Department of Historic Resources
For Immediate Release
June 19, 2017
Department of Historic Resources
21 HISTORIC SITES ADDED TO THE
VIRGINIA LANDMARKS REGISTER
--New listings cover historic sites in the counties of Accomack, Bath, Buckingham, Halifax (4), Loudoun, Mathews, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Orange, Pittsylvania, and Rockbridge; and the cities of Bristol, Charlottesville, Lynchburg, Richmond (2), Staunton, and Virginia Beach--
—VLR listings will be forwarded for nomination to the National
Register of Historic Places—
RICHMOND – From Saxis Island on the upper Eastern Shore to the City of Bristol in southwestern Virginia, the history and architecture of 21 sites across the state were recognized through listing in the Virginia Landmarks Register (VLR) last week by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. The new additions to the state landmarks register include a regionally popular city park established in Staunton for African Americans during the era of segregation, a building at Lynchburg College where co-educational instruction had an early start in Virginia, and farms in Halifax and Pittsylvania counties as well as a South Boston historic district in Mecklenburg County that reveal aspects of the settlement and agricultural history of the Commonwealth’s Southside region.
The 353-acre Saxis Island Historic District encompasses the Town of
Saxis and adjacent areas of a narrow Accomack County peninsula that juts into
the Chesapeake Bay. Isolated from the mainland by tidal marsh and bounded by
water to its north, south, and west, the peninsular district has been called an
“island” since European settlers and speculators claimed land there beginning in
In the mid-1800s Saxis Island residents started transitioning away from small-scale agriculture to livelihoods in a growing seafood economy. The shallow waters around Saxis Island coupled with a primitive system of land transportation on the Eastern Shore offered the area’s watermen only limited access to large urban markets of Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. That changed with the arrival in 1866 of the Pennsylvania Railroad to nearby Crisfield, Maryland, which spurred local growth of commercial oystering. After the construction in 1903 of an unconnected wharf 650 yards offshore at the edge of the shipping channel, the seafood industry in Saxis Island boomed until the second half of the 20th century, when it started to diminish. Today oysters and softshell crab from the Chesapeake Bay, Pocomoke Sound, and other Bay tributaries, still remain an important local economic resource.
The Saxis Island district consists of historic houses, stores and other commercial buildings, as well as a post office, former school, and church. The oldest existing building dates to 1870. Eighteen recorded family cemeteries are visible as clusters of above-ground concrete burial vaults in the yards of many dwellings, in addition to a church graveyard.
Near the Tennessee border in the City of
Bristol, the Piedmont Avenue Boundary Increase enlarges the previously-listed Bristol Commercial Historic District by adding two blocks of Piedmont Avenue north of State Street. Bristol arose as a railroad town, but Piedmont Avenue marks the arrival of the automobile era to the city and reflects the surge in popularity of the auto and auto-centric lifestyle from 1930 through the 1950s.
The boundary increase incorporates ten buildings including a former Streamline Moderne-style Greyhound Bus Station (1938), an Art Deco-influenced Bristol Masonic Temple (1931), a Neo-Classical-style U.S. Post Office (1933) of brick and limestone construction, and a Moderne-inspired Firestone tire and auto service building (1936). The district also boasts two early 1930s single-story Commercial-style buildings that housed various shops and hardware and department stores.
In the southern Shenandoah Valley,
Montgomery Hall Park in Staunton was also approved for listing in the VLR. Founded in 1946 as a recreational facility for African Americans during the Jim Crow era of racial segregation in Virginia, Montgomery Hall Park was operated largely independent of the city by a committee of community representatives. With 150 acres and numerous amenities including a swimming pool, the park attracted seasonal visitors—more than 18,000 some years—from African American communities around Virginia, where few recreational facilities existed for blacks. Locally, along with the nearby Booker T. Washington School and various churches, Montgomery Hall Park was an important focal point of Staunton and Augusta County’s black community. In 1969, Montgomery Hall Park was integrated.
