Preservation Virginia Announces 2009 Most Endangered Historic Sites in Virginia
Monday, May 18 2009
For the fifth consecutive year, Preservation Virginia presents a list of places, buildings and archaeological sites across the Commonwealth that face imminent or sustained threats to their integrity or in some cases their very survival. The list is issued annually to raise awareness of Virginia's historic sites at risk from neglect, deterioration, lack of maintenance, insufficient funds, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy. The intent is not to shame or punish the current owners of these places. The listing is intended to bring attention to the threats described and to encourage citizens and organizations to continue to advocate for their protection and preservation.
In no particular order of severity or significance, these nine Virginia places are considered as Endangered:
The Battle of the Wilderness, fought May 5-6, 1864, marked the first clash between generals Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant. More than 160,000 troops were engaged and nearly 29,000 casualties were inflicted. Wal-Mart plans to construct a 140,000-square-foot supercenter sited on a 52-acre tract, just north of the intersection of routes 3 and 20. Wal-Mart's site lies within the historic boundaries of the battlefield and immediately across Route 3 from Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. There are also plans for a large parking area and three "baby-box" retail stores on the site -- for a total of 240,000 square feet of new construction. Protection of the historic battlefield and the setting of the National Park is a critical concern for Virginians.
Annually, the battlefield draws 170,000 visitors to Orange County, generating sustainable economic activity through heritage tourism. The proposed Wal-Mart would degrade the rural context of the battlefield, promote commercial sprawl, and drastically increase traffic through the heart of the park. The intersection of the old Germanna Plank Road (modern Route 3) and the historic Orange Turnpike is key to understanding the battle and how it transformed the Civil War. The intrusion of a new Wal-Mart store, in an area already served by other branches of the same chain, would irrevocably harm a historic site of national significance. The Wilderness Battlefield is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register. Preservation Virginia urges Orange County officials to carefully consider the full implications of permitting this excessively sized retail center in its proposed location. We urge Wal-Mart to relocate to another site in Orange County.
Colonial Heights Baptist was the first church established in the City's original subdivision. The building predates the incorporation of the City and is a dominant and iconic presence on the main boulevard through the City. The congregation built a large new structure in 2008. The building has been unused since that time. The City has appointed a committee to consider the future of this building. Other communities have successfully adapted similar places of worship for use as auditoriums, community centers and housing. We urge a serious consideration of adaptive reuse that would preserve the presence of this stately building on the main street through Colonial Heights.
Situated in rural Isle of Wight County, Wolftrap survives as a picturesque and exceptionally rare example of country Federal-period architecture. Characterized by its asymmetrical gable roof sheathed with tinplate shingles, the house presents a three-bay, two-and-a-half-story facade with a one-story rear elevation surmounted by a double tier of dormer windows. Wolf trap is threatened by vandalism; damage from large trees that could potentially fall on the house, and serious termite and rot to its foundation. We urge the owner of the house and the owner of the adjacent lands to work together to ensure the stabilization and preservation of this unusual and unique architectural gem.
Selma is a 107 year-old mansion located five miles north of Leesburg in Loudoun County. The property is near U.S. Route 15/James Monroe Highway which itself is a historic road, formerly known as the Carolina Road. For 200 years, the name "Selma"was used interchangeably to denote both the land and the house. From its construction in 1902 until its sale in 1999, the 18 room mansion was a grand home situated on several hundred acres of rolling farmland. In 1999 the property was purchased by a businessman who intended to use the building as an office for his international software company. Never living in the house, he began to make minor renovations to several of the rooms for use as offices. When the software industry took a downturn in the early 2000s, he sold the property to a development company. In November 2007, Historic Selma LLC filed for bankruptcy and is currently in bankruptcy proceedings with the bank and other lien holders. Edgemore Homes has closed its sales office and exited the community. As a contributing resource to the Catoctin Rural Historic District, which is listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register, Selma is eligible for listing in the National Register. The Save Selma group has organized under the leadership of the Loudoun Preservation Society in a grassroots effort to research the property's history; become knowledgeable about the county's zoning ordinances as applicable to Selma and investigate preservation options for the building. We applaud their efforts and urge the owners as well as the County to work together to protect this important local landmark.
McIntire Park is Charlottesville's largest and most underutilized park. Philanthropist Paul Goodloe McIntire gave the land to the City of Charlottesville in 1926. The 9-hole municipal golf course conforms to the natural topography of the site, in this case the hills and stream valley of the earlier estates. With its sand greens and pasture style layout the course retains a significant form that is increasingly rare in the United States. McIntire Park Municipal Gold Course has complex connections to the landscape, social, and cultural history of Charlottesville. New road construction proposed through the park has the potential to adversely impact the historic integrity of the park and to lessen its recreational use. We urge the City and all concerned to give proper consideration to this amenity and not to allow convenience to outweigh the benefit of open recreational space available to all citizens.
