The Virginia Highway Marker Program began in 1927, making it the oldest such program in the nation. Considering the program’s age, it is unsurprising that some markers are ready to be “retired.” Many, for instance, are too severely damaged or deteriorated to be repaired.
In 2014, VDOT—this agency’s primary partner with the marker program—established new procedures for the routine maintenance of markers, including the painting and repair of damaged signs. As a result, markers damaged beyond reasonable repair and markers that have reached the end of their useful life will now be removed or retired at the discretion of DHR in consultation with VDOT. VDOT also reserves the right (again, in consultation with DHR) to remove and relocate any marker determined to be a threat to the safety of the traveling public.
Markers may be retired if they:
DHR reserves the right to update and replace markers regardless of their physical condition in cases where, after a detailed evaluation based on primary and reliable secondary sources, marker program staff and the Board of Historic Resources determine that the existing text is inadequate and merits rewriting. Such action is dependent on the availability of funding for a replacement marker.
DHR will make an effort to locate and notify the original sponsor of any marker that is retired.
Please note that the topics covered by these markers are not being retired. DHR will seek to purchase replacement markers when the agency has funding available for this purpose. But it is more likely the case that DHR will need to secure a sponsor to fund a new replacement marker with a revised and updated text.
Forgoing the expensive renovation of old, deteriorated markers in favor of new replacement signs allows DHR to bring the marker program into the 21st century, rather than remaining beholden to the manner in which topics were covered, in some cases, nearly 90 years ago.
Adoption or Long Term Loan of Retired Markers
It is certainly true that many older markers, particularly those from the 1920s through the 1950s, are now regarded as important artifacts and, in some cases, as community landmarks. Some residents have grown quite attached to markers within their localities.
For this reason, DHR will offer retired markers to local museums, historical societies, or other entities that have the capacity to display and interpret them. DHR will make the markers available through a long-term loan or by way of a conditional donation.
If your organization, museum, or historical society is interested in obtaining a retired marker, please fill out and submit the application (linked above). If you have additional questions about a specific marker or its retirement—or about sponsoring a replacement marker—please contact Jennifer Loux (804-482-6089), DHR’s marker program historian and coordinator.
Updated October 19, 2021