Gaines Group Architects
old town harrisonburg kitchen

Old Town Harrisonburg kitchen makeover

The Old Town Harrisonburg kitchen makeover has been completed by Herr and Company. They shared some of the finish photographs with us showing off this make over. In case you did not read the first blog post HERE about this project, here is a brief summary. The home owners started renovating their downtown house to make it more friendly to modern living. They completed a few projects and then were ready to tackle the kitchen renovation. The rear porch had been enclosed and a rear deck was suffering from some lack of maintenance. Our goal, working as a design-build team with Herr and Company was to develop a plan that was structurally sound for this new space.

The existing kitchen was modest and a little dark.

Herr and Co Renovation

The enclosed rear porch space was cut off from the rest of the house and oddly shaped to be a gathering space.

Herr and Co Renovation

The goal for the home owners was to use all of this space for a modern and open functional kitchen. The space was restricted in width due to setbacks and existing roof lines. So the planning process was mainly to figure out how to make this narrow and long space feel open, bright, and make the work triangle small enough that it would be functional.

Herr and Co Renovation

In order to visualize the space we developed a 3-d computer model to show the layout to our clients. This was helpful for them to work through how the space could be used.

So our rendering is fairly close to what got built, but we made a few changes. We were also able to open up the existing dining room into this space to allow for a better flow through the entire house.

We included a renovation of the existing laundry room.

This project is a great example of how to save an existing historic home, make it work for how we live today, and preserve our historical context in the neighborhood that surround downtown.

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Monger Lumber goes PINK

R.S. Monger & Sons goes PINK for breast cancer

There are many people and companies in Harrisonburg and the extended valley that care deeply about community. One of them, R.S. Monger & Sons goes PINK for breast cancer, is just one example.

Monger Lumber goes PINK

As a small business owner I know first hand how many requests you can get on a weekly basis to donate money, product, and / or time. It can be overwhelming how much need there is in our community. Great causes and organizations exist on every block. That makes it especially important to have business owners that care about more than just the bottom line. We are fortunate to have companies that exist in our community doing good, with no fanfare or expectation. They do it because it is the right thing to do.

real men wear pink

R.S. Monger and Sons is one of those organizations. While they are known for their customer service, quality products, knowledgeable employees, and tight delivery schedule, their greatest asset may be their community building. I know first hand that they care deeply for our community. Jim and John Monger are the reason that the Chesapeake Western Depot was saved and renovated. They wanted to bring this beautiful building that has a deep history in Harrisonburg back to life. It houses their businesses on the lower level, but this building is not just another downtown structure. This building is part of the fabric that holds Harrisonburg to its core roots. Saving a historic structure like this ties today to the past and builds character for a place. It was a labor of love for Jim and John to save this building and just one example of how they give back to our community.

Chesapeake Western Depot

If you have ever visited Monger Lumber you know there are lots of great people employed at this business. Having an office just up the street from their home for the past 90 years I have gotten to know a few of them. So as a fundraiser for the Real Men Wear Pink campaign I decided to take a chance that they would want to support my campaign. I suggested that they go PINK for a day – if you know the guys that work there you know this was a big ask for some of them. The company purchased PINK Gaines Group shirts for all their employees and one person even wore my PINK tutu for the day to get an extra donation. I have not seen a photo of him wearing it – I wonder if there is any evidence?

real men wear pink

This business and this family is one of the backbones of our community. Having a construction supply company in the fourth generation of leadership from the same family in town is huge for all of us. This alone builds community.

real men wear pink


If you want to join Monger Lumber with a donation it is not too late.

R.S. Monger & Sons Inc. has been a family-owned company since 1922. Currently in its fourth generation of ownership, R.S. Monger is a full-service lumberyard and building supplies store serving the Shenandoah Valley. Located in Harrisonburg, Virginia, R.S. Monger offers a variety of building materials including lumber, windows doors, brick, stone, moulding and hardware.

