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DHR Spotlight: Preservation Incentives Division

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Pure Oil, Cape Charles
Pure Oil Gas Station in Cape Charles.

The latest updates on two of Virginia’s most popular preservation programs.

By Megan Melinat | DHR Preservation Incentives Division Director

The Division of Preservation Incentives staff continues to keep busy serving the residents of the Commonwealth through the Easement Program and the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit program. Both programs remain very popular with property owners and enhance the historic character of Virginia.

So far during this fiscal year, staff who oversee DHR’s Easement program have recorded 11 new easements protecting more than 500 acres of Virginia land. The largest of these easement donations was the Siegen Forest Tract in Orange County, which protects nearly 164 acres of historically significant land partially within the Chancellorsville and Wilderness Battlefields. The Siegen Forest Tract is located at the historic Germanna Ford of the Rapidan River. This ford was a key the crossing of the Union Army throughout the Civil War, as it was one of the few places along the Rapidan River where large groups of infantry and cavalry could cross quickly. Adding to the Siegen Forest Tract's historic significance are seven known archaeological sites, including a historic mill complex, an 18th- to 19th-century domestic site, millrace and dam, a family cemetery, Civil War earthworks, a 20th-century airway beacon, and an unidentified stone structure. Many of these sites were present at the time of the battles and augment the battlefield landscape integrity. They indicate the property is likely to contain additional sites, deposits, or features associated with its prehistoric and historic occupation that will contribute to future research. The Siegen Forest Tract is currently open to the public and connected to the Historic Germanna Visitors Center and Hite Center for Archaeology with an extensive trail system along the Rapidan River.

Siegen Forest Tract in August 2023.
Siegen Forest Tract in August 2023.

The smallest of the new easement donations is the Mair Tract, located in the City of Chesapeake, which protects more than 0.66 acres of historically significant open-space land. Located on Battlefield Boulevard North, just north of the Intracoastal Waterway in the City of Chesapeake, the Mair Tract adjoins the Great Bridge Battlefield and Waterways Historic Park. This park commemorates the 1775 Revolutionary War Battle of Great Bridge. Portions of the Great Bridge Battlefield are owned by the City and the Unites States Army Corps of Engineers. This is the first easement administered by DHR on the Great Bridge Battlefield. Although the rural, marshy, and agrarian landscape of the area has changed significantly since the battle, the property is located within and contains a portion of the battlefield’s core area of activity and retains a specific connection and association to the 1775 engagement. The Mair Tract will be incorporated into the Battlefield Park and open to the public.

An illustrated map of the Great Bridge in 1775
"A view of the Great Bridge near Norfolk in Virginia where the action happened between a detachment of the 14th Regt: & a body of the rebels." Source: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan Library Digital Collections.

As one of the nation’s premiere programs, the Virginia Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit (HRTC) program continues to see strong participation from property owners and remains an important economic tool for developers. In late 2023, DHR collaborated with the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University to publish an updated economic impact study to better understand the HRTC’s costs and benefits to Virginia. Since its inception 20 years ago, the program has issued $1.7 billion dollars in historic tax credits, which, in turn, incentivized $6.8 billion dollars in private investment that would not have otherwise occurred. The study also determined that the HRTC program supported 28,850 jobs throughout the Commonwealth. The complete analysis of the data concluded the program:

  • Revitalizes rural and small towns;
  • Increases housing inventory;
  • Reduces environmental hazards;
  • Promotes cultural heritage; and
  • Secures project financing.

 

The complete study, as well as the executive summary, are available on the DHR website.

Preservation Incentives Division staff are proud to support the preservation of historic buildings and battlefield cultural landscapes. These programs provide tangible benefits to communities by promoting Virginia’s heritage and enriching the quality of experience for residents and visitors alike.

Pure Oil, Cape Charles
Pure Oil Gas Station in Cape Charles.

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