New Listings, December 2014
(Listed alphabetically by jurisdiction)
Two summer youth camps in Bath County, one of which is the oldest known and still-operating camp in Virginia; a cemetery established by an emerging community of formerly enslaved African Americans in Harrisonburg; and a rare-surviving railroad depot in Tazewell County are among the 10 new listings added to the Virginia Landmarks Register by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources in December 2014. (Use the arrow keys to scroll through a slideshow of the listings, or choose a listing from the drop-down menu above.)
Featuring a Greek Revival-style main house, Kenmore Farm was established in 1856 as a farmstead to raise livestock and crops for subsistence and market. After the Civil War, from 1872 until 1889, new owner Henry Aubrey Strode operated the Kenmore University High School, a respected preparatory school that provided a practical secondary education for young men bound for studies specifically at the University of Virginia. The school was briefly re-opened by Strode’s son, Aubrey Ellis, in 1896 but closed permanently in 1899. In addition to its main house, Kenmore Farm today includes a collection of historic outbuildings that recall the property’s historic uses as an active farm and a one-time preparatory school, resulting in a built environment with a high degree of integrity of location and setting.
The Camp Alkulana Historic District and the Camp Mont Shenandoah Historic District
(see next slide) were
both born out of the back-to-nature youth camp movement that arose in the northern U.S.
during the 1880s before catching fire as a national trend during the first half of the
20th century. The movement sought to improve the minds, bodies, and spiritual foundations
of young men and women in an increasingly urbanized America by offering experiences
and activities in landscaped natural settings. While both camps Alkulana (photos) and Mont Shenandoah were
inspired by the camp movement, founded by the same person—Richmond resident Nannie Crump West—and
located only a few miles apart, they have notably different histories.
Camp Alkuluna, the oldest known and still-operating summer camp in Virginia, was established near Bubbling Springs in 1917 by West through her work as director of a Baptist-affiliated settlement house for Richmond’s poor. Inspired by organizations of the day such as the Camp Fire Girls, Camp Alkuluna provided underprivileged girls a summer retreat in the Allegheny Mountains of western Virginia, offering a host of outdoor activities. Operated today as a nonprofit organization and encompassing 20 acres and now serving both boys and girls, Camp Alkulana features Rustic-style cabins and other buildings dating from the 1920s and 1930s, a circa-1900 mill house and a frame house repurposed as a lodge, a campfire circle from 1955, and a lodge built in 1960, among its buildings and structures. In 1968 the camp was desegregated.
Camp Mont Shenandoah was founded by Nannie Crump West in 1927 as a private venture, independent of the Baptist church, to serve Richmond’s privileged young women. Encompassing 60 acres today along the Cowpasture River, the camp boasts more than a dozen one- or two-story Rustic-style sleeping cabins, a dining hall, and infirmary, all dating from the 1920s, a lodge from the mid-1930s, among other buildings and structures contributing to the site’s historical significance. Still operating today as a private business and now serving young women from across the U.S., Camp Mont Shenandoah is the oldest girls’ camp in Virginia in continuous operation.
The site of the Rosenwald-funded Buckingham Training School, near Dillwyn, is known today as Stephen J. Ellis Memorial Park. Constructed in 1924 during Virginia’s era of racial segregation, the Buckingham Training School site is significant for its direct association with the efforts of local African Americans to obtain education during segregation. From 1924 to 1954, the now-demolished training school functioned as the only high school for blacks in Buckingham County. Emphasizing training, the school instructed male students in skilled trades, while female students learned homemaking, cooking, and child rearing skills. White philanthropists and educators generally embraced such training programs for blacks as a means to uphold the continuity of the existing racial hierarchy while also strengthening the local workforce’s abilities. Today’s property notably features a standing affiliated shop building, built in 1932 and one of only 11 Rosenwald-funded shops constructed in Virginia. Within these shops, male students were trained in agriculture and skilled trades. The Buckingham Training School closed in 1954, when a new, segregated Carter G. Woodson High School opened. Soon afterwards, the training school re-opened as Steven J. Ellis Elementary School, which closed in 1964.
