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Virginia Department of Historic Resources

The Virginia Department of Historic Resources is the State Historic Preservation Office.
Our mission is to foster, encourage, and support the stewardship of Virginia's significant historic architectural, archaeological, and cultural resources.

Historic Virginia

 Eight New Historical Highway Markers Approved

Topics covered by eight newly approved and forthcoming historical highway markers include the era of James River bateaumen; two Lee County natives who were expert at code-breaking and encryption during World War II and the Cold War; and a Newport News apprentice training school for the shipbuilding trades.

Three man crew on a bateau
Benjamin Henry Latrobe sketched these African American men steering a bateau on the James River in 1798. (Courtesy Library of Virginia)

The marker “James River Bateaumen” will rise in Richmond and recollect the era from the 1770s through the mid-1800s when bateaux plied the James River transporting goods between the capital and points west. The era of bateaumen on the river waned after 1840, when the James River and Kanawha Canal was completed to Lynchburg. “Crews of three men, often free or enslaved African Americans, performed the difficult and sometimes dangerous work of poling and steering the long, narrow boats,” the marker will read. Bateaux carrying tobacco, grains, iron ore, coal, and other commodities to Richmond helped to make the city an industrial and commercial hub.


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An Urgent Appeal to Supporters of Historic Preservation 

The National Park Service (NPS) recently proposed significant changes to the rules governing the nomination process to the National Register of Historic Places.

The proposed rule contradicts the intention of both the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966 and of a 2016 amendment to the NHPA. Both the law and amendment were a reaction by lawmakers to what they saw as overreach by the federal government and were intended to put safeguards in place to prevent the federal government from ignoring the concerns of state and local officials and residents. The proposed rule turns the law on its head and gives federal agencies virtually unilateral power to determine if historic resources on federal lands should be determined eligible for or nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. 

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Seven Historic Sites Added to the Virginia Landmarks Register in April

Whittles Mill Dam, Mecklenburg County, DHR #058-5199
Whittles Mill Dam

Seven sites — located in Lee, Mecklenburg, and Rockingham counties, and Alexandria, Portsmouth, and Richmond — have been approved for listing on the Virginia Landmarks Register.

Of the sites listed by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources during its spring quarterly meeting on April 17, two arose where flowing waters could power mills—on the Meherrin River in Southside Virginia’s Mecklenburg County, and a creek in the Shenandoah Valley’s Rockingham County.

In present-day South Hill, the Whittle’s Mill Dam deflected strong currents from the Meherrin River to operate grain and saw mills. The mill complex, constructed around 1756, was part of a large homestead owned by Colonel William Davies and Fortescue Whittle, prominent colonial-era men. Portions of this earliest section of the dam are still visible on the river.

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Spotlight on DHR Collections: Sandglasses

Evidence of time keeping on the Betsy

Hour glass used on ships.
Common marine sandglass. (Wikimedia)

A sandglass, more commonly referred to as an hour glass, was an important tool used in 18th-century sailing, the era of the Betsy, a ship scuttled in the York River by the British at Yorktown in 1781. These timepieces were calibrated for specific increments of time and would have been used for everything from keeping track of work shifts to timing distance measurements. The precise measurement of time allowed sailors to calculate distances and speed so that they could track their location.

From the Betsy shipwreck, we have evidence of at least two different sandglasses, each telling a different story.

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DHR Workshop for Historic Preservation in Southwest Virginia

shows cultural center
Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace

—DHR Staff will discuss programs and offer Q-and-A sessions focused on preserving sites and buildings in the region on April 30 in Abingdon

Residents, property owners, and citizens interested in preserving historic buildings, places, and archaeological sites in Southwest Virginia are encouraged to attend a free “Workshop for Historic Preservation in Southwest Virginia” scheduled for April 30 in the town of Abingdon when DHR staff will discuss various state and federal preservation programs.

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Now Accepting CLG Grant Applications for Fiscal Year 2019-2020

Shows front view of school building.
Historic Aldie Elementary School was surveyed during a CLG-funded project in Loudoun Co.

DHR is accepting applications for Certified Local Government (CLG) grants until 4 p.m., Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Applicants must submit two copies of each application—one printed original application (with original signatures) and one (1) electronic copy by email, flash drive, or CD. Receipt of the electronic copy by the deadline will suffice for eligibility, provided the hard copy with original signature arrives by the deadline of 4 p.m., May 18. Please direct all inquiries for information to Aubrey Von Lindern or by phone at 540-868-7029. CLG Grant Application and CLG Grant Manual.

New Policy for Visitors to DHR

All visitors to DHR’s Richmond headquarters are now required to provide a photo identity card (e.g. driver’s license, state employee badge, etc.) at the main desk, where all visitors must sign in. The new policy applies to all visitors including those attending First Fridays with Tax Credit Program staff, or using the DHR Archives or meeting with DHR staff. Thank you for your cooperation with this new policy. For more information, please see these Guidelines for Visitors to DHR.

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The Department of Historic Resources invites you to subscribe to our newsletter, which launches late next month. Bring DHR’s news and activities under one banner quarterly.

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Natural Disaster Recovery Advisory