May 9, 2017
Annual list sheds light on Virginia’s historic places facing threats to integrity and survival
Richmond, Va. (May 9, 2017) – Today, Preservation Virginia, a private, non-profit organization that makes Virginia’s communities and historic places stronger and economically sustainable through preservation, education and advocacy, announced their 2017 list of Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places. The list helps to raise awareness of Virginia’s historic places at risk from neglect, deterioration, lack of maintenance, insufficient funds, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy.
This year’s list includes Lincoln Homestead Farm, Masons’ Hall, historic schools in Virginia, African-American cemeteries, the Historic Newport and Greater Newport Rural Districts, and Newbern Jail. Preservation Virginia encourages citizens, localities and organizations to continue to advocate for the protection and preservation of these and all historic places across the Commonwealth.
1. Lincoln Homestead Farm, Rockingham County
President Abraham Lincoln’s father was born at the Lincoln Homestead in 1778. Five generations of the Lincoln family and two enslaved members of the household are buried there. The original home was built in the 1700s, but was destroyed by fire. The brick home on the site dates to circa 1800 and sits on nine acres. Rockingham County’s Lincoln Society hosts a well-attended memorial and wreath-laying ceremony on President Lincoln’s birthday every February 12th in the adjacent cemetery. The Massanutton Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution has done extensive work to repair and maintain the cemetery.
The house is privately owned and currently uninhabited. The current owners do not have the resources to complete needed repairs and ongoing maintenance. The property has been listed for sale several times with no buyers. The roof is relatively new, but work is needed to bring the house to livable condition.
Increase awareness of the Lincoln Homestead. In addition, it is hoped that a new owner can be secured who can sensitively update and rehabilitate the structure. The new owner should work with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to explore historic rehabilitation tax credit and historic preservation easement possibilities.
Location-specific media contacts: Louis Malon, Director of Preservation Services, Preservation Virginia, 804-514-9394, firstname.lastname@example.org; Sharon M. Grandle, Site Nominator, email@example.com; Randall E. Shank, Owner, firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Masons’ Hall
Masons’ Hall is the oldest building in the United States erected for Masonic purposes and continuously used for Masonic meetings and events.
Built in 1785 – 1787 in the Shockoe Valley by Richmond Lodge Number 13 (now, Number 10), and now owned by Richmond Randolph Lodge Number 19, Masons’ Hall is one of Richmond's few 18th-century buildings to survive the vagaries of war and age.
The building’s associations with the history of the fraternal organization of Freemasons and with important Virginia leaders include Grand Masters Edmund Randolph, Governor of Virginia and first U.S. Attorney General, and John Marshall, U.S. Supreme Court justice who received some of his earliest judicial experience at Masons’ Hall. The Marquis de Lafayette visited the lodge in 1824 and was made an honorary member. Freemasons at Masons’ Hall were leaders on the national stage, honing the governing principles and building the governmental institutions that are the foundations of our nation to this day. They built this country like they built Masons’ Hall- on the Masonic principles of faith, hope, charity, and civic engagement. Masons’ Hall serves as a reminder of the impact of those principles on our early years as a nation. Virginia citizens met in Masons’ Hall to instruct their delegation to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. In addition, for many years, Richmond City Courts and City Council met in Masons’ Hall. During the 19th century, religious groups unwelcome elsewhere conducted services there and, during the War of 1812, it served as a hospital.
In early 2015, a roof truss began showing signs of distress and a temporary truss was installed to support the roof. While permanent repair of the roof truss is the most pressing priority, Masons’ Hall has a lengthy list of repair and restoration needs.
A structural roof investigation has been conducted to identify the structural issues that should be addressed and designs for roof stabilization are in process. Historic Richmond has funded the roof investigation and has raised a portion of the funds needed for the permanent stabilization. Following stabilization, a capital campaign could provide funding to restore the building so it can be used for at least another 240 years. Preliminary estimates to restore the entire building exceed $2,000,000. Working with local groups such as Historic Richmond, the Freemasons are developing a strategy for raising funds for the stabilization and restoration of this integral piece of Richmond and American history. In addition, Historic Richmond and the Freemasons recently worked cooperatively towards implementing additional preservation protections on this important structure, including the designation of the Masons’ Hall as a City of Richmond Individual Old & Historic District.
Location-specific media contacts: Elizabeth Kostelny, CEO, Preservation Virginia, 804-648-1889 ext. 306, email@example.com; Danielle Worthing, Preservation Specialist, Historic Richmond Foundation, 804-643-7407, firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Historic Schools in Virginia (relisted)
For as long as the Most Endangered Historic Places program has existed, school buildings of all types from across the state have been individually and thematically listed. Repeated nominations of this building type indicate ongoing issues with how localities, nonprofit organizations, and private owners deal with—or are failing to deal with—historic schools. As with most historic preservation projects, the most pressing need is to secure funding for rehabilitation and maintenance. This is the case with all three of the schools listed this year.
