New book explores Clarke County’s history through its architecture |

BERRYVILLE – Cities and counties throughout America developed as settlers arrived, built houses that often reflected the architecture of their heritage, and established businesses to serve their new and growing communities. Clarke County’s history is the story of settlers and slaves, property owners and entrepreneurs, and its agricultural and agricultural-based economy.

A new book by architectural historian Maral S. Kalbian, “Clarke County, Virginia: History Through Architecture,” introduces the reader to the first people known to live in the area, guides readers through the development of roads and communities, and explains the architectural styles of its grand estates and humble homes, according to a press release from Clarke County government.

“I really enjoyed working on this book, even though it was overwhelming at times,” said Kalbian, a professional architectural historian and preservation consultant. “I wanted to include as much as possible and write it in a way that keeps the reader engaged. Not all historic properties are included, but I wrote about as many as I could to tell the story of Clarke County.”

A longtime Clarke resident, Kalbian was also determined to separate fact from fiction, track down widely held beliefs and find documented evidence to either support or disprove them. “There are inconsistencies in past historical writings, so I double- and triple-checked some stories to give future researchers a better place to start.”

Kalbian’s research and the publication of “Clarke County, Virginia: History Through Architecture” was funded through a Certified Local Government (CLG) grant from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources as well as funds from the Clarke County Conservation Easement Authority (approved by the Board of Supervisors) , the Clarke County Historical Association and the Clarke-based Clermont Foundation. Grants and contributed funds totaled $33,000.

Clarke County’s Historic Preservation Commission oversaw the project, which began in early 2021, according to the release. The commission oversaw previous CLG grants that funded other studies of Clarke’s history, including an African American historical context (2002), a countywide archaeological assessment (1994), an archaeological mill survey (1996), and a driving tour (2015). In addition, almost 40 cultural resource management reports have been written about resources in the county. Kalbian researched and wrote most of them.

“Because so much has been written about Clarke’s story, I used architecture as the thread that ties the story together,” Kalbian said of his new book.

Until early 1836 there was no Clarke County; it was eastern Frederick County. The State Senate officially established Clarke County on March 8, 1836, separating it from Frederick County along Opequon Creek. The incorporated town of Berryville was chosen as Clarke’s seat of government.

The end of the Civil War in 1865 and the completion of the Shenandoah Valley Railroad in 1879 led to a boom in residential and commercial construction in Clarke, including many black communities built by freed slaves.

The chapters in Kalbian’s new book are organized chronologically, with historical resources detailed in each chapter by type or theme.

“Previously published technical reports are not always readily available to citizens or officials,” Kalbian said. “My primary goal with this book is to bring together historical information in a way that is more accessible and appreciated by all ages in the general public. The book can even frame school curriculum or other public historical sites focusing on Clarke’s broad history and culture .”

Historic Preservation Commission Chair Betsy Arnett said, “The production of this thoroughly professional account of Clarke County’s historic built environment is a major accomplishment. Commission members were pleased to support Maral’s work through the CLG grant program, including all previous studies and resource reports , which informed her work on this new book.”

“Clarke County, Virginia: History Through Architecture” is a hardcover, full-color, richly illustrated book. It is available for $75 at the Clarke County Historical Association, located at 32 E. Main St. in Berryville. Checks should be made payable to Maral Kalbian. Only 200 copies were printed, but additional copies may be printed. To purchase a book or for more information, contact Kalbian at 540-955-1231 or

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