YOUR HOMETOWN — Timberville: Historic Effort A Labor Of Love

Historian Key To Town’s Bid For State, U.S. Registries

Posted: April 17, 2013


Beverly Garber, Timberville’s unofficial historian, was instrumental in documenting the history of much of the town’s central business district. The effort helped get the district on the state and national historic registries. Photo by Jason Lenhart / DN-R.
This home along South Main Street was built in 1832 by John Zigler, a major player in Timberville’s early development. Photo by Jason Lenhart / DN-R.
John Zigler’s barn in Timberville dates back to 1819. The barn’s original brick facade, while severely damaged, still remains and is considered a rare construction style. Photo by Jason Lenhart / DN-R.
A historic marker just off this Timberville bridge that crosses the North Fork of the Shenandoah River features a picture and history of the 19th century bridge that used to span the river there. The bridge stood for 54 years before it was replaced in 1938. Photo by Jason Lenhart / DN-R.
TIMBERVILLE — Earlier this month, Timberville employees were working on water and sewer pipes below Main Street when they came across a piece of limestone underneath the road.

The stone already was loaded into a truck, under some dirt and ready to be disposed of when Beverly Garber, the town’s unofficial historian, arrived to investigate.

He had heard there might be some steppingstones in the vicinity from before the road was paved, pre-1930.

So, Garber, 72, went to the scene and asked the workers to load what indeed turned out to be a steppingstone into his truck.

“The thing is so heavy I can’t get it off, and I’m hauling it around,” he said.

Yet the stone isn’t the only piece of history Garber hauls around. He’s full of dates, names and stories about Timberville and the surrounding area.

He keeps plenty more at home, too. Garber has an extensive collection of newspapers, documents and more than 5,000 obituaries documenting the life and times of Timberville. Although he officially started collecting about 50 years ago, Garber really began as a child when he listened to his elders’ stories.

Recently, he used all these resources to help get a chunk of Timberville listed on the Virginia Department of Historic Resources historic registry and on its federal counterpart, the National Park Service registry.

The district was named to the Virginia registry in September and to the national list in January.

Owners of buildings in the historic district can apply for state and federal tax credits to restore their properties to their former conditions.

Most of the properties in the district are north of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. Among them are the original location of Farmers and Merchants Bank, which now houses Tina’s Family Restaurant.

The process started in summer 2011 when the town hired an intern, Stephanie Langton, a graduate student at the University of Virginia School of Architecture, to study and catalog the town’s buildings.

“She put in a whole bunch of extra time that she wasn’t supposed to” creating detailed descriptions for each building and property in the district, Garber said.

While Langton knew the properties by their addresses, Garber knew them by their names.

“So, I call her Ms. Numbers and she calls me Mr. Names,” he said.

One such property — known as the Otto Zigler house, which Garber calls the most historic home in town — is only about a block away from the Plains District Memorial Museum on Main Street and right next to the North Fork. The Zigler family owned the house from 1832, when John Zigler built it, to the late 1980s, when Otto Zigler was the last member of the family to live there.

Garber gazes down from the bridge over the flowing stream, explaining what the land before him used to look like.

The history comes alive as his blue eyes sparkle. He points to where John Zigler likely had a tannery and a private schoolhouse down an embankment from the wooden cabin, where he moved two years after he came to Timberville in 1814.

Garber said Zigler was one of the major players in Timberville’s adolescence.

Fort Run, just west of the town, was in existence in 1744, according to the town’s website, and another was built on the bank of the North Fork, near the Zigler house.

“When John Zigler moved in in 1816 it was already an old house,” Garber said, pointing to the frontierlike shack with a stone chimney standing in the midst of overgrowth and in the shadow of a strongly constructed, brick home that Zigler built in 1832.

Garber believes the wooden home was built in 1750 but the registry dated it at 1790 because state officials round up as a policy when dates are unverified.

Behind him, across North Main Street, which used to be marked only as “the road to Woodstock” on an old map Garber found, stands a Liberty gas station where Zigler’s pottery once stood when Timberville was but a toddler.

The farm’s brick barn built in 1819, one of only a few like it in the state, still stands, although a strong wind blew out one of the four-layer-thick brick walls a few years ago, Garber said. Zigler also ran a hemp mill on the property that is no longer standing.

“In the 1950s everything moved from the old part of town across the river,” Garber said. “This is my favorite part of town …  where I used to rove around.”

Although the district was made up of only a handful of properties at first, it grew to roughly 140, Garber said.

“It’s probably four times as big as we originally planned,” he said. “It kept getting bigger and bigger.”

Garber said a woman who reviewed the registry application told him, “You have to have a reason to stop at a certain place.”

Although the district eventually reached a stopping point, Garber hopes the opportunity for tax credits will help restore and strengthen the town.

“We hope 20 to 25 years from now this historic district will still benefit Timberville,” he said.

Contact Alex Rohr at 574-6293 or

NDN Video News