Tobacco Barn Preservation Project
Historic tobacco barns have been an iconic part of Southside Virginia’s landscape. Sadly, they have been disappearing for years. To address this, Preservation Virginia included historic tobacco barns on its 2009 Most Endangered Historic Places list. An outpouring of interest and support from the region led to the creation of a multi-part initiative to preserve tobacco barns with the following components:
- Middle School poster contest
- Architectural survey of tobacco barns
- Public workshops on barn repair
- Oral history project to record stories of tobacco farmers
In 2013, the Tobacco Barns Preservation Project entered a new phase with the announcement of a joint partnership between Preservation Virginia and JTI Leaf Services in Danville to create a mini-grant program to provide funding for tobacco barn repair in a three-county region.
Since its inception, the Tobacco Barns Preservation Program has received 3 awards, repaired 25 tobacco barns, and has created at least 10 jobs.
JTI Mini-Grants Project
Since 2013, JTI has provided generous support for the Mini-Grants Project. To date, twenty-two tobacco barns have been repaired with eight currently underway. We look forward to announcing the remaining 15 barn grants to be completed in 2016. Stabilization and repair work has included log replacement, and roof and foundation work.
Both curing barns and pack barns have been chosen for grants, including the pack barn owned by Luther Guill in Halifax County. The Guill Family has farmed tobacco in Halifax County since the late 18th century. Mr. Guill’s pack house is at least 80 years old and sits within a cluster of barns near South Boston.
“Showcase Barn” (Bryant Barn) Restoration Project
Funded by the Danville Regional Foundation, the “showcase barn” project involved the repair of a highly-visible tobacco barn located between Danville and Chatham on State Highway 29. The repairs were recorded by filmmaker Von Wellington who produced A Good Hat and a Good Set of Boots chronicling the project.
Tobacco Heritage Virginia State Highway Marker
The final part of the Showcase Barn Project − the installation of a Virginia Department of Historic Resources/Virginia Department of Transportation historical marker that interprets and commemorates tobacco barns − will occur in the spring of 2016. Hundreds of people driving through the region see the barn and will see the new marker every day.
“Tobacco Memories” Oral History Project
In 2013, Preservation Virginia received a grant from the Community Foundation of the Dan River Region for an oral history project to interview tobacco farmers in the region. Sixteen people who had deep ties to tobacco farming were interviewed and ten films were created from the video footage. A public screening of the movies was held in April 2014. To view some of the oral history interviews please visit Preservation Virginia’s YouTube, click here.
Middle School Poster Contest
Sixty-three middle school students from Pittsylvania County participated in the “Preserve our Barns So They are More than a Memory” poster contest. The first place winner was Casey Sparks of Dan River Middle School. Also from Dan River Middle School, Cayla Keen won second place. The third-place winner was Autumn Womack from Gretna Middle School. Jordan Paquette, Kaitlyn Carter and Kaden Lewis from Chatham Middle School received honorable mentions.