Virginia State Seal

Virginia Department of Historic Resources

10 New State Historical Highway Markers Approved (Sept. 2018)

Highway marker sign outlineNew markers cover topics in the counties of Charles City, Fauquier (3), King and Queen, and Mathews; and the cities of Alexandria, Bristol, Lynchburg, and Norfolk

RICHMOND – Among ten new historical markers recently approved for placement along Virginia roads will be the first one to recall the lynching of an African American. Other new markers will highlight a boarding school in King and Queen County where a young James Madison received a classical education, the Union Railway Station, completed in 1903 in the City of Bristol, the philanthropy of Paul and Mary Elizabeth Conover Mellon, and the Rokeby Stables, where Paul Mellon bred and raised champion racehorses.

The marker “Isaac Brandon Lynched, 6 April 1892” will rise in Charles City County, where “a mob of about 75 masked men dragged” Brandon from a county jail cell “and hanged him from a tree,” according to the approved marker. Brandon, age 43 and a husband and father of eight, “had been held in jail on a charge of assaulting a white woman,” the marker text states.  No one was charged in connection with Brandon’s murder. The marker will note that about 100 people, “the vast majority of them black men, were killed in documented lynchings” in Virginia between 1877 and 1950, during which more than 4,000 lynchings took place across the U.S.

Between the ages of 11 and 16, future President and “Father of the Constitution” James Madison attended Donald Robertson’s School. Born and educated in Scotland, Robertson (1717-1783) established his private boarding school on his farm in King and Queen County, providing girls and boys “a classical education influenced by the Scottish Enlightenment,” the forthcoming marker’s text reads. Madison later described Robertson as “a man of extensive learning, and a distinguished Teacher,” according to the text.

Land for railroad facilities in Bristol was donated in 1848, “before the town of Bristol took root early in the 1850s,” the marker “Bristol Union Railway Station” will recall. On October 1, 1856, the railroad later known as the Norfolk and Western sent its first passenger train into Bristol, and in 1858, “the line later known as the Southern Railway was completed from [Bristol] to Knoxville, TN,” the approved text states. The current 1903 Bristol station, “served both railroads until passenger and postal service ended in 1971.” The station was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, and is “among the last of its era on the original N & W line,” the text concludes.

Three markers will be erected in Fauquier County to recall the Mellons’ philanthropy and the Rokeby Stables.

Paul Mellon (1907-1999) was “one of the foremost American philanthropists of the 20th century,” according to the text for a marker summarizing his life. Inheriting a vast fortune from his father Andrew W. Mellon, the younger Mellon “supported universities, civic improvement projects, conservation efforts, and fine-arts institutions.” Along with his second wife, Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon, “he amassed a world-renowned art collection,” and “donated more than 1,000 objects to the National Gallery of Art.” He also made substantial contributions to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. In 1975, he donated the land to Virginia that became Sky Meadows State Park.

The life of Paul Mellon’s first wife, Mary E. Conover Mellon will also be highlighted with a sign. With a keen interest in the humanities and the work of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, “she was instrumental in establishing the Bollingen Series of books in 1943 to publish Jung’s writing in English and to disseminate works on anthropology, art, literary criticism, philosophy, and comparative religion.” She was also the first president of the Bollingen Foundation, established to support the publishing enterprise. She died in 1946 and is buried at Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville.

Rokeby Stables near Upperville was established by Paul Mellon after Andrew W. Mellon purchased the property in 1931. His horses included American Way, winner in 1948 of the Grand National Steeplechase; Mill Reef, winner in 1971 of Europe’s most prestigious races; and Sea Hero, 1993 winner of the Kentucky Derby, among many others. Mellon collected equine art and donated much of his collection to the National Gallery of Art and the Virginia Fine Arts Museum, and the Yale Center for British Art, which he founded.

Three new markers address African American topics in Virginia and U.S. history:

  • The “Booker T. Washington High School” sign in Norfolkwill recall “one of Virginia’s first accredited public high schools for African Americans.” Housed in a newly built building in 1924, the school was Norfolk’s only public high school for black students for decades. Two of its faculty members between 1939 and 1940 “pursued legal action that led to a federal court decision requiring salary equalization for black and white teachers.” After desegregation of Norfolk’s schools in 1970, the high school moved to a new building in 1974.
  • The marker “Thomas Hunter (Rosenwald) School” relays the story of the founding of the Mathews[County] Educational League in 1923 and the black community raising $9,900 to build a four-room school between 1926 and 1927. The Julius Rosenwald Foundation provided matching funds and building plans, making Thomas Hunter one of the more than 5,000 schools and affiliated structures for black students the Rosenwald Fund underwrote between 1917 and 1932. Named for Thomas Hunter, a former slave, the school relocated to a new building in 1953.
  • The forthcoming marker “Universal Lodge No. 1,” slated for Alexandria, recalls Prince Hall Masonry, which “originated in Massachusetts in 1775 when a lodge attached to the British army initiated Prince Hall and 14 other free black men as Freemasons.” The Alexandria lodge was “the first Prince Hall lodge in Virginia.” Tradition holds three “seamen who had become masons in Liverpool, England,” chartered the new lodge.

