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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

New Tool: Report a Cemetery to DHR

Grave marker.
A gravestone at Mount Fair slave cemetery in Albemarle Co. (Photo courtesy of John Macfarlane)

Do you know about a cemetery that needs attention?

Make sure that DHR knows about it, too!

Report it to us with our new online map tool and form. Using your mobile device or computer, provide DHR with some basic information about the cemetery and its location. We will check our records and connect a DHR staff member with you for follow up.

And please note: Recording a cemetery using this form will begin the process of adding it to our databases at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, but it does not guarantee protection of the burial ground.

New: Virginia’s Comprehensive Historic Preservation Plan, 2022–2027

As Virginia’s State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), DHR is mandated to periodically develop and publish a Statewide Comprehensive Preservation Plan (under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended). On November 10, 2021 DHR published Virginia’s Comprehensive Historic Preservation Plan, 2022–2027. The plan is far-reaching and intended both to inspire and to represent the work of the diverse stakeholders who benefit and who shape the future of Virginia’s historic landscape. The plan’s goals, objectives, and outlined strategies target DHR’s next six-year planning cycle, 2022 through 2027.

“. . . this plan envisions a time when historic places are more fully valued and recognized as assets for education, tourism, environmental sustainability, and economic vitality. It is built on the premise that everyone’s history has value and that, because historic properties are a source of connection and pride, they play an important role in building stronger communities,” writes DHR Director Julie V. Langan in her message to introduce the plan.

Dining with the Dead

People picnic in a cemetery.
People picnic at Historic St. Luke’s Church cemetery in Smithfield, Isle of Wight Co., Va., circa 1957. (Photo: St. Luke’s Historic Church and Museum)

Modern Americans can be very fussy about who they eat their meals with and they tend to be pretty conservative about what goes on in their cemeteries.

This has not always been the case.

The history of Americans dining with the dead is intertwined with the history of public parks in the U.S. and, of course, various religious practices in our diverse land. For those interested in cemeteries, none of this may be news. But for the uninitiated, here is context for why people share meals with the dead.

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called Dining with the Dead

13 Buffalo Soldiers, Cuffeytown Cemetery, City of Chesapeake

Cuffeytown Cemetery
Cuffeytown Cemetery, Chesapeake.

In January of 2020, DHR archaeologist Mike Clem traveled to Cuffeytown Cemetery, in Chesapeake, to document the number of burials dating prior to 1900, as well as those of people born before 1900 but who died in the 20th century. He did so to support the caretakers of the cemetery, who were applying for funds from the Commonwealth for the upkeep of the grounds. Certain thresholds must be met to receive such support from the African American Cemetery and Graves Fund. (Visit this webpage to learn more about the fund.) Here’s Mike’s report:

The cemetery is not easy to find.

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called 13 Buffalo Soldiers, Cuffeytown Cemetery, City of Chesapeake

Grave Markers for Veterans: Military History in a Rural Cemetery

View of the cemetery
Oak Grove Cemetery.

A visitor to most cemeteries in Virginia sees markers for servicemen and servicewomen who served from the Civil War up to the present. The stone slabs, made famous by images of row upon row at national cemeteries such as Arlington, are stark reminders of the sacrifices made by those who answered the call to duty. These markers are found in cemeteries large and small, in urban and rural areas, in church cemeteries established in the 19th century, municipal burying grounds of the early 20th century, and privately owned lawn cemeteries of the post-World War II period. [1]

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called Grave Markers for Veterans: Military History in a Rural Cemetery

Germanic Folk Art at the McGavock Family Cemetery, Wythe County

View of cemetery
McGavock Family Cemetery, Wythe Co.

Some of the more fascinating cemeteries in Wythe County are those featuring headstones adorned with German folk art designs. Most of these cemeteries are associated with churches of German Lutheran congregations tracing to the late 18th century such as Kimberling Lutheran Church, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church and St. John’s Lutheran Church, all listed today in the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.

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called Germanic Folk Art at the McGavock Family Cemetery, Wythe County

Two Volumes on Virginia’s Archaeology Now Available as PDF Downloads

Cover of Virginia's First PeoplesThe Archaeology of Virginia’s First Peoples (2020) [link]

The Historical Archaeology of Virginia from Initial Settlement to Present: Overview and New Directions (2017) 

In conjunction with the Archeological Society of Virginia (ASV) and the Council of Virginia Archaeologists (CoVA), DHR has posted to its website the PDFs of two volumes that examine archaeology in the state from its millennia of occupation by Native peoples through the recent past.

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called Two Volumes on Virginia’s Archaeology Now Available as PDF Downloads

Community Outreach Coordination

Sponsors of marker pose after unveiling
Sponsors of the “Mount Calvary Cemetery Complex” gather after its unveiling in Portsmouth in 2016.

Meaningfully engaging with African Americans and Virginia Indians

(See below for Special Announcements & Opportunities.)

DHR acknowledges that meaningful collaboration with African American and Virginia Indian communities towards the development and implementation of preservation agendas has been regrettably limited. Neglect and a lack of direct engagement has led to the loss of many historic properties of significance to these constituencies. Moreover, many such resources are not represented in the Virginia Cultural Resource Information System (VCRIS).

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called Community Outreach Coordination

Regulations Governing Contextualization of Monuments or Memorials for Certain War Veterans

Draft regulations for contextualization of monuments or memorials have been approved by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources and promulgation of the regulations has been initiated on Virginia’s Town Hall website.

After Dam Removal, Archaeology at Jordan’s Point, Maury River, Lexington

View of Jordan's Point
The Maury River seen here returned to its natural run after removal of the Jordan’s Pt. dam, which stood for 213 years until 2019. Some remains of the dam’s cribbing is visible where a line runs perpendicular to the current. DHR archaeologist Tom Klatka (L) listens as a local resident discusses the former dam. 

Revelations of an Early Industrial Landscape

The Maury River is neither deep nor wide where it rolls past Jordan’s Point. Only a couple hundred yards south, and up a steep wooded slope, cadets at Virginia Military Institute busily stride between the pale-olive buildings of the post. To the east, lazy traffic buzzes over the Route (US) 11 bridge and into downtown Lexington. Federal-style red brick shops and houses line the town’s streets, none of them level. The largest expanse of even ground in Lexington—outside of the football stadiums of Washington & Lee and VMI—is along the river at a place once clanking and bustling with mills. Jordan’s Point was the industrial and commercial center for Lexington for most of its early life.

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called After Dam Removal, Archaeology at Jordan’s Point, Maury River, Lexington

African American Watermen Project

Flyer announcing project.
A postcard announcing the project.

The renowned seafood industry of the Chesapeake Bay would not have been possible without the contributions of generations of African Americans.

Following the Civil War, self-employment in oystering, crabbing, fishing, and boat building provided independence and self-sufficiency for Black watermen. Labor employment opportunities also supported the processing, packing, and shipping of seafood to all parts of the eastern United States.

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called African American Watermen Project

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).

Subscribe to DHR’s Newsletters

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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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