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real men wear pink

Join me for lunch or dinner to benefit Real Men Wear Pink of the Valley

I have two events scheduled in the coming days to raise money for my Real Men Wear Pink Campaign. I hope you can come to one or both.

dayton tavern

PINK OUT dinner at Dayton Tavern

Join me for an incredible dinner at Dayton Tavern to benefit my Real Men Wear Pink of the Valley campaign. Wear your pink to show support for those that have and are battling breast cancer. More details to come soon. Put this on your schedule, you are going to want to be there.

golden pony

PINK OUT Halloween Lunch with a friend

Join me for lunch at the Golden Pony to support the Real Men Wear Pink of the Valley campaign on Halloween. The Golden Pony is offering a buy one get one deal on sandwiches / burgers to benefit this event. Bring your cash / check donations to my campaign and treat a friend on Halloween to a fun lunch. I will bring the candy to help celebrate.

real men wear pink


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Chesapeake Western Depot

Chesapeake Western Depot – 100 + year old beauty

The Chesapeake Western Depot is a 100 + year old beauty.

According to the Harrisonburg Daily News on April 22, 1913:

Work on the new Chesapeake Western passenger station and freight depot at the West Bruce street crossing is being rushed by the contractors. The freight shed, 120’ long, is ready for the slate roofing, with which the entire building will be covered and the concrete floor. The front of the building, of the passenger station proper, is now more than two stories high, and it too will soon be ready for the roof and the interior carpenter work. The passenger station proper is being finished on the interior with a white pressed brick, impervious to moisture, the first of its kind used in Harrisonburg, It makes a very attractive and neat appearance. The first floor of the building will be taken up by a large general waiting room, in the four corners of which will be constructed the ladies waiting room, smoking room, colored waiting room, and ticket office. These small rooms will be so constructed that the general waiting room will be octagonal in shape with a 16’ ceiling. Entrances will be made from the north and west sides with steps down to trains on the east. The second floor of the passenger station will be occupied by the general offices of the company which are at present located on the fourth floor of the First National Bank building. The building is being erected of native burned brick, with cut stone trimmings, and will be a very handsome and imposing structure when completed.

Chesapeake Western Depot

chesapeake Western Depot

This picture was taken around 1918 and shows the engine 102 with a combination mail, passenger car, and coach ready to pull out of the Harrisonburg station on the way to Elkton. The steam engine show was buildt in 1895 by Richmond Locomotive Works.

Chesapeake Western Depot

1949 – Fire in the office space upstairs – no details

1950 – stopped us as passenger station

1980 – Building Fire in lower level in “light world” showroom. Smoke and water damage reported in upstairs offices

1980ish – second floor offices renovated and rented out to securities company

On July 28, 1982, the Chesapeake and Western Offices burned in a five alarm fire that was attributed to arson.

fire at the Chesapeake Western Depot

1982 – 1990 – building abandoned

1995 – plans for museum proposed

2003 – used as storage for feed company

2005 – JM Apartments purchased building


Chesapeake Western Depot

The building was used for storage of building materials by Monger’s Lumber for years.

Chesapeake Western Depot

2015: Rezoned to B-1 to allow for no parking requirements.

Special Use permit to allow for warehouse in B-1 district.

Proffers to limit use to professional office and retail owned by building owner.

Chesapeake Western Depot

The building came back to life and tenants moved in in July 2016.

Chesapeake Western Depot Chesapeake Western Depot

There are monthly open houses hosted upstairs in our office and at least once a week someone stops by to check out this architectural beauty.

Chesapeake Western Depot

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MV pipeline construction gash photo

First Friday Art Opening – Art and Activism

Each month on the First Friday we host a new artist art opening in our building’s 2nd floor gallery at the Chesapeake Western Depot at 141 W. Bruce St. (second floor entrance is on Chesapeake). Artwork will remain on exhibit through the month. Come view the show and get a tour the Depot! We will have food and drink available!