Pittsylvania County is a rich agricultural region of the Piedmont. Tobacco growing has been a staple of economic production since the county's formation in 1767. Barns were used to cure tobacco leaves which were hung in the barns on wooden poles. While some barns continue their intended use, modern "bulk" barns have largely replaced the historic barns. With no rural historic districts and no regulations on demolition or maintenance of agricultural structures in the county, these structures are in peril. An architectural survey, stronger zoning and adherence to the building maintenance code, as well as the establishment of rural historic districts that contain some type of non-demolition and maintenance clause would help preserve many barns as well agricultural structures and provide an alternative use for these structures. We urge Pittsylvania County and its citizens to investigate these stewardship measures before more of these tangible reminders of our agricultural heritage are lost.
Konnarock Girls' School was the center of the community during much of its existence. The building was constructed in 1924 of native hardwoods and is sided with bark from the American chestnut tree which is virtually extinct. The site is on the National Register of Historic Places. The school operated from 1924 to 1959 as a boarding facility for girls from the mountains of Appalachia. The school, which has three stories and a basement, was one of the first buildings in the area to have central heat, indoor plumbing, and electricity (it had its own generator). The building's porch support has seriously weakened and cracked and is pulling away from the building. The steps in front and into the basement have deteriorated to the point that they are unusable. The chapel at the back of the building is in need of major work. Most of the siding can be saved, but only if it is cleaned and treated soon. The school building is not being used and has been empty for about twenty years. It is suffering from neglect. The building itself must be restored and renovated to meet current codes. A feasibility study was conducted several years ago and a preservation and restoration plan is in hand. The plan is to make the building of service to the community for retreats, meetings, and classes. As with so many school buildings across the Commonwealth that once formed the social and civic center of their community and are now abandoned for newer, more convenient facilities, the Konnarock School still has a role to play in its community. We urge the community and county to take swift action to arrest the deterioration that is threatening this building.
The 1908 Marion Schoolhouse is Smyth County's first high school. The building was later used as a grammar school, the county library, probation offices, school board offices, and the county museum. The two story brick building sits on the highest peak in the historic Downtown District, and is prominent from most of the vistas in town. While it suffers from rotted fascia and broken windows, a 2008 study affirmed the building's structural viability. The building is located in Marion's Historic District. The 1908 Marion Schoolhouse is a local landmark and remains a special place in the hearts of many Smythe County residents. Last year, Smyth County asked the museum to vacate the premises to make way for the building's probable demolition and allow for development of a fifty-vehicle asphalt parking lot to support the courthouse remodeling project. The Marion Schoolhouse has tremendous potential through adaptive use plan to continue to serve the community and complement efforts to revitalize downtown Marion through historic preservation. We urge the County to work with local organizations and especially the Main Street program to embrace this landmark of their history and use it for community benefit.
The Obici House sits on the 18th hole at Sleepy Hole Golf Course over looking the Nansemond River. Currently the house is vacant and has been for a number of years. The house suffers from water damage, rot, and a crumbling foundation. Amedeo Obici, the founder of the Planters Peanut Company, moved his business from Wilkesboro, PA to Suffolk, Virginia because this is where the best peanuts were grown. He made Suffolk the "peanut capital of the world." He was instrumental in introducing Mr. Peanut, one of the top five most recognizable icons in the world. The Obici Hose was constructed around 1924. As philanthropists, Mr. and Mrs. Obici supported the people of Suffolk. When Mrs. Obici, died, her husband commissioned Suffolk's first hospital in her memory. He died before it was completed. The Obici House is a landmark to this family's commitment to the Suffolk community. This house, recently a popular site for weddings and charity events, could potentially be torn down before the end of the year. The Obici House is on the National Register and would qualify for historic rehabilitation tax credits. Other communities have launched similar projects to re-use residential structures as community centers, club houses and other uses. We urge the City to redouble its efforts to find a sympathetic buyer to undertake the restoration and adaptation of this important link with so many aspects of Suffolk's proud heritage.
We encourage the nominators of these sites to use the listing to raise awareness as to how these irreplaceable historic places can be contributors to the economic, educational and cultural health of their communities. For more information about these places and Preservation Virginia programs, please visit our website at www.preservationvirginia.org.
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. Our mission is directly consistent with and supportive of Article XI of the Constitution of Virginia, benefiting both the Commonwealth and the nation. Preservation Virginia provides leadership, experience, influence, and services to the public and special audiences by saving, managing, and protecting historic places, and developing preservation policy, programs, and strategies with individuals, organizations, and local, state, and national partners.
For The Wilderness Battlefield
For the Colonial Heights Baptist Church
Mary Ann Hamilton
For Wolf Trap
For McIntire Park
or Daniel Bluestone
or Colette Hall
For Historic Barns of Pittsylvania County
For Konnarock School
Dr. Jean Hamm
For the 1908 Marion Schoolhouse
For the Obici House
Director of Marketing and Public Relations
204 West Franklin Street
Richmond, Virginia 23220