Rouss Fire Company President Tim Clark, the fire company is pleased to have been able to work with the Museum to display “Old Jake” in a safe environment where the weathervane will be enjoyed by area residents and visitors alike. “Old Jake” will be installed in a prominent position above the entrance to the Museum’s largest gallery room, the timber-framed Shenandoah Valley Gallery. Nearby, a large exhibition panel will tell the weathervane’s story.
Museum Executive Director Jennifer Esler says that the Museum is thrilled to collaborate with Rouss Fire Company to share the cultural icon with visitors. She notes that, “Old Jake is a wonderful piece of American folk art and an important piece of Winchester’s history. We are grateful to the fire company for its trust in our ability to display and care for this treasured object and tell its fascinating story.”
The copper weathervane weighs about 50 pounds. It is similar to those made in New England by companies like A. L. Jewell. Between 1852 and 1867, that company made weathervanes based on Currier & Ives prints of firemen. “Old Jake” closely resembles an image called “Rushing to the Conflict” from the 1858 print series, “American Fireman.”
It is unknown when the fire company first acquired “Old Jake,” but an 1860 photograph of the Union Fire Company—which will be presented on the museum panel in the gallery—proves it was in place at least as early as that year. In 1897, “Old Jake” was moved to a new fire house—built with generous support from long-time Winchester resident, Charles (“Charley”) Broadway Rouss—and remained there until it was removed in 2008.
“Old Jake” was once called “Tom Turn-Around” by schoolchildren who saluted it on their way to school and shouted, “Good morning, Tom Turn-Around!” One story attributes its present name to a case of mistaken identity. During a boisterous celebration, it is said, one fireman had a little too much to drink. He looked up, mistook the weathervane for his friend—Jake Barnhart—and called out to ask what he was doing on top of the building.
The MSV and Rouss Fire Company are hosting a special community celebration in honor of “Old Jake” and its installation in the Museum. On Saturday, July 18, the Museum’s annual Glen Burnie Gardens Day—which offers free admission to the site’s gardens—will have a special “turn” of events: the Museum galleries will also be open free of charge. In addition, a fire truck from Rouss Fire Company will be on site for the day, and Maggie Moo’s ice cream will be available for sale.
The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, including its Glen Burnie Historic House and Gardens, is located at 901 Amherst Street in Winchester, Virginia. Open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, the MSV includes eleven gallery rooms, a café, and museum store. Admission to the Museum galleries is free every Wednesday morning from 10 a.m. until noon. At other times, an adult combination ticket to visit the house, gardens, and Museum is $12, or $10 for senior and youth (ages 7–18). Admission to the Museum only is $8 for adults and $6 for senior and youth. Admission is always free to MSV Members and children ages 6 and under. For more information call 888-556-5799, ext. 235 (toll free), or visit www.ShenandoahMuseum.org –END–
Julie B. Armel
540-662-1473, ext. 225