Early years at the Evans Home
STAR TANNERY — In writing about the Henry and William Evans Home for Children, sooner or later, I figured, I would have to track down one M. Kirby Lloyd.
For more than two decades before retiring in 2000, Kirby, as many know, served as the Evans Home’s executive director. He also wrote the book (literally) about the home’s history.
But, as fate — and my good fortune — would have it, Kirby and his wife, Ann, found me, via e-mail and phone. And then I was obliged to find them, as it were, out in the pastoral confines of southwestern Frederick County along the far reaches of Wardensville Grade.
I did so Monday afternoon, and though I was customarily late arriving at Kirby and Ann’s garden-spot of a home nestled in the shadow of Great North Mountain, my host, also customarily, was ready to chat.
Of paramount importance in discussing the origins of the home that was Kirby’s labor of love, his passion, are the will that created it and laid out basic ground rules for its operation, and the North Loudoun “showpiece”— the Evans family manse — that welcomed the home’s first eight children in November 1950.
Picking up where I left off last week, it soon became apparent that the post-Civil War pile was an unfit dwelling for youngsters, whom the will stipulated must be “white orphaned children” — 14 years of age or younger upon entering — from the City of Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties.
So the trust department of the Shenandoah Valley National Bank, which advised the home’s board of directors, petitioned the Winchester Circuit Court to sell the house and use the money from the sale to build a new Evans Home.
In time, Sears Roebuck purchased the property with the intent of adding a Winchester department store to its national chain. Of course, this meant the Evans “home place” would be razed, which, as Kirby told me, prompted quite a stir among city denizens.
You see, one of the prevailing tales around town was that the Evans brothers, Henry and William, had been “stage coach robbers” prior to landing in Winchester in the 1850s and had buried a cache of gold somewhere on the North Loudoun tract.
Needless to say, a crowd gathered when the demolition took place. Nary a coin was found then, Kirby says, nor any when the Loudoun Street Autopark went up on that site four decades later.
OK, so where to build a new Evans Home? Some 6 1/2 acres of open field between East Leicester and Cork streets beckoned. Why?
As Kirby explains, the land was “right in the middle of town,” with easy access to city schools, and “ the price was right.” Th e court had ruled that the cost of buying the land and building the home could not exceed the selling price of the Loudoun Street property.
In June 1952, Howard Shockey & Sons commenced construction.
Six months later, an eight bedroom house was ready for occupancy.
For years, the home operated largely on the annualized proceeds of the original $ 150,000 trust. Come the late ’60s, this was hardly a sufficient monetary stream. What’s more, with the passage of civil rights legislation, the “whites- only” restriction in the will placed the home in direct opposition to federal mandates. Publicly funded agencies could no longer place children in the facility.
By the winter of 1972, the home’s last three residents had departed, and the board of directors faced a decision: Either close for good, or try to break the will in order to gain state licensure.
It took the latter path — with success. In March 1977, the home reopened under the leadership of Michael Borash. That November, Borash hired Kirby as program head. A year later, Borash resigned — and the Lloyd era began.
Adrian O'Connor has been the Editorial Page Editor of the Winchester Star since December 1992. He has been writing his weekly column 'Valley Pike' since March 1997.