November 2, 2018

5:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Gaines Group Architects

141 W. Bruce St. Suite 201

Harrisonburg, VA

First Friday Art Opening – Art and Activism

MV pipeline construction gash photo

Media used in “Art and Activism” includes photographs by activists, textile work, and steel maquette which illustrate the motivation for and progress toward the creation of “The Defenders” moveable steel sculpture by Mark Schwenk and Cheryl Langlais, which opposes the 2 pipelines to be constructed by Dominion Power [now renamed Dominion Energy] across WV and VA to deliver fracked gas to the coast for shipment to foreign buyers. Funding for the full size sculpture came from local donations and a Kickstarter effort produced by Rosie Lynch and Ana Rampy. Prints of Karen Ryder Lee’s original painting of the Great Gray Owl, symbol of this project, will be for sale. The sculpture is now installed in Stuarts Draft near where pipeline is to travel across land visible from 3 local schools. It will be moved to several more sites in pipeline pathway of pipeline construction.

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10 years of work for a fresh start in Harrisonburg

It has been 10 years of work, but I am ready for a fresh start in Harrisonburg.

I decided to move to Harrisonburg in 2008 so that my girls could attend a school that focused on music, art, play, and service. It was the right place to raise my family and the right school for my girls. However, it was not a place where I knew I could make ends meet as an architect. I had no clients in Harrisonburg, no business connections, and had only visited a few times to see my now X-wife’s family in Broadway. I knew Harrisonburg as a conservative farm community and not much more. We moved here because it felt like the right place to raise a family not to grow a business.

We purchased a recently built home in Timberville and moved to the valley in June 2008. Our home inspector was a building science expert – a sign of hope for my future in the valley. He and I discussed a new committee that had just formed in the local home builder’s association – the SVBA Green Building Committee. It turned out the Valley’s green movement had started, another good sign for my prospects as a green architectural firm.

I opened our Gaines Group Architect Valley branch in the basement of our Timberville house. My first task was building connections through the Home Builders association and the newly formed green building committee. I created a social media plan and marketed myself through twitter and Facebook. There was no marketing budget in the weak economy of 2008. I was shaking hands at Home Builder Association meetings to let people know I was in town and I would work for CHEAP to build a resume of local projects. I still had a lot of active projects in Central Virginia and was spending a LOT of time behind the steering wheel going to meetings and job sites in Charlottesville.

My first local opportunity in the Valley came from Glen Stoltzfus. He had a client that wanted to get their two-story building in Grottoes LEED Certified. Glen knew me from a building science course we attended together a year or so earlier. He brought me in as a trusted consultant to achieve LEED certification. We held meetings with his clients around my kitchen table. It was a rewarding job and getting to know Glen was beneficial to my local reputation. He had lots of clients and connections and would recommend me to anyone looking for an architect. I was able to pick up a couple of valley projects over the coming months, but none of them went to construction phase. It was a slow process building trust in this very small community in a very weak economy.

Finally, I landed an interview with a couple that worked at Merck. They wanted a “green” house and had heard I knew something about that term from their builder. I scheduled a meeting with them at an ice cream shop in Elkton. The meeting went well. However, I had a Charlottesville address on my business card and no real office in town still working out of my basement. They decided to hire another firm to design their house and told their builder they picked the other firm because they seemed more “permanent.” The next day I was on the hunt for an office in downtown Harrisonburg. I was not going to lose another job because I did not have a professional office space.

There was not much to choose from in downtown Harrisonburg at the time for a small office space. There were buildings that needed a lot of love, there were a few large spaces, and there was some new ground floor space in Urban Exchange that was just finished that was out of my price range. I noticed a sign in a second-floor window above Oasis Art Gallery. It seemed there was small office space in a building that had a lot of potential. I had a dream of creating a center for sustainability in downtown Harrisonburg. I rented the largest office in the building in September 2009 and started inviting like-minded folks to join me. The economy was hard and there was very little work to be found. I was fortunate to have a lot of clients still doing work in Charlottesville and put a lot of miles on my car for a couple of years in the beginning still going to Central Virginia where I had an existing strong reputation. None of my like-minded business friends could justify having an office space in downtown at the time. We continued to dream about a design center, but I was at the mercy of the building owner to lease space to my neighbors (when I moved in the second floor of the building was empty). However, there was an organization, HDR, active in downtown that was doing good work. A monthly newsletter that looked like it was published in word was delivered to my office talking about all the exciting things going on in downtown Harrisonburg. One of the things mentioned was First Friday downtown. I signed up immediately and started hosting artists in my building. This helped me grow my network beyond the Home Builders association and I started meeting Harrisonburg.

