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Winchester, VA 22601
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September 2014 Edition

Who Shot Old Jake?

Old Jake

Photo Credit: West Coast Weather Vanes

If you have visited or live in Winchester you know who “Old Jake” is. The iconic weather vane that sits atop Ross Fire Hall has become a legend of his own. Since 2009 the real Old Jake is displayed at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, an exact replica now adorns the Winchester skyline.

No one quite knows exactly when or where Old Jake was fashioned. The copper topper more was than likely designed after a Courier and Ives print from the late 1850’s. There is photographic evidence which places him on top of the old Union Fire Company house on Cork Street in the 1860’s. Until he was moved to the present Ross fire-hall not much else is to be found concerning the guy. Then in 2009 he was shipped to NY to be sold at auction; not having brought the expected price, returned to Winchester.

I recently heard a story about Old Jake that got me digging into his past. It has been said that during the Civil War Union soldiers used him for target practice and his wounds (6 holes) would indicate that the legend is true. Except I had stumbled into the real story. So I set out to find out where the legend came from and found amazingly only one source, the New York Times in an article concerning his auction states the cause of the damage. The article was dated December 2010.

Two weeks ago a friend and I were discussing what the Old Town area was like when we grew up. We relived some old memories. He rented his first apartment in the area in the general vicinity of Ross fire-hall in the mid-1960’s. The apartment had a skylight above the commode in the bathroom which could be opened and standing upon the jon, a clear view of Old Jake was seen. Seems one evening he and another young man decided to see if they could spin the weather vane with a 22. They were successful; they turned him 5 times, the sixth shot failed to move him.

This is Gossip Grown Old….