The park is also significant for its namesake, Montgomery Hall, a residence constructed in 1822 for John Howe Peyton, a prominent local, state, and national leader in the United States’ early Republic period. Peyton’s social and political circles included Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and statesman Henry Clay, all of whom stayed at Montgomery Hall. In 1907, the renowned Staunton-based architectural firm of T. J. Collins and his son, Sam, transformed the classically-inspired Montgomery Hall into a Colonial Revival-style house, making it one of the area’s largest and most impressive country houses of the era.
Lynchburg College’s Hopwood Hall, constructed in 1909, was the first purposely built academic hall at the college, one of the oldest in Virginia founded as a co-educational institution. The building is named for Lynchburg College founders Dr. Josephus Hopwood and wife Sarah La Rue Hopwood, who believed that educational opportunities should be made available to all persons regardless of sex, race, age, or material resources. Within Hopwood Hall, for more than a century, men and women have engaged in a variety of academic activities from painting to physics, from the study of literature to the mastering of foreign languages, both ancient and modern.
Among the most architecturally sophisticated buildings in Lynchburg, Hopwood Hall also represents an important example of early 20th-century Beaux Arts Classicism in central Virginia. The building’s architect, Edward Graham Frye, who established an office in Lynchburg around 1892, designed Lynchburg’s Jones Memorial Library as well, also in the Beaux Arts style.
In Southside Virginia, four rural properties in Halifax County are now part of the Virginia Landmarks Register:
- Located on a well-traveled Halifax County route that became Highway 58,
Bloomsburg (Watkins House) is a finely detailed Greek Revival plantation house, among the first generation of such houses in Halifax County. It was built for merchant-planter Alexander Watkins in the late 1830s and/or 1840s. The compact two-story frame house features marble mantels, superb examples of decorative plaster cornices and ceiling medallions, and a stair with foliated ornament. Watkins operated a Bloomsburg Store on his property, which, family tradition holds, did considerable business with immigrants heading westward. The store no longer stands, but surviving buildings on the property include a mid-19th century two-room brick kitchen and a brick carriage house, and other historic domestic and agricultural outbuildings.
- Brandon-on-the-Dan represents over two centuries of architectural development. Construction began circa 1810-1825 with a small house of dovetail-notched log construction that may have later served briefly as a tavern. In the 1850s, George and Tabitha Brandon built a two-story Greek Revival frame house next to the log dwelling. The antebellum house features spirited vernacular mantels and stair details, and other ornament produced in the workshop of free African American cabinetmaker Thomas Day of Milton, North Carolina. In 1913, Danville architect James Woodson Hopper designed Craftsman-style features for the house including a new porch and fireplace mantels. The property also contains an extensive African American cemetery dating to the 19th century."
- Among Halifax County’s oldest-surviving houses,
Cedar Grove dates to the late 1770s, as indicated by aspects of the one story house, which may have been built for William Smith. Early features include hewn and mill-sawn framing members, wrought nails, and tarred fish-scale wooden shingles. Merchant James Warren acquired the property in the early 1800s, and by the 1830s it became the home of his daughter Sarah and her husband, planter and later mill owner Jacob Blane Sr. Federal-style remodeling dates to this period, followed by the addition of Greek and Gothic Revival architectural elements at mid-century. Jacob Blane built an office with Gothic Revival-style features that survives today in front of the house. Other historic structures on the property include log and frame farm buildings, an early smokehouse, and a cemetery. Cedar Grove remained in the Blane and inter-related families until 1945.
- Built around 1861, Halifax County’s Glenwood blends the county’s leading antebellum architectural styles: Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, and Italianate. The two-story frame house was constructed in front of an earlier planked circa-1800 log house which became a rear wing. The exterior of the main house exhibits Italianate and Gothic Revival influences, and the interior features a stair with Gothic Revival details and Greek Revival mantels and door and window trim. Architect John Evans Johnson may have contributed to the design of the house, which was built for tobacconist James Anderson Glenn II. In 1912 the property was purchased by the Bass family, the current owners. The property also contains historic outbuildings constructed during the first half of the 20th century.