In Lynchburg “The Academy of Music (1905-1958)” sign will recall “a regional center of entertainment in the 20th century.” Well known 20th-century luminaries including actress Sarah Bernhardt, musicians Eubie Blake, W.C. Handy, and John Philip Sousa, and others performed at the academy, which served primarily as a movie house after 1928. Closed in 1958, the neo-classical building stood vacant for decades before it was restored. It will reopen in December 2018 as the Academy Center of Arts. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Virginia highway marker program, which began in 1927 with installation of the first historical markers along U.S. Rte. 1, is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently there are more than 2,500 official state markers, most of which are maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, except in those localities outside of VDOT’s authority.

The manufacturing cost of each new highway marker is covered by its sponsor.

More information about the Historical Highway Marker Program is available on the website of the Department of Historic Resources at https://www.dhr.virginia.gov/highway-markers/.

[PLEASE NOTE: DHR markers are erected not to “honor” their subjects but rather to educate and inform the public about a person, place, or event of regional, state, or national importance. In this regard, markers are not memorials.]

Full Text of Markers:

(Please note that some texts may be slightly modified before the manufacture and installation of the signs. Also locations proposed for each sign must be approved in consultation with VDOT or public works in jurisdictions outside VDOT authority.)

Booker T. Washington High School

John T. West High School, one of Virginia’s first accredited public high schools for African Americans, was renamed in 1917 for Booker T. Washington, educator, author, and orator. The school moved to a newly constructed building in 1924 and for decades was Norfolk’s only public high school for black students. Its programs were central to the community. In 1939-1940, faculty members Aline Black and Melvin Alston pursued legal action that led to a federal court decision requiring salary equalization for black and white teachers. In Sept. 1963, students marched to protest poor facilities. Norfolk implemented a desegregation plan in 1970, and the school moved into a new building here in 1974.

Sponsor: The Concerned Citizens of Booker T. Washington High
Locality: Norfolk
Proposed Location: 1111 Park Avenue (corner of U.S. 58 West and U.S. 166 South)
Sponsor Contact: Dr. Vivian Monroe-Hester, vctc81@aol.com


Thomas Hunter (Rosenwald) School

African Americans formed the Mathews Educational League in 1923 and raised $9,900 to build a four-room school here in 1926-1927. Donations came mainly from the black community, with additional contributions from white residents, the county school board, and the Julius Rosenwald Fund. This fund, established by the president of Sears, Roebuck, and Co., and inspired by the work of Booker T. Washington, helped build more than 5,000 schools and supporting structures for black students between 1917 and 1932. Named for Thomas Hunter, a former slave, this school was accredited during the 1939-1940 session and moved into a new brick building here in 1953. County schools were desegregated in 1969.

Sponsor: Thomas Hunter Middle School/Mathews County Public Schools
Locality: Mathews County
Proposed Location: 387 Church St.
Sponsor Contact: Katherine Small, katherine@davis-small.com; Laurel Byrd, lbyrd@mathews.k12.us


Universal Lodge No. 1

Prince Hall Masonry originated in Massachusetts in 1775 when a lodge attached to the British army initiated Prince Hall and 14 other free black men as Freemasons. Universal Lodge No. 1, the first Prince Hall lodge in Virginia, was established in Alexandria on 5 Feb. 1845. According to tradition, founders William Dudley, Benjamin Crier, and Sandy Bryant were seamen who had become masons in Liverpool, England, in the 1830s. They later joined Social Lodge No. 1 in Washington, DC, and worked to charter a new lodge across the Potomac River. Before the Civil War, Universal Lodge No. 1 met secretly in a house on South Royal Street in Hayti, a black enclave.

Sponsor: Universal Lodge #1 Free and Accepted Masons, Prince Hall
Locality: Alexandria
Proposed Location: 112 East Oxford Ave.
Sponsor Contact: McArthur Myers, Alexslim62@comcast.net

 

Isaac Brandon Lynched, 6 April 1892

A mob of about 75 masked men dragged Isaac Brandon from a cell in the old Charles City County jail and hanged him from a tree on this hillside on the night of 6 April 1892. Brandon, a 43-year-old black man, had been held in jail on a charge of assaulting a white woman. He was married and the father of eight children. No charges were filed in connection with Brandon’s murder. More than 4,000 lynchings took place in the United States between 1877 and 1950. In Virginia, approximately 100 people, the vast majority of them black men, were killed in documented lynchings. Lynch mobs terrorized African Americans and helped to maintain white supremacy.

