Belmont Banister a Top Ten Endangered Treasure

Fans of Belmont know that every inch of Gari Melchers Home and Studio is a treasure, but a group of preservationists wants to bring special attention to the curved wrought-iron railing that graces the front stairs of the historic home.

The Virginia Association of Museums selected the swirling banister on Belmont’s east porch as one of Virginia’s “Top Ten Endangered Artifacts.”

The wrought-iron railing shown in this 1927 photograph by Francis Benjamin Johnston was forged in the mid-1800s and graced the front porch of Belmont when artist Gari Melchers and his wife, Corinne, took residence there in 1916. Today, it is a public treasure that’s in need of preservation.

Experts believe the rare, iconic railing with applied lead rosettes was forged around 1845. The architectural landmark displays outstanding craftsmanship and the use of what in the mid-1800s were emerging technologies.

Other entries included a revolving gun turret from the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor, the Library of Virginia’s executive papers from the state governorship of Thomas Jefferson between 1779 and 1781, and a gown made for and worn by legendary vocalist and civil rights champion Marian Anderson.

Virginia’s Top Ten Endangered Artifacts program was designed to create awareness of the importance of preserving artifacts in the care of museums, libraries, and archives throughout the Commonwealth. A project of the Virginia Collections Initiative and the Virginia Association of Museums, it is funded by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. Learn more at

Gari Melchers Home and Studio, the former estate of the artist Gari Melchers and his wife Corinne, is operated by UMW. It is a Virginia Historic Landmark and a National Historic Landmark. Learn more at