Newtown Cemetery is locally significant for its role in the development of the city’s historically African American community of Newtown, which arose soon after the Civil War on the then-edge of northeast Harrisonburg amidst the farm fields of a former plantation. Founded in 1869, Newtown Cemetery got its start when the cemetery’s five original trustees, members of the emerging Newtown community, purchased three lots—at a price exceeding what whites were paying for similar lots--for the express purpose of creating a graveyard “for all persons of color.”
Coinciding with the growth of Newtown and the city, the cemetery expanded with the trustees’ purchases of additional lots in 1898, 1907, and 1920, resulting in today’s 3.9-acre property, which contains the graves—many now unmarked—of more than 900 individuals.
While the Newtown Cemetery reflects the hardships of Harrisonburg’s Newtown community, it also represents the self-sufficiency and resilience of its members. Buried in the cemetery are individuals who greatly influenced not only the lives of those in the Newtown community but in the city and Rockingham County as well. Noted burials include community founders and entrepreneurs, leading educators and social activists, the city’s first black council and school board member, and veterans of World Wars I and II, Korea, and Vietnam, as well as two confirmed Civil War veterans who served as United States Colored Troops.
Amblers is a brick farmhouse built in 1852 in a style known as Picturesque, a design characterized by asymmetry and irregular building proportions and associated with American 19th-century landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing. Amblers’ original section is the only known surviving example of a Picturesque-style dwelling on Virginia’s Lower Peninsula. In the 1950s, Amblers was added onto using materials similar in appearance to those of the original house but in a Colonial Revival design, then popular in Virginia, that undid the original style, resulting in symmetrical and balanced building proportions. Today’s property, the central remnant of a large farm that operated from the late-18th century until it was subdivided in 1917, is owned by James City County and is located entirely within the Governor’s Land Archaeological District, listed in the state and national registers in 1973. Amblers also contains a circa-1850s brick smokehouse and much-modified brick dwelling likely dating to the same era. The property has great potential for archaeological research.
Located in far western Virginia, the Sayers Homestead was established around 1796 by
William Sayers along the Wilderness Road, near the Cumberland Gap.
The Sayers Homestead features a two-story stone house, built of limestone, that tradition holds was constructed by builder William Profitt, a resident of neighboring Claiborne County, Tennessee. Historically a relatively rare building type in southwest Virginia, stone houses today are exceptionally rare in the region, with perhaps less than a dozen examples still existing. In the 1890s, the Sayers house was added onto with a two-story, wood frame Victorian-style wing, resulting in a clear contrast between two distinct building traditions from different eras, nearly a century apart.
The property also contains a limestone garage and an assortment of farm buildings dating to the late-19th and early-20th centuries; a circa 1900 vehicular bridge, and a pre-1840 trace of the Old Wilderness Road.
The Thomas Claiborne Creasy House in the Town of Gretna is where Thomas C. Creasy resided
during a career that brought him wealth and saw him operating a mercantile warehouse,
owning numerous parcels of land, and rising to local prominence as a merchant, bank
president, justice of the peace, and philanthropist who donated land and money to
establish churches and schools in Gretna.
The original circa-1840, two-story frame house was purchased by Creasy in 1883 and evolved through various additions and alterations into one of Gretna’s finest residences, one that now features vernacular elements, as well as Italianate-, Colonial Revival-, and Craftsman-derived influences in its architecture.
The property retains a very high level of integrity and its context is enhanced by the presence of remaining outbuildings that date to 1923, as well as the historic downtown to the north.
The Samuel Gilmer House, built around 1820, is one of the few surviving examples of Federal-style architecture in far southwest Virginia. While the building has been refurbished, restored and annexed throughout the past 194 years, it retains classic Federal-style characteristics both in the interior and exterior. Other buildings and structures on the property that contribute to its historical significance include a detached original kitchen and cellar building, and the remaining stone piers and abutments of a circa-1848 covered bridge that was likely part of the Cumberland Gap Turnpike. Along with the Gilmer House, the cellar and bridge ruins all embody and retain the original integrity of their workmanship and attention to detail. All have withstood the elements, wars, economic growths and depressions, and changing times to stand as testaments to the tenacity and fortitude of the families who overcame great hardship to settle Virginia’s mountainous and historically remote southwest region.