Blighted Property on First Street Torn Down

Crane demolishes property on First Street - Photo Mike Dowling

Berryville’s efforts to improve the town through blight abatement succeeded in the elimination of what several town officials characterized as the most hazardous property on their list. The dilapidated property on First Street that often shed debris into the road way was taken down over the weekend. Owner Scott Mercer told the Berryville Planning Commission last month that the property was scheduled to be demolished but the challenging location, wedged between the railroad tracks and First Street, had been a problem. After two contractors hired by Mr Mercer failed to complete the project he told the commission¬† he was going to take care of it himself.

His efforts were successful. Saturday crews were on site with a crane demolishing the structure from the top down. It has now been reduced to a pile of debris.

This marks the second of three properties that the town has identified as blighted that have been demolished. The first to fall was the property on Liberty Street which was torn down by the owner in late September. The property on First Street marks number two, however the Planning Commission will now have to return to the first property identified in this recent series of actions because it’s owner has failed to comply.

Action on the property at 23 Josephine Street drew a large crowd to the public hearing in August to protest the Town’s planned actions. At that time the Town had attempted to develop a blight abatement plan with the property owner William Woodruff but had been unable to resolve the matter so the issue was brought before the Planning Commission. More than twenty residents attended the meeting and a half-dozen speakers stood before the commission to voice their opposition to the proposed demolition of the property at 23 Josephine Street.

Mr Woodruff said economic hardship prevented him from taking any actions to improve the property. After lengthy discussions the Commission agreed to give the property owner three additional months to come up with a reasonable abatement plan. It included a caveat that Mr Woodruff work with Town staff prior to the November deadline so that all parties could work together to develop a plan that was acceptable for everyone.

However month by month town officials have repeatedly indicated that Mr Woodruff has been silent and as of the Friday before the November Planning meeting, the Town has received no response from the property owner.

The issue will now be addressed without an agreed upon abatement plan at the Planning Commission Meeting Tuesday November 22.


  1. Right Winger says:

    Sounds like Mr. Woodruff has no intention of fixing the place. Tear it down and send him the bill, though I doubt he’ll willingly pay it. You could always allow the fire department to have a controlled burn training exercise.

    Or better yet, since it is Thanksgiving, have a giant turkey fry at the location and see who catches the place on fire first! (Yes, I’m kidding)

    • Working Man says:

      I would guess that a controlled burn in the Town of Berryville would take an act of Congress to get approved!

  2. The blighted property on First Street was the site of H.B. Whiting Coal and Feed Compnay from 1916-1953. In 1940, Herbert Beverley Whiting died and his son Richard Beverley Whiting managed the business until 1953. From 1943-1946, John O Hardesty managed the coal and feed business while Richard Whiting was in the US Army. Richard Whiting was an only child and the business was supporting his mother, “Bessie” Elizabeth Mc Cormick. Province Mc Cormick was the father of Bessie and his Clarke County home was burned by yankees during the Civil War. During World War 2, H.B. Whiting Coal and Feed Company was designated as an essentail business, so Richard was draft exempt. The Draft Boardf allowed Richard to volunteer for military service after John O. Hardesty agreed to manage H.B. Whiting Coal and Feed Comapnay from 1943-1946. CCHS football hero Davey Hardesty is the great grandson of John O. Hardesty, who had a dairy farm and sold fertilizer for Baugh Company of Baltimore, Maryland. Richard Whiting met his wife Lorene at a USO dance in Oklahoma. The railroad in Berryville from Hagerstown to Roanoke was built after the Civil War. Bituminous Coal from West Virginia and hard anthracite coal from Pennsylvania arrived by rail to H.B Whiting Coal and Feed business. The company sold wheat and grain throghout Clarke and Loudoun County and had an account with the Mellon Family near Middleburg. Joe Duke was the foreman and Arthur Gillison and Lewis Williams were the friendly black truck drivers who made deliveries. Charlie Lanham was a loyal employee for many years. Richard Beverley Whiting was in charge from 1940-1943 and 1946-1953. The business was sold in 1950 to Kenneth Gilpin and George Greenhaugh and became Clarke County Supply. The Gipins owned Scalbey and Goerge Greenhaugh owned Springsberry Farm. Charlie Mercer bought the business later on to become Mercer Oil Company. Back in 1953, Garland Kanner, father of Joan Dellinger, was interested in buying H. B. Whiting Coal and Feed Company. Garland had the vision to go into the profitable home heating oil business. He was quite active with the Bank of Clarke County and served as mayor of Berryville for several years. On First Street was Smalley Package Company that made apple baskets that were sold throughout the east coast by Jim Livengood. Seafood companies also liked those apple baskets that were manufactured in Berryville. On the south and east side of the railroad tracks off Main street is the black building that was once F.L. Aylor Flour Mill. Lots of wheat was grown in Clarke County and and the Shenandaoh Valley was the breadbasket of the Confederacy,

  3. Thanks for the history lesson!

  4. Garland Cantor was the correct name for the former mayor of Berryville in my previous comment.. I admired his brilliant mind and his leadership. I was honored to have some great conversations with him, when I was a teenager. He lived in a cute triangular shaped tudor style home and was a successful community oriented businessman. He loved his family and his daughter Joan Dellinger played the piano.