Also listed in the VLR in Southside during the June 15 joint quarterly meeting of the Virginia Board of Historic Resources and the State Review Board were—
- The South Hill Commercial Historic District in
Mecklenburg County. It reflects South Hill’s emergence by 1891 as a rail town on the Atlantic & Danville Railroad. Financiers and engineers in 1889 laid out the 56-acre town in a circular plan centered on the railroad’s depot. In 1901 South Hill incorporated as a town and emerged as an important shipping and manufacturing center in a region rich in tobacco and lumber resources. The South Hill Commercial Historic District reveals its origins in the turn-of-the-century tobacco and railroad economy through its tobacco warehouses and commercial buildings situated along West Danville Street and Mecklenburg Avenue. The district also features several churches, the 1932 South Hill High School, and residences built by prominent citizens of the town. The district’s architecture ranges from high Victorian and Colonial Revival styles to typical vernacular forms that range in date from the early to mid-20th century.
- Oak Ridge in southern Pittsylvania County. Located on a ridge above the Dan River, Oak Ridge is a Greek Revival/Classical Revival house with many notable stylistic and decorative features. The house was built around 1840 for planter George Adams and his wife, Justina. The interior is richly embellished with ornamental plasterwork, mahogany-grained doors, and marbled baseboards and stair risers. A monumental Doric portico was added to the front in the early-20th century. The Adams’s daughter Emma married Dr. John R. Wilson whose doctor’s office still stands on the grounds. Also on the property are an early kitchen, a carriage house, a log root cellar, and log and frame secondary dwellings. An extensive garden with sunken sections, geometric boxwood plantings, and large magnolias and cedars has developed continuously since the antebellum period.
The other VLR listings approved by the department’s boards include the following, listed alphabetically by jurisdiction:
- Established alongside a main road connecting the springs resorts of
Bath County with the Shenandoah Valley, The Wilderness is a large estate in the county’s northeastern mountains. Farmer and politician Samuel Blackburn developed The Wilderness during the early 19th century. At the center of the property is a two-story Georgian-style brick residence probably built about 1816. The house is distinguished by its pedimented front pavilion, pilaster corners, and original interior finishes including mantels of unusual form and detail. Behind the house is a contemporaneous brick carriage house—no doubt a rare refinement in early Bath County—and nearby is the stone foundation of a detached kitchen. Blackburn, the author of anti-dueling legislation and a noted orator, figured in period descriptions of the farm. The estate was later owned by the Frazier family, the proprietors of important springs resorts including Bath Alum Springs and Rockbridge Alum Springs. For much of the 19th and 20th centuries The Wilderness operated as a stock farm concentrating on large herds of sheep and cattle.
- Alexander Hill Baptist Church was built around 1870 during Reconstruction and served a rural African American community in
Buckingham County into the 21st century. The presence of a preacher’s mound on the property suggests the site was used for religious purposes prior to the building’s construction and possibly even before emancipation by the enslaved men, women, and children living at Sycamore Island, a nearby plantation. Along with Alexander Hill School (no longer standing on the property), from the Reconstruction Era forward the church was a focal point for African Americans in the community. An important local example of vernacular log construction, the church was later enhanced, likely in the early 20th century, with Greek Revival-style elements such as a pedimented gable, cupola, and interior trim work.
- Charlottesville’s West Main Street Historic District straddles a primary historic route between the city’s downtown and the University of Virginia. With a collection of historically-contributing buildings constructed between 1820 and 1970, the West Main Street Historic District illustrates the growth of commercial, residential, and travel-related structures like boarding houses and hotels, as well as those associated with mixed-use retail and service activities. The West Main Street travel corridor—which evolved through the eras of carriage, rail line, trolley, and automobile—offered small-scale retail services to the city’s African American and white residents, with activity dating to the 19th century. Home to three large African American churches, the district is adjacent to several historic black neighborhoods. Over the decades, the commercial and social activities of Charlottesville’s black community have ebbed and flowed along the West Main Street corridor.