My business and reputation started to grow as I established myself in Harrisonburg through volunteer work, builder connections, and my continued work in the Home Builders association. There were days I had no architectural work as I searched for new projects, published blogs, and posted to Twitter. However, those slow days began to be fewer and work started to grow as my reputation grew and the economy rebounded.

From my start in downtown Harrisonburg in 2009 to my move to a larger office in the now Pendleton Bank building on court square in January of 2011 I gained enough work to need help. I hired my first employee in the valley office in March 2011. Things were starting to happen. Eddie Bumbaugh at HDR and Frank Tamberino at the Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting at my new Harrisonburg office. We were now an office of two with a defined waiting room and conference room. I had enough work to keep the office working hard and could see my efforts to grow my business paying off. I was doing anything and everything to stay top of mind from exhibiting at the county fair, volunteering on countless committees, meeting with business leaders, to working social media. The most important thing here in the valley is building trusted relationships to grow your business. This takes time and honesty above all else.

In October 2014 I was invited to fly to the Marvin Window plant in Minnesota. On the trip I was able to get to know Jim Higgs, president of Mongers a little better. We had a lot of discussions, but one was about the vision I had for the Train Depot at the corner of Bruce and Chesapeake. I suggested a first-floor window and doors showroom with a selection room for my custom home clients to pick out materials. On the second floor I wanted my new expanded Gaines Group Architects office. There was enough room that I could invite businesses that I enjoy working with to share the space. This was a big dream for our small architectural firm. It was not the only idea the building owners had received over the years. There were lots of plans from lots of people who wanted to see that building saved.

In March of 2015 I started looking for a new office to allow for our firm’s growth. We were very busy and at times had four people in an office designed for two. It was time to move to our next space.

It was also the right time to redevelop the Depot building as Monger’s had decided to move forward with the project that we had discussed on that plane ride. This was a case of right place and right time. I had just completed a couple of small projects for JM Apartments which built trust between our firm and their company. They were ready to expand their Marvin Window and Doors business. We started the process to renovate a 100 + year old beauty that had fallen beyond poor repair. From the conversation in March of 2015 I was on site working with the building owners and contractors on a very regular basis until we were issued certificate of occupancy in July of 2016. It was a labor of love for me as I learned more and more about the history of this building. The new space would allow us to add employees and give us better exposure in the valley. This was the next step of growth for our firm.

We have now been in the building for over two years. I have hosted more parties and tours of the building than I can remember. I have great signage on two major streets in town and I helped save a beloved building in downtown. We quickly grew to 5 people in our valley office and have plenty of work to keep us busy. While we did lose one person, the work has not slowed down. The move to the Depot has been a huge boost to our local reputation and has benefited us tremendously.

Depot entrance Depot Sunrise

In the last 10 years we have gone from a small basement office in a house in Timberville to a large office space in a historically significant building that has helped shape part of the revitalization of downtown Harrisonburg. I have gone from knowing almost nobody in the valley to being able to walk into most any restaurant in town to find a friend. A lot has changed in the time since I moved here with two kids almost ready to start elementary school to today. Some good and some bad has happened. I have built a solid business from the ground up. I have many beautiful projects on my “local” resume that help me to get that next project. I have two girls that love their school because it has a focus on art and music and they understand the importance of service to others. In many ways these last ten years was building a foundation to start fresh. I thought moving to the valley was the start, but I can see now with where I am at and all that has changed, I am just now learning who to trust, where I want to go, the man I can become, and the business I want to build. There are too many people to thank for giving the new guy a chance over the last 10 years. I did not do this alone or without the support of the entire firm in both offices.

