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The R. R. Smith Center for History and Art, named in honor of long-time state and community leader R. R. "Jake" Smith, is a collaboration of three leading cultural organizations in the Staunton/Augusta County area of the Shenandoah Valley:  Augusta County Historical Society, Historic Staunton Foundation and the Staunton Augusta Art Center. 


The center is housed in what was originally the Eakleton Hotel - a 25,200 square foot building designed in 1893 by noted local architect T. J. Collins.  It is located in Staunton's Beverley Historic District, a National Register District.  The center houses exhibit galleries, a lecture hall, classrooms, archival areas, a library and reading room, conference facilities, offices for the three non-profit organizations and special event rental venues. Additionaly, the American Shakespeare Center administrative offices are located on the 4th floor. 


The Smith Center is in the designated Staunton RedBrick District encompassing the arts and culture of the City which includes live theater, performing and visual arts and historical attractions.




Who designed the building?

T. J. Collins


What is the architectural style of the building?

French Second Empire


When was the building constructed?

circa 1893-1895


What was the original name/use and succeeding names/uses of the building?

The building was originally built as the Eakleton Hotel which was considered a very fine hotel.  It was later used as a hotel by other names including the Watauga, Augusta and Woodrow Wilson.  Prior to being left empty and later rehabilitated, the build was known as the Tuning Furniture Building.  The building was left empty for about twenty years before rehabilitation began for its current use.

How was the first floor originally used?

The check-in desk of the hotel was along the wall of where the history gallery is now, between the two doorways leading into the gallery from what is now the lobby area.  A writing room was in the area of the fireplace in the HSF project area.  A barber shop was located in the back part of the HSF project room.  Dining rooms were located where the art gallery is now and also in the area of the current first floor elevator, equipment closet and restrooms.


What sort of shape was the building in when rehabilitation began?

Before rehabilitation could begin, hazardous materials in the form of pigeon excrement had to be removed.  Eighty 30-gallon trash bags of pigeon poop and carcasses were removed from the light wells alone.


How long did the rehabilitation project take?

The rehabilitation project began in 1999 with structural stabilization and continued in phases.  Following structural stabilization, the second phase was to rehabilitate the exterior of the building.  The building was ready for occupancy in May 2007.


How much did the rehabilitation cost?

The initial "guesstimate" projected a cost of $2.5 million.  Once construction documents were completed and preliminary bids made, the projected cost was $4.5 million.  In the end, the actual cost was approximately $5.5 million.


How were construction costs paid?

37% of the construction costs were paid for by grants; 34% by federal and state tax grants (by way of meeting Department of the Interior standards in rehabilitating historic structures); and, 29% by donations and  in-kind donations. 

How is the building currently managed?

The facility is owned and managed by the R.R. Smith Center Foundation. The three partner organizations cover the cost of the monthly mortgage and most of the operating costs. Lease payments, special event rentals, and individual donors help cover costs.

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