- Llangollen was established on Virginia’s Native American frontier during the colonial era in present-day
Loudoun County, when Leven Powell claimed title to land from the Lord Thomas Fairfax proprietary. Powell made his fortune through tenant farmers who tamed his expanse of frontier lands at Llangollen and by transporting agricultural products to Alexandria’s international port and trading imported goods in Loudoun. Leven’s son, Cuthbert, a merchant and politician who inherited Llangollen in 1810, turned his attention and investment to farming. He established the family seat and a handsome fortune as well, and during the antebellum era the Powell family raised crops at Llangollen with an enslaved labor force and participated in the merchant economy tied to Alexandria. In the post-Civil War era of economic hardship, Llangollen owner George Ayre concentrated on commercial wheat and dairy production and a business in stallions. During the early 20th century, Llangollen partook of the area’s “Hunt Country” social life with the rise of equestrian sports and an influx of wealthy families into the region. In 1930, millionaire John Jay Whitney and his wife Liz purchased Llangollen and pursued a passion for fox hunting and thoroughbred racing. Whitney also introduced polo to Llangollen, which continues today at the highest level with world-ranked Maureen Brennan’s VIP Polo Center. Among the 17 historic buildings on the property are the original 18th–century patent house, which was expanded in 1830 into a Federal-style residence and transformed and expanded in the early 20th century into a Colonial Revival-style house; other resources include an 1830 icehouse, and structures from the 1930s such as a Horseshoe Stable, a Smithy, a Grooms’ Quarters, a stone garage, and other buildings associated with the Whitneys’ ownership of the property.
- The Mathews Downtown Historic District captures an area generally known as the Mathews Court House village in
Mathews County and which had been occupied by Virginia Indians since the Early Woodland period. Substantive Euro-American development of the district began around 1775, and accelerated once the village (then known as Westville) became the county seat, after the formation of Mathews County in 1791. Over the next two centuries, the historic district developed slowly from an agrarian village and economy to a small town. Local residents and businessmen invested heavily in the town throughout the antebellum period, leading to a growing population, diverse workforce, and materially improved structures including a brick courthouse built circa 1830. After the Civil War the town and county experienced a slow recovery but by the early 20th century the downtown offered a variety of retail, professional, and recreational services. The overall population of the county has grown slowly through the second half of the 20th century and, as a result, the downtown has maintained its historic character and not seen the significant declines and disruptive redevelopments of many downtown areas across Virginia. The Mathews Downtown Historic District retains strong visual integrity in architectural style and landscape in general, dating from its earliest period of concentrated development around 1775 through 1967.
- The Slusser-Ryan Farm, also known as Hickory Ridge Farm, highlights aspects of
Montgomery County’s agricultural and industrial history from around 1855 to 1880. The centerpiece of the property is a two-story, evolved center-passage-plan house. Character-defining features of the house’s era and region are embodied in its log construction, limestone foundation, brick chimneys, a prominent two-tier front porch with sawn balustrade, and interior woodwork that includes decoratively painted parlor baseboards. Around 1855, James P. Slusser built the earliest portion of the house--a log section with V-notched corners. A member of a prominent family of farmers and coal miners in the Mount Tabor area during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Slusser expanded the house around 1870. The property’s historic character is enhanced by domestic and agricultural buildings constructed under Slusser’s ownership during the 1870s including a smokehouse, and wagon barn and a hay barn, among other structures. The property also contains two historic sites: a coal mine and cemetery
- Old Manse is a landmark house in the Town of Orange (Orange Co.), built in the Greek Revival style in 1868 for the Reverend Isaac W.K. Handy, pastor of the Orange Presbyterian Church from 1865 to 1870. Neither built nor owned by the Presbyterian Church, the house is notable for its transverse stair hall at the back of the center passage, an unusual floor plan but one found regionally in a few other houses. In addition to its architectural qualities, the house is important for its association with Handy. Prior to arriving in Orange, he had served from 1861 to 1863 as pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in Portsmouth and experienced Civil War-era internment in a Federal prison, which he recounted in an 1874 memoir. Handy left Orange after accepting a pastorate at the Old Stone Church in Augusta County. Another important association, beginning in 1910, is with Justice George Landon Browning, who resided at Old Manse until his death in 1947. Browning was a justice on the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals from 1930 until 1947. During the early 20th century, Colonial Revival details were added to Old Manse, which was also expanded. The property’s historic structures include a meat house, gas house, barn, corn crib, swimming pool and pool house.
