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 raise awareness about the threats to historic tobacco barns, we included them on our 2009 Most Endangered Historic Places list. An outpouring of interest and support from the region led to the first phase of our Tobacco Barn Preservation Project, which included the following components:
- Architectural survey of tobacco barns
- Public workshops on barn repair
- Oral history project to record stories about tobacco farmers
- Middle school poster contest
In 2013, we began a partnership with JTI Leaf Services in Danville to provide mini-grants for historic tobacco barns in Pittsylvania and Halifax Counties in Virginia and Caswell County, North Carolina. The grants have allowed property owners the opportunity to receive funding for the rehabilitation of their barns in a manner authentic with the original architectural style.
After a successful 5-year run, this year will mark the conclusion of the Tobacco Barn Preservation Project in its current form. The 2018 grant cycle will focus on repairing six new barns, the completion of any remaining barns from previous years and the publication of a book about all of the barns repaired during the project.
Bray Tobacco Barn Before & After
The mini-grants program has merited regional and national accolades including a Virginia Association of Counties Achievement Award and a Leadership in History Award from the American Association for State and Local History. In 2015, it was listed as one of Garden and Gun Magazine’s, “50 Reasons We Love the South Now.”
At the conclusion of 2018 grant cycle, the mini-grants program will have repaired over 60 tobacco barns in the Southside region. All of the barns repaired are unique resources that afford some type of public benefit and help to grow a local identity and distinctiveness by connecting residents to their past. Each year, the program also facilitates the creation of at least 10 jobs and has the potential to be a powerful economic engine by growing the heritage tourism appeal of the area. Heritage tourism is one of the strongest industries in Virginia bringing in over 20 billion dollars annually and supporting over 200,000 jobs in the state each year.