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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

Ask an Archaeologist: Stephen Sweeney Pottery

Sherds assembled into vessel
The recovered sherds assembled to form this vessel.

I received an email from Michael Goodwin who discovered some pieces of pottery at the “old family home” off US 33 near an area historically known as Cuckoo, in Louisa County. He recovered them around the year 2000, pieced them together, and found he had a substantial portion of the original vessel. Mr. Goodwin wanted to know if I could help him learn more about it.

Right away, all I could tell was that it was grey, salt-glazed stoneware and likely local. I sent an email to Rob Hunter, the editor and founder of the wonderful ongoing Ceramics in America series of books. The 2020 and previous editions discuss ceramics found in the U.S. in all their forms—from tobacco pipes to milk pans. The publications are widely esteemed for their scholarly articles and beautiful photography.

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DHR Announces Availability of Virginia Battlefield Preservation Grants for Fiscal Year 2022

Looking along the barrel of a Civil War-era cannon.—State Grant Awards of $1 Million will Help to Protect Lands Affiliated with Battles of the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War—

Application Form: PDF 

2021 VBPF Grant Program Manual (pdf)
Revised May 2021)

DHR is now accepting applications from organizations that seek to protect battlefield lands with the support of grants from the Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund, which the agency administers.

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The Evolution of Funerary Symbolism (or “What’s With All the Willow Trees?”)

Cherub grave icon.
Cherubs, often representing spiritual resurrection, evolved from death’s-head imagery, or memento mori.

Welcome to the inaugural issue of Grave Matters: Cemeteries in Virginia, DHR’s newsletter for fellow cemetery enthusiasts. We hope you enjoy reading these articles as much as we enjoyed writing them.

Future newsletters will explore the origins, meanings, and applications of specific funerary symbols. For now, let’s take a brief look at the history of funerary symbolism in America, and how it transitioned from the skull and crossed bones of the early colonies to the stylized, basic florals and geometrics of today. This may be a refresher for many of you, but hopefully everyone will find something of interest. And please note that this discussion focuses specifically on colonial and post-colonial America, and the ideas and symbols commonly found in cemeteries dating from the mid-1600s on.

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Case Study in Preservation Excellence: Central State Hospital’s Unmarked Cemetery

Undated postcard image of CSH.
Undated postcard image of CSH.

[The following is extracted from the Report on the Stewardship and Status of Virginia’s State-Owned Historic Properties, 2021–2023]

In 1870, the state of Virginia established the first institution in the United States dedicated to the treatment of African Americans with mental illnesses, the Central Lunatic Asylum in Dinwiddie County. The facility, desegregated in 1968, has evolved into today’s Central State Hospital (CSH), part of the Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services (DBHDS), and now houses the only maximum-security mental health unit in Virginia.

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Report on the Stewardship and Status of Virginia’s State-Owned Historic Property, 2021–2023

Report on the Stewardship and Status of Virginia’s State-Owned Historic Property, 2021–2023In 2006, the General Assembly passed legislation mandating that DHR draft two biennial reports, with the option that they might be combined, on the stewardship of state-owned historic properties. Consistent with prior reports, the 2021 report combines–

  • priority lists of sites eligible for listing on the Virginia Landmarks Register as well as those VLR sites listed or eligible that are most threatened with loss of historic integrity or functionality, and
  • a status report on historic properties previously identified in prior reports.

This year’s illustrated report highlights the efforts of Central State Hospital to preserve its archival records and memorialize it Unmarked Cemetery. For more information, visit our webpages devoted to the stewardship of state-owned property.

16 New State Historical Highway Markers Approved

16 New State Historical Highway Markers Approved—Markers cover topics in the counties of Albemarle, Alleghany (2), Chesterfield, Goochland, Highland, Loudoun, Pittsylvania, and Tazewell; and the cities of Alexandria, Bristol, Fredericksburg, Harrisonburg, Martinsville, Petersburg, and Staunton—

Sixteen proposed historical markers approved for manufacture recall people, places or events from Virginia’s colonial era to the 1960s, with topics drawing on Virginia’s African American, political, educational, and social history, among other threads.

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State Adds Nine Historic Sites to the Virginia Landmarks Register

Four buildings nominated to VLR and NRHP in March 2021.—VLR listings are in the counties of Amherst, Arlington, Bath, Henry, Patrick, and Shenandoah; and the cites of Norfolk, Richmond, and Virginia Beach—

Among nine places listed in March on the Virginia Landmarks Register are a 1960s motel in Virginia Beach that signaled a new era of family vacationing, a Pentecostal church in Richmond where a nationally-acclaimed preacher began his career, a 1950s school built when the Southside region experienced unprecedented prosperity, and a high-style “French country house” in the Allegheny Mountains.

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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).

DHR Guidance Regarding Confederate Monuments

R. Lee Monument, Richmond, with graffiti.
R. Lee Monument, Richmond. (Photo: Adam Dawson)

As of July 1, localities may legally remove monuments.

DHR offers these guidelines to support the removal of monuments in a manner adhering to best preservation practices, one that will also allow for input from local officials and citizenry about the ultimate fate of each monument.

Additionally, Preservation Virginia convened an “interracial working group of Virginia preservation practitioners and scholars with varied backgrounds” to create a checklist of best practices to guide localities who are considering removal of war monuments and memorials.

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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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