ray gaines roger bryant charles hendricks

This post started out as a summary of my business growth here in the valley, but it is ending with a declaration. I am ready for whatever is next. I am ready to start this next 10 years of service to my community. I am ready for a fresh start with a clearer vision for a healthy and happy future than I have ever had before.



real men wear pink

Real Men Wear Pink of the Valley campaign has just 8 more days

The Real Men Wear Pink of the Valley campaign has just 8 more days. That is it, just eight more days of wearing PINK and asking for donations.
real men wear pink
However, this does not mark the end for anyone that is fighting breast cancer. This is a month of raising awareness and money. It is a chance for each of us to encourage someone we love to get an exam because early detection saves lives.
real men wear pink
It is a chance for us to show support to those in the fight or those that have won their fight. It is a chance to remember those that have finished their fight. While wearing PINK is a fun thing for guys to do to raise awareness, there is nothing fun about this disease. I believe we can beat it once and for all. I believe that the work we are doing to raise money is making a difference. I believe the local American Cancer Society office is doing work to help those in the fight feel loved.
real men wear pink
So over the next few days I hope we can hit our team goal of $50,000. We have a long way to go, this morning we are at $34,000. This is an individual competition between the guys of the valley to be the top Real Man (I am in third right now). It is also a competition between Real Men campaigns around the state (we are in first place right now). So I am asking for your help one last time.
real men wear pink
Please donate here
Or purchase something for yourself or a gift at one of these online sales. Each of these campaigns have agreed to donate a portion of their sales to my campaign.
real men wear pink jewelry real men wear pink jewelry real men wear pink jewelry
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real men wear pink

Why am I wearing PINK in October? Because Real Men Wear Pink

Why am I wearing PINK in October? Because it brings questions, strange looks, and conversation. Because Real Men Wear Pink.

real men wear pink

Today marks the start of the Real Men Wear Pink of the Valley campaign. We can change these statistics with awareness and funding. If I wear pink everyday in October it may lead to one more person getting a screening or one more person learning about symptoms early enough to be treated. If you can give $10, $20, $100, or more you are helping. Just sharing this blog post is helping save lives. Thank you for your support! Thanks for sharing this post! Thanks for making a difference!

real men wear pink

1 in 8 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women.

On average, every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer.

On average, 1 women will die every 13 minutes due to breast cancer.

real men wear pink

Join the Real Men of the Valley to help us all raise $50,000 this year.

Jeffrey Cline – Jeff’s Welding

Paul Riner – Riner Rental

Steven Faught – Shenandoah Automotive

Dave Urso – Blue Ridge Community College

Danny Grogg – Rockingham County Public Schools

Dan Withers – Pendleton Community Bank

Robert Keens – Keens Storage Trailers & Containers

Rad Dansey – Spotswood High School

David Barnes – James Madison University

Russ Blanton – Union Bank & Trust

Kyle Rogers – WHSV-TV

Robert Russell 

Nicholas Pearl – Harrisonburg Radio Group

Andrew Wiley – Consumers Auto Warehouse, Inc.

Chiedo – Chiedo Labs

John Otsuki – BlueStone Fabrics, Inc.

Jonathan Lindsay – Union Bank & Trust

Dillon Wilson

Mark Hall – Graham Packaging

Bill Freeman – Rocking R ACE Hardware

Branden Fauber – Augusta Woods

Jonathan Erdman – Walmart, Inc.


Scott Jost

First Friday Art Opening – Scott Jost

Each month on the First Friday we host a new artist art opening in our building’s 2nd floor gallery at the Chesapeake Western Depot at 141 W. Bruce St. (second floor entrance is on Chesapeake). Artwork will remain on exhibit through the month. Come view the show and get a tour the Depot! We will have food and drink available!