Whether privately-owned or run by an organization or municipality, a locally-focused
plan is essential for determining preservation needs, the funding required to implement them, and appropriate adaptive reuse.
Charlotte County’s “Old Schools”
The former Charlotte County Elementary School and former Charlotte County Schools Administration Building, collectively referred to as the Old Schools, are contributing structures in the Charlotte Court House Historic District, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.
Owned by the Museum of Charlotte County, these historically important buildings face local government-related issues before they can be rehabilitated and re-used. If the school buildings are to be redeveloped, local zoning must be changed to allow for a higher-density residential use and the buildings must be connected to the town's water and sewer system. Previous stabilization effort costs need to be paid and more work is needed to prepare the two structures for redevelopment.
Location-specific media contacts: Sonja Ingram, Preservation Field Services Manager, Preservation Virginia, 434-770-1209, email@example.com; Cora V. St. John, Charlotte County Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, 434-248-6729, firstname.lastname@example.org; Edward W. Early, Museum of Charlotte County, 434-542-5176, email@example.com
Located in Cartersville in Cumberland County, the Hamilton School is a large wood-frame Classical Revival building that was constructed in 1910 and is associated with progressive education programs and the Civil Rights movement, earning it a stop on the Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail.
In 1911, state authorities selected the Hamilton High School Improvement League as one of two Model Leagues in Virginia, and in 1914 the school joined the privileged ranks of schools offering certified teacher training programs. Progressive education’s ties to the desegregation movement are inseparable.
Architecturally, the Hamilton School property has a high degree of integrity and retains much of its historic fabric. The school complex includes a cafeteria at the northern end of the property and a circa 1930 agricultural classroom building now referred to as the cannery. In 1925, a 250-seat auditorium was built.
The school has stood as a symbol of the community for over 100 years and has been used for events and alumni reunions. The school closed in 1964 and is currently privately owned and in need of attention, especially the roof. The county is constructing a reservoir near the school intended to draw people for recreational activities. The school could be used for lodging or an eating establishment that would benefit the new recreational tourism initiatives.
Location-specific media contacts: Sonja Ingram, Preservation Field Services Manager, Preservation Virginia, 434-770-1209, firstname.lastname@example.org; Wayne and Elaine Whitley, 804-375-9654, email@example.com
Pilot Mountain School
Pilot Mountain School is a historic Appalachian school located in Southwest Virginia. Built in 1921, it first served the region academically and more recently as a community center. The arts outreach organization, WVarts, is currently using the school to serve and educate the community of Pilot and Floyd and Montgomery Counties. The school hosts social functions, music, art, poetry and tutoring events, as well as the Montgomery-Floyd Regional Library Little Libraries outreach program involving book sharing and literacy.
Pilot Mountain School has been deemed eligible for listing on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places. The school is in need of funding for immediate roof repairs and ongoing maintenance and a preservation plan so that it can remain viable for the community.
Location-specific media contacts: Sonja Ingram, Preservation Field Services Manager, Preservation Virginia, 434-770-1209, firstname.lastname@example.org; T. Byron Kelly, WVArts, 540-204-0961, email@example.com
Historic school buildings owned privately or by non-profit organizations often face greater challenges in securing funding than those owned by developers or for-profit companies.
If a local entity wishes to maintain a historic school for use by the community, it is wise to establish stable partnerships with local governments whereby the locality uses a portion of the school for offices, libraries or other purposes, thereby creating a source of funding for ongoing repair and maintenance. Where appropriate depending on ownership and use, state and federal rehabilitation tax credit programs could help reduce the cost of returning schools to community use.
4. African American Cemeteries Statewide (relisted)
Since being listed last year, efforts around the state to document and preserve African American cemeteries have received significant attention. The 2017 session of the Virginia General Assembly saw the introduction and passage of Delegate Delores McQuinn’s House Bill 1547, which “directs the distribution of funds appropriated for such purpose to qualifying charitable organizations that preserve historical African American cemeteries established before 1900.” Community efforts to clear the East End and Evergreen Cemeteries, located east of Richmond, helped spur the legislative action. Further efforts to survey, interpret and protect historic African American resources are underway, including a recently approved grant of $400,000 by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation for historic African American cemeteries and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities’ interactive database of African American historic sites in the state. In addition, Preservation Virginia’s 2016 Preservation Pitch mini-grant competition winner, the Louisa County Historical Society, has created a Geographic Information System-based smartphone compatible website interface for surveying sites.
Prevalent across Virginia’s landscape, these places of memory vary in form and detail but face similar threats from development and/or neglect. This year’s listing, the Belmont Slave Cemetery in Loudoun County, was originally part of the plantation established by the Lee family in 1799. It was brought to the current landowner’s attention in early 2015.
