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Culpeper, Va. Still Assessing Damage Days After Quake

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Cracks are visible in the fronts and sides of some of Culpeper, Va.'s historic buildings after the 5.8 magnitude earthquake shook the area yesterday.
Jonathan Wilson
Cracks are visible in the fronts and sides of some of Culpeper, Va.'s historic buildings after the 5.8 magnitude earthquake shook the area yesterday.

Two days after the earthquake the shook the entire east coast, the town of Culpeper, Va. is still surveying the damage to its numerous historic buildings.

Town information officer Wally Bunker points to two weathered brick buildings painted blue. They date from the late 1800s, and now, a closer look reveals a vertical crack spreading down from one building's top corner.

It looks like someone took a giant crowbar to the structure's facade and started to pry it off without finishing the job.

"Both of those buildings have been condemned," Bunker says. "One -- number 118 -- is probably going to have to be razed."

So far inspectors in Culpeper have condemned eight buildings.

Immediately after the quake, both Davis and Main streets, the two roads that intersect in the middle of town, were closed off for several blocks. On Wednesday, police reopened most of the historic downtown, but Bunker says small portions are likely to remain closed for at least another couple of days.

"You can't have pedestrians walking down sidewalks where you have building with facades that you don't know how stable they are," he says.

The population of the town of Culpeper has more than doubled over the past few decades. It's been great for local businesses, but town council member Bobby Ryan says it also means there are more residents who live in Culpeper, but spend most of their days working in Northern Virginia.

He says that creates a smaller percentage of residents who appreciate the town's history, or the significance of the damage from Tuesday's earthquake.

"You know, to me, they don't understand the heritage or even the lifestyle of natives," Ryan says.

More than a few people spent time Wednesday wandering through downtown snapping pictures of cracks in buildings that date back to the Civil War era. A church damaged extensively in the earthquake once offered respite to General Robert E. Lee and noted Civil War calvaryman Jeb Stuart.

Amateur photographer Robin Zuk says she just wants to capture a bit of history herself.

"I'm not doing it for -- 'Wow, look at this,'" she says. "It's more ... it's kind of sad because these buildings have been through an awful lot. "

The next concern for town leaders is Hurricane Irene, which could arrive this weekend. They'd like to have repairs completed before wind and rain can turn cracks into fissures.

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