October 5, 2018

5:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Gaines Group Architects

141 W. Bruce St. Suite 201

Harrisonburg, VA

Scott Jost

Chesapeake Bay Watershed Confluences

Scott Jost

The Chesapeake Bay and its watershed extend over parts of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. Chesapeake Bay is the third largest estuary in the world, and its watershed is home to more than 17 million people. In these photographs and my forthcoming book, Confluence: Rivers and Streams in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, I am creating a portrait of this vast historical and ecological treasure by focusing on its river and stream origins and confluences. To date, I’ve photographed approximately 180 sites in 6 states.

Differences in the landscapes surrounding places where rivers and streams originate reveal the Chesapeake Bay watershed’s tremendous range and diversity. Confluences are the points at which waters originating in varied geographies and ecosystems within the watershed meet. They are often historically important in relation to settlement, industry, commerce, transportation and defense, and represent important intersections of nature and culture.

Confluence: Rivers and Streams in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, expected from George F. Thompson Publishing in fall 2019, will include 70 full-color panoramic photographs, an essay on the photography by Seth Feman, Curator of Photography at the Chrysler Museum of Art, several additional brief essays written by environmental historians and others with specific expertise in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, maps, and interpretive captions.

Through these photographs, I hope to contribute to a greater understanding of the historical and contemporary Bay and its watershed, and to reflect on its prospects for the future.

Ultimately, I hope my work can contribute to an enhanced awareness of and appreciation for our local, regional and national waterways.

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mold cleanup

Help, I might have a mold problem in my home.

There are lots of news stories in our area and I am sure more to come as flood waters go back down. We have had a very wet year. There are basements flooding that have never gotten water in them before. This is leading to stories about black stuff growing on walls. I am hearing it more and more, Help, I might have a mold problem in my home.


Molds can be found almost anywhere and can grow on most organic substances. They just need a moist area, a little oxygen, and it loves dark spaces. There are many types of mold and I have no basis to discuss which are toxic and which are not. We all react differently to different molds. It is also impossible to stop all mold and mold spores from existing in your indoor living environment. The goal should not be mold clean-up, it should be controlling moisture in your space to prevent growth – then clean-up.

water leak

Most mold growth will occur from specific conditions – flood, roof leak, high humidity inside (unvented combustion appliances will encourage it), deferred maintenance, stagnant air, vented crawl spaces, leaks in duct work that is not insulated well, wrong sized HVAC systems, and almost always lack of proper ventilation. When mold growth happens in a space it can have health impacts on those occupying the space.  However, it is very hard to tie health problems to a specific space, again, mold exists everywhere.

Some tips for clean-up that need to be followed after a moisture event are as follows:

  • Anything that has gotten wet needs to be dried within 24 – 48 hours, completely dried, or it should be removed not just cleaned.
  • Dehumidification should be used to keep humidity levels below 50% to dry out porous materials.
  • You should isolate the spaces while they are being cleaned to prevent cross contamination.
  • HVAC systems should not be operating during clean up.
  • Duct work should be cleaned as well as coils on the HVAC (the only EPA endorsed way to clean HVAC units that are contaminated is removal and replacement).
  • Proper ventilation should be installed and controlled by the HVAC system.

Cleanup recommendations from the EPA

The purpose of mold remediation is to remove the mold to prevent human exposure and damage to building materials and furnishings. It is necessary to clean up mold contamination, not just to kill the mold. Dead mold is still allergenic, and some dead molds are potentially toxic. The use of a biocide, such as chlorine bleach, is not recommended as a routine practice during mold remediation, although there may be instances where professional judgment may indicate its use (for example, when immune-compromised individuals are present). In most cases, it is not possible or desirable to sterilize an area; a background level of mold spores will remain in the air (roughly equivalent to or lower than the level in outside air). These spores will not grow if the moisture problem in the building has been resolved.

mold cleanup

So, as you are working on cleaning up an area that has black stuff growing (again, I cannot tell you anything about mold so I will just say black stuff) make sure to take the proper health precautions during clean-up. Follow guidelines for removal of wet porous surfaces that are not dried completely quickly. Fix the cause of the problem, don’t just clean up the symptoms.


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