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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

Re-Emergence of an Enslaved Family Cemetery on an Albemarle Farm

View of cemetery cornerstone, looking south
A cemetery cornerstone at Mount Fair that memorializes its historical burial ground for the enslaved. (DHR/ Brad McDonald)

When John and Dudley Macfarlane purchased a historic farmstead in Virginia’s Blue Ridge in 2003, they knew of the work ahead of them—rehabilitating the main house, outfitting the barns, and taming the horse pastures—would take time. Once they were moved in and the Macfarlanes began to walk the fields and woods of their new property and speak with their neighbors, they soon realized there were additional tasks requiring their attention.

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Expanding DHR’s Record of Virginia Cemeteries

Inscribed fieldstone
An inscribed fieldstone at the Bear Mountain (Monacan) Cemetery in Amherst Co.

Like many organizations, DHR is challenged with managing and correcting a record of the past that is incomplete and does not yet fit the needs or reflect the complexities of all of our constituent communities. Our staff is making efforts to correct that record however, and some of those results can be seen in the agency’s cemetery records.

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Cemetery Conservation: Side Effects of Best Intentions

Grass debris on a gravestone.
Lawn-mowing debris covers a gravestone.

Seeing an old gravestone covered in dirt, lichen, moss, and innumerable other encrustations, stained, pitted, broken and off kilter, begging to be taken care of, makes us taphophiles yearn to grab our scrub brushes and pruning shears and get to work.

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Remembering What We’d Rather Forget–Memento Mori

skull and crossbones
Memento mori on a grave table stone at Aquia Church Cemetery, Stafford Co.

The image of the naked skull and crossed femurs is a universal symbol that warns viewers of the presence of mortal danger. From poison to pirates, that hard grin is a reminder of the basic fragility of the human body. The same imagery can be seen in artwork, including funerary art, with human skulls and bones used in both portraiture and still life painting to reference the brevity of life. This artistic tradition is known as memento mori, Latin for “remember death.”

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Hickory Hill Slave and African American Cemetery

Hickory Hill Slave and African American Cemetery
Hickory Hill Slave and African American Cemetery

Descendants Use Genealogy and Family Records to Argue for Preservation

The Hickory Hill Slave and African American Cemetery is a burial ground established as early as 1820 in Hanover County. Researchers and descendants have collected considerable information about the cemetery and those interred there over the past 30 years. The depth and breadth of information that extends from the 1810s to the recent past provided the basis for nominating the cemetery for listing in the Virginia Landmarks Register and National Register of Historic Places.

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One Virginia: DHR’s Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence

Cover of DHR's DEI PlanGovernor Northam’s Executive Order One requires that agencies take affirmative measures to enable and encourage the recruitment of a diverse staff. Additionally, as part of the Special 2021 Session of the Virginia General Assembly, Chapter 168 of the Virginia Acts of Assembly mandates that agencies create a complete diversity, equity, and inclusion plan in coordination with the Governor’s Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Developed in accordance with these guiding documents from the Governor and the GA, here is DHR’s “Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence.”

17 New State Historical Highway Markers Approved, June 2021

Thumbnails of four photos—Markers cover topics in the counties of Bedford, Brunswick, Culpeper (2), Cumberland, Essex (3), Southampton; and the cities of Bristol, Falls Church, Lexington, Petersburg, Richmond (4)—

 —Text of each marker reproduced below—

Fifteen of 17 proposed historical markers approved for manufacture recall people, places or events in Virginia’s African American history, including five topics submitted by students who participated in Governor Northam’s Black History Marker contest in February. Among the student suggestions are forthcoming markers about a formerly enslaved man born in Virginia who joined John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, the “Father of Black Basketball,” and a Richmond woman who was part of a racially integrated network that passed intelligence to the U.S. Army during the Civil War.

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Historic Tax Credits, Project Profile: Gretna’s Amoco Service Station

Classic Amoco station design
The Gretna Amoco departs from this classic corporate design of the mid-20th century

The 1940 Amoco Service Station in Pittsylvania County’s Town of Gretna was built in the tradition of “ice-box” gas station architecture and according to corporate specifications. The stuccoed, concrete-block building possesses a quasi-rectangular form adorned with delightful mid-20th century details, although it is distinct from many existing Amoco stations from that era. Read full text »

Nine Historic Sites Added to the Virginia Landmarks Register, June 2021

VLR listings are in the counties of Bedford (2), Brunswick, Campbell, Loudoun, Pulaski, Rockbridge, Warren, and Westmoreland—VLR listings are in the counties of Bedford (2), Brunswick, Campbell, Loudoun, Pulaski, Rockbridge, Warren, and Westmoreland—

Among nine places listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register are a historic district on the Northern Neck that encompasses a late-1800s resort, a house in Southside associated with a circuit-riding preacher who helped spread Methodism in Virginia, an 18th-century house once proffered to Thomas Jefferson, and three 20th-century schools.

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What Is Meant by “Historic Resource Survey”

In preservation circles and at DHR, people often refer to a “historic resources survey.” In this brief video (5 min.), DHR’s Blake McDonald, manager of the Architectural Survey & Cost Share Grant Program, explains clearly what exactly such a survey is and entails—and why it does not affect property owners or their property (beyond documenting the property’s historic character).

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DHR now has two newsletters: a DHR Quarterly Newsletter, and a newsletter for Register Program Updates. We invite you to subscribe to our newsletters.  Once you have signed, you will receive an email asking you to confirm your subscription. Any questions or problems, please contact Randy Jones at DHR. We look forward to hearing from you and keeping you up to date with DHR’s register programs and other preservation news and Virginia history.


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