  5. My information for comments came from Bev Whting. I never saw Mr Canter’s name written out, but Bev thought the correct spelling was Garland Cantor. Years ago, the former mayor came across to me as a gentleman of integrity and that is my lasting impression of him. Unlike some people, success did not make him arrogant.

  6. Sharon Strickland says:

    I agree with Sarge! Thank you, Sam for the great history lesson with information supplied by Bev Whiting. It is good to know facts.

  7. Working Man says:

    WHAT A STINKING JOKE! The Town of Berryville MANDATES that this building has to come down and when the workers go there to do the work they are not allowed to work. What should have taken 2 days has stretched into 2 weeks! The Town has not assisted in the process of getting this building down at all. VDOT said that if a road was put in from the scales to the building that trucks could pull off the road and back in. For some reason, after spending $2,000 for a road to comply with VDOT regulations, it has all changed.
    Now the Town of Berryville Police and the Berryville Utilities Manager have stopped the work, because of this issue with trucks pulling off the road. Until the Town of Berryville and VDOT can get straightened out with the regulations, which seem to change daily, the building will just sit there.
    The owner of this property, Scott Mercer and his family, have done more for Clarke County and Berryville than just about anyone else in this town and county. I personally know that both Scott and Mr. Charlie Mercer made sure that no one in the county and town went without heating oil, even if they couldn’t pay. It is a shame to treat him in this manner now.
    The railroad personnel have been extremely helpful and nice to work with. Thanks to them for their patience and understanding while getting this building down.
    Unfortunately, State and Town employees and officials don’t know that there is a recession still going on. They don’t have to worry about work because they get paid on holidays….hell they got paid half a day for the day before Thanksgiving and the day after Thanksgiving. Our State taxes at work!!!! The rest of us have to work hard and only get paid on the days we work. The VDOT rep told the workers that they couldn’t work on this job until Monday, because that was when they would be back to work!
    Whoever tears down the property on Josephine Street better watch out! The Town of Berryville will not assist in that process. VDOT and the Town needs to be consistent in enforcement of these regulations. There are other businesses in the town and county who do not have to abide by these rules, Perry Quarry and Broy Pump Service are just to name two. I will be watching to see that those businesses and others are not allowed to continue to violate these same regulations that apparently were being violated at this site.

  8. Angry Berryville Citizen says:

    No wonder no one wants to own or operate a business in the town of Berryville. No wonder its known as a laughing stock always compared to Mayberry, working man just overlook the town police all they ever get to respond to is a barking dog or dried up bubble gum on the street, and I am quite certain anytime they get to see blue lights flash they take it, and the site of this old building has gotten more attention than the Wendy’s commercial.When citizens willingly comply with the blight abatement plan you are harassed by VDOT,town police,town workers & officials. Maybe the property owner on Josephine St. is correct not to work with the town or cooperate any way shape or form, and make the town go to the expense & trouble to drag you through the court system in order to get their demands fulfilled. Why demand a building to be torn down then do everything in your power to make a big stink and hinder progress on the job,sounds like to me the town wanted to receive a generous gift of free real estate plain & simple. Right Winger I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I dont think a controlled burn would be allowed 1 reason it would alleviate expense to the property owner & eliminate the blighted property problem solved ,but also it would defeat the sole point of the town’s blight abatement plan to harass & receive free real estate. With the town of Berryville its almost always a double ended sword no one gets off without some kind of wound and this would be the right thing to do and the town is never interested in doing the right thing for the citizens they just collect an enormous $ amount of taxes & thats all they want & need from all citizens plain & simple. Your tax $’s equal their salary. And working man I totally agree town citizens need to express how unhappy they are about this ridiculous parade of harassment over an old building that is being torn down in compliance with the town’s demands, I myself would prefer the town police to patrol the streets & keep citizens safe instead of responding to calls from local busybodys, and town workers over stepping their bounds,and come this winter I hope all roadways are clear of snow & ice or I will be happy to call VDOT & express my concerns for them to leave the site of an old building on First St & do their job & get out plow, patch potholes ect. Town workers & officials enough already let the men get the building torn down & practice what you preach!! or put a disclaimer in the blight abatement plan warning of your unlimited harassment no matter how hard the individual tries to comply to YOUR demands, cause after all don’t you want the building torn down or have you suddenly changed your minds???