Sponsor: Charles City County Richard M. Bowman Center for Local History; Charles City Chapter NAACP
Locality: Charles City County
Proposed Location: intersection of Courthouse Road and Courthouse Green at Charles City Court House
Sponsor Contact: Judith Ledbetter, mosside2@gmail.com

 

The Academy of Music (1905-1958)

The Academy of Music was a regional center of entertainment early in the 20th century. Its neo-classical facade and elaborate interior date from the rebuilding following a fire in 1911. The theater featured local talent, vaudeville acts, and performances by national and international luminaries such as Maude Adams, Sarah Bernhardt, Eubie Blake, George M. Cohan, W. C.  Handy, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Anna Pavlova, Will Rogers, and John Philip Sousa. Primarily a movie house after 1928, the Academy closed in 1958 and was vacant for decades. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969 and, after restoration, reopened in 2018 as the theater of the Academy Center of the Arts.

Sponsor: Academy Center of the Arts
Locality: Lynchburg
Proposed Location: 5th and Main Streets
Sponsor Contact: Jane White, janebaberwhite@gmail.com; Geoffrey Kershner, gkershner@academycenter.org

 

Donald Robertson’s School

Donald Robertson (1717-1783), born and educated in Scotland, established a private boarding school on his farm near here by 1758. Among his students were James Madison, fourth president of the United States and “Father of the Constitution,” and Brig. Gen. George Rogers Clark, militia commander in the Old Northwest during the Revolutionary War. Madison attended the school between the ages of 11 and 16 and later described Robertson as “a man of extensive learning, and a distinguished Teacher.” Instructing both boys and girls, Robertson provided a classical education influenced by the Scottish Enlightenment. He operated his highly respected school for at least 15 years.

Sponsor: Mr. Peter Meyerhof
Locality: King and Queen County
Proposed Location: Spring Cottage Rd. (Route 628) at intersection with Gravel Pit Rd.
Sponsor Contact: p.meyerhof@comcast.net

 

Paul Mellon (1907-1999)

Paul Mellon, one of the foremost American philanthropists of the 20th century, lived nearby. An heir to the vast banking and industrial fortune left by his father, Andrew W. Mellon, he supported universities, civic improvement projects, conservation efforts, and fine-arts institutions. With his second wife, Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon, he amassed a world-renowned art collection, donated more than 1,000 objects to the National Gallery of Art, and made substantial contributions to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Mellon achieved international success as a breeder of racehorses. In 1975, he donated land to Virginia for the creation of Sky Meadows State Park, about five miles west of here.

Sponsor: Mary Elizabeth Conover Foundation
Locality: Fauquier County
Proposed Location: Intersection of John S. Mosby Highway and Rokeby Road, Upperville
Sponsor Contact: Larry Nelson, StrategicAlliances@ConoverSysterms.org

 

Rokeby Stables

Paul Mellon established Rokeby Stables near here on property purchased in 1931 by his father, Andrew W. Mellon, financier and U.S. secretary of the treasury. Paul Mellon bred and raised champion racehorses, including American Way, Grand National Steeplechase winner in 1948; Arts and Letters and Fort Marcy, Horses of the Year in 1969 and 1970, respectively; Mill Reef, winner of Europe’s most prestigious races in 1971; and Sea Hero, Kentucky Derby winner in 1993. Mellon twice won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Breeder. He collected equine art and donated many pieces to the National Gallery of Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Yale Center for British Art, which he founded.

Sponsor: Mary Elizabeth Conover Foundation
Locality: Fauquier County
Proposed Location: Intersection of John Mosby Highway and Rokeby Road, Upperville
Sponsor Contact: Larry Nelson, StrategicAlliances@ConoverSysterms.org

 

Mary Elizabeth Conover Mellon (1904-1946)

Mary E. Conover Mellon lived nearby with her second husband, the philanthropist Paul Mellon. Interested in the humanities and deeply influenced by the work of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, she was instrumental in establishing the Bollingen Series of books in 1943 to publish Jung’s writings in English and to disseminate works on anthropology, art, literary criticism, philosophy, and comparative religion. She was the series’ first editor and the first president of the Bollingen Foundation, founded by the Mellons in 1945 to support the publishing enterprise and to issue fellowships, grants, and prizes in the humanities. Mary Mellon died in 1946 and is buried here at Trinity Episcopal Church.

Sponsor: Mary Elizabeth Conover Foundation
Locality: Fauquier County
Proposed Location: 9108 John S. Mosby Highway, Upperville
Sponsor Contact: Larry Nelson, StrategicAlliances@ConoverSysterms.org


Bristol Union Railway Station

The Rev. James King donated land for railroad facilities here in 1848, before the town of Bristol took root early in the 1850s. The first passenger train arrived on 1 Oct. 1856 on the railroad later known as the Norfolk and Western (N&W). In 1858, the line later known as the Southern Railway was completed from here to Knoxville, TN. Bristol became a manufacturing and commercial center. The N&W built the present station, the fourth on this lot, in 1902-1903. It served both railroads until passenger and postal service ended by 1971. The station, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, is among the last of its era on the original N&W line.

Sponsor: Bristol Train Station Foundation
Locality: City of Bristol
Proposed Location: 101 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Sponsor Contact: Tim Buchanan, buchanan03@bvu.net

 

Updated October 2, 2018