- The North Thompson Street Historic District in
Richmond encompasses a cohesive collection of five International Style office buildings and one bank, built between 1955 and 1959. Each building clearly conveys defining characteristics of the International Style including lack of ornamentation, smooth textures, flat roofs, ribbons of windows or glass curtain walls, and asymmetrical elevations. The buildings, which contribute to the district’s historic character, were all designed by architectural firms and involved architects who would go on to greater recognition in Richmond and Virginia.
- Richmond’s Robert Fulton School was built in 1917 in response to growing residential development in the city’s Fulton Hill neighborhood and as part of a major public school construction program initiated by Richmond School Superintendent Dr. J.A.C. Chandler. Designed by William Leigh Carneal, an architect of considerable importance in Virginia, the two-story school, with a four-column portico main entrance, sits atop Fulton Hill, making it visible from many vantage points in the city. The school’s name honors inventor Robert Fulton and the surrounding community, which derives its name from the once-prominent Fulton family.
- The Scott-Hutton Farm nestles in the Sugar Creek valley of western
Rockbridge County. An early stone springhouse, a timber-frame bank barn, and other buildings cluster around a Greek Revival farmhouse with an original log section. The log house was the home of William and Ann Scott, who owned the property from 1802 to 1830, although it is possible the log house was built by an earlier owner. Major James C. Hutton, a mill owner and millwright, acquired the property in 1843 and enlarged the log house with frame additions. Heavy Greek Revival mantels and vibrant oak graining on doors and trim are among the house’s notable interior features.
- Oceana Neighborhood Historic District in Virginia Beach lies two miles west of the beachfront and about 15 miles east of Norfolk. The community traces back to the 1883 completion of the Norfolk and Virginia Beach Railroad, which ran along the south edge of the emerging neighborhood, then part of Princess Anne County. The company built a depot, initially naming it “Tunis,” after the nearby landholdings of the Norfolk-based Tunis Lumber Company. By 1890, a post office was established at the stop but the name changed in 1891 to “Oceana” after it was determined that another “Tunis” already existed in Rockingham County. Although a few houses were constructed in Oceana in the early 1890s, the overall plan for the neighborhood largely took shape in 1906 when I.E. Youngblood purchased 250 acres and platted the 70-block subdivision known as “Oceana Gardens.” The district represents one of the last intact examples of Princess Anne County’s early-20th century subdivisions, and still retains one of Virginia Beach’s best collections of residential architecture from the era, arranged in the early town plan with tree-lined streets.
The Virginia Department of Historic Resources will forward the documentation for all 21 sites listed on the VLR to the National Park Service for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.
Complete nomination forms and photographs for each of these sites can be accessed on the DHR website at http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/registers/boardPage.html. The new VLRs will be forwarded to the National Park Service for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.
Listing a property in the state or national registers is honorific and sets no restrictions on what a property owner may do with his or her property. The designation is, first and foremost, an invitation to learn about and experience authentic and significant places in Virginia’s history.
Designating a property to the state or national registers—either individually or as a contributing building in a historic district—provides an owner the opportunity to pursue historic rehabilitation tax credit improvements to the building. Tax credit projects must comply with the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. The tax credit program is voluntary and not a requirement when owners work on their listed properties.
Virginia is a national leader among states in listing historic sites and districts in the National Register of Historic Places. The state is also a national leader for the number of federal tax credit rehabilitation projects proposed and completed each year.
Together the register and tax credit rehabilitation programs play significant roles in promoting Virginia’s heritage and the preservation of the Commonwealth’s historic places and in spurring economic revitalization and tourism in many towns and communities.