Settled largely by wealthy Tidewater Virginians as they pushed into the colony’s western frontier in the 1720s, the 83,000-plus acres in the Southern Albemarle Rural Historic District initially developed slowly. Large land patents, fertile soil, and a primarily slave-driven agricultural economy based on tobacco production inspired initial European settlement in the region. Settlement patterns were strongly tied to transportation routes including waterways, early roads, canals and turnpikes, creating an intricate system that remains primarily intact and continues to affect modern circulation and growth patterns. The resulting settlement patterns included distinct plantations and farmsteads as well as scattered rural villages, tied to both river trade and overland travel. The district’s history, associated with Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, descendants of both Robert “King” Carter and John Coles, and Lottie Moon, among others, and its architecture, ranging from high-style mansions to small farm buildings, represent the gradual shift from agricultural dominance to a diversified, broad-based economy (see this 2019 report for more information on commercial and industrial resources in the district). The district includes properties such as Monticello, Ash Lawn, and many important Colonial Revival–period houses, as well as archaeological sites illuminating colonial as well as Native American history. At the time of its listing, Southern Albemarle was the largest historic district in Virginia.
Many properties listed in the registers are private dwellings and are not open to the public, however many are visible from the public right-of-way. Please be respectful of owner privacy.
VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark
DHR has secured permanent legal protection for over 700 historic places - including 15,000 acres of battlefield lands
DHR has erected 2,532 highway markers in every county and city across Virginia
DHR has engaged over 450 students in 3 highway marker contests
DHR has stimulated more than $4.2 billion dollars in private investments related to historic tax credit incentives, revitalizing communities of all sizes throughout Virginia