Since then, with the discovery of distinct burial ground landscape features on the formerly abandoned and overgrown site, the Loudoun Freedom Center and other local groups have advocated for the need for stewardship programs and preservation equality of Loudoun’s African American historic and cultural resources, communities and sacred burial grounds.
The cemetery is under threat of encroachment from construction associated with the Route 659 Belmont Ridge Road overpass project.
Local organizations, the landowner and the county have worked together to avoid additional damage to the site and continue to work toward appropriate conservation and commemoration efforts. The rediscovery of the significance of the site and the collaboration between local groups and local government form the underpinning of successful efforts, such as at the Daughters of Zion Cemetery in Charlottesville.
Location-specific media contacts: Justin Sarafin, Director of Preservation Initiatives and Engagement, Preservation Virginia, 434-260-1804, firstname.lastname@example.org; Reverend Michelle C. Thomas, Loudoun Freedom Center, 703-298-0887, email@example.com
5. Section 106 (of the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act) Review Process
Last year’s Most Endangered Historic Places listing for Natural, Historic and Cultural Resources Threatened by Utility Infrastructure Projects Across the State remains relevant in 2017 as one of the largest threats to Virginia’s rich and varied resources. Projects such as the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and the visual disruptions and ground disturbances they would bring continue to threaten the integrity of historic sites and districts, rural historic districts, and state and federally-owned lands such as the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The potential cumulative damage to Virginia’s heritage tourism industry is substantial and unprecedented. None of these threats have been adequately addressed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) section 106 review process that is required by the National Historic Preservation Act.
Newport Historic District & Greater Newport Rural Historic District
One specific example is in Giles County, where two existing historic districts are threatened by the MVP. Minimization or avoidance of the negative impacts on the historic resources and traditionally agricultural landscape of Giles County is not feasible. The covered bridges and historic structures that lend the district integrity and the continued agricultural pattern of land use in this area would be permanently and irrevocably impacted by the pipeline. Though a National Register of Historic Places listing is mainly honorific, it does trigger a Section 106 review under the National Historic Preservation Act when a federal agency is involved in a project impacting a registered resource. Historic districts are generally to be avoided as part of a proposed project’s Area of Potential Effect (APE).
Like others potentially impacted by the MVP and ACP, local groups in Giles County opposed to the projects such as Preserve Giles County and Preserve Newport Historic Properties, find themselves involved in a flawed public engagement process contrary to Section 106. Consulting party status for appropriate organizations to take part in an exchange of information has been denied. Public meetings held by FERC have not been truly public and have instead relied on one-on-one recorded exchanges. Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) cultural resource survey reports have been difficult to obtain and incomplete or non-existent for sections of the proposed pipeline routes
FERC should ensure that an open Section 106 process is conducted, ensuring that all research and investigations undertaken on historic sites impacted by the pipeline are made available to all stakeholders for review.
We also encourage the developers of the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines to make every effort to reroute the pipelines so that they do not impact historic districts.
Location-specific media contacts: Justin Sarafin, Director of Preservation Initiatives and Engagement, Preservation Virginia, 434-260-1804, firstname.lastname@example.org; David Brady, Preserve Newport Historic Properties, 540-230-5833, email@example.com
6. Newbern Jail, Pulaski County
The Newbern Jail is Pulaski County’s oldest public building. The current jail building was built in 1848 after the original was destroyed by fire in 1843. The jail is located in the Newbern Historic District and is along the Frontier Trail, which is part of the Wilderness Road.
The Wilderness Road Regional Museum is located across the street from the jail. Because of its proximity to the Wilderness Road and the Wilderness Road regional office, the jail is in a good position to benefit from successful heritage tourism programs.
The Newbern Jail, despite being a well-known historic resource in the area, is in need of immediate repairs as well as ongoing maintenance. A recent replacement roof was unfortunately not sufficient to protect the interior of the building from the elements.
The business community has shown interest in preserving the building. This interest should be used to assist with funding for immediate repairs and ongoing maintenance and determining future uses of the jail as a heritage tourism draw as part of the Wilderness Road. Interest on the part of the local historical society and the local chamber of commerce could result in a collaborative approach to an economically beneficial historic preservation project.
Location-specific media contacts: Sonja Ingram, Preservation Field Services Manager, Preservation Virginia, 434-770-1209, firstname.lastname@example.org; Dr. John B. White, New River Historical Society, 540-440-0459, email@example.com
About Preservation Virginia
Preservation Virginia, a private, non-profit organization and statewide historic preservation leader founded in 1889, is dedicated to perpetuating and revitalizing Virginia’s cultural, architectural and historic heritage, thereby ensuring that historic places are integral parts of the lives of present and future generations. Learn more at www.preservationvirginia.org or call 804-648-1889.
804